The highlights from last night’s Cardinals-Brewers game are probably focusing on the Yadier Molina argument and ejection, but there was something far more interesting going on here.
Albert Pujols was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning. Runners were on first and third at the time, it was a close game and Pujols leads all of baseball in grounding into double plays. Clearly in that situation Takashi Saito is not trying to throw at Pujols, right? Hell, even Tony La Russa said after the game that he didn’t think it was intentional.
Nevertheless, in the bottom of the inning La Russa had Jason Motte hit Ryan Braun. He admitted it too, saying after the game that he was “sending a message.” He stood on the top step of the dugout and watched it happen. He did it via two inside pitches and then the plunking.
Setting aside the fact that someone could get hurt, what in the hell was Tony La Russa thinking? How do you, out of your silly sense of “sending a message” justice, put a leadoff hitter on base ahead of Prince Fielder in a tie game in a pennant race? How does one’s fealty to the unwritten rules or playing the game the right way or whatever the hell La Russa cares most about trump the clear strategic decision not to put a key game at risk like that?
It ended up working out. Braun didn’t score. The Cardinals ended up winning. But just because a good outcome was achieved doesn’t mean a good decision was made. And that was a monumentally stupid tactical decision by La Russa. A man purported to be the smartest guy in the room.
Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.
Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.
Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.
Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.
The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.
Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.