Cardinals fall apart in ninth, lose to Mets 8-6

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New Cardinals closer Jason Motte picked a bad time to suddenly lose it.

Up 6-1 after seven against the Mets, the Cards allowed one in the eighth and six in the ninth to lose 8-6 on Thursday.

A win would have left the Cardinals one game back of the idle Braves with both teams having six games left.  Now they’re two back as they begin a series against the Cubs on Friday.

The Cardinals got homers from Allen Craig and Albert Pujols in building their lead.  Jake Westbrook allowed just one run and three hits in six innings, but he was pulled for a pinch-hitter after a mere 84 pitches.

Things still looked good initially from there.  Arthur Rhodes worked a flawless seventh, and Octavio Dotel allowed an unearned run in the eighht, making it 6-2.  The Cards turned to their closer then, but Motte walked three of the five hitters he faced and had another reach on a Rafael Furcal error.  Marc Rzepczynski took over with the score 6-3 and the bases loaded and gave up an RBI single to Jose Reyes.

Fernando Salas was next in.  He gave up a two-run double to Ruben Tejada, tying the game with still just one out in the inning.  Left fielder Shane Robinson almost made what would have been an outstanding leaping grab on the play, but he came up a little short.  After an intentional walk to Angel Pagan reloaded the bases, Salas was able to strike out David Wright.  However, Willie Harris followed with a line drive single to right, plating two more runs.  After, Nick Evans flied out to end the inning, the Cards went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.

The Cardinals are going to need some real help from the Nationals and Phillies now if they hope to catch the Braves.  They do get to face the Cubs and Astros in their last two series, so a 5-1 or even a 6-0 finish can’t be ruled out.  Atlanta is in the driver’s seat, though.

Brad Ausmus out as Tigers manager

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The Tigers just announced that they will not be bringing Brad Ausmus back as manager in 2018. His contract was going to be up at the end of this season and they have decided not to renew it. Ausmus and his staff will manage the club for the final week of the season.

In the press release announcing the move, Tigers GM Al Avila said “[a]s we transition the ballclub in a new direction, I feel it’s best that we have a new approach and a fresh start with the manager position.” He went on to praise Ausmus for “doing an admirable job under difficult circumstances, especially this season,” a clear reference to the club’s decision at mid-season to blow things up. Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez were traded in July and August, as were some more minor players. The club is clearly embarking on a lengthy rebuild of which Ausmus, who was brought in four years ago to lead a contending team, will not be a part.

In his four seasons at the helm the Tigers are 312-325. He won 90 games and the AL Central in his first season in 2014, but the Tigers were swept out of the ALDS in three games. In the past three seasons they finished fifth, second and will either finish in fourth or fifth this year. Injuries and poor bullpens have been the biggest problem, but clearly this Tigers team was supposed to win more over the past four years.

It’s unclear what direction the Tigers will take in their managerial search, but it’s clear they’re going to go outside of the organization, as Avila said in his statement that the status of the current coaching staff will be contingent on the wishes of whatever new manager they hire.

Happy trails, Brad Ausmus. Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager is now Baseball’s Most Handsome Unemployed coach.

The Mets are doing something really weird with Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey

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Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports that the Mets are going to give Noah Syndergaard the start for tomorrow’s game. But here’s the hitch: he’ll only get one inning and then Matt Harvey will enter in the second inning and go from there. Harvey was originally scheduled to take the start. Syndergaard, of course, has been out since April. Harvey has been pitching under the loosest definition of the term.

I can see, if they are intent on putting Syndergaard in a real game, having him start one rather than come in out of the bullpen for purposes of preparation and routine. At the same time, however, if he’s only able to throw one inning at this point, with a little over a week left in the season, what’s the point of him pitching at all? As for Harvey relieving: he’s kind of a mess right now. Is he someone whose routine you really want to throw off?

I guess this doesn’t hurt anything — at least as long as Syndergaard doesn’t hurt himself throwing in a meaningless game at the end of the season — but it certainly is odd. It makes me wonder if this is some sort of “Dave” or “Moon Over Parador” situation in which the Mets are just trying to create the impression that Syndergaard is still alive.

Could Kevin Klein pitch an inning? Richard Dreyfuss?