The Cardinals had all sorts of opportunities in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Nationals yesterday, but they collected just three hits and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. They aren’t wasting those chances today.
The Cardinals got to Jordan Zimmermann early and currently lead the Nationals 7-1 through four innings in St. Louis.
The Nationals got on the board first via an RBI single by Zimmermann in the top of the second inning, but the Cardinals battled right back with four straight hits to begin the bottom-half of the inning, including an RBI double by David Freese and an RBI single by Daniel Descalso. After seeing his team squander opportunities yesterday, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny then made the bold decision to have Skip Schumaker pinch-hit for starting pitcher Jamie Garcia. It paid off, as Schumaker drove in a run with a ground out before Jon Jay knocked in Descalso with the fourth run before he was cut down trying to stretch a single into a double.
Allen Craig extended the Cardinals’ lead in the third with a solo home run just inside the left field foul pole. The Cardinals tacked on two more in the fourth, as Descalso hit a solo homer to right-center field off Craig Stammen and Pete Kozma scored on a fielding error by Ian Desmond. Lance Lynn is currently pitching for the Cardinals, who appear poised to bring this series to 1-1 going to Washington, D.C.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: