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.
Cardinals right-handed reliever Greg Holland has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right hip impingement, per a team announcement on Saturday. In corresponding moves, catcher Carson Kelly (right hamstring strain) and lefty reliever Tyler Lyons (back strain) were activated from the disabled list, while catcher Steven Baron was optioned to Triple-A Memphis. The team has yet to reveal how long Holland is expected to be sidelined.
The 32-year-old reliever hasn’t looked quite himself this season, limping toward a 9.45 ERA, 10.1 BB/9 and 6.8 SO/9 in just 13 1/3 innings of work. It’s a concerning departure from the sub-4.00 ERA and NL-leading 41 saves he posted with the Rockies in 2017, though a brief stay on the disabled list may help him iron out some of the issues that have prevented him from replicating those numbers in 2018. This is the first major injury he’s sustained since 2015, when he underwent surgery to repair a torn UCL in his pitching arm; he doesn’t appear to have a history of hip issues, either.
Lyons, 30, will slot back into the bullpen while Holland recovers. The left-hander landed on the 10-day disabled list in mid-May after pitching to a 6.17 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9 across 11 2/3 innings — underwhelming results, to be sure, but nothing close to Holland’s career-worst output. Lyons saw mixed results in two rehab starts with Double-A Springfield earlier this month, allowing two runs on two hits and recording one strikeout in 1 2/3 innings.