Giants knock Kyle Lohse out of Game 7, grab 7-0 lead

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If the Cardinals are going to win tonight, they will have to mount a more impressive comeback than Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals. Which is to say the odds are pretty long.

The Giants plated five runs in the bottom of the third inning to chase Kyle Lohse from the game and grab a 7-0 lead.

Marco Scutaro led off the third inning with a single before Pablo Sandoval doubled to left and Buster Posey drew a walk to load the bases. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny then pulled Lohse from the game and brought in Joe Kelly to face Hunter Pence. Pence followed with a bizarre broken-bat double which had enough spin on it to completely fool shortstop Pete Kozma. Jon Jay had trouble picking the ball up in center field, so all three baserunners came around to score. But the Giants were just getting started.

Kelly then gave up a single to Brandon Belt and walked Gregor Blanco to load the bases before Brandon Crawford hit a ground ball at Kozma, who decided to throw home rather than go for the out at first base. However, the throw was too late. Kelly managed to strike out Matt Cain for the first out and induced a would-be double play ground ball from Angel Pagan, but Kozma made a high throw to Daniel Descalso which caused a late throw to first base and allowed another run to score. This was not Kozma’s finest hour.

Kelly walked Scutaro before being replaced by Edward Mujica, who finally ended the marathon 30-minute frame by getting Pablo Sandoval to line out to first base. The Giants sent 11 men to the plate in the inning and have handed a commanding lead to Cain in Game 7. The Tigers await the winner.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.