Cardinals put Game 6 out of reach with a fifth-inning outburst

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After going up 4-0 in the third inning, the Cardinals continued to tack on runs in the fifth. In doing so, they chased Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw from the game after 98 pitches. The lefty did not record an out in the fifth.

The inning started off with Yadier Molina singling to right field. Yasiel Puig had trouble getting the ball, so Molina took the opportunity to advance to second base. David Freese followed up with a seeing-eye single to left field. The slow-footed Molina took a turn at third base, but ultimately held up. Matt Adams let Molina score when he dumped a single to left field.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly took the slow walk out to the pitcher’s mound with the disappointing task of taking his staff out of an elimination playoff game with no outs in the fifth. Ronald Belisario was summoned from the bullpen to attempt to put out the fire. Belisario got Shane Robinson to hit a grounder to shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Freese, who was running on contact, instigated a run down, allowing both runners to advance — Adams to second, and Robinson to second. Belisario then walked Kozma intentionally to bring up pitcher Michael Wacha. Wacha grounded out, scoring Adams and moving Robinson to third and Kozma to second.

Mattingly had to come out to the mound again, this time to bring in lefty J.P. Howell for Belisario. Matt Carpenter greeted Howell with a a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 7-0. After going ahead 1-2 to Carlos Beltran, Howell threw a slider in the dirt that catcher A.J. Ellis couldn’t handle. Kozma scored, making it 8-0, and Wacha moved to third base. On the next pitch, Beltran hit a grounder in the hole between third base and shortstop, making it 9-0. The inning came to a close when Matt Holliday flied out to center.

The Cardinals appear to be well on their way to clinching a World Series appearance. Wacha thus far has held the Dodgers scoreless over five innings, continuing his run of post-season dominance.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.