Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay, David Freese, Rafael Furcal and Allen Craig of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate after they won 12-3 against the Milwaukee Brewers during Game Two of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 10, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Monday night, the Cardinals pounded the Brewers into submission and evened the NLCS 1-1. Let's pull out the magnifying glass, shall we?
It might seem to you that Baseball Nation has been paying more attention to the American League than the National League. Maybe it doesn't seem that way to you, and maybe it isn't that way at all, but it seems to me that it might seem that way to you, and that's probably because I personally have been paying more attention to the American League than the National League, and the way I am is the way everybody is. I'm so understanding!
But if you're starved for more NLCS coverage, today is your lucky day. Even though the NLCS is taking a breather Tuesday while the Rangers face the Tigers, I thought I'd take a closer look at Monday's blowout Game 2 between the Cardinals and the Brewers. Not in a thorough-examination kind of way, but more in a here-are-some-things-that-I-don't-know-how-to-tie-together kind of way. You know, the lazy and easy kind of way. Off we go!
Albert Pujols finished 4-for-5 with three doubles and a homer. It was the Albert Pujols Show for a while, and by the time it was no longer the Albert Pujols Show, the game was already in hand, as Pujols drove in five of the Cardinals' first six runs. After the game, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said:
"You have to keep it down in the zone. [Pujols] doesn’t miss too many mistakes."
Now, granted, "down in the zone" is one of those things that baseball men say so often that it's almost completely lost its meaning. The key to every game against a good offense is that a pitcher has to stay down in the zone. If a pitcher is struggling to throw strikes, he needs to get calm and work down in the zone. And so on. But sometimes "down in the zone" has its merits, and it's worth examining how the Brewers pitched Pujols last night. His four at bats that resulted in hits:
There are visible attempts to pitch down in the zone, but all four balls that Pujols hit were elevated fastballs at or above the mid-thigh. It's no wonder he clobbered the ball all over the yard.
And he did clobber the ball all over the yard, by the way. He homered to left, he doubled to center, he doubled to center, and then he doubled to right. It's not interesting to point out that, hey, Albert Pujols is really good, but there you go. I think the #1 most effective strategy when it comes to pitching to Pujols is hoping that the guys hitting before and after him are feeling under the weather.
As noted, Pujols hit three doubles and a homer: four extra-base hits, which ties the all-time postseason record. Four players in baseball history have knocked four extra-base hits in a playoff game: Pujols last night, Hideki Matsui in 2004, Bob Robertson in 1971, and Frank Isbell in 1906. Interestingly, all four performances are easy to rank: Isbell hit zero home runs, Pujols hit one, Matsui hit two, and Robertson hit three. It's that simple!
Of course, Isbell had his game in a year where his team hit seven home runs. Total, all season, in 151 games. The team leaders were Fielder Jones and Billy Sullivan, who tied with two. How about some love for Frank Isbell?
Here's one image from last night's game:
Wrote Thomas Harding:
As the hits kept coming, Pujols and Yadier Molina broke into gestures that both insisted were not designed to make fun of the Brewers' "beast mode" demonstrations used when they're on a roll.
Regardless of how the gestures were intended, there's only one way that they'll be interpreted. And they will, of course, be interpreted as taunts. Taunting is childish and immature and below the level of professionalism one is supposed to expect from a Tony La Russa ballclub, but (A) that level of professionalism stuff is bullshit, and (B) who cares? Who's going to argue that the Brewers don't deserve to be taunted? The Brewers are a very good baseball team, and they could very well win the World Series, but while they're a good baseball team, they're also an unusually demonstrative baseball team, and all their hooting and hollering and arm gestures get on their opponents' nerves. So if their opponents get an opportunity to be demonstrative back, why not? The Brewers have it coming, and from the fan perspective, it makes the whole series more fun. The ALCS is too damn polite.
|Lance Lynn, W (1-0)||0.2||1||1||1|
Lynn threw one pitch, to Rickie Weeks. Weeks grounded the pitch to short, where Rafael Furcal started a 6-4-3 double play. It wasn't actually a double play, as Weeks beat the throw to first, but the umpire decided that Weeks did not beat the throw to first, so the double play was awarded. And a win was later awarded to Lynn for his efforts. Or effort. No need to be plural here.
It's not the first one-pitch win in playoff history, as Jeff Fassero earned one as recently as 2002. Also, as it happens, for the Cardinals. But Fassero pitched in the eighth, and was the most recent pitcher when the Cardinals took the lead. Lynn pitched in the fifth, with the Cardinals up 7-2. It was therefore an unusual win, and one that might deserve further examination were it not for the inescapable fact that wins as a statistic are stupid. Lynn's win doesn't really mean anything - it's just a neat answer to a trivia question.
In the ninth inning, long after almost the entire audience had tuned out, David Freese turned an 11-3 game into a 12-3 game with a line-drive home run to right field. Freese bats right-handed, but it was the second homer in two games that he'd hit out the other way. This got me investigating David Freese, and from the investigation, I learned something. Freese's 2011 home runs, from the Home Run Tracker:
Freese has 15 career regular season homers. If you split the field into thirds, he's hit three of them to left, four of them to center, and eight of them to right. This is more or less the opposite of what you'd expect from a normal right-handed hitter, so from this I learned that David Freese is dangerous to all fields, if not extra dangerous to the opposite field. That's a rare trait. David Freese hit as many opposite-field home runs this year as Miguel Cabrera.