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Albert Pujols isn't happy about the shadows his Cardinals faced in Game 3 of the NLDS. And he thinks they wouldn't have faced them if they were the New York Yankees.
The Phillies took a 2-1 series lead against the Cardinals Tuesday night on the strength of Ben Francisco's pinch-hit three-run homer, but the REAL turning point of the game was Baseball Nation's live blog. Here are the highlights.
The Philadelphia Phillies withstood two late-inning charges from the St. Louis Cardinals, holding on for a 3-2 victory to put them up two games to one in the NLDS.
The Cardinals mounted a promising rally in the bottom of the seventh, but could get to reliever Vance Worley for just one run. In the bottom of the eighth, Ryan Theriot led off with his third single of the game, which brought Charlie Manuel out of the dugout to replace Worley with lefty Antonio Bastardo. Tony La Russa countered with pinch-hitter Nick Punto, who lifted an easy fly to center.
With the pitcher's spot due next, La Russa tabbed Matt Holliday, who's nursing a hand injury, for his first appearance in this series. Manuel countered with right-hander -- and erstwhile Phillies closer -- Brad Lidge, who was greeted by a single into left field, Theriot stopping at second base. Rookie Adron Chambers, who batted only eight times for the Cardinals all season, ran for Holliday as the top of the St. Louis order came up, in the person of Rafael Furcal.
It took a while, but eventually Furcal saw a slider he liked and slapped it into left field for a single. Theriot had to hold up to make sure the ball would drop, and the bases were loaded with Allen Craig and (gulp) Albert Pujols due next.
You know that Manuel doesn't want Brad Lidge anywhere near Albert Pujols, so here comes Ryan Madson.
Update: Allen Craig shot a laser right to Chase Utley, who ran to second and threw to first in plenty of time to double up Craig. Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way.
This all looks like hindsight now that Garcia got torched by a three-run homer, but if you'll allow me:
For six innings, Jaime Garcia rolled through the Phillies' lineup, keeping them off the board while accumulating a pitch total in the low 70s (different sources are saying different things for some reason).
It was a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the sixth when, with two outs, Ryan Theriot singled, and Jon Jay walked. That brought the pitcher's spot to the plate, and Tony La Russa elected to allow Garcia to hit, rather than go to the bench. Garcia struck out, and the game remained scoreless.
From a managerial standpoint, it's got to be very, very hard to remove a pitcher like Garcia in that situation. But from a statistical standpoint, I'm pretty sure the better move would've been to pinch-hit. La Russa had options on the bench, all of whom would've had better odds of getting a hit than Garcia. And even though Garcia would've been removed early, La Russa's bullpen is fresh, and good.
Seems to me you have to take a shot at going ahead there in the sixth. La Russa didn't, and he paid for it.
La Russa might have La Russa'd himself into a hole in Game 3. With a runner on second and two outs, the Cardinals manager walked Carlos Ruiz intentionally to get to Ben Francisco.
Maybe La Russa wanted to face Francisco, and maybe he wanted to make sure that Cole Hamels left the game. The only thing we do know is that the decision was a bit of a dirigible accident. Francisco pinch-hit for Hamels and drove a hanging sinker over the left-center wall to break the scoreless tie and give the Phillies a 3-0 lead in Game 3.
Jamie Garcia was moseying along in this game, averaging -3 pitches per inning through the first five innings, but when he reached the sixth, the Phillies made him work. And when he came out for the seventh inning, the Phillies made him work a little bit more before Francisco's home run came on Garcia's 90th pitch of the game.
The Cardinals now have to go against Vance Worley, who is in for Cole Hamels.
The story of the Philadelphia Phillies' postseason was supposed to be pitching, just as pitching was the Phillies' story during the regular season.
Well, aside from Cliff Lee's semi-meltdown in Game 2 of their Division Series against the Cardinals, their pitching has been outstanding: first Roy Halladay in Game 1, then the bullpen in Game 2, and now Cole Hamels in Game 3.
But in this series, nobody has pitched better than Jaime Garcia.
As you'll recall, Tony La Russa went to great pains to ensure that Chris Carpenter, rather than Garcia, would start two games in this series if it goes five games.
La Russa's prime motivation was probably for Garcia to pitch at home, where he's been significantly better, ERA-wise anyway, than on the road in his young career. But La Russa might also have been swayed by Garcia's relative lack of success later in the season. Garcia's made five starts this season with Game Scores above 65, and all five came well before the All-Star break:
As well as Garcia has pitched this season, memories can be fleeting and it's been a while since Garcia has done anything to make La Russa or Dave Duncan think he'd be capable of shutting down the Phillies for six innings.
But of course that's exactly what he's done: six innings, three hits, zero walks, zero runs.
Sometimes you just have to wait for the performance to catch up with the numbers.
Last night, we watched Justin Verlander chug into the late innings like a workhorse. He was over 100 pitches after seven innings, and manager Jim Leyland didn't hesitate to send him back out for the eighth. In contrast, Jamie Garcia is rarely worked that hard -- he's thrown over 100 pitches in just eight of his 32 starts, and his season high is only 107 pitches.
When he's on, he's on, though, and he doesn't need to throw a lot of pitches. Garcia threw two complete-game shutouts this year with just 102 pitches in both of those games. It looked like he was on that pace after throwing just 51 pitches to complete five shutout innings.
But after he retired Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley hit the sixth pitch of his at-bat for a single, and after a wild pitch and an intentional walk, it took a Ryan Howard groundout to end the inning. Garcia threw 23 pitches in the sixth, his most strenuous inning of the game so far.
Still, he's up to only 74 on the game through six innings. The Phillies had an aggressive game plan, it seems, and it isn't working so far.
It's a pitchers' duel in St. Louis, with Cole Hamels and Jamie Garcia trading scoreless frames. If there's a difference between the two pitchers, though, it's with efficiency. Hamels, as Rob notes, is up to 56 pitches entering the fourth. Garcia is through four having thrown only 39 pitches, 31 of which have been strikes.
A lot has been made of Ryan Howard's platoon splits, and rightfully so. But it sure doesn't help his cause when the left-handed pitcher can do this with a sinker:
The #5 up there was the strikeout pitch -- it was a sinker at 90, thrown in a perfect spot, and Howard was caught looking. He didn't have a chance. Ted Williams wouldn't have had a chance. Ichiro would have hit it for a home run, but only if he were that type of hitter and felt like it.
Cole Hamels gave up a first-inning double to Albert Pujols, a second-inning single to Ryan Theriot, and a third-inning walk to Allen Craig, but he's escaped all three situations with no real damage and Game 3 in St. Louis remains scoreless after three frames.
Still, Hamels hasn't been as sharp as he might like, and Phillies phans phears probably haven't been completely assuaged after a September that saw Hamels post a 3.79 ERA and give up nine home runs in six starts.
No real cause for concern, perhaps, but Hamels has already thrown 56 pitches, and Charlie Manuel might already be considering his seventh-inning bullpen options.
Meanwhile, Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia has given up only two hits without a free pass, and might be making Tony La Russa wonder why he went with Chris Carpenter instead of Garcia in Game 2.
Nah, probably not. La Russa doesn't seem to do much wondering, retrospectively.
Jamie Garcia struck out Ryan Howard in the second inning of Game 3, bringing up what could be the Phichillies' heel: left-handed pitching. The difference isn't super-dramatic, but there's a difference, as you'd expect:
Ryan Howard is neutered by left-handed pitching, and while John Mayberry, Jr. helps negate that disadvantage, it's a pretty big deal to lose four at-bats of the good Howard. Chase Utley doesn't have any platoon splits at all, so that's a non-factor.
There are other important splits, too. It turns out that Cole Hamels does really well against hitters with a helmet, and his splits are great against hitters who use a cylindrical wooden object to attempt to strike the baseball after it's thrown, so look out for both of those.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa often likes to mix things up with his lineups — he has, in the past, batted his pitcher eighth — but for Game 3 against the Phillies this afternoon in St. Louis, he’s gone pretty traditional:
Holliday took three swings Saturday during the Cardinals 11-6 loss in Game 1 in Philadelphia and experienced pain severe enough to cause him to scream through at least one of the swings.
The Cardinals are considering whether to disable Holliday, but if they do so, he would be ineligible to return until the World Series.
Of course, St. Louis would have to get there before they’d have to worry about that. In the meantime they are essentially playing with a 24-man roster.
The Game 3 lineup for the Phillies is up, and it looks pretty much as you'd expect, with one change.
Jimmy Rollins - SS
Chase Utley - 2B
Hunter Pence - RF
Ryan Howard - 1B
Shane Victorino - CF
John Mayberry, Jr. - LF
Placido Polanco - 3B
Carlos Ruiz - C
Cole Hamels - P
It's the typical Phillies lineup, with the exception of Mayberry starting over Raul Ibanez. Jaime Garcia is a left-hander, so that explains it. When it comes to head-to-head match-ups. Mayberry is 3-for-6 against Garcia, but Ibanez is 1-for-3.
Though if Manuel really wanted to give his veteran some credit, Garcia's splits this season aren't traditional.
|vs RHB as LHP||613||.264||.309||.388||.697|
|vs LHB as LHP||146||.308||.352||.418||.770|
Mayberry was the better hitter this year overall, but he was certainly the better hitter against lefties. Manuel probably didn't have to think too hard while filling out this lineup.
The series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies, as well as the momentum, is heading to St. Louis.