I don’t really care to spend much time breaking down Game 4.
So some quick hits to sum up:
Incredible start by Kyle Lohse. Incredible start by Wentzville native Ross Detwiler.
No managerial decisions to critique.
I’d just call Game 4 a shame.
Jim Joyce was bizarrely awful behind home plate, and that’s the story of the game.
It doesn’t mean he took away a Cardinal win. It doesn’t mean he’s the reason why the Nationals won. But, what it did do was completely change the way the teams had to approach their at-bats.
So, while I’m writing this Thursday evening, my guess is we’ll wake up to a number of columns from national writers performing Tori Welles-like oral on the Nationals’ bullpen for that “breathtaking stretch of strikeouts.”
This is really a simple cause and effect thing: if a strike zone is absurdly wide, you have to chase pitches. If you chase pitches out of the strike zone, it reduces the probability of making contact. Hence the term “strike zone.”
Let me ask this question…and I don’t think I need to ask this of anyone within a 75 mile radius of The Arch…but I do have a feeling I could find a location in Bristol, CT where this question would be of use: if Jim Joyce were calling a standard strike zone, do you think the Cardinals would’ve struck out as much?
There’s no way anyone could answer that honestly and not think it played a role.
Therefore, it’s rather important to note that, yes, while some of the Cardinal K’s were swinging strikeouts, once again…it’s because they had to chase crap out of the strike zone.
The reason why some Cardinal fans may feel like they got banged by Joyce more than the Nationals is because it looked like Washington consciously attacked that outside strike once they realized what was going on.
Can’t blame ‘em.
Got to play the cards you’re dealt.
And, if you can hit that out of the strike zone location and get it called a strike, you’re golden.
It was a disaster.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen it in a big game in October.
As a matter of fact, it happened less than a year ago in Game 4 of the World Series.
St. Louisan Ron Kulpa blew a call in Game 3. He was behind home plate in Game 4.
I figured the Rangers would get some calls. I didn’t expect it to become the mess that it became.
Let’s go back in the archives to the column I wrote following Game 4:
I don't know if Ron Kulpa's Rangers' "plate-and-a-half strike zone," as Rick Horton called it, was really a conscious effort. I hope not. I'm sure he's tortured by what happened Saturday night. I've exchanged emails with Ron before. Seems like a great guy. And, I'm sure he was thrilled by the opportunity to call a World Series. However, it's my responsibility to discuss what I see...even if it makes it awkward for my relationship with someone I know well...or in this case, someone I've had limited contact with. A perfect example of that would be when I ripped the Cardinals for signing Jim Edmonds to a monster two-year deal, when Edmonds was my business partner on this site.
However, I consider it my responsibility to say what I think. That's not a badass thing or anything like that. It's just how I try to operate the site and the show. So, with that said...
The strike zone was a farce.
Now, the just as wrong, in my opinion, approach that some Cardinal fans had in dismissing Kulpa's call on the impact of Game Three because Kulpa didn't give up the home runs to Pujols, Kulpa didn't give up the hits to Molina, etc...is dismissing the strike zone issue because the Cardinals only got two hits.
Does one not see how foolish that makes them look by using that as an argument?
It's like the old Head And Shoulders' commercial.
(Porn-caliber) Actress 1: You use Head And Shoulders? But...you don't have dandruff?
(Porn-caliber) Actress 2: (smiling at the camera like she just drafted DeSean Jackson right after her friend drafted Donnie Avery) Exactly.
So...fast forward from 1988 commercials to October 2011 baseball:
Guy Who A) Lives In Texas B) Works In National Media C) Wants To Be Contrarian: Yeah...but the Cardinals only had two hits.
When you're a hitter going up there not having a clue where the strike zone is, you're not going to take the same at-bats. You have to expand your zone. You swing at pitches out of the zone. And, therefore, you're not going to make the same contact...if you get a chance to make contact at all.
On the other hand, if you're a pitcher and you know you're getting pitches well outside the strike zone, you're going to keep throwing the pitches outside the strike zone...obviously.
This isn't that difficult to apply logic to.
It happened last year.
It happened again last night.
I don’t know how to analyze something like that.
It wasn’t really “the game” by the definition of the game’s rules, so it became a farce.
That’s why, when Lance Lynn gave up the home run, I a) felt like the inevitable had finally arrived and b) I’d rather be killed by a bullet than a slow torture…and that’s all the top of the innings were going to be.
Maybe they would’ve pulled off a miracle, but there was absolutely no reason for the Nationals to center a pitch. Of course, you can say the same about the Cardinals. Lynn did center one after 13 pitches, and Jayson Werth ended it. Werth battled. It was a hell of an at-bat.
Now, some people---but definitely the minority of people who have tweeted at me or emailed me---have complained about the following:
1. Jason Motte not being brought in.
2. Lance Lynn being brought in instead of someone else.
3. The 11th pitch of the at-bat to Werth…which he took just outside...but they thought should've been called a strike based on the handjob house behind home plate.
So, I’ll give my opinion on each one:
1. I have no problem with Matheny not bringing Motte in. The Cardinals have to get six outs to win that game. Not three. As Matheny said after the game when asked about it, if they're at home, Motte’s in. Without being at home, Motte would still need to close it out in the bottom of the 10th…or 11th…or whatever.
2. The Lance Lynn question I do wonder about…because of two things: a) how good Rosenthal has looked and b) who the hell would pitch Game 1 of the NLCS. But, of course, you got to get there to have to address it. Matheny said when answering the question about Motte coming in for the bottom of the 9th that if he would’ve done that, it would’ve meant one of his young guys would’ve had to have closed it out. I don’t like hearing that. Here’s why: it has nothing to do with Motte not being brought in. I completely understand that and have no problem with it. It is because I wonder/worry if Matheny is hesitant to bring in his young guys in “high leverage” situations. I’d give Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly the shot. If you’re going to win the World Series, you’re going to have to use them in key spots anyway with Lynn going into the rotation.
3. And without question…based on the stupidity of the strike zone, Jim Joyce could’ve called the 11th pitch to Werth a strike. It was not a strike, but half the balls he called strikes last night were not. By Joyce’s strike zone, it could’ve been a strike. But, it’s hard to complain about a ball that is outside of the strike zone not being called a strike.
However, that’s what the stupidity behind the plate does. It makes people angry and leads to irrational thoughts being spewed:
“We got fucked when he didn’t call that pitch that was low and outside a strike!”
I understand where you’re coming from.
But, the root of the issue is a guy took the game out of the hitters’ hands and put into his pocket, and that’s a shame.
Here’s some advice: don’t read ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, SI.com, or any of the other outlets that will be operating a blowjob factory on the Nationals’ bullpen today.
It will only make you angrier.
It’s like when I look at Facebook during a political debate. I’m angry at myself for even exposing myself to it. Or reading the STLToday comments section. I know it’s going to piss me off, yet I go and read it. No one to blame but myself.
Help get yourself to 7:30 tonight by avoiding the things that will anger you.
I hope I’m able to do as I say.
Twitter may allow some Washington fellatio to blow in from Bristol.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals go to a Game 5 in a series they should’ve won two days ago.
They have no one to blame but themselves for that.
You outscore a team as badly as they have in this series and are sitting there at 2-2…well, that has to be a bit tilting.
But, I surely didn’t see any fear or anger in the Cardinal clubhouse on Fox Sports Midwest last night.
I texted The Cat to see what the players were really saying about the comedy show behind home plate, and he said they knew they had to expand their zone and that caused the problems…but it wasn’t like anyone was fuming over it.
I can tell you this.
Following Game 1 of the World Series at Fenway Park in 2004, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen were furious about the umpiring. I was sitting in the media annex box…perfectly placed behind Pesky’s Pole in right field, so I couldn’t tell a damn thing about the umpiring.
I had no idea it was an issue.
And, I sure as hell don’t think it was anything similar to Game 4 of the 2011 World Series or last night. But, those guys were bitching about it---off camera---quite a bit…and Edmonds to this day thinks it was shifty.
Perhaps that had some carryover into Game 2 of the World Series…and then the snowball that buried the Cardinals in a sweep.
Either way, I like that the Cardinals don’t seem consumed by it. The Nationals dealt with the same stupidity.
It sucks…but you have no choice but to put it in the rearview mirror and know (hope?) that the umpiring can’t possibly be worse in Game 5.
I could spend a bunch of time breaking this pitching match-up down based on Game 1, but I think both pitchers’ performances will be different:
1. Gio was pissing himself at Busch Stadium. I don’t expect to see that at home.
2. Wainwright K’d 10 Nationals. I don’t expect to see that without the benefit of the shadows baffling the National hitters as they couldn’t pick up the spin on his sick hook.
I expect both to pitch quite well.
I wish I didn’t feel this way, but I do…and I’ll hope I’m wrong: I’m a little more worried about Wainwright than I am about Gonzalez. Well, I don’t give a shit about Gonzalez, so that’s not the proper way to put it. I mean that I think Wainwright is the one more likely to get into trouble.
The 2009 Wainwright wouldn’t be. But, this isn’t the 2009 Wainwright. This guy is damn good, but he’s not that guy.
At the same time, Chris Carpenter wasn’t the 2009 Chris Carpenter in 2011 during the regular season, and then he turned into Bob Gibson in October.
Wainwright is most definitely capable of doing the same…and so far this postseason, he’s shown that he’s got that in him. I do think, however, that it’s only fair to take into consideration the shadows impacting both Washington and Cardinal hitters Sunday.
Maybe they mattered. Maybe they didn’t. I’m aware they didn’t on Monday. It’s also important to point out that game started 90 minutes later and was only through two innings at 4:35.
Whereas last week on Major League Baseball Presents Friday Night Death Matches I picked the Braves…because I was worried about Lohse…but really moreso fearful of Kris Medlen…I don’t know on this one.
At this point---minus Stephen Strasburg for the Nationals and with all this young bullpen talent for the Cardinals---I think the Cardinals are the better team. I sincerely do.
But, you’ve got some factors that stats can’t quantify coming into play:
-The crowd: How will both guys respond? Maybe Gonzalez will piss himself again. As I wrote above, I don’t expect it at home, but what if the if the Cardinals get something going early on him? Will he implode? That was odd Sunday. It wasn’t just a guy missing by a little. It was Ankiel-esque. And, then there’s Wainwright. I don’t have a doubt in my mind he can handle the crowd. Bernie Miklasz asked him in the postgame about the loud crowd he dealt with in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Wainwright agreed they were loud…”for a minute.” Then he smirked…and probably looked to see if Carlos Beltran was around.
-The managers: I really, really, really hope Mike Matheny doesn’t do something that gets people into an uproar. Not only is it frustrating as a columnist/talk show host…but it’s really frustrating as a fan. Maybe someday Matheny will be at Davey Johnson’s level, but I feel like Johnson has the upper hand late in this one…as Sunday displayed. Hopefully that infamous moment won’t be haunting Cardinal fans for four months starting tonight around 11 p.m.
-The nerves of the players: Some guys have it in them to rise to the occasion. Other guys choke. Don’t know how else to explain it. But, I’ve seen it too often from too many players over a large sample size to doubt it. There’s something there. David Freese looks to be a guy who surges under pressure…and October 2011 isn’t the only evidence. When it’s not a clown show behind home plate, Freese has hit the shit out of the ball this series…even when making outs. Who else has balls of steel? Who can handle it? Who can’t? Was there any doubt Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay could handle it last year? Is there any doubt on Wainwright? Not sure on Gonzalez. But, what about the position players? I do think there’s something to be said for the fact that the Cardinals have been in this spot before. Hell…just a week ago. And, just a couple weeks ago to a lesser extent. And, of course, to the ultimate extent in the World Series.
Maybe that’s why throughout the course of the season there were so many times when they lost a kick-to-the-balls game…and then came out and responded the next day like it hadn’t happened.
They’ve been to hell and back…a number of times.
It started last September on a cold Thursday afternoon against the Mets…
…and in the bottom of the 9th on a beautiful Saturday against the Cubs…
…and after pissing away a lead against the Phillies in Game 3 of the NLDS…
…and after Phonegate…
…and after two strikes on Freese…
…and after two strikes on Berkman…
…and after the Rangers took an early lead in Game 7…
…and after Chris Carpenter was lost in Spring Training…
…and after getting swept in September by the Padres…
…and a strike away from beating the Dodgers…
…and a strike away from beating the Cubs…
…and having bottles thrown at them in Atlanta…
…and after blowing a golden opportunity in Game 1 Sunday…
They have walked through baseball hell so many times...and yet came out alive.
Let’s see how they dust off the ashes tonight.
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