On my way to Busch Stadium for last night’s Cards Phillies matchup I learned of the latest in a litany of surprises in the world of baseball.
St. Louis’ acknowledged all world free agent to be first baseman Albert Pujols would be starting at third base for the first time since the 2002 season. Subsequent information that was released (leaked?) indicated that this move of the All Star first baseman to third was at his own urging of the ever “imaginative” manager, Tony LaRussa.
On the surface it would appear and was intonated that Pujols volunteering for the switch was based on the Cards needing to get the bat of Allen Craig into the lineup since the “power bat” of regular centerfielder Colby Rasmus would be missing once again due to an abdominal "ailment".
LaRussa had indeed posted a line up including Craig playing third with Pujols at his customary spot but apparently number 5 determined that maybe he himself would be a better option at third than the basically untested Craig and suggested the scenario to the manager. That set in motion the shuffling of the Cards defensive alignment against the NL East leading Phillies, with Craig moving to right field and regular right fielder Lance Berkman playing first base (his regular position over the past 5 seasons) and John Jay starting in center for the injured Rasmus.
The realigned defense notwithstanding, the Redbirds managed to muster enough offense against an oddly ineffective Cliff Lee to earn a 3-1 victory in game one of this brief 2 game series with the Phils.
Was this “suggestion” from Pujols the contribution of a real team player as would seem to be the case or was it a “rest” night for his left wrist/forearm(which was struck by a Francisco Cordero fastball in the ninth inning of Sundays loss in Cincinnati) or was it as cynics might wonder, a move to both bolster the Cards defense as well as one which will bolster the superstar’s marketability in the sure to come post season bidding war for his services.
Many of the big market/big payroll teams have already invested deeply in their current and future first basemen (Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, White Sox...etc) and a more “versatile” Pujols might just be a more viable option for these clubs. To be fair Pujols handled everything hit his way flawlessly, even starting a nifty around the horn double play.
To be honest I’m not one of those cynics and feel that somehow, Pujols and the Cardinals will find a way to make the first baseman/third baseman a St. Louisan for the remainder of his career.
As for the mess that was the Mets hosting the Marlins in the cold mist of Citi Field in New York, it was another in a long line of games which the Mets managed to find a new way in which to lose.
This story featured the Marlins tying the game in the seventh and seeing the Mets squander several opportunities to win the game until the eleventh when Marlins middle reliever Burke Badenhop who had entered the game to pitch in the bottom of the 10tth was allowed by his manager to bat with 2 men on and two outs. As has been the case far too often the opposing pitcher managed to come through for his team and singled to center on a full count pitch off Ryota Igarashi to drive in the winning run. (A middle relief pitcher was given a 6 pitch at bat in which the Mets manager failed to instruct his pitcher to simply throw fastballs past what should have been an overmatched batter.) It got even sillier in the Mets half of the ninth when Mets manager Terry Collins sent up Tuesday night’s scheduled starting pitcher, Jon Niese, to pinch hit. Niese managed to smash a triple off of Marlins closer Leo Nunez and was left stranded there when Jose Reyes struck out.
I ask simply...How often have you seen a middle reliever get the win and the game winning hit in the same game? Go on look it up I’ll wait...I have no idea…. As we Mets fans often say...Only the Mets.
Following the game the Mets sent Igarashi along with fellow failure Chin Lung Hu to Triple A and also placed third baseman David Wright on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his back. We’ll get another chance to see young Ruben Tejada along with Nick Evans as they fill in at the middle and corner infield spots respectively. Pedro Beato will also return to the team from the DL to hopefully bring some stability to the middle and back end of the bullpen.
While it looks as though weather may wreak havoc on the New York area for tonight’s scheduled finale of the Mets series with the Marlins, I’ll be attending “Social Media Night’ at Busch tonight as the Redbirds send ever impressive lefty Jaime Garcia against the Phillies and another of their aces Roy Oswalt, who comes off the disabled list following some back issues.
Hope to see some of the St. Louis Twitter/Blogging/Facebook community there.