Saturday, April 11, 2009

"He's not the best hitter in the game for nothing, folks!"

Every time I watch Albert hit, I appreciate just a little bit more what I'm seeing. I understand, just a little, what it must have been like to watch Musial hit. Or Williams. Or Dimaggio in his prime.

My God he's good.

Facing a guy who's tortured the Cardinals throughout his career, most notably during the 2005 NLCS, and who had never lost at neo-Busch, the Cardinals roughed him up for 6 runs in 5 innings enroute to a 11-2 rout.

If you watched the first two innings, there were no indications the game would turn out like this. Oswalt faced the minimum, while Wainwright was performing a high wire act, stranding 4 runners in scoring position. After the Cardinals pushed across a run in the third, Adam stranded two more runners, then settled down, retiring the last 7 hitters he faced. Oswalt navigated the fourth without incident, but the wheels came off in the fifth.

Bringing us back to AP. Six pitch at bat in the first, leading to a line out to third (Rasmus was doubled off first on the play). Five pitch at bat in the fourth; popped to third. LaRussa, in the book 'Three Days in August', preached an aggressive approach at the plate in an RBI situation. AP clearly took that to heart. He hit the first pitch into Big Mac Land. It probably helped having seen the other 11 pitches his first two trips.

The game safely in hand, based on the Astros lack of run production so far this season (they're hitting .276 as a team, but only the KC Royals have driven in fewer runs then their 16), LaRussa called Jason Motte from the bullpen. One scoreless inning, two strikeouts. I thought this a good move to give the kid a low leverage inning of work, build some confidence, work in an off-speed pitch, you know the drill.

AP returned to the plate in the seventh to face the Houston reliever W Wright. On the fifth pitch of that at bat, he hammered another ball to left for a 3-R HR. Ballgame. AP got to watch the rest of the game from the comfort of the bench.

Dennys Reyes threw a scoreless inning, and Thompson closed out the game, albeit surrendering 2 meaningless runs in the ninth.

Pujols' heroics overshadow Wainwright struggling for the second start in a row. Adam has struck out 11 so far this season, but he's walked 8. For his career, he's struck out almost 2.5 more guys than he's walked (2.32 to be exact); this year it's 1.37. Proving the vagracies associated with the awarding of wins and losses in baseball, he's one blown save away from being 2-0 in that span; and if the bullpen hadn't botched the sixth inning on Opening Day, he wouldn't have given up a run yet. We need to monitor this as closely as I'm sure LaRussa and Duncan are.

Of course, if AP continues to swing the hot bat, and the rest of the lineup continues to give him opportunities to drive in runs, a lot of flaws in the pitching staff can be forgiven.

Be grateful Pujols plays for us. We won't see his like again for a long time.

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