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he who loafs last

of the half-dozen or so mistakes the cardinals made last night -- josh has a list at the birdwatch -- the one that bugs me the most is edmonds' indifferent pursuit of the burke gapper in the top of the 2d. if jimmy hustles, burke is out by 10 feet at 3d base -- or he slams on the brakes and scrambles back into 2d. that play disturbs me because it raises an unpleasant suggestion: are the astros a wee bit hungrier than the cardinals? burke ran balls-out from the time he left the batter's box, never slowed, while edmonds drifted after the ball with no apparent sense of urgency. so complacent was his retrieval that not even grudk's quick release and laser-beam throw on the relay could put burke out.

the lackadaisis (is that a word?) cost st louis a run and perhaps the whole game, and it taught the following lesson: this team can't afford to run on cruise control. ever. i know they're banged up after a long and difficult year, and you don't want them wasting effort for nothing. but just that tiny display of laxity set up the first run of the game. it took another mistake, the passed ball, to get the run home, but passed balls happen. they're aggravating, and the cardinals can't afford them either; but even yadi errs now and then. what you can't excuse is a lazy play by an otherwise hustling player.

but i'll defend edmonds on another score -- his 1st-pitch hack against oswalt in the 7th. miklasz thinks the at-bat "may have been the worst by a cardinal in 2005." to reset the AB: two on, two out, cards down a run, and oswalt already above 100 pitches. jimmy got a first-pitch fastball over the plate and took a rip, grounded out to 1st to end the inning. . . . . a great at-bat? of course not. but it wasn't such a terrible trip either. for one thing, the pitch was a mistake: ausmus was set up on the outside corner, but the pitch was down the middle. edmonds had whiffed twice in three trips, and over his career has struck out in nearly half his at-bats against oswalt -- not the kind of pitcher he could afford to give strikes away to. they had pounded him inside in his previous at-bat, every pitch; here was something out over the plate that edmonds could get his arms extended on. he didn't do anything with the pitch, so it looks like a lousy at-bat, but that doesn't necessarily mean he simply took a mindless hack. he may have gone up there looking for something middle-in, got a pitch down the middle and swung -- not a bad idea, just bad execution. or maybe just a tough pitcher who was still throwing 95 in the 7th.

the wasted at-bat, to me, came in the 5th, when mulder hit for himself with a man on 2d, 1 out, and stl trailing 2-0. in a regular-season game, i can see it -- you need innings out of your starting pitchers. but here you have an off-day ahead, and a buncha middle relievers that have been sitting around with nothing to do since saturday. you're behind by two, and you know lidge will pitch the 8th and 9th, which means you really only have 8 more outs to tie the game. get a hitter up there, take two shots at that run and try to get some people on in front of edmonds and pujols . . . . . of course, that would have exposed the bullpen for four innings, and they did quite enough damage in two, thank you. but you can't be worrying about that when you're playing from behind. get the score close again, or tied, or take a lead; then worry about how untrustworthy the bullpen is.

mulder, his pitching style having been filched by carp for game 1, had an identity crisis and struck out six batters. also gave up two extra-base hits (both of which scored) and five flyball outs, one of them after a brilliant (and hustling) flight by our shiftless layabout centerfielder. so not a typical mulder outing, but still the mulder we've come to know and kinda sorta like: guys on base all the time, 20-pitch innings, bats making consistently hard contact, but at the end of the night, somehow some way, only 2 runs (1 earned) allowed in seven innings. it was the type of performance that usually got mulder a win in 2005. with a little more support afield or at bat, it might have got him one last night as well.

i'm not a big believer in "momentum"; you take each game as it comes, play it off and move on. game 1 was about the cardinals' strengths -- defense, power, two-out hitting -- and game 2 was about the astros' strength, ie pitching. two good teams going at it again; settle in for another long series.