we'll get to is'hausen in a second. first, a few other pieces of business:
from friday through monday -- ie, the wrigley series plus the home opener -- juan encarnacion put the ball in play 11 times, and 8 times he hit the ball to the shortstop or third baseman. his only yield from those at-bats: an infield single. so after tuesday's open date he came back with a fresh approach: on wednesday and thursday he hit the ball to the right side five times in a row. the harvest: three singles and an rbi groundout. he also was clearly trying to take the 3-2 pitch the other way in the 6th inning, when he struck out.
but enc correctly abandoned the slap-hitting approach in the 8th inning, when -- batting with nobody on base and 1 out -- he took some full rips, trying to drive the ball and get himself into scoring position ahead of the big bats. he had a couple of pitches to hit, too, but fouled them both off; timing just isn't there. i continue to think (as i observed here) that encarnacion is exhibiting signs of intelligent life. he's not taking lazy, careless at-bats; he's simply in a slump. he'll come out of it.
but he'll still be juan encarnacion when he does . . . . .
re his would-be game winner in the 10th: i never saw a ball behave that way at the old park. innumerable times i saw a well-struck drive die in the bog of still air that occupied the center of the cookie; but i never saw a routine pop-up drift and drift and drift until it reached the outfield fence. you've all seen the replay by now; after hitting the ball encarnacion flings his bat down in disgust because he knows he missed his pitch, just got under it. had the ball actually exited it would have been the first "cheap" home run hit in st louis in at least 40 years. another clue that this ballpark may favor the hitters.
some other items:
- the pecking order in the left side of the bullpen took on a bit more clarity. randy flores still looks to me like the "A" southpaw; he came on in a tie game to face the brewers' #3 hitter, geoff jenkins. rincon, who appeared in mop-up duty against the bottom of the order, would appear to be the secondary guy.
- i feel a lot better about this bullpen with adam wainwright in it. he surely earned some points with the bosses yesterday, pitching not only effectively but also with fortitude. after wild-pitching the lead run in scoring position with 1 out in the 9th, wainwright bore down and blew away chad moeller, then got jj hardy on a weak grounder. no sign of fear; i hope tony and dunc noticed that. adam induced six swinging strikes in his 10-batter stint; that's very good.
- pujols has now walked 11 times in 9 games. am i the only one who thinks teams aren't even flirting with the strike zone anymore? seems like they used to be willing to put the ball just off the plate and hope albert would expand his strike zone; sometimes he would oblige. but now they're not even giving him that chance; they're just flat-out throwing it wide and giving him his base.
- albert tried to make the brewers pay for that strategy in the 8th, swiping 2d base to get into scoring position with 2 outs. earlier, his smart baserunning created the tie, as his correct read on rolen's flyball single allowed him to go 1st to 3d and score on a subsequent sac fly. the few attempts that have been made to quantify baserunning ability all rank pujols among the best in the league; i haven't seen any efforts to quantify intelligence and game sense, but he's surely among the best in those categories too.
- why on earth did so taguchi try to bunt his way on with two outs in the 6th, a man on first, and the score tied 3-3? to make matters worse, he was ahead in the count 3 and 1 -- shoulda been looking for a pitch to drive, no? even if he had reached base, it's not as if pujols hits behind him; hector luna was on deck. that's just a stupid, stupid play.
la russa thinks the problem will self-correct if he just keeps izzy out of non-save situations; i don't buy that. but i do think it likely that is'hausen will get this figured out and return to his accustomed form. he has been too reliable for too long. closers are an unstable lot, and there are innumerable examples of guys who abruptly lost their effectiveness. but once they cross a certain threshold -- 4 or 5 good years in a row -- closers are usually pretty long-lived. is'hausen falls into that category. i don't think he's completely washed up just yet.