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why falkenborg?

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as vito corleone might say, "let us reason together."

9th inning, 2-2 tie against the reds, 1st place on the line -- and brian falkenborg's on the mound? the brian falkenborg who just got called up today from triple a, and who carried a 6.99 major-league era into today's game?

seems pretty wacky even by tony la russa's standards. let's think it through:

looper's out of the game; he pitched to three guys in the 7th. flores is also gone, having preceded falkenborg to the hill. hancock pitched two innings yesterday and hasn't appeared in a "game" situation in a month. that leaves the following options:

  • thompson
  • wainwright
  • isringhausen
  • falkenborg
we all thought immediately: wainwright. he's been throwing exceedingly well, and la russa recently declared (can't find the link now, dammit) that adam would likely be seeing more duty in key situations. so why not him? answer: if he pitches today, then wainwright -- whose arm is still conditioned for starting, and doesn't yet bounce back well on short rest -- would probably be lost for the entire houston series. and the series vs houston is a lot more meaningful than the series vs cincinnati, no matter what the standings might say on may 2.

for the same reason, la russa might have been saving isringhausen. izzy has pitched on back-to-back days only twice this season, and never three days in a row; if tony goes to him here, in a nonsave situation, then izzy might be unavailable for a save situation in houston. for that matter, because today's game was a road game someone would have had to get the last three outs if the cardinals had taken the lead. tony might simply have been saving is'hausen for that.

let's not forget that each of the last two times izzy got called into a tie game, he took the loss. so there were sev'l rationales for not going to jason in that situation.

that leaves thompson and falkenborg -- and thompson, whose career era is 4 runs lower than falkenborg's, would have been the logical choice. but given that st louis had no ability to score, my guess is that TLR was simply digging in for a long game. falkenborg hadn't really pitched to a batter yet; he came on with two outs in the 8th inning and only tossed a pitch or two before molina gunned out a would-be base stealer to end that frame. la russa had to get more innings out of the guy than that; hell, the cards might've needed another 4 or 5 innings to squeeze a run across. so if he burns falkenborg after only a few batters, that leaves him with only thompson and then the two guys he's trying to save for the houston series.

now, why didn't tlr go to thompson in the 8th, instead of falkenborg? that's harder to explain. he could've used thompson there, left him in for the 9th, maybe even extended him to the 10th, and hoped for the hitters to push a run across by then. if they didn't, then he would still have had falkenborg available for two or three more innings. as long as we're second-guessing, why go to looper in the 7th when you know lopez (who hits right-handers much better than lefties) and dunn are looming in just a few hitters? wouldn've made a ton more sense to send either thompson or falkenborg out to start the 7th, against the bottom of the order, and then go to flores for the lopez-dunn-hatteberg axis and bring looper in after that to extend the game. looper might've contributed more than two outs that way, and he (not falkenborg) would have been pitching in the higher-leverage situation. that was tony's big mistake -- he used the better reliever in the less important situation.

in the end, i think tony was willing to sacrifice this game to set himself up for the more important ones -- vs houston on wednesday and thursday. he wanted to have his key bullpen guys ready to go for those two contests more than he wanted to win today -- and i think that's a rational tradeoff.