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Game 44 Open Thread: May 21, 2006

did anybody see reyes throw a two-seam fastball last night? i sure didn't; they all looked like regular ol' high heat to me. maybe the cardinals' tv announcers said something about it? archived the royals' feed, and all those guys knew about reyes is that he irons the bill of his cap. . . . could it be that this experiment has quietly died? might be that; or might be that, on tv, his two-seam looks the same as his four-seam.

i think it's the former.

two-seam or no, the royals hit the fastball pretty hard -- at least, when reyes threw it on the outer half, where batters could extend their arms. sanders scorched one such pitch to miles for the last out of the 1st; stairs drove one to the warning track leading off the 2d, and emil brown followed with a line-drive single to right-center off a similar pitch; in the 3d castro hit one pretty well to center, and grudzielanek drove one to encarnacion in right . . . . all up the middle or the other way. when he came inside with the fastball, the royals didn't hurt him -- foul balls, popups, called strikes. something to watch for next time.

just as striking as the apparent absence of a two-seamer was the abundance of off-speed pitches reyes threw. i didn't keep a running count, but it seemed like close to half his pitches were sliders and straight changes. and he had a lot of success with them; threw them consistently for strikes and didn't yield a single base hit, nor even a hard-hit ball, with them. (wait, i take it back -- didn't emil brown's very long, loud foul ball in the 4th inning come on a 3-2 breaking pitch?) the royals swung through the change a couple of times and beat the slider into the ground; overall, though, it seemed to me (again, i didn't track it) as if they mainly took the off-speed stuff and had their hacks at the fastball.

overall, a lot of positives: the guy changed speeds, threw three pitches for strikes, and controlled the inside half of the plate. the cardinals themselves were impressed, players and coaches alike; after the way things went down in jupiter, i'm glad reyes could show 'em some skills.

also notable: la russa called josh hancock into a close game in the setup role. first time that has happened since april 8, when hancock gave up the game-tying dinger to michael barrett. i don't think tony had really planned to use hancock in that situation last night; indeed, i don't think tony played his matchups particularly well that inning. help me understand this: with a 4-run lead, he lifted his top right-handed relief guy (looper), who'd only thrown 11 pitches, and brought in his last remaining left-handed reliever (flores), who proceeded to pitch to two right-handed hitters . . . .then, with the southpaw section of the pen exhausted, he had to leave hancock in to pitch to the royals' most dangerous left-handed hitter, matt stairs, who represented the tying run -- and who would have represented the lead run, if not for the stellar 7-6-2 relay to the plate (no prettier play in baseball) on the preceding batter. if not for that peg, the bullpen would probably have cost the cardinals the game -- and la russa would have a lot to answer for.

something that might have entered into his decision-making: at the time he lifted looper, the next two hitters were a left-handed hitter (shane costa) and grudzielanek, whose career line vs looper is 5 for 9 with a walk and no strikeouts. maybe that's the matchup tony wanted to avoid? if he was going to lift looper anyway, then he might as well go ahead and bring in flores in to face the lefty . . . . but given that the cards had a 4-run lead and are paying looper $4 million a year, you'd think tony should be able to trust him. anyway, it nearly backfired spectacularly. hancock probably got the call to pitch to stairs because josh has held lefties to a .220ish average over his career (they're 4 for 30 against him this season). . . .

the royals' pitcher today, scott elarton, has allowed 6 homers and 14 runs in his last 20 innings.

suppan elarton
4-3, 4.70 0-4, 4.38