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live n learn

rest in peace, skip caray. he was neither as beloved nor as colorful as his father, but i came to like his dry approach quite a bit.

ryan ludwick’s beating himself up for missing that fastball from ryan madson with the bases loaded and two down in the 8th. i went back and looked again, then looked at it on gameday, and he’s right --- you couldn’t have asked for a juicier pitch, belt high and over the heart of the plate. victorino took a similar pitch out of the yard for the game-deciding homer; ludwick, overanxious, yanked his into a DP. right guy, right situation; he just didn’t come through.

you could say the same thing of springer in the top half of the inning. i wasn’t near my laptop and don’t know what the real-time reaction was like on the game thread, but personally i was pleasantly surprised that la russa went to springer there instead of franklin. tony doesn’t like to vary from his patterns, and he particularly doesn’t like to pass over one of his pet veterans and give that guy’s normal job to somebody else --- even to another vet. 8th inning, right-handed hitter ---- that’s ryan franklin’s job, and that’s who tony usually push-buttons into the game. franklin had been warming up earlier in the inning and was ready to go. but, refreshingly, TLR eschewed the rote maneuver and gave the ball to springer, who had gotten burrell out in all 7 of their previous career confrontations, 5 times via the strikeout. couldn’t ask for a better matchup. tony’s second-guessing himself in the paper this morning, saying he shouldn’t have asked springer to pitch for a 3rd consecutive day, but that’s just the manager trying to take the heat off a player who failed. the last time springer pitched 3 consecutive days, in boston june 20 through 22, he threw a shutout inning each day; the only time he threw 3 straight days last year (june 16 through 18, vs oakland and kc) he got the exact same result, a scoreless inning each day. his pitch count in saturday night’s game was only 9, far from a wearying total. and in springer’s 12 previous appearances this season on 0 days of rest, he had yielded a .222 / .300 / .222 line to opposing batters, with only 1 run scoring against him. la russa had ample reason to believe that springer was up to this assignment. right guy, right situation . . . .

stavinoha and mather decidedly were not the right guys in the bottom of the 9th, with the tying run at 3d; putty in lidge’s hands. that’s part of the price you pay with a young team --- from time to time you have to put guys in situations they are simply not equipped to handle, and occasionally those occasions come with a game on the line. those poor dudes swung at lidge’s slider 5 times and never made contact --- not even a foul ball. no disgrace in it; normal part of the learning process. we can hope they take better at-bats next time in that situation, learn to recognize the slider a little bit better. but they can’t take last night’s terrible at-bats over again. they’re in the books.

to cycle back to ludwick’s at-bat for just a second: his standard clutch stats are very good. before last night he had a .311 / .395 / .519 overall line with RISP and a .291 / .409 / .545 line with RISP and 2 outs. and according to BR, he’s got a .973 ops in high-leverage situations, with "high leverage" defined as a leverage index of 1.5 or higher. but in what we might call super-high-leverage situations --- LI of 3.0 or higher --- ludwick has rarely come through: after last night he’s 4 for 21 with 1 homer, 2 doubles, and an intentional walk, for an overall line of .190 / .227 / .429. he’s struck out in 8 of the 21 at-bats. i’m not citing these figures in an attempt to prove anything, just to be clear about this; i’m not suggesting the ludwick’s a choker. a sample that small doesn’t mean anything to begin with, and you’d expect a hitter’s stats to be poor in those situations because in high-leverage at-bats the other team usually has one of its best relievers on the mound. just curious, that’s all; ludwick is still an inexperienced big-leaguer (hunter pence has nearly as many at-bats) and even more inexperienced as a Big Time Hitter. he told rick hummel his "hands released a little early," which is a polite way of saying he overswung --- he took a jumpy swing. this, too, can be chalked up to the cardinals’ learning curve in 2008.

if there’s one thing i’m annoyed about, it’s that 3-6-3 they didn’t convert on chase utley right before the phils’ clinching rally. izturis or ryan might have turned it, and one of those guys should have been in the game. hell, one of them should have started --- miles has no business playing ss with those two on the team. i don’t want to turn this into a miles-bashing thread, because we’d all have to admit he’s been very good this year --- worth the money they’re paying him. whether or not his performance is sustainable (and it almost surely isn’t), he’s the only st louis middle infielder who’s hit worth a damn this year; he’s hit as well as eckstein did in his best seasons here, and for a fraction of the cost. but his bat still isn’t enough of an asset to overcome the cost of his substandard defense at ss. last night was his 18th start of the year at the position, and that’s 18 too many.

did that cost the cardinals the game? absolutely not; far from it. i only mention it because it’s the only thing within their control that they could have done differently.

if you’re looking for some good news, todd wellemeyer showed some encouraging signs last night ---- best performance in the last 2 months, imho. he induced 11 swinging strikes, his highest total since june 5 (when the elbow first barked) and his second consecutive game in double digits (he got 10 swinging strikes last time out); 5 of the misses last night came off his slider. the colonel has thrown at least 6 innings in 4 of his last 5 starts; his game score last night, 62, was his best in over a month and the second straight time he has topped 50. if he can get more comfortable out there at the same time that carp and (soon) wainwright come back to the rotation, the cards still might make this interesting.

and here’s a little more happy spin (don’t know what’s gotten into me this morning): since wainwright and wellemeyers’ troubles began, back in the first week of june, the cards have played exactly .500 --- 26 wins, 26 losses, with identical runs for / against totals (253). they’ve lost 2.5 games to the cubs in the standings, and 4 games to the brewers. given that they’ve been missing (literally or figuratively) their two best pitchers during those two months, we couldn’t realistically have asked for better results. of course, if not for the constant late-inning meltdowns the last couple of months, the cardinals would have achieved better. . . . . .

let's just not go there.