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Motte gets Apple Jacked

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Maybe Isringhausen, the late model version, is like Beetlejuice—you say his name enough times, even when comparing Motte favorably to him, and you get him, ready to teach yuppies everywhere a lesson and give up doubles all over the field. 

In Motte's defense, he was beaten in the way we expect him to win—he went out there and fired strikes, mostly fastballs, got a number of swinging strikes, and only fell apart when he was obviously beaten. This is how a Motte blown save will look, and at least it's consistent with how a Motte save looks; one of the most infuriating things about Isringhausen's blow-ups were that they seemed predestined.

Izzy would walk out, throw a pitch or two, and it was immediately apparent that the Izzy we got that night was not the fastball-curve guy who shut teams down but the one who threw cutter after cutter out of the strikezone, nibbling and nibbling until he'd eaten the whole lead. (Eventually, of course, the good Isringhausen disappeared someplace and left us with the bad one, the little devil on both shoulders.) 

This game gives us an early Motte narrative: first pitches. A cursory examination of the Gameday shows exactly one close first pitch taken, by Nate McLouth; it wouldn't make Ted Williams happy, but it's a solid strategy when Motte's gameplan is to throw a first-pitch fastball really hard somewhere in the strike zone. The good news, if there is any, is that two of those first-pitch fastballs were swung at and missed, no matter how intently they were sitting on them.

Motte will be an interesting test of Dave Duncan's mettle—as a converted catcher who gives up more hits than one would expect, given his high strikeout totals, he seems in obvious need of some coaching, but he's about as far from Dunc's wheelhouse as a pitcher could possibly be. 

Lost in the Motte-down is—most everything else. The encouraging signs force themselves out in the open; Pujols got three hits, Duncan stroked a double, Wainwright seemed bizarrely intent to work on his breaking ball (did anybody else notice how often he pitched backward in the early going?) but made up for the wildness with some strikeouts. 

The bullpen management, though, is more likely than most things to go unnoticed in the face of the bullpen performance. Kinney coming in in the middle of the sixth inning, runners on, seemed like an odd choice, both tactically—he's a wipeout slider specialist who still hasn't done a lot of pitching in the last two years—and for what can be inferred from it—is Kyle McClellan, heretofore the last man on the roster, a set-up man, or was La Russa aware that Kinney's early innings role was more highly leveraged? 

It's too early to get much deeper than this—all the Facebook statuses bemoaning the lack of free agent help in the pen at this late hour ought to take a look at the Yankees' box score, which reiterates that this is early in the season for rookies and multi-millionaires alike. We hope that La Russa and Duncan watch a few more games before they break the glass and pull Franklin out; we should watch a few more before we break our keyboards worrying about it. 

Lohse v. Snell tonight—could be another frustrater for the Cardinals if Ian Snell has remembered how to throw the ball in the strike zone. (If he watched Motte, he should have taken notes.) But at least Brendan Ryan won't be leading off, he said, fingers crossed.