Close games are always emotional, especially when a Division is in contention.
Tonight in Miller Park, the emotions seemed to have boiled over a few times as the Cardinals battled to an 8-7 win over 11 innings. The game itself was interesting and exciting from start to finish, but a simple Hit, Run, Error recap would simply not do tonight’s contest justice. Instead, it would be more prudent to examine just what caused the flare-ups in what is turning this rivalry into one part baseball, one part soap opera.
Earlier in the series, a very strange thing happened. I should probably say ‘allegedly happened’, because nobody is sure what the problem was, except for Tony LaRussa. The Cardinals manager had several conversations with third base umpire Bruce Dreckman regarding the fact that the LED board that hangs around Miller Park appeared – to him anyway – to shine brighter when the Brewers were at bat and dimmer when the Cardinals stepped to the dish. Dreckman notified the League Offices about the ‘incident’ and it seemed to be swept neatly under the rug from there. I did not see the game in question (shocking, I know) so I can’t speculate as to what was going on. Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin said there was “no cheating” and that “there was nothing to handle”. He declined further comment on the issue, but I always find it hard to trust a baseball man when he says everything was fair game.
Fast forward to tonight’s game, and even more outright skullduggery ensued. In the top of the seventh inning, Takashi Saito took to the mound. He was facing Albert Pujols, and brought a ball high and inside, knocking The Machine in his left hand. I cannot honestly say if the hit was intentional, but going high and in on Pujols is never a bad decision considering what the guy does to pitches basically everywhere else in the strike zone. The decision is, however, always a dangerous one for both Pujols and the opposing team.
What certainly was intentional was what happened to Braun in the very next Brewers at-bat. The first offering was way away and an easy ball one. Next pitch – no surprise – came very high and very in. The next pitch came just a bit lower but in enough to smack Braun in the middle of the back. Brauny got to flex some muscles and Molina volunteered his services to escort the Brewers number three batter down to first, and both benches were warned. Never in my life have I wanted to read lips more than tonight, because I’m sure Ryan Braun could have expanded my profanity vocabulary quite a bit.
I’m not really mad about the tit-for-tat that went on, that’s part of baseball. You hit our guy, we’ll hit your next guy. It’s been going on for a hundred-plus years, and it’s a decent enough way for teams to regulate themselves. What irks me is the fact that you generally only get one shot at it. If you just brush him back, well, better luck next time. Either way, the message is received and that ought to be – and often is – the end of it. But to come back and plunk him on the very next pitch is pretty bush league in my opinion. But that is nothing new for Cardinals melty faced Manager Tony LaRussa. LaRussa is a big fan of ‘gamesmanship’ – especially when the ball lands in his court. He would tell you that he is a victim of circumstance. He has to send a message to opposing teams, especially when that team is full of dirty, dirty sign stealing cheaters like Milwaukee. If I can’t trust my own General Manager, I sure as hell cannot trust Tony LaRussa.
In other mental meltdown news, Yadier Molina went insane on the home plate umpire in the tenth inning. Apparently, the called third strike on the Gold Glover was, in fact, a ball. It had to have been, because otherwise Molina would not have gone Incredible Hulk on Rob Drake like he did. Molina was most likely taking exception to Drake’s strike zone, which undoubtedly had a lot of leeway tonight. In games like this, it doesn’t take much to set people off. Molina is definitely going to regret his tenth inning tirade, because from where I’m sitting there’s no way out of a suspension. All Drake has to do is bring the jar of spit Molina splattered on his face during his shouting match to the appeal and that ought to end it.
In any event, the game boiled down to a knock-down, drag-out, old school baseball game that fell in favor of the Cardinals. I think we all learned a valuable lesson tonight about the emotional aspect of baseball. Mainly, that it makes for one hell of a rivalry and an exciting run down the stretch.