I would not have sent Ryan Franklin out for a second inning (although, who I am kidding, I wouldn’t have brought him into a tie game to begin with).
I definitely would have had Lopez bunting with Ryan on second with no one out, after a Carlos Marmol balk.
I don’t think I’d have put Brian Barden into such a high leverage situation in his first at-bat with the big club this season, even to sacrifice bunt. (Although I had to laugh when WGN put up a stat showing that Barden had never sacrificed in 24 (!) Major League at-bats. 24?!?! Really? Then I reminded myself that I wouldn’t have brought him up in that situation either.)
Finally, I would’ve had Cesar Izturis laying down a squeeze bunt with Ryan on third and Lopez on second and one out. Even though the squeeze had to be foremost on the mind of the Cubs and Lou Piniella, Derrek Lee seemed to be playing awfully deep down the first base line, with Iz2 hitting from the left side.
Now for what actually happened…
In the Cards’ half of the ninth inning, Lopez worked the count full, fouled off several pitches before taking one in the dirt from Marmol, giving the Birds two runners, first and second, with no one out.
Barden almost broke every finger on his right hand trying to put a bunt down the third base line on the first pitch he saw from Marmol, up and in. He shook his hand a few times, calmly stepped back in and dropped the next one perfectly, deep enough to make Aramis Ramirez field it. The Cards had runners at second and third with one out. So far so good.
Izturis took a couple pitches to run the count 2-0, then swung and missed on a pitch it was clear he was just trying to get in the air and out of the infield. Then, as if karma chose the Cards for one night out of many when it has shunned this team, Iz2 chopped a weak hopper to second on an excuse-me swing that was just slow enough to allow Ryan, running on the play, to score around the attempted tag of Geovany Soto.
I saw a lot of good things in the three innings I actually got to watch (travel day for me today, didn’t get home until the Cards had tied it 3-3).
I still don’t trust him as far as I can throw him, but Franklin did the job for one night. Gosh if only he could’ve been that effective for half of his games pitched this year.
Felipe Lopez is hitting .382/.435/.539 since signing with the Cardinals. I wrote at the time of the signing that if LaRussa, and more importantly guys like Albert Pujols could convince this guy to give a little effort, I thought he might be decent, but probably not enough playing time to make a difference. I can’t take credit for having the solution that has made him hit since coming over, since if you click the above link, you will see me generally panning the signing just like everyone else, he has definitely made the most of the opportunity. It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals treat him in the off-season. Is Lopez any sort of long-term answer in the middle infield?
Lots to like from Brendan Ryan tonight. The kid has always been a hustle guy from what I’ve seen, but has been in TLR’s doghouse for a long time. If you look at the replay of Ryan’s jaunt home from third tonight on Izturis’ chopper, there’s lots to love, and plenty to get a guy out of a hard-nosed manager’s doghouse. Once he took off, Ryan never once looked back to see where the ball was. It’s a fundamental that every kid learns in Little League, but players seem to lose at the big league level. Ryan put his eyes toward the plate and didn’t flinch. Then there was the slide. Soto had the plate blocked, and the throw wasn’t terribly late or off-target. There was certainly enough time to stuff a foot-first slide into the shin-guard and make a tag, really putting a damper on the Cardinal rally. Instead, Ryan dove around Soto on the outside, and made as deliberate a slap in the dead center of home plate in front of the umpire’s face on a close play that I’ve seen in a long time. Excellent work by a kid who finds himself again trying to secure a spot on next season’s team.
So touche, Tony. You’re the manager and I’m not. Tonight, it all worked swimmingly for you. Tonight…