When the Cardinals traded away starting center fielder Colby Rasmus for a starting pitcher, a soon-to-be starting pitcher and spare veteran parts, it was assumed they were making a real push for the post season. The Milwaukee Brewers stomped on their division crown dreams while the Wild Card seemed a long-distant dream.
Events (such as a run of great play by the Fightin’ LaRussa Lawyers) conspired to re-introduce the Cards into the tightening WC race. The Cardinals stood poised to move within a single game of idle Atlanta when they entered the 9th inning with a 6-2 lead on the New York Mets.
Suddenly, it all went pear-shaped.
Tony LaRussa sensed the importance of this game to the Cardinals. Even with a four-run lead, TLR called on his best reliever and closer, Jason Motte. Motte has been busy of late, working nine times in the past two weeks. No matter, LaRussa wanted to lock it down. Whoops.
A leadoff walk to Willie Harris (!) brought Nick Evans to the plate. A slow chopper to short looked like a fielder’s choice at worst, a double play as the best possible outcome. Instead, Furcal boots it. Everybody is safe, trouble brews.
Two more walks, a broken bat, seeing-eye single by Jose Reyes off Marc Rzepczynski and a double by Ruben Tejada off former closer Fernando Salas and the game was tied with Angel Pagan at the plate.
TLR couldn’t believe what he’s done! He needs to save the Cards season! Quick, issue an intentional walk to load the bases! Salas strikes out David Wright but Willie Harris singled in two runs (!!!) and the collapse was complete.
The Cardinals have an exhausted bullpen and a big hill to climb, right? They enter a crucial weekend series with the Cubs with their best bullpen arm having worked eleven times in September, including three days in a row and two additional back-to-backs. That must be a problem, must it not? Tony LaRussa offers a resounding NO.
“No,” La Russa said when asked about potential effects of Motte’s workload. “He may be getting distracted by somebody thinking he’s the closer. He should keep his fine focus on, just pitch as good as I can. He’s not the closer. He’s the closer a lot of times. He doesn’t need to be distracted with that nonsense. He’s not the closer for next year. That’s just not in his best interest or ours to distract guys.
Distractions. Distracted by the throbbing pain in his right arm, amiright?
Whenever a team is in an “All Hands on Deck” situation, workloads are going to increase. TLR is just working his TLR magic here, distracting his players from the distractions which distract them as they attempt to overcome the odds. With the Astros and Cubs the only remaining teams on their schedule, the Cardinals certainly might make this improbable comeback complete.
If they fall just a single game short, this disaster will live long in the memory of Cardinals fans. Not to mention Ryan Theriot, who was right all along.