Hey, the Cards and Tony LaRussa are a lot of things, but mostly what they are is NL Central champs much of the time and a team that doesn't beat itself often. The same cannot be said of the Pirates.
They did so many off the wall things tonight to last them the summer. The Cards won 4-3, gifted with three unearned runs and the game-winner scored by a guy the Bucs refused to tag out.
Of course, it wasn't all physical errors. JR and the braintrust decided that the outfield shift was such a potent concept that they'd try it with the infield, shifting radically towards the third base side against select righties...and guess what? It didn't work.
Two singles hit through the shift's hole, a walk and a Ronny Cedeno error put the Bucs down 2-0 before they got to bat. The Cards added another when Andy LaRoche's error came around to score with two outs.
Lastings Milledge singled in a run in the fourth, while Ryan Doumit doubled home another in the sixth. A tying run scored on a wild pitch in the eighth.
Ah, the eighth inning. With LaRoche on third and Andrew McCutchen on first with no outs, Garrett Jones hit a chopper back to the mound. Mistake #1 - runner on third, no one out...
Mistake #2: LaRoche got caught in a rundown between third and home, and McCutchen took third. As did LaRoche. With both runners aboard, McCutch got tagged and was out. A mistake, but a defensible one.
Mistake #3: LaRoche thought he was out instead of McC, headed toward the dugout, and in a self-fulfilling prophecy, was tagged out for a DP.
It's easy enough to blame LaRoche, but it does kinda make us wonder what third base coach Tony Beasley was during the festivities. Apparently whatever he was doing, it surely wasn't coaching.
Still, they tied the game on the wild pitch. In the ninth, Evan Meek struck out the side. But in between the K's, the Redbirds scored when pinch runner Joe Mather went to steal second with two outs. The Pirates sniffed it out, called a pitchout, and had him thrown out easily at second.
But Mather pulled back his lead hand diving into the base, and Aki Iwamura tagged the dirt. And hey, Yadier Molina had the shift on, and punched the ball the opposite way for a double to drive Mather in with the game-winning run.
Lost amidst the self-inflicted wounds was a bounce back performance by Zach Duke, who lasted into the seventh and scattered nine hits without allowing an earned run.
JR, please quit with the smoke and mirrors defense. The Bucs could have recovered from errors by their two most dependable infielders if the defense played straight up. A manger is supposed to put his team in position to win games, and this new found love affair with trick defenses doesn't allow them that chance.
After all these years of frustration, is a little fundamental baseball too much to ask for?