Thursday, September 16, 2010

Seamhead stuff

* The Padres have scored a total of two runs in their last four games at sea level. Unless baseball creates a Mountain West Conference, the Pads may need to change that mini-trend.

* Tonight's game in St. Louis was the kind of test the Rockies' hitters face, and flunk, many times a year. The Padres were coming off a series in Denver, where pitches don't swerve and dart like they do at sea level. Padres hitters had a lot of fun in those three games. Tonight, they kept skulling the baseball. Great praise Jake Westbrook, a groundball artist who made several clutch pitches tonight. Who knows, if the game were played in Wyoming, Westbrook still may have had his best outing as a Cardinal. He didn't allow a run in eight innings. How many times has a Padre done that at Petco this year? Probably can count 'em on one hand. I suggest the difficulty of going from high to comparatively low is evident in Colorado's history. Only once have the Rockies posted a winning road season.

* In the duel between starting pitchers, Tim Stauffer actually had equal or better stuff and accuracy than Westbrook. Funny game, this baseball.

* Not that Stauffer was wholly unlucky. He had a poor game both defensively and as a hitter. If he had defended and bunted like, say, Greg Maddux, it likely would've been a much different ballgame. That's another way of saying, I miss Maddux.

* Obviously Stauffer's four-pitch walk to Skip Schumaker was a killer. The Cardinals went on to score three runs, expanding their lead to 4-0 in the sixth. Schumaker was the leadoff hitter. Stauffer knew he was entering his final inning. Behind Schumaker was John Jay, who had ripped two hits off Stauffer and this time would drop a beautiful bunt single. Behind him was Albert Pujols. Yep, a game-changing walk. Have to make Schumaker swing the bat there.

* Looked like right-fielder Ryan Ludwick got a slowish jump on the Pujols lob that landed in right-center, a foot beyond Ludwick's diving try. Big play.

* Pujols didn't look himself in any of his four at-bats. He's been nagged by an elbow injury. Matt Holliday looked a lot more comfortable. Let's see how Albert looks Friday.

* Westbrook, to his credit, was at his best against the Padres' best hitters -- Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Tejada.

* Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus made a nice play in left-center to thwart Yorvit Torrealba. A lot of outfielders slow down in order to dive. Rasmus lost no speed and speared the ball without leaving his feet.

* Yes, it was a gut punch for the Padres when Molina blooped a two-run hit off Ryan Webb later in the sixth. On the other hand, Molina did well to stay alive in the at-bat, then put a difficult pitch into play. I've seen Molina have those kind of great at-bats too many times to attribute it to luck.

* Here's what bad luck is: The previous batter, Rasmus, was called out on a pitch that appeared far outside (both on TV and the mlb.com). Plate umpire Ed Rapuano is a good umpire, but he had a weird night. Westbrook's armside sinker seemed to get favorable calls from Rapuano. That is, until the sixth, when the ump called that pitch a ball to Torrealba with the count 2-2. Westbrook looked miffed, but then induced a groundout from Torrealba off a 3-2 pitch. Big pitch, that.

* You could see that Will Venable made Westbrook uncomfortable in their first two meetings. Westbrook throws a lot of sinkers, and Venable's swing matches up with that pitch's location and speed. First at-bat, easy walk. Second at-bat, scorched single. Third time up, the veteran pitcher took advantage of Venable's confidence. He threw four consecutive offspeed pitches, including three consecutive changeups, and retired the lunging Venable on a popup. A former basketball star, Venable came late to advanced baseball. All things considered, he's having an OK season. If he can learn to make adjustments a little faster, then the Padres might have something.

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