Some things to read while shopping for cupcakes.
Last night we all got a strong reminder of why the Cardinals are occasionally referred to as the Uptight Citizens Brigade. It's relatively likely that three different members of a team in a playoff race will be suspended based on their actions in their 8-7, eleven inning win over the Brewers.
I guess we might as well start with the hit by pitch. Tony La Russa, incensed by a pitch that hit Albert Pujols in the seventh, ordered reliever Jason Motte to throw two pitches at Ryan Braun to lead off the bottom half of the inning. The second one hit Braun, leading to warnings being issued to both sides but no ejections. After the game, La Russa basically confirmed that the pitches were intentional.
Strategically, plunking Braun with Prince Fielder on deck in the late innings of a tie game isn't a decision you'll see made often. Craig Calcaterra pointed out La Russa's glaring lack of logic. The Brewers loaded the bases with none out but failed to score in the inning.
La Russa's actions have sparked a conversation about the proper way to respond. In this morning's edition of Around the NL Central, Rubie makes a strong case for retaliation and perhaps even escalation. Toby Harrmann took the opposing view and stressed the importance of rising above. I'm more inclined to side with the latter, but I can understand the desire for the former. Prince Fielder, for what it's worth, said the team is more interested in winning than fighting.
Pujols remained in the game after being hit by the pitch, but told reporters his status is uncertain for today's game. X-rays on the hand came back negative. Cardinals reliever Kyle McClellan rolled his ankle in the eleventh inning and is also day-to-day.
Strangely enough, 12 hours after the fact I'm finding myself feeling a little bad for Jason Motte. He's pretty likely to be suspended for intentionally hitting Braun, as La Russa admitted that the pitches were thrown to "send a message." But at the end of the day there's a strong chance he only did so because he was ordered by his paranoid manager. He can't be absolved of all blame here, but he's probably going to pay the largest price and he wasn't the root cause of the problem.
Of course, that wasn't the Cardinals' only offense last night. Catcher Yadier Molina, after being called out on strikes, made contact several times with and (unintentionally) spat on home plate umpire Rob Drake, leading to his immediate ejection and almost certain suspension. Molina claims that Drake made contact with him first, but these animated gifs seem to refute that accusation. (h/t @SessileFielder) Dave Brown of Yahoo says Molina is likely to be suspended at least ten games.
And the Cardinals weren't even done there: Before the game they filed a complaint regarding the ribbon board that runs along the Club Level seating at Miller Park, claiming the brightness of the display was changed between Brewer and Cardinal innings at the plate (FanShot). I have no idea if the accusation has any merit, but Rubie Q notes that Tony La Russa complains about similar things frequently enough that it's hard to take his gripes seriously. Jaymes Langrehr of The Brewers Bar compiled a short history of over a dozen La Russa complaints.
Other notes from the field:
- Noted headhunter Takashi Saito has now hit one batter this season. Also, the ball that hit Ryan Braun was traveling 96.5 mph, the 13th fastest HBP in the majors this season. Plunk Everyone has those facts and more.
- The reporter peppering La Russa with questions about the plunking after the game was WTMJ's Gene Matzek, who got out of bed and came back to the park to confront him on the issue.
- Last night's events overshadowed the first career home run for Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia, who trotted in 24.02 seconds, and a curtain-call inducing shot for Yuniesky Betancourt, who circled the bases in 21.17.
- Jerry Hairston Jr. went 1-for-6 last night in his first Brewer start, starting in center field and moving to second base late in the game.
- Lance Berkman, Jaime Garcia (who allowed seven runs in five innings) and Daniel Descalso are leading FanGraphs' Star of the Game voting.
- Here's a transcript of Ron Roenicke's postgame comments.
- The Brat won the Sausage Race.
- Yesterday was team photo day.
The Brewers and Cardinals wrap up the series with an afternoon contest today, and Cash Kruth of MLB.com has the preview. After today's game the Brewers get a five day break from the Cardinals' nonsense before facing them again in St. Louis next week.
Last night's loss snapped a seven game winning streak and dropped the Brewers to 40-15 at home. Before the game Howie Magner noted that the team would've been on pace to go 118-44 in a 162 game home schedule.
Meanwhile, the Brewers made a roster move yesterday: They signed lefty reliever Randy Flores, recently released by the Yankees, to a minor league deal (FanShot). Flores has a pulse, major league experience and the ability to throw with his left hand, but that's about the nicest collection of things you can say about him. Lefties have hit a career .275/.345/.435 against him and .290/.380/.508 last season. He'll likely be assigned to Nashville and should slot in behind Danny Ray Herrera on the depth chart.
Baserunning wasn't the Brewers' biggest problem last night, but it's been a relatively significant one this season. At You Know, and That Toby Harrmann has an update on the Brewers' running stats in 2011. They're still significantly below average as a team, but players not named Casey McGehee and Prince Fielder are doing relatively well.
Craig Counsell was used as a pinch runner last night and didn't bat, but that hasn't kept people from discussing his 0-for-45 streak. Jeff Sullivan of Baseball Nation has ten things to know about Counsell's near-record slump. Ron Roenicke publicly defended Counsell again yesterday, saying this among other things:
"I still see a quality Major League player. He's not hanging his head. When he makes an out and he comes back in here, does it bother him? Of course it bothers him. We all feel for him. But I think he's valuable for the stuff he does out there [in the field] and the stuff he does in there [in the clubhouse]."
It's been a pretty good year for a handful of Brewer pitchers, but it's possible Chris Narveson has been 2011's most positive surprise. This week's edition of A Simple Kind of Fan looks at his impressive season.
Call off the search, folks: Lookout Landing has the "most Zack Greinke .gif" of all time.
In the minors:
- The affiliates went 4-1 and Mat Gamel hit two home runs in Nashville's 7-0 win over Round Rock last night. You can read about that and more in today's Minor League Notes.
- Rattler Radio has video highlights of Wisconsin's 2-1 win over Clinton.
- Mass Hass is reporting the Brewers have released pitcher Brae Wright. Wright was a sixth round pick in the 2006 draft but missed the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons following Tommy John surgery.
If you haven't yet, please take a moment to vote in this week's BCB Tracking Poll. It will remain open through the day today and results will be posted tomorrow.
Angels: Pitcher Jered Weaver (six games) and manager Mike Scioscia (one game) have been suspended after Weaver intentionally threw at a batter on Sunday.
Athletics: Designated reliever Jerry Blevins for assignment.
Mariners: Placed infielder Chone Figgins on the DL with a hip flexor strain.
Orioles: Claimed pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes off waivers from the Blue Jays.
Rangers: Designated reliever Arthur Rhodes for assignment.
Tigers: Designated pitcher David Purcey for assignment.
Arthur Rhodes is another lefty the Brewers could consider, but Toby Harrmann makes a strong case against it: Rhodes is 41 years old, has lost velocity, hasn't actually been all that good against lefties this season (.715 OPS against) and is still owed $1.3 million plus a vesting option for 2012.
Today in former Brewers:
- The B-Ref Blog has a list of 20 active players who have played for eight or more teams. Six of them are former Brewers and three more (LaTroy Hawkins, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Felipe Lopez) are current members of this team.
- Ray Durham recently paid a visit to the Hall of Fame and got excited about a picture of Frank Thomas.
Today in baseball economics: The Pirates are threatening to fade out of contention this week, but they're benefitting financially from their flirtation with relevance. They're on pace to draw slightly less than two million fans this season, up from 1.6 million in 2010.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to measuring busts.