Tagged: Aaron Miles

4thebirds…LIVE! Phillies vs. Cardinals 8/3/08

Pujols’ protection must come from the front side, too (two)

513506782_84a6cdbf18_m-pujols-photo by Barbara Moore.jpgMost discussions relative to the protection of Albert Pujols seem to take on a backwards approach, meaning the biggest concern is always the cleanup hitter. Suffice it to say, the Cards have plenty of those types; for instance, Troy Glaus, Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, and even Chris Duncan with an improved swing.

The number two spot in the lineup, however, is just as critical, if not more. If a strong three-hole hitter is to see pitches good enough to drive all over the ballpark, there must be men on base when he steps into the batters’ box. Otherwise, pitchers will simply “pitch around” him, not giving him an intentional walk, but not giving him anything good to hit. In such a scenario, a batter such as Pujols can only take a ready stance in wait of a “mistake” pitch.

Pick any Cardinal you want to bat behind Pujols and you’re still going to see him get pitched around. That’s because pitchers would still rather face the other big hitters than Pujols, even if they are on a hot streak. This pool of power-hitters have enjoyed a lot of good pitches with which to play longball this season, evidenced by the fact that there are two Cards with more round-trippers than Pujols and one that is catching up fast due to a recent hot streak. Not to say these hitters are nothing without Pujols, but rather, just saying they may be getting “better stuff” to hit with Pujols around.

So far, Pujols has been protecting the four-five-six hitters rather than the other way around. And it’s not the fault of this “power core,” either. It just so happens that Pujols is a sort of victim of circumstance. And it’s not like anybody from Cardinal Nation should have any complaints about this sector of power in the middle of the lineup, either.

The situation does reveal, however, the need for the best number two hitter you (La Russa, actually) can find. There are surely many camps regarding this issue. Only one guy gets to vote. But that doesn’t mean we can’t campaign.

Submitted for the number two lineup position: Aaron Miles.

Not because he has just hammered a walk-off grand 2527138360_2f2a24c132_m-miles-photo by Iscan.jpgslam, though. In fact, his occasional power barely factors in at all.

The Miles choice is based upon two factors: 1) the number two batter should be more of a contact hitter than a power hitter; 2) Miles best suits the requirements of #1.

Simply put, the school of thought dictates a contact hitter, and a good one, be inserted after the leadoff hitter, and it doesn’t matter that you have a similar hitting type in the “pitcher doesn’t bat here” spot. What does matter is that your best, most dangerous hitter, Pujols, is hitting in the three-hole and needs front-side protection in the form of a minimum of one base runner.

La Russa doesn’t seem to subscribe to this basehit type of swinger batting second (enough for this article to stay in the drawer, anyway), but let’s advance this theory anyway. And let’s base it on the idea that, since the usage of the “pitcher bats eighth” strategy is in play, you may as well take advantage of that strategy and give your team three bonafide shots at getting a base runner aboard in preparation of Pujols’ at-bat instead of just two.

There are three reasonable choices for this second lineup position: Miles, Cesar Izturis, and Skip Schumaker. Miles is the best choice, basically, because he is a switch-hitter with the best hitting skills. More so, because of the hitting skills. Being a switch-hitter is a bonus. Favorable match-ups versus particular pitchers could, of course, factor in to a particular day’s lineup, as Adam Kennedy has a decent sampling of at-bats versus a variety of hurlers, including American League moundsmen.

The two-spot could change, as well, if indeed, any of the aforementioned candidates proves themselves worthy, including Brendan Ryan and Brian Barton, but not hitters like Yadier Molina or Jason LaRue, for instance, who, while accomplished, simply do not possess the foot speed. Putting anyone on base that isn’t going to outrun Pujols isn’t going to benefit the extra-basehit side of his stroke.

But whatever the number two protection, batting hitters like Ryan Ludwick or Chris Duncan just doesn’t bear out the proposed or the strategy currently in practice. These latter hitters are, or have the potential to be, good hitters in a different way. The strikeout ratio to at-bats that comes with the strengths of most power hitters, however, just isn’t going to help protect Pujols, and doesn’t do a whole lot for the four-five-six hitting positions, either. We’ve even seen Ankiel in the two hole, which at first, seems like an excellent choice, with his foot speed. But Ankiel has developed into a feast or famine type, great for power, but with plenty of K’s to go with it, the type of production not as well suited for the two-hole.

Like it or not, this traditional number two batter is in order, mainly, because Pujols is so good at the plate. If Pujols was anybody but Pujols, a less traditional two-hole batter might just work. But as long as Number 5 is batting in the number Three, the Cards will need to protect with the number Two.  

Pujols photo by Barbara Moore

Miles photo by Iscan

Miles’ walk-off grand slam sweeps Padres

2527138360_2f2a24c132_m-miles-photo by Iscan.jpgAaron Miles hit a walk-off grand slam to break a ninth-inning 5-5 deadlock, giving the St. Louis Cardinals a 9-5 win and a four-game sweep of the San Diego Padres.

Some ninth inning strategy by Padres’ manager Bud Black backfired, times-4. With the game tied, Black brought on reliever Bryan Corey to attempt to hold so the Padres would get an extra-inning shot at winning. Things started out OK for Corey, getting Jason LaRue to ground out for the all-important first out an inning.

Corey pitched around Albert Pujols, walking him. While on first base, Brad Thompson was sent to the plate, La Russa’s bench short on hitters/position players since he had elected to go with one extra pitcher than the norm. Thompson pulled off an attempted bunt, the pitch a ball, and substitute catcher Luke Carlin threw wild to first base trying to pick off Pujols. The ball rolled far down the left field line, Pujols scampering all the way to third base.

With Pujols representing the winning run, Black intentionally walked pinch hitter Yadier Molina, then Skip Schumaker, loading the bases for either an easier force out at home plate or a chance at an inning-ending double play. The Padres’ outfielders pulled in shallow for a potential fly ball and tag-up situation versus Pujols at third. Miles would be the hitter.

A fly ball to any outfield of moderate depth would give the Cards a win, but Miles launched a fast ball into the Cardinals’ bullpen in right field, a walk-off grand slam that got him mobbed by teammates at home plate.

Brad Thompson (2-2) would pick up the winning, having come on in relief for Jason Isringhausen in the top of the ninth and allowing the P2669894717_d9c85539bc_m-devin kouzamanoff-photo by SD Dirk.jpgadres to tie it up at 5-all on a base runner for which Isringhausen was charged. Kevin Kouzmanoff had delivered the big blow then, a double over the head of center fielder Rick Ankiel to score the fifth Padres’ run.

The Cardinals’ recent call-up, pitcher Jaime Garcia, recorded a no decision in his first major league start. Garcia was greeted to the starting role with a leadoff home run by Scott Hairston. Garcia worked five innings, giving up three runs, all earned, scattering five hits, walking one and striking out four. All in all, a good outing for Garcia’s first start.

During Garcia’s five innings, the Cards could only muster one run when Ankiel drove home Miles with a double to deep right field.

Down 3-1 in the seventh, Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa called upon Albert Pujols to pinch hit with Glaus on third base. Glaus had singled, then advanced to second on a fly ball that Padres’ center fielder Hairston threw to first base trying to double off Glaus. No one was covering the bag, however, and by the time the Padres had recovered the ball, Glaus had tagged up and raced to second base. When LaRue singled Glaus over to third base, Pujols pinch hit for reliever Kelvin Jimenez, lofting a sacrifice fly to left field, Glaus scoring to bring the Cardinals within one at 3-2.

Randy Flores got a shot at relieving, securing two outs in the eighth, giving up one hit before La Russa called on Kyle McClellan, who intentionally walked pinch hitter Adrian Gonzalez, then getting Luis Rodriguez to ground out.

Down one run in the eighth, Schumaker led off with a single. La Russa called for a sacrifice bunt in an attempt to get the tying run into scoring position, but first baseman A. Gonzalez jumped all over Miles’s bunt, snapping a throw to second base to force out Schumaker. Ryan Ludwick singled, but with no base runner in scoring position, there was no chance to score. Ankiel had a shot at bringing home Miles from second base, but struck out. Glaus’s three-run shot made up for all of the failings in the inning, putting the Cardinals up 5-3 at the time.

Struggling reliever Jason Isringhausen got a shot at closing, but the Padres had other ideas. With one out, Hairston singled, followed by a double by Edgar Gonzalez that right fielder just missed cutting off running hard into the alley. Hairston sprinted three bases to score, bringing the Padres within one.

Brian Giles then singled, Gonzalez holding up at third base. That set up the aforementioned Kouzmanoff double that brought home the tying run.

Brad Thompson took over the mound from there, getting some big play help from Pujols and LaRue to get the Cards out of the last inning jam.

Besides winning the game and securing a sweep of the Padres, the Miles’ walk-off grand slam kept the Cardinals’ record perfect since the All-Star break.

Miles went 3-for-5 on the day, scoring three runs and tallying four RBIs. His batting average has risen to .323.

Miles photo by Iscan

Kouzamanoff photo by SD Dirk

NoteCARDS v Pirates 7/13/08

After 9 innings (Final)

Cardinals 11
Pirates 6

Tyler Yates now pitching for Pirates; (T.J. Beam); (Franquelis Osoria); (Sean Burnett); (starter Ian Snell)
Ryan Franklin now pitching for Cardinals; (Kyle McClellan); (Russ Springer); (starter Joel Pineiro)

Bottom of 9th:
[Ryan Franklin relieves Kyle McClellan]
Chris Gomez hits a weak fly to shortstop Cesar Izturis for the first out.
Ryan Doumit lines a basehit up the middle, just beyond the reach of Cesar Izturis.
Jason Bay strikes out swinging for the second out.
Xavier Nady hits a long fly ball to left, left fielder Ryan Ludwick making the catch at the 383-foot marker for the last out of the game.

Top of 9th:
[Tyler Yates relieves T. J. Beam]
Troy Glaus hit a towering blast into the Cardinals bullpen in center field, the ball carrying 30 feet beyond the 410-foot marker and over the bullpen bench.
Chris Duncan hit one through the box into center field for a basehit.
[Joe Mather pinch-runs for Chris Duncan.]
Yadier Molina hit a line drive up the middle, but second baseman Chris Gomez raced over and stabbed it for the first out.
Aaron Miles laced a line drive into right field for a basehit, Duncan advancing to second base.
Adam Kennedy pinch-hits for Kyle McClellan, check-swinging a hit just beyond the reach of shortstop Jack Wilson, Joe Mather having to hustle to make it to third base to avoid getting forced out.
Cesar Izturis stikes out, not able to hold a check swing on the third strike for the second out.
Skip Schumaker hits a line shot right at center fielder Nate McClouth for the third out.

Bottom of 8th:
Luis Rivas pinch-hits for T. J. Beam, flying out to Ryan Ludwick in left field for the first out.
Jack Wilson hit long fly ball into the right-center field gap, center fielder Skip Schumaker making a diving catch for the second out.
All-Star Nate McClouth grounds out to second baseman Aaron Miles to end the inning.

Top of 8th:
Cesar Izturis hit a sinking line drive into center field, Nate McClouth coming on to make the play.
Skip Schumaker hits a hard ground to ball to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who makes the putout unassisted for the second out.
All-Star Ryan Ludwick drove a long fly ball for a home run to dead center field, 20 feet beyond the 399-foot marker, tacking another run to extend the Cards lead to 10-6.
All-Star Albert Pujols ground out to third baseman Jose Bautista to end the inning.

Bottom of 7th:
[Kyle McClellan relieves Russ Springer.]
Xavier Nady singles into right field.
Doug Mientkiewicz pops out to shortstop Cesar Izturis for the first out.
Jose Bautista hits a line shot that first baseman Albert Pujols snags, stepping on first base to double off Nady for an unassisted double play.

Top of 7th:
[Franquelis Osoria relieves Sean Burnett]
All-Star Ryan Ludwick singles into center field.
All-Star Albert Pujols hit in leg by the pitch, advancing Ludwick to second base.
Troy Glaus rips a line drive down the left field line, doubling home Lucwick with the tying run and third base coach Jose Oquendo holding up Pujols at third base.
Chris Duncan hits through the hole on the right side, singling Pujols home with the lead run, Glaus holding up a second base.
[Osoria gets visit from Pirates’ pitching coach.]
Yadier Molina squibs one in front of the pitcher, the hit working like a sac-bunt, advancing Glaus to third base and Pujols to second base.
Aaron Miles drove a long fly ball to the wall in right-center field, clearing the bases with a triple.
[T. J. Beam relieves Franquelis Osoria]
Rick Ankiel pinch-hits for Russ Springer, flies out to right fielder Xavier Nady, who throws to home plate, catcher Ryan Doumit tagging out Aaron Miles for the third out.

Bottom of 6th:
Jose Bautista lines out to second baseman Aaron Miles for the first out.
Sean Burnett doubles over the head of left fielder, Ryan Ludwick. (Burnett’s first ML hit.)
Jack Wilson grounds out to shortstop Cesar Izturis, Burnett advancing to third base.
All-Star Nate McClouth walks.
McClouth advances to second base on a botched run-down play.
Chris Gomez cracks a long fly ball over the head of a diving Ryan Ludwick in left field, the ball rolling to the wall; Burnett scoring the tying run easily, and McClouth scoring from second base with the lead run, the Pirates pulling ahead 6-5 on the two-out hit.
Ryan Doumit walked, giving the Pirates men on first and second.
[Russ Springer relieves Joel Pineiro.]
Jason Bay hits a pop-fly to short center field, second baseman Aaron Miles making the play for the third out.

Top of 6th:
Yadier Molina singles to center field.
Aaron Miles hits ground ball to second baseman Chris Gomez, Gomez making an error trying to field the ball for doubleplay; Molina advances to third base on the play.
Joel Pineiro strikes out for the first out of the inning.
Cesar Izturis grounds to third baseman, J. Bautista, who throws to second baseman Gomez at
second, but the relay to Meintkiewicz at first base was too late, Molina scoring to put the Cardinals in the lead, 5-4.
Cesar Izturis steals second base (his eighth stolen base in 12 attempts).
Skip Schumaker grounds out for the final out of the inning.

Bottom of 5th:
Freddy Sanchez pinch-hit for Ian Snell, singling to left field.
Jack Wilson singles to right field, Sanchez advancing to second base.
All-Star Nate McClouth flies out to Skip Schumaker in center field for the first out.
Chris Gomez flies out to deep Skip Schumaker in deep center field. Sanchez tags up at second, advancing to third base on the fly ball; two outs.
Ryan Doumit pulls a double down the right field line, Sanchez scoring the second Pirates’ run, Wilson holding up at third base.
Jason Bay hits a single through the hole on the left side, Wilson and Doumit scoring to tie the game at 4-apiece.
Xavier Nady hits a line drive up the middle, Bay advancing to second base.
Doug Mientkiewicz grounds out to end the inning.

Top of 5th:
Skip Schumaker singles to center.
Ryan Ludwick pops out to second baseman Chris Gomez.
Albert Pujols pops out to catcher Ryan Doumit.
Troy Glaus walked, Schumaker advancing to second base.
Chris Duncan grounds out to second baseman Chris Gomez to end the inning.

Bottom of 4th:
Pirates down in order: Nady, Mientkiewicz, J. Bautista.

Top of 4th:
Troy Glaus doubles with two outs.
Chris Duncan doubles down right field line, Glaus scoring to tie the game at 1-1.
Yadier Molina walks on a wild pitch, Duncan advancing to third base.
Aaron Miles launches a three-run homer into the right field seats, Cards now up 4-1
Joel Pineiro walks, Snell gets visit from pitching coach.
Cesar Izturis lofts a lazy fly to Jason Bay in left field to end the inning.

Bottom of 1st:
Xavier Nady singles home Chris Gomez in first inning to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.