The Platoon Advantage isn't really a game-recaps kind of place, I've noticed, but this is the World Series, right? So you'll have to excuse me as I point out my three favorite and three least favorite plays of the game.
Chris Carpenter goes laying out like a college frisbee player for Albert Pujols's poor throw in the top of the first. Carpenter tags the bag, but his momentum carries more than just his glove across the base, putting his pitching arm and head directly in the math of Elvis Andrus's onrushing boot. Andrus kindly avoids stomping all over Carpenter's face and the Cardinals' dreams, though, and steps on the scant portion of the sack left to him. He's out, but he is a gentleman.
Pujols, by contrast, needs to take a little more care not to put his Game One starter in a position to suffer grievous bodily harm.
- Mike Napoli does a Mike Napoli thing and blast an enormous shot to deep right field. Napoli, you'll recall, is a right-handed person. Right field, then, is the opposite field. His homer would've been a pretty majestic ball even to his pull side. The other way? It was downright impressive, though perhaps diminished a bit by the fact that we almost expect this from Napoli at this point, such has his legend grown.
Albert Pujols attempts to make his amends with a nice sliding/diving play down the first base line to take a medium squibber hit away from Michael Young. He completes the play with a perfectly on-target throw to Chris Carpenter covering the bag. A run does not score. Given that the Cardinals win the game by the count of 3-2, that seems rather important.
You might expect, in a series managed by Ron Washington and Tony LaRussa, that this section is going to be entirely manager-"strategy" focused. As part of a conscious effort to avoid complaining about the same things that everyone is complaining about, then, I present to you Josh Hamilton lollygagging his way under a fly-ball in the bottom of the fourth. The way one should catch a fly-ball, any fly-ball, but especially one with runners on base and fewer than two out, is to sprint to the spot and wait for the ball to come to you. When you go jogging along with the ball and make a casual catch on the move, you're out of position to throw and in a position to lose track of the flight of the sphere. Hamilton made a clean catch, of course, since he is a major-league baseball player, but he made it with his back to the infield at or near the warning track. Berkman, noticing that Hamilton wasn't in any kind of a position to make a play,
sprinlumbered to second to put his team in a better position to score. Poor show from Texas's Wonderboy.
I can't completely leave the managers alone. In the bottom of the fifth, with a man on first and nobody out, Tony LaRussa ordered a bunt by Jon Jay. This left a man on second with one out for Albert Pujols. Not content to leave well enough alone, Ron Washington put up four fingers. I'm not even sure I can describe how frustrating this is as a baseball fan. It's not even about it being smart strategy or not (it's not), it's about whether the game is exciting. Bunts and intentional walks suck the life out of a game whether you're a person who reads run-expectancy tables or not.
The human element will surely play as visible a role in this series as it has in baseball ever since we all started yakking on Twitter every time an ump misses the strike zone by three inches. This time, Adrian Beltre appeared, from Fox's infrared camera, to foul a ball off the tippy-toe of his shoe, but the umpire missed it, resulting in a groundout instead of a strike and a continued at-bat. It's not entirely fair to take the umpire to task over this, since slow-motion replays were unable to determine whether the ball hit the dirt or Beltre's cleat, and only a small hotspot on the weird infrared camera (showing its value in just one game!) suggested that the Cardinals may have caught a break.
Still, I think we can bemoan the fact of a missed call without villifying the man who missed it. Robot umps won't solve every problem, and this is one of those shrug-your-shoulders plays in the final analysis, but it's a disconsolate shrug for me.