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Rhymes With Loin
by Derek Smart
What's that? You wanted to see more Jerry Hairston in the lineup? Well, by golly, you're going to get it, because now that Neifi! will be assuming a longer-term position to the left of the diamond, that second base spot is there for the taking.
I have to have a sense of humor about what could be a season-ending injury for Nomar - it's the only way to keep from collapsing into a puddle of weeping goo - and the fact is, I feel less sorry for me, Cub fans, or the team, than I do for Garciaparra himself.
To work so hard getting back from last year's problems, signing a deal that could hopefully raise his future value, playing for a club that he appears to genuinely have some affection for, only to have that potentially taken away by a freak accident, well, it just seems cruel.
Obviously, I hope he makes it back quickly, but not just because the team needs him. I want him back because I just feel like he deserves a better shot at restoring his reputation, and of being a part of a championship team on the field - hopefully in Cubbie blue.
But enough of these maudlin meanderings. Take away Nomar's misfortune, and we were treated to one fun ballgame, at least from a Cub fan's perspective. Here, for your enjoyment, are some of my finest bullet points:
There are few greater pleasures as a Cub fan these days than seeing Carlos Zambrano at his ground-ball inducing best, and we got that in spades last night. When Z can have the ridiculous movement he had, yet still throw 80 out of 118 pitches for strikes, the opposition is about as helpless as you're ever likely to see. And when that defenseless attack belongs to the mighty Cardinals, it's just that much sweeter.
The Cardinal defense last night was...well...un-Cardinal-esque, to coin a clumsy phrase. Historically, a very tight unit with the leather, St. Louis had unusual, if small, breakdowns in what is normally a brick wall of strength. Here's a list of the miscues:
John Mabry lets Neifi!'s first inning line drive pop out of his glove.
Abraham Nunez can't turn the potential inning-ending double play on Derrek Lee's ground ball.
Nunez can't hold on to Einar Diaz' throw on Lee's steal of second, keeping the inning alive for an eventual Jeromy Burnitz RBI single.
Diaz can't hold on to Carlos Zambrano's two-strike foul tip, keeping the at bat alive.
Jim Edmonds can't cut off Zambrano's hit toward the left-center field gap because of extra shallow positioning, resulting in an RBI triple.
Diaz attempts to throw Todd Hollandsworth out at second on Zambrano's fourth inning sacrifice bunt. No harm though, as Patterson hit into a double play in the next at bat.
Edmonds misjudges how hard Aramis Ramirez' fifth inning ball was hit, taking a route that allowed the ball to reach the wall for an RBI double.
David Eckstein boots Aramis Ramirez' potential ninth inning ending double-play ball, only getting Ramirez at first. The Cardinals escaped the frame unscathed, but not before Julian Tavarez loaded the bases.
Oddly, the plays that did the most damage were fairly excusable - Mabry appeared to lose the ball in the lights; Nunez first had to field a very hard hit ball, then contend with Derrek Lee's knee in his glove; Diaz can't really be faulted for missing a foul tip; and while Edmonds appeared to misjudge how hard Zambrano's ball was hit, he was probably playing too shallow with a pitcher at the dish to really have a shot at cutting it off.
The more inexcusable plays (the last three, by my book) resulted in less damage, as two had no real impact, and one - Edmonds misplay of Ramirez' hit - would have likely still driven in a run even if better executed. All told, though, it was an uncharacteristically sloppy night for Redbird D, and it made a huge difference in the game's outcome.
Speaking of defense, I've yet to make mention of it this season - an oversight to be sure - but Michael Barrett is having a tremendous year behind the plate, particularly in the area of throwing out baserunners. We were treated to another example of his excellence thus far when he gunned down David Eckstein in the sixth.
It appeared to be a botched hit and run play, but even so, Barrett's throw was right on the money, like nearly every play he's made to second this season. I don't expect him to continue throwing out 64.3% of would-be basestealers, but he's obviously improved on his past performance. When we see that percentage start to fall, I'd bet it will be more because of baserunners being more selective in choosing when to run, than any decline in Barrett's throwing.
Again on defense, along with the good there's been some bad, but what Aramis Ramirez has done in the field of late is downright ugly. It looks like all the improvements he made in his footwork last season have been utterly forgotten - he's not getting properly set, and his entire motion looks completely out of rhythm.
I don't know if it's simply a rough patch, or if Aramis thought he fixed what needed fixing last year, but it's getting to the point where I fear every throw will go in the dirt. Sure, it gives me a reason beyond his ridiculously hot bat to throw praise at Derrek Lee, but I'd rather this issue was nipped in the bud so I could relax a bit.
More on Nomar's troubles when news comes down the pike, but for now, enjoy this afternoon's getaway day tilt between the great rivals of the Mid-West, while saying your prayers for our boy's speedy recovery.