The cheering gets louder in St. Louis each time Albert Pujols comes to bat, and it’s hard to tell if it’s adoration or desperation. Because if the Cardinals don’t win tonight and/or Game 5 on Friday, free-agent-to-be Pujols might be playing his final game for them. That sound you hear just might be pleading.
Pujols did his part Tuesday — doubling three times, hitting safely four times, stealing a base — but he was left in the on-deck circle when the Cardinals needed him most: as Allen Craig rapped into a double play to end the eighth.
Which left Pujols to lead off the ninth — he doubled — and then complain about the shadows from the late-afternoon start time, and how hard it is to see the ball (for everyone but Pujols, presumably).
“They’re making their money, they’re paying their money,” Pujols said, according to espn.com. “I guess they put the game time however they want it.”
Money and choices — that’s a bad combination for Cardinals fans to think about.
The Phillies have their own worries. Their offense continues to plod — in the 16 innings since they built a 4-0 Game 2 lead, they’ve been scoreless in 15 of them.
And going to the bullpen Tuesday was like dipping into the small-change jar — there wasn’t much of value to be found. Four Phillies relievers faced 16 Cardinals batters and recorded nary a strikeout; they gave up seven hits, a walk and both runs in 3 innings.
Still, the Phillies lead 2-1, they face Edwin Jackson today, and they have Roy Halladay to pitch Friday at home if they need him. The Cardinals are in a precarious position, and if not unprecedented for them this fall, they have to wonder in the late innings now if each Pujols at-bat will be his last in red. Expect a lot of angst by the arch today.
In other games:
Tigers vs. Yankees: Tigers GM Dave Dombrowksi insisted each team got what it wanted in the three-way 2009 deal which brought Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. Maybe he’s right. Maybe the Yankees just have a bigger appetite. Granderson saved three runs Tuesday with an over-the-shoulder catch in the first, snuffed out another rally with a diving catch in the sixth and doubled in a run in the fifth. Even A.J. Burnett — we half expected Joe Girardi’s “short leash” to include a leadoff walk to Austin Jackson in the first — couldn’t pitch badly with that kind of support. The Tigers’ side of the trade Tuesday was Phil Coke surrendering half of the Yankees’ six-run eighth. The Yankees’ 10-1 win evened the series, which has been a mini-version of the Yanks’ 1960 World Series loss: the Yankees have outscored the Tigers 26-12 (they outscored the Pirates 55-27), yet the series is tied 2-2 (they lost to the Pirates 4-3).
Rangers vs. Rays: Rays owner Stuart Sternberg played the payroll card after just 28,299 fans watched $96-million free agent Adrian Beltre homer three times and drive the Rays out of the playoffs. “This is untenable as a business model going forward,” he said. Long-term, perhaps he’s right. But in the short, it sounded like frustration for the Rays losing two one-run games at home and a 3-0 lead with their best pitcher on the mound in Game 2. You can understand his puzzlement at the small crowd. You would think Tuesday’s early start time would impact fans less in St. Petersburg, where more of its fans have every day off, than anywhere else.
Brewers vs. Diamondbacks: Arizona’s 8-1 win stretched Milwaukee’s postseason road losing streak to 6. Of course, that includes the last three games in St. Louis of the 1982 World Series, so it’s more irritant than relevant. Here’s what matters: Brewers not named Fielder or Braun are batting .186 with just four extra-base hits. Arizona’s win snapped a nine-game postseason losing streak — its last previous postseason win was one Yankees fans remember too well.