The score was 6-2 Cardinals, top of the 8th with two outs, the bases were loaded, and the Cardinals just put Ryan Franklin on the mound. Jim Tracy had to make a decision - who would pinch hit for John Grabow?
Looking down his bench Tracy saw Matt Kata, Cesar Izturis, Nate McLouth, and Jose Castillo all available.
So who would you choose knowing the following player production in 2007 with runners in scoring position and two outs:
Kata you say? Sure - he's been solid as a left hand hitter against righties this year and his history this year suggest he had no less than a 10% better chance of producing than any of the other players.
But Tracy took McLouth, the third worst hitter on the active roster with men in scoring position, and three pitches later he popped out to second.
Before a team can change the "losing mentality" that has been driven into their souls from more than a decade of losing in Pittsburgh, the manager has to first put the team in a position to believe in him.
Jim Tracy failed that test Tuesday night.
Where was Josh Phelps who wails Ryan Franklin, you ask? Tracy had used him in the 6th with two on against Russ Springer, a pitcher he's never faced before, and he ground out to end that threat. Izturis who had faced Springer before, and was one for two against him, sat on the pine instead.
And why didn't left-hand hitting McLouth start the game against the hard throwing Pineiro instead of Steven Pearce, a raw rookie? Good question.
Talk about packing it in - Jim Tracy needs an award for this loss.
The Cardinals jumped all over Matt Morris and his early jitters returning to Busch with five runs in the first three innings, but then he settled down and kept the Pirates in the game, little that it seemed to matter to Tracy.
Home plate ump Bruce Froemming missed a lot of calls all night long for both teams but none hurt as bad as in the 3rd when Morris walked Ankiel on a 3-2 pitch that seemed to be right down the middle of the plate. That loaded the bases for Pujols who hit a fly to left which should have ended the inning but instead scored a run.
Edmonds was then walked on four pitches and Duncan hit a bases clearing double into the left centerfield gap putting the Cardinals up 5-2.
Not one time did Tracy come out of the dugout to talk to Froemming despite the fact veteran pitcher Morris was shaking his head back and forth on many of Froemming's calls in the third inning.
As I said, it was like Tracy packed it in.
There were some nice defensive plays turned by the Pirates but none were more impressive to me than in the 8th when Molina bunt with Shumaker at first, LaRoche retrieved the ball and threw to second for the force, and Wilson fired back to first to Sanchez who was in a full stretch to receive the relay to get Molina.
No folks, the score was 6-2 Cardinals and Sanchez didn't have to stretch much less look like he was doing the splits. It was VERY impressive to me.
Maybe all the recent Gold Glove talk has woke up Freddy's senses a bit more than usual, because I've never seen Sanchez split like that. Not once, and I've watched nearly every out of every game for years.
Bautista also made a nice play in the second when he skied in the air to grab a Branyan line drive. Unfortunately for Bautista, he also saw two other line drives pass his weigh station and he also bobbled the second slow tapper in two nights.
How does a rookie (Pearce) get picked off first base with an aged veteran coach like Shelby and one of the best pickoff artists behind the dish in Molina?
It happened in the second and it was a very sorry sight to watch.
Congrats to Lynchburg's Todd Redmond for his season ending near no-hitter Monday where he ended up with a one-hitter and one run allowed over seven frames. Now that's how you tell Mr. Miller there are a few more real prospects in the Pirates system than he seems to think there are.
I still can't get over Appy State beating Michigan. Unbelievable.
I see Jewitt and Muelens were brought to Pittsburgh as coaches. No Jeff Andrews - how bizarre. I guess Andrews is still trying to figure out how to fill in the rover cards somewhere.
What to expect from Bullington Wednesday? A lot of nerves, a lot of walks, a lot of hits, and a lot of runs.
But if the script plays out that way, don't believe it means too much - it's a huge start for him and he's going to be so wired it will take 50mg of Valium to keep him on Earth.
Bullington doesn't have the stuff to miss too many bats so all we can hope for is that he doesn't hurt himself making the start (now watch him strikeout 10).
A lot of fans seem to have taken offense to Kovacevic's chat today because I received quite a few emails on the subject. The one consistent gripe was about this answer Kovacevic gave:
"There are signs of hope, yes. But for what? For contention? For the Pirates to take the next step, at the major-league level and below, they need to develop the ingenuity necessary to acquire high-end talent, the kind that carries low-spending teams to first place. The Pirates acquire safe talent. Huge difference there."
First of all for those that asked, I have no idea what Kovacevic meant when he said "at the major-league level and below". Why he inserted 'and below' is anyone's guess but I'll take a wild stab and assume he meant our better prospects will then remain blocked and in the minors longer if "high-end talent" was indeed acquired.
I agree Kovacevic has had an extremely negative voice all year. And folks, I can't tell you why Kovacevic remains employed since he seems so dysfunctionally unhappy at times about the very beat he writes about.
I know if I owned that rag, I certainly wouldn't have my beat reporter hammering everything from the top of the organization to the bottom nearly every week in one personal opinion or another. And, at what point is there an ethical crossover since the media is perceived to "report the truth"?
I'd leave the hammering to the blogs, discussion forums, and fans themselves.
Perhaps beat reporters should just stick to covering the beat and not get involved in Q&A's and chats where their personal opinions are intermixed with "the truth" because there sure have been some wild assumptions mentioned in a few this year that have stirred the pot.