So it'll be an all-red World Series: the Red Sox and the Cardinals. I know Fox is ticked that they donít get the Clemens-Red Sox angle, but come on, guys, you get Suppan-Red Sox. You can't beat that. Besides for you baseball historians, you get a rematch of the 1946 and 1967 World Series, both of which were won in seven games by the Cards.
1946 saw Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, and Bobby Doerr match up with Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, and Marty Marion. In '67 the Cards had Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda, and Roger Maris and the Sox had Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, and Reggie Smith. The big story in each series was a hot pitcher who ended up winning three games, Bob Gibson in 1967 and Harry Brecheen in 1946.
Anyway, in the "Greatest Series that Nobody Saw" finale tonight, they was plenty to mull over. Leading 1-0 in the second, the Astros were set to break the game wide open, they had men at first (Vizcaino, who had singled) and second (Kent, who had walked), with one out. Unfortunately, for them Brad Ausmus was up next and then Clemens. However, Ausmus sent a 2-1 ball deep to left center for a sure double and two runs. Jim Edmonds went full out, dove, and timed a fully extended catch perfectly. He even got up and got a throw into second in attempt to double-off Kent. Clemens then K'ed.
In the third, Carlos Beltran walked and stole second with one out. Then on the next pitch, a shallow fly to center by Bagwell, he went to third on what seemed an ill-advised tag-up attempt. But Edmonds throw came into third at the same time as Beltran, it got past both third baseman Scot Rolen and Jeff Suppan, who was backing him up, and rolled into the dugout as Beltran scored.
Suppan was laboring. The Astros led 2-0, but it could very easily have been at least 4-0, and Roger Clemens was breezing. In the bottom of the third, the Cards used the suicide squeeze by pitcher Jeff Suppan to plate Womack, who had doubled and moved to third on a fielder's choice.
In the fourth Kent was hit by a pitch and Ensberg singled in an 11-pitch at-bat. Duncan had already gone to the mound; Danny Haren was up in the pen. Vizcaino hit what looked like a sure double play ball to Pujols, but the Ensberg slid late into second and Renteria held the ball. It was then first and third with one out, and Ausmus and Clemens both struck out. If I were the Astros, I'd have Ausmus bat ninth.
It was quiet until the fifth, and then Clemens started to loss control. He gave Jim Edmonds a pitch that wasn't bad but was a bit high on 1-2, and he singled past a jogging Jeff Kent (who if is foot isnít hurt, must have lost much more range than I realized). He finally registered his first strikeout of the night on Sanders, but then gave up an 0-1 single to demoted leadoff man Tony Womack, on a nice piece of hitting by Womack. (They aired an interview with Houston pitching coach just before that, a certain kiss of death in this series.) Clemens appeared to be laboring already here but Garner, who lost all faith in his middle relievers, had no one up in the bullpen. Clemens then caught a broke, catching Womack leaning and then picking him off even though replays showed he was save, not to mention Bagwell was blocking him off the bag. Then Matheny did him a favor and flied out an outside 2-1 pitch.
Next came the fateful sixth. With Clemens looking tired on the mound, Garner still had no one throwing in the bullpen. The Fox crew disclosed that his plan was to bring Roy Oswalt in for an inning before going to closer Brad Lidge. As Bob Brenly pointed out this was not a well-thought out plan because Oswalt would take to long to get ready in a pinch. After pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno started out with two balls, he hit a 2-1 single past a diving statue of Jeff Kent. Nothing else would have that little range. That should have been it for Clemens after a poor but lucky fifth, but no.
He went 2-0 on Renteria, all the while worrying about Cedeno at first, before finally giving him something to sacrifice. Again Walker started 2-0. No one up in the pen. He got a meaty low fastball past Walker, and amid taunts of "Roger", got Walker to ground out meekly. It looked like Tony LaRussa's small ball and luck would get him out of this inning again. Garner had a conference on the mound with the entire infield but had no one up in the pen still. With Pujols up, Clemens was missing his spots entirely. He gave him a fastball over the plate that Pujols just missed at 1-1. That brought Ausmus to the mound. The next pitch wasn't terrible, but it was supposed to be up and in and it wasn't in or up enough. Clemens didnít have anything but the fastball tonight (which was still around 94) and Pujols was obviously timing it. It was the third time he had seen it in the at-bat. Pujols doubled in the tying run.
Then he threw the same exact pitch to Rolen and he hit a perfectly timed, line-drive home run right over the left field wall. The Cardinals led 4-2. That finally got Dan Wheeler up in the pen, but the game was essentially done as the Astros could do literally nothing (no hits, no walks, nothing) against three different Cardinal relievers in three innings. No Brad Lidge, but Garber did get two innings out of Oswalt for whatever reason.
So again a manager played a game as it were a Sunday afternoon game in May and paid the price. The Astros deserved better, but Phil Garner had clearly decided he was not going to lose with his middle relievers even though he apparently had no qualms about losing with his Hall-of-Fame starter. So he did. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I donít care if you have Cy Young himself on the mound. If he is laboring in a close game in the playoffs, get him out.