Chris Carpenter became only the 2nd pitcher in the history of MLB to win a postseason game after not winning a regular season game in game 3 of the NLDS. Carpenter was brilliant, and I’ll talk more about it if the Cards advance past the NLDS. For now, just a few thoughts on Carpenter. As I said before the game, it wouldn’t surprise me for him to do what he did. Carp is one of the best big game pitchers in the history of baseball. Having a rib and a couple of muscles in his neck removed apparently doesn’t change that. Just simply amazing. For all my sabermetric friends who don’t believe in clutch because you can’t measure his heart, head and determination, you might want to change your thinking process just a bit. I love stats as much as anyone, but there’s something about being in a bigger moment that makes Carpenter tick. If you want to say the sample size isn’t big enough, go ahead, but don’t expect any reasonable person to agree with you.
Next, Jim Joyce. The Cardinals had scored 20 runs in the previous two games by crushing balls in the zone. In Game 4, the Cardinals never got a shot to hit balls in the zone. I don’t usually complain about umpires, but that was the worst job I’ve ever seen by an umpire in a playoff game. I’m glad I’m not the only one, as Jon Heyman tweeted about it how awful and it was, as well as many other well respected writers. Heyman’s exact words were that Joyce didn’t like the old strike zone, so he invented a new one. 60ft6in.com rated Joyce with a 746, which is the worst ever for an umpire during a playoff game since they started doing it in 2001. The Nationals offense had no life up to this point and the Cardinals were about to end it in 4, and they were stopped by Joyce, plain and simple.
I’ve seen a lot of people jumping on Matt Holliday for taking three pitches for strikes. This AB was the most blatant of them all by Joyce. It wouldn’t have mattered if Holliday would have been standing on the plate, he still doesn’t get good wood on those pitches. If you want to keep bashing Holliday, ask yourself this if you would teach anyone to reach that far out of the zone to try and hit something if you were the coach. The other problem I have with it is why just bash Holliday? Ross Detwiler was getting outside corner calls 4 inches off the plate to right and left handed hitters all night, as well as the pitchers that followed him. It seemed to me the only way to slow the Cards offense down was for something like this to happen.
The other thing I want to point out is when in the hell has the strike zone ever gotten bigger in a playoff game? Greg Maddux didn’t get those calls, which is why his postseason record was never as good as his regular season record. The same can be said for Tom Glavine and many others. What has Detwiler ever done to get calls like that, a pitcher with a 16-22 career record? This was the Jim Joyce show, and there’s a reason we know his name along with Joe West, Angel Hernandez, Tim McClelland and a few others. They have to be bigger than the game and put their stamp on every single game they’re involved in.
Mike Matheny is doing all he can do. If he runs out and makes a scene about it, he’s probably told to “Sit down and shut up rookie”. I do wonder if Dave Duncan were still the pitching coach if it would have changed the outcome. Duncan would have been all over him from the dugout from the first inning on, which may or may not have made a difference. Kyle Lohse did get a few calls as well, but then the zone changed in the 9th inning. After being down 0-2, Jayson Werth was struck out twice by strikes in the zone that were called balls. Lance Lynn was beat on the 13th pitch to Werth, and so were the Cardinals. How these same clowns can continue to umpire in the playoffs is beyond me.
As I said, I complain about umpires about as often as Bob Costas says the wrong thing, and it’s clear I’m not the only one in this case. Joyce got what he wanted, which was all the talk being about him. Congratulations Jim, you win. You had to be in the spotlight once again. Oh well, like I said in the beginning, Cards in 5.