Leave a Pitch In The Middle Of The Plate, Get Burned

AP Photo/Larry Ignelzi

Piniero made one mistake in a bad spot – 2 on, 2 out in the sixth against the Padres #5 hitter – and Kevin Kouzmanoff hit it out to dead center for a 3-R HR.

Padre color commentator Mark Grant thought it was a slider that didn’t slide. Whatever. It was definitely a breaking ball, and it hung in the middle of the zone, the proverbial “ball on a tee”. Kouzmanoff didn’t miss it. It was Piniero’s 88th pitch of the game. He would throw 2 more, the second turning into a sharp single to LF by Khalil Greene, before exiting.

The warning signs were already up before Kooz hit his HR. Piniero missed his targets badly while striking out Adrian Gonzalez for the second out of the sixth. His 1-0 pitch was supposed to be on the inner half, but actually got a lot of the outer half of the plate. I can only assume Gonzo wasn’t looking for that pitch in that spot, because that’s a pitch he usually handles with power. The other pitch was on 2-1, I believe; Molina set up inside and Piniero missed way outside.

I have noticed that LaRussa tends to let his pitchers work out of trouble, even when they are missing their spots; he did it in 2006 with Carpenter on several occasions, for example. Carp is a good enough pitcher to battle through when he’s tired. Piniero is hit or miss. I thought, watching that game, that perhaps LaRussa should have gotten Joel after he retired Gonzo. Hindsight is always 20-20, of course. There were good reasons to leave him in. It was only the bottom of the sixth; Piniero had barely cracked the 80 pitch mark; the Padres had only 2 hits coming into that inning (although they had matched that total in the sixth); he had just struck out the Padres best hitter. Of course, some of those reasons are also good ones for taking him out.

Can’t really blame the offense for this one. Maddux pitched well other than the second inning, and the Cardinals managed to plate 2 runs. It could have been at least one more if Piniero gets a better bunt down. Credit the rookie Carlin with a good play to retire Kennedy at second. Other than that threat, Maddux pitched like he always does against St. Louis – Tough.

In other news, AP went 0-4, but that o-fer included a line shot in the first right at Gonzo that turned into a DP, and a hard ground ball in the sixth that Kouzmanoff made a real nice play on diving towards the LF line.

AP gave an interesting interview to the Padres radio pre-game show yesterday afternoon. I caught about 2/3 of it before pulling into my driveway. In addition to the usual platitudes about the team and LaRussa (and that’ s not a dig at AP; just good interview-ese), he was asked about his approach, specifically if he changes his approach for a notorious pitcher’s ballpark like Petco. His short answer: No. His longer answer focused on keeping his routine, which includes video of that night’s pitcher and time in the batting cage to get loose.

He also said “I don’t worry about the ballpark. I can hit it out of anywhere.” Not boastful, just matter of fact. I thought that was cool. His approach during BP, if you are interested, is to make good contact and concentrate on hitting line drives gap-to-gap (this matches what he told Joe Morgan during an interview ESPN played on Sunday Night Baseball about 2 weeks ago). If it goes out, it goes out. He wants to get the ball deep in the power alleys on a line. Real interesting to me to hear what he focuses on. I know I’m only a beer-league softball player now, but I tend to get caught up trying to hit it 350 feet plus (because I can) instead of concentrating on making solid contact and hitting a line drive.

Which, incidentially, is what my father tried to impress on me. Since AP does the same thing, looks like my dad knew what he was talking about. And that doesn’t surprise me one bit.

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