Tonight’s Cards/Reds game was delayed by 2:10, due to a severe storm that blew through the area. The game started on time, but only six pitches were thrown before the umpires halted proceedings and started the rain delay.
Now I don’t know how hard it was raining when the lineup cards came out to home plate before the game started. It is a bit odd the crew would only allow the game to be played for 2 minutes before calling it. However, that’s what they did.
Tony LaRussa, anticipating there would be a rain delay – and in looking at the radar photos after the fact, how could you not – decided to start Miguel Batista in place of Kyle McClellan. He assumed that a rain delay would happen before the fifth inning, and might be an extended one; he did not want to burn his starting pitcher out by having him sit around for over an hour before he could go back to the mound.
It’s an interesting piece of gamesmanship, one I personally have not seen tried before. McClellan ended up working six innings and stands in line to get the win.
Dusty Baker did not attempt this kind of gamesmanship; he penciled Edison Volquez into the lineup as planned, then pulled him after the rain delay. His starter didn’t throw a pitch.
Via Twitter, it was reported that Harold Reynolds on MLB Network advocated the Reds protest this game based on how LaRussa juggled the lineup. Protest what, exactly? That the Cardinals changed starting pitchers at the last-minute? There is no prohibition in the Official Rules preventing that. In fact, near as I can tell, the starting pitcher only becomes official when the lineup is handed to the umpire-in-chief before the start of the game (Rule 4.00). There is no requirement to even announce who the probables are (if I’m wrong here someone please point it out in the comments).
Protests of games occur when one side thinks the other side has cheated, and has the rule book to back them up. There is no protest here. Sure, the Reds COULD protest the game, but they’d lose.
Is LaRussa guilty of some gamesmanship? Absolutely. I think he was brilliant in the way he handled this. Did LaRussa cheat in some way? Absolutely not.