ST. LOUIS -- There's an ever-present temptation in baseball that, when one thing works, try it again. Even in this age of advanced analytics, where the game's micromanaged as never before, it can still come down to a singular human instinct.
We did this. It worked.
The Pirates capped a lousy 1-5 trip out of the All-Star break with a lousier-than-all-of-it 6-5 loss to the Cardinals on this Wednesday afternoon at blistering Busch Stadium. They're 45-50, they're 6 1/2 out in the Central, they're treading toward toast status for 2019, and I'll get to all of that in a bit.
But this one ... this just might have stung on a different level. Because this one was right there. A chance to fly home at least somewhat satisfied with taking the last two, with fundamentally outperforming the franchise that's famous for that, with at least a mini-momentum recaptured.
Instead, it was this:
That was Paul Goldschmidt, tearing into a three-run rocket off Michael Feliz in the seventh inning.
And that, if one watches it again, is one whale of a bad pitch.
Possibly a bad pitch selection, too.
Francisco Liriano had put two aboard to open the inning, and Clint Hurdle lifted him for Feliz — partly for the right-on-right matchup, partly because Feliz has been exceptional the past six weeks: 1.80 ERA, .184 opponents' batting average, no runs at all since June 22. And when Feliz evened the count at 2-2 with a fastball that was fouled off, it felt pretty promising:
Wow, that should have been the pitch we were all fussing over.
Still, for the next pitch, Jacob Stallings called for another fastball, and away it went.
"Yeah, trying to go up and in," Stallings explained to me. "I mean, he was late on the one before it, and I felt like that was a better pitch to hit than the one he hit for a homer."
He's right. The previous pitch was in a hotter zone ...
... but oh, my, back-to-back fastballs to one of baseball's most feared bats is playing with wildfire.
Same goes for fanning on the location as badly as Feliz did. Stallings' mitt was, in fact, up and in. The pitch went over the inside corner.
"I think I missed my pitch," Feliz said. "We called the right pitch. I just missed."
Hurdle also had equally hot Richard Rodriguez available, as well as Kyle Crick and, at least theoretically, Felipe Vazquez. He expressed zero regret at the choice.
"Feliz's stuff matches up against Goldschmidt and Tyler O'Neill better than anybody else we've got ... Rodriguez, Liriano ... Goldschmidt and O'Neill were 0 for 5 against him coming in. Unfortunately, the fastball location was off on the pitch he threw Goldy today."
Why not Rodriguez, the team's best at stranding inherited runners, as he demonstrated again brilliantly less than 24 hours earlier?
"We game plan beforehand, and you're looking to the guys you want to go to," Hurdle replied to that. "Rodriguez, every time you put him in, I don't know if he's going to bat 1.000, either. But based on stuff and history and everything else, Feliz was the guy we wanted to go to. He didn't get it done. That's a decision I made."
I've seen Feliz look roughed up, meaning mentally. He was a mess much of the period before that demotion to Indianapolis. But he hasn't looked anything of the sort since his June 8 recall, and he sure didn't after this.
"I'll be good," he said. "I'll bounce back."
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