This and every weekday a.m. during baseball season, let's rise and shine together to recap the most recent diamond doings. Roll Call starts at Minute Maid Park, the former Enron Field — a venue named after the first celebrated and disastrous financial fraud of the decade. On the subject of fraud, the Cardinals and Astros, lucky playoff contenders in a weak division, played an extremely exciting and flawed ninth inning.
Game of the Day
No, it was the game of the year!: Start with a marquee pitching matchup and finish with a scintillating ninth-inning comeback — in the context of an air-tight playoff race in the NL Central — and you've got yourself quite a ballgame. Right?
If you're an Astros fan, your heart says "yes," of course, after watching Chris Carpenter(notes) narrowly outduel Roy Oswalt(notes) and then Miguel Tejada(notes) (right) bring home the winning run with a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth (VIDEO).
Just check the look on Tejada's face. He's the happiest man in the world!
And why not? The 'Stros swept the Cards and — how, exactly, nobody's quite sure — have climbed within a game of first place (which ain't exactly like climbing Mount McKinley). The Astros have it in their contract that they get hot in the second half. Happens every season.
If you're a Cardinals fan, you're just a grump because your team lost after coming in 48-1 with a lead after eight innings.
Objectively, though, the ninth inning alone featured so many mistakes it's hard to envision a berth for either team in the playoffs, much less any success in them:
• Ryan Franklin's(notes) meltdown. After coming in with 22 saves in 23 opportunities and microscopic averages, he just didn't have it. Can the Cards really expect a guy with average stuff to be nearly flawless again in the second half?
• Chris Coste's(notes) at-bat. The famous author and world bleeping champion failed twice to bunt Ivan Rodriguez into scoring position. Only a lousy 0-2 breaking pitch by Franklin allowed Coste to pull the pitch into the left-center gap, where Colby Rasmus(notes) played the ball like it glowed with radiation. Pudge scores, we're tied 3-all (VIDEO).
• Michael Bourne had two choices in his at-bat. With runners at first and third, still nobody out, he could either try to hit the ball through the drawn-in infield, or hit a fly 300 feet anywhere and bring in the winning run. He went airborne, but only about a few dozen feet beyond the infield dirt.
• Kaz Matsui did put the ball on the ground, but hit it sharply at Joe Thurston(notes), a defensive replacement at second base. With the whole infield telling Thurston to start a 4-6-3 double play, he briefly bobbled the ball and decided to go home, throwing high and putting Yadier Molina(notes) in a tricky position with Coste bearing down on him. Despite a collision that caused Molina's facemask to fly, he held onto the ball after making the tag (VIDEO).
What about Coste's choice? He had to have seen Molina jump for the ball. He had enough time to commit to a slide, which might have allowed him to beat the throw — and possibly really upend Molina and lessen his chances of holding the ball. But he chose a semi-physical push instead. Not exactly Pete Rose and Ray Fosse.
• Franklin then throws a 2-2 pitch that Tejada is able to pull to left — far away from the defense — making it impossible to throw the runner out at home.
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Feelin' Rundown (flawless games, each and every one):
White Sox 4, Rays 3: Another wacky one, with the defending AL champions charitably giving the Sox all but one of their runs. A throwing error by Jason Bartlett(notes), followed by a misread on Alexei Ramirez's(notes) fly ball to Bossman Junior in center, who played it into a tying triple.
Matt Thornton(notes) gets the save, but Ozzie lets everyone know that Bobby Jenks(notes) is still the closer. Jenks got booed heavily — although I think some of the boos were directed at Ozzie for not taking Jenks out — during Tuesday's ninth-inning collapse. I'm not big into booing (David Wright(notes)), but these guys should be able to take it better than they do sometimes.
Dodgers 6, Reds 2: Dusty goes through all of the machinations to take the pitcher out, and do a double switch, all to strategize against pinch-hitter Manny Ramirez(notes). Dusty did everything right. But Nick Masset(notes) throws one fastball and Ramirez kills it for a grand slam into Mannywood. On Manny Bobblehead Night, no less.
Angels 9, Royals 6: Just wait for the Royals relievers to come in. It's a simple tactic and the Angels follow it beautifully.