Cardinal Knowledge of Second Base Lacking
Second base was not kind to the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday night.
Edgar Renteria made a fabulous stop on a hard-hit grounder up the middle off the bat of Milton Bradley in the bottom of the seventh, but he was unable to get the ball out of his glove cleanly in time to force Shawn Green out at second. Had the play been made, Steve Finley would not have scored the tying run and the Cardinals would have escaped the inning, leading 4-3.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Jose Hernandez hit a groundball just to the right of Tony Womack, who flipped the ball to Renteria covering second and Edgar dropped the ball. It was ruled an E-Rent. Cesar Izturis later singled to center, scoring two runs and giving the Dodgers a 6-5 lead.
(Eric Gagne pitched the ninth, retiring the Redbirds in order to pick up his 40th save of the season and becoming only the fifth reliever to record 40 or more saves in three consecutive seasons. Gagne now has 147 saves since becoming a closer in 2002--the most over a three-year span in the history of major league baseball.)
But the play that may have been most costly was a running error on the part of Larry Walker in the top of the eighth. With one out and a runner on third, Walker singled to right center to put the Cardinals up by one run. With Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds coming up next, the St. Louis fans were looking for the proverbial knockout punch.
What happened next not only cost the Cardinals the game but it should, in time, also cost Pujols a hit that he would otherwise have deserved.
In the box score on espn.com, Pujols is credited with two hits when, in fact, he only had one. Let's take a look at Albert's plate appearances one at a time:
In the top of the first inning, Pujols flied out to center. (0-for-1)
In the fourth inning, Albert struck out swinging. (0-for-2)
In the sixth, the Cardinal first baseman doubled to deep left, driving home Womack. (1-for-3)
In the eighth, Pujols whistled a line drive to right field. Walker went from first to third but failed to touch second base in the process. Izturis noticed Walker's mistake, called for the ball, and stepped on second. Walker was called out on appeal. The play becomes a force out and Pujols is charged with an at bat and no hit. (1-for-4)
Although it may seem unfair to penalize Pujols for Walker's slip (so to speak), the proper scoring decision is clearly spelled out in the Official Rules.
Official Rules: 10.00 The Official Scorer:
A base hit shall not be scored in the following cases: (a) When a runner is forced out by a batted ball, or would have been forced out except for a fielding error; (b) When the batter apparently hits safely and a runner who is forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner fails to touch the first base to which he is advancing and is called out on appeal. Charge the batter with a time at bat but no hit.
Yet, in the play-by-play game log on espn.com, Pujols is credited with a single in his last plate appearance. "A Pujols singled to right, L Walker tagged out at second."
As shown in the Official Rules, Pujols cannot be given a hit on that play. Rule 10.06 (b) is unambiguous. Charge the batter with a time at bat but no hit. It doesn't matter if the batter's name is Albert Pujols or Luis Pujols. It also doesn't matter if the hitter has a lifetime batting average of .333 or .193.
Look, I'm not here to steal a hit from Pujols. Walker took care of that, not me. But, hey, a rule is a rule. Let's hope this is one Cardinal error from Saturday night that can still be corrected.
(Editor's Note: After this article was posted, Major League Baseball correctly ruled that Pujols was charged with a time at bat but no hit on the play in question.)