With his team riding a three-game losing streak, their first of the season, St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Mitchell Boggs was given the ball for his third start in 2009 and his ninth in his two years as a major leaguer. His Wednesday evening opponent was the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
Following an Albert Pujols home run in the first, Boggs coughed up the lead on a pair of singles bookending three free passes. Only a double play kept the score tied in the top of the second.
The Cardinals offense picked up three more in the bottom of the fourth on a Chris Duncan triple off the top of the right field wall and a Khalil Greene sacrifice fly in which a daring Duncan surprised Pirates’ centerfielder Nate McLouth by tagging up.
Staked to a three-run lead, Boggs walked the leadoff man as the fifth got underway. After a fly out and a stolen base, an RBI double cut the lead to 4-2.
With the tying run coming up to the plate in the form of Bucs’ cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche, Tony La Russa pulled Boggs from the game. He was two outs short of having gone the necessary distance to qualify for a win.
In his post-game comments, Boggs took full responsibility. “I am not pleased with the way I pitched…. I didn’t want the bullpen to have to cover that many innings…. I didn’t have the command that I did before tonight.”
FOX Sports Midwest’s Dan MacLaughlin observed on air that Boggs would not have been taken out so quickly had he been a veteran.
I agree with Dan and have often been unhappy in the past with La Russa sticking with his starting pitcher too long, risking a chance for a team win in what appeared to be an effort to get his starter the “W”. I haven’t felt that way often lately, but it hasn’t been all that uncommon in past seasons.
Apparently, Boggs hasn’t yet secured the confidence of his manager.
La Russa’s eight-man bullpen may have played into his decision. In this case, both Trever Miller and Kyle McClellan were required to get out of the fifth, which they did without allowing further damage.
In the sixth, McClellan loaded the bases with the help of an error, but escaped his own jam. Dennys Reyes, Jason Motte and Ryan Franklin finished off the Pirates in the 4-2 victory.
After the game, La Russa had this to say about Boggs: “I think it’s a learning experience for him…. A guy tries to be too careful…. He walked the leadoff man and had struggled already, so I had to come and get him.”
Over half of Boggs’ pitches on the evening were out of the strike zone, 43 of 85. He walked five in his 4 1/3 innings of action, equaling the number of hits allowed.
It was a return to his past problems that had not appeared to date in 2009. Over his previous three outings totaling 13 2/3 innings including two starts, Boggs had walked just four opposing batters in total.
That represented a significant improvement over his somewhat disappointing 2008 rookie introduction. He had a walk-free outing in just one of his eight games, during his two-inning MLB debut. In performances reminiscent of Wednesday evening, Boggs issued ten free passes over his final two MLB starts last season.
Overall, Boggs walked 22 opposing batters in 34 major league innings in 2008, which is likely a big part of the reason he ended up back in Memphis, not to be recalled in September when rosters expanded.
So, what do you think? Was La Russa’s quick hook justified? If so, should he do it more often with other starters or does Boggs simply need to earn that trust?