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Piniella out-La Russas La Russa

Jul 13, 2009, 8:43 AM EDT

In case you missed it, there was some fun stuff in last night’s Cubs-Cardinals game:

Angel Guzman started the ninth, and the first two Cardinals batters
got on base via a hit and an error. Guzman was lifted for [Sean]
Marshall, who walked pinch-hitter Nick Stavinoha to load the bases.

Piniella then moved Marshall to left field and pulled outfielder
Alfonso Soriano from the game. Aaron Heilman came in to face
right-handed-hitting Brendan Ryan and struck him out.

Piniella then made another double-switch and put Marshall back as
pitcher, and Reed Johnson was inserted into left field. Marshall struck
out pinch-hitter Jarrett Hoffpauir. Colby Rasmus then lofted the ball
to left, and Johnson made a diving catch to end the inning.

I’ve seen that before — and here’s a great account of it happening with the fun old ’86 Mets — but it’s certainly not the kind of thing that happens too often. Some commenters over at my other blog
are suggesting that, if a manager was inclined to do this more often,
maybe it could become some radical new efficiency in that he could
forever go lefty-righty-lefty with only two pitchers if he wanted to,
although I believe that’s against the rules now as switcheroos like
that are limited. Even if they weren’t, however, I think such an
experiment would last until the exact moment a loogy misplayed a fly ball, and then it would never happen again, but it was fun while it lasted.

I think there were only two reasons for Piniella doing this last night.
First: it was just before the All-Star break and, like a classroom on
the last day of school before summer vacation, rules get bent and a
little zaniness is allowed. Second: the opposing manager was Tony La
Russa, who has never met a double switch, weird strategy, or pitching
change he doesn’t like, and Piniella simply decided to show him that he
cannot be out-crazied, even by Genius La Russa.

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