Well before Randal Grichuk’s solo homer in the seventh tied Game 3 at four, he was at the center of the action in the first when he watched Travis Ishikawa’s triple hit off the wall and careen off to center into Jon Jay’s mitt. As if being a 23-year old rookie and facing the wily vet Tim Hudson isn’t difficult enough, he’s tested with having to play the intricacies of AT&T Park’s right field wall in the first inning.
Did his unfamiliarity with the outfield conditions make him a little too passive?
Prior to Game 3, Grichuk had never played right field in AT&T Park. Oscar Taveras had started there when the Cardinals visited San Francisco for a three-game series at the beginning of July, and in seasons past it was Carlos Beltran’s job. Here, though, was Grichuk’s first true test, and as he took a somewhat circuitous route to the wall he backed off and decided to play the carom instead. In a park like Busch Stadium that make sense. The dimensions are fairly standard. He was right up against the wall when he started to back off. In AT&T Park, where right-center makes for interesting Lego configurations, Grichuk still had a few yards of real estate to work with as the wall angled out to 421 in center.
Then again, maybe it was the wind. Most likely so. That wind was all sorts of tricky. I’ve never played right field at AT&T Park either. Heck, I remember infield popups being tricky enough back in Little League. So, likely it was the wind, and Grichuk did the best with what he had. I’m sure he wanted to minimize the damage, and not give Ishikawa a chance for an inside the park homer. Or a concussion.
Mike Matheny does have Taveras on his NLCS roster, as a bat off the bench, and maybe there’s some value to starting him in this game for this very reason, but that’s really just silly trying to call that a poor managerial decision here. If you want to call Matheny out for a bad decision, walking Brandon Belt in the first to get to Ishikawa has more weight. Grichuk not having his Geometry skills up to date or not reading the wind patterns like a meteorologist doesn’t fly. This isn’t American Beauty. Sometimes a thing whipping around in a breeze just causes chaos.
Allen Craig played the majority of his time in right field this year for the Cardinals, but he’s watching this series in Boston, part of the trade that brought Game 3 starter John Lackey to St. Louis.
He’s not much help here.
Matheny also had Peter Bourjos on the bench, but he never played right field in AT&T Park either, and personally, I’d rather have Grichuk’s bat than Bourjos’ glove. Or the potential for Grichuk’s bat. He is hitting just .182/.182/.455 after all, though his lone hit in Game 3 against Hudson was sort of big.
Anyway, the Cardinals are down a game, and maybe a seasoned Grichuk makes that play and gives the Cards an opportunity to be up one. I doubt it, though. That was a tough play, and asking the kid to catch that is unreasonable.