August 10, 2010 was Jason LaRue‘s last day on a Major League field.
Most know the story: a fight that was incited by comments from Brandon Phillips the night before led to an all-out brawl that caused the mob of red-clad ballplayers-turned-fighters to crash into the backstop. One of the first ones to hit the wall was the Reds’ starter in last night’s game, Johnny Cueto.
Cueto started kicking–with his spikes on–at the two people closest to him: last night’s Cards starter Chris Carpenter and backup catcher LaRue. Carp got scratches on his back. LaRue got concussed and was rendered unable to play pro baseball ever again.
Cueto was suspended for seven games. One start.
The next time he was due to pitch against the Cardinals, he conveniently had family matters to attend to. But he made an appearance in St. Louis tonight. God knows what was going through the Cardinals players’ heads.
Carpenter remembered. He probably still has the scars Cueto gave him on that August afternoon in Cincinnati. He does remember what kind of impact Cueto had that day. After all, he had a front row seat to it all.
Maybe he was just carrying over his recent success. Maybe he was filled with the desire to beat that guy pitching the other halves of innings. Probably both. But he matched him for seven innings. Seven innings of shutout ball from each starter. There were close calls and amazing plays on both sides, but the score remained stagnant for both sides for seven long innings.
As the game progressed into the Fourth of July night, you got that tightness in your gut of pure excitement every time someone on either team made it on base. Both pitchers seemed extremely vulnerable and unstoppable at the same time. But one of them would stand, and one would fall. The one that would make it through had to be Carp. He couldn’t let that dirtbag shove gis team into a deficit in the NL Central standings. Not this time.
Carpenter finished off the Reds again in the eighth inning with 119 pitches right after his longest Cardinals outing ever four days ago; the score still 0-0. Then Cueto became the one who fell.
Colby Rasmus led off with a single. After Yadier Molina finally got a bunt down after five pitches, Cueto bobbled it and was forced to throw to first instead of getting Razz out at second. Skip Schumaker flew out to get him to third, bringing in Mark Hamilton who was hitting for Carp. With two outs, Mark hit a grounder to Scott Rolen at third, who slid to catch the ball and fire it to first in what is being called one of the best plays all year. One problem: Hamilton beat the throw. 1-0 Cardinals.
Fernando Salas had a one-two-three ninth, ensuring Cueto’s defeat as news poured in that the Brewers had blown yet another game, this time in Arizona. The Cards were now alone in first place while the Reds stood at 43-43 and a game and a half behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But most importantly, Johnny Cueto lost. He didn’t get throttled, chewed up and spit out in the first inning. No, he pitched a great game, got so close to beating Cincinnati nemesis Chris Carpenter. But he fell about one foot short. That was probably the best revenge of all.
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