(Baseball StL) -- They’re three simple letters printed on the daily schedule on a regular basis in spring training. If you don’t know what they mean they’d be easy to miss.
But, for the pitchers, they know exactly what those letters stand for.
PFP. It stands for “pitchers fielding practice”. And while it can be extremely tedious work and seemingly unimportant compared to, you know, actual pitching...a lot of times it can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Greg Maddux might’ve been the best ever at it. Joel Pineiro is the best Cardinal I’ve seen in the last dozen years. And Jake Westbrook is probably the best right now. Unfortunately, none of those guys played for the Cards yesterday. Or, at least, got on the field.
No, Sunday’s 6-3 heart breaker to the Pirates in 19 innings was not lost solely because the Cards pitchers couldn’t field their position. The Redbirds went 1-10 with runners in scoring position. Matt Holliday, David Freese, Skip Schumaker and Rafael Furcal went a combined 2-31 on the afternoon/evening. Yes, two for thirty-one.
And not even Usain Bolt could’ve run down Pedro Alvarez’s 416 foot shot off Barret Browning in the 19th to give Pittsburgh the lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
But throughout the course of that six hour and seven minute game, multiple times Redbirds’ pitchers did not make plays in the field. Plays that led to runners. Runners that led to runs. Runs that beat them.
Exhibit A. Mark Rzepczynski.
In the top of the 17th and this game already several hours longer than it needed to be, Garrett Jones stepped up to the plate for the Pirates with the bases loaded and two outs. He hit a solidly hit ground ball about a foot to Rzepczynski’s left, who then reached down to field it but it hit off his glove and got away.
One run scored.
A similar situation happened in the 6th with Jaime Garcia. His inability to field his position led to two runs being scored that inning.
This is not meant to take shots at Garcia and Rzepczynski. By all accounts they’ve done a nice job in the past of being good fielding pitchers.
But in a game of that magnitude, going that long, against a team you’re battling for a playoff spot? Each mistake is scrutinized even more.