Five Years Ago Today: Albert’s Fractured Forearm

NOTE: While the Cardinals beat the Kansas City Royals five years ago yesterday, it’s doubtful most of us remember that outcome. Instead, what we remember is this collision between Albert Pujols and Wilson Betemit that forced Albert from the game and onto the disabled list. Five years ago today, we learned the injury was a non-displaced fracture of the left radius and he was supposed to miss four to six weeks — and we soon learned timelines like that meant nothing to Albert, since he was back when his initial 15 days on the DL were up. Still, it was kind of a big deal at the time — as the post below will indicate. You also can read about some names you probably wanted to forget, like Brian Tallett and Miguel Batista. And, as a result of Batista being in the game, there also was a poem. Ah, Poems For The Poet — those were the days … 

Painful Win For Cardinals

Skip Schumaker delivered an improbable walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, leading the Cardinals to their second consecutive 5-4 win over the Royals. The victory moved the Cards back into a tie for first place in the NL Central.

Albert Pujols reacts after injuring his wrist in Sunday's finale against the Royals.

Albert Pujols reacts after injuring his wrist in Sunday’s finale against the Royals.

The bigger story, however, is Albert Pujols and what happened in the top of the sixth. The details, from Austin Laymance of Cardinals.com:

The inning after his homer gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead, Pujols collided with Wilson Betemit on a play at first base after Betemit hit a slow roller up the middle. Pete Kozma fielded the ball and made a hurried throw that tailed away from first base towards the infield grass. When Pujols lurched for the ball, he made contact with a charging Betemit.

“He hit me in the wrist and shoulder and kind of jammed it back,” Pujols said. “As a first baseman it’s one of the toughest plays to make, it’s almost a bang-bang play and you can’t let the ball go. You risk it and, hopefully, don’t get hurt.”

But Pujols got hurt, and as the slugger went to the ground in obvious pain, an eerie hush fell over the crowd.

The initial report is that Albert has a sprained wrist, and he will be having further tests today. Given the Cardinals history with injury diagnosis — Allen Craig’s broken kneecap not being revealed via x-ray until a week after it happened being just the latest example — perhaps we have reason to worry. Or perhaps not, according to Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch:

Late Sunday afternoon there wasn’t a single person in this organization, in or around the Cardinals clubhouse, who thought Pujols has a broken wrist. The postgame mood was upbeat, and not just because of the win.

Another tip-off was this: Pujols was pleasant and patient in postgame interviews. If this was a catastrophic injury, chances are the organization immediately would have closed ranks and gone into the secretive, protective mode. Pujols wouldn’t have appeared before his locker. But he did. That says a lot.

Of course the game continued after Albert left, with Lance Berkman taking over at first base. Betemit scored to tie the game again at 3-3, but the Cardinals responded in the bottom of the sixth and regained the lead after Skip singled home Andrew Brown. In addition to Skip, Brown had a good day on offense as well — he was 2 for 4 and drove in the first two runs of the game on a bases-loaded single in the first. And Albert himself was 3 for 3 with a mammoth homer.

The top of the seventh was odd. Brian Tallet entered the game and promptly hit Alex Gordon. The immediate reaction from Dan McLaughlin on Fox Sports Midwest was that it was intentional — “clearly, we know what’s going on here,” he said. Gordon seemed like he was waiting to be hit, as he had dropped his bat down as he was waiting at the plate. But the logic of hitting the lead-off batter when you only have a one-run lead? And hitting a guy because Albert got hurt? I don’t get it. (For the record, I’ve never understood the “hit a guy” code anyway, despite reading Tony La Russa’s views on it in “Three Nights in August” numerous times.)

Melky Cabrera was up next and he singled to shallow right. That was it for Tallet, and in came Miguel Batista. The Poet hadn’t pitched since that disastrous outing in Washington, D.C., last Tuesday night. But he quickly showed we had nothing to worry about.

Poem for The Poet — June 19
Tense situation:
Two are on and none are out.
Your task awaits you.

But one pitch, one out.
That eases some of the angst.
Though not all of it.

Jeff Francoeur now up.
Very quiet in the park.
You slow down the pace.

Now a line drive hit.
Caught by Skip at second base.
Melky doubled off.

Yes, thankfully The Poet caused no turmoil — a relief, given everything else that happened in the game. And that line out-for-a-double play was the in-vogue play of the afternoon, since it happened four times. As Dan McLaughlin said, you might not see that play happen four times in a year. Not surprisingly, given the Cards collective love of hitting into double plays this season, they did it three of the four times.

Jason Motte quickly dispatched all three batters he faced in the eighth, and it was hoped Fernando Salas would do the same in the ninth. But Alcides Escobar had other ideas — like hitting his first homer of the year to tie the game.

That just set the scene for Skip to be the hero. Right before Skip’s at-bat, Daniel Descalso was thrown out at second base after hitting the ball to right field. This was actually a good thing, as Joe Strauss points out:

Had Descalso stopped at first base or made it safely to second, Schumaker would have been told to bunt. Instead, he crushed the second Father’s Day home run of his career.

And it was quite the happy ending for an emotional rollercoaster of a game.

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