Honing in on Adrian, Choate burned by former mate
LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals likely would have carried three lefties in the bullpen regardless of their National League Division Series opponent, but that bullpen breakdown seems especially valuable against a Dodgers team with several left-handed-hitting threats in the lineup.
Sam Freeman and Marco Gonzales are prepared to face any of them. Randy Choate, however, is focused mainly on one.
"Besides [Cincinnati's Joey] Votto and [Jay] Bruce, this was probably why I was brought here, right?" Choate quipped before taking the field to shag balls during batting practice. That reason, of course, is Dodgers three-hole hitter Adrian Gonzalez.
As the team's left-on-left specialist, Choate went into this series having zeroed in on his anticipated battles with Gonzalez. The two had faced each other 10 times before, with Gonzalez tallying two hits (both singles). Gonzalez did much better in Game 1, tattooing a slider for a two-run homer that helped the Dodgers pull closer in what would eventually be a 10-9 Cardinals win.
The home run came on a 1-1 slider, which followed a pair of fastballs Choate threw to open the at-bat.
"I just basically hung it on the inner half," Choate said afterward. "I'm pretty sure he was sitting on it. He was kind of waiting for that pitch. I made a bad pitch. He's a really good hitter. He takes advantage of that mistake and got under it, got a lot of back spin on it, the ball just kept going, kept going. When you make pitches like that in the playoffs, good hitters like that are going to exploit it."
Choate limited left-handed batters to a .093 batting average against during the regular season. Righties, in comparison, hit Choate at a .385 clip, which is why the Cardinals will work to avoid such matchups.
If Choate has success against Gonzalez later in the series, the Dodgers first baseman may only be able to blame his own helpfulness. The two were teammates for the final two months of the 2012 season after both joined the Dodgers as part of deals at the Trade Deadline. Once wearing the same colors, Gonzalez told Choate that he had been tipping his pitches earlier that season.
"Since then, I do what he tells me I was doing, but I just try to mix it up," Choate said. "I curl my glove sometimes. Keep it straight on others. I kind of do the reverse."