Before last night’s game, there was one question that tended to be on the mind of many Cardinal fans. If the ninth inning rolled around with a save situation, who would take the ball? Could Mike Matheny resist using Edward Mujica again?
With a question like that, there are two ways to render it moot. The preferred way is to come out strong against Edwin Jackson, put up a lot of runs, and never even have to think about a save situation.
Or the offense could not show up at all. Last night, the Cards went with Option B.
We’ve seen Jackson be pretty good–after all, he made some strong contributions down the stretch for that 2011 team–but given the past results against him, you’d have thought that if he won a game, it’d have been of the 5-4 variety. Instead, he never let the Cards gain any traction, allowing only three hits in his seven innings. Tough to do much unless one of those is a home run.
They had their chance in the eighth, when they got two on with one out and Matt Carpenter up, but Carp hit the ball either too hard or not hard enough, depending on your point of view, and that flyout pretty much snuffed out the inning.
Can’t fault Jake Westbrook too much for this one. He did give some runs up early, but he went seven and allowed just three. His control wasn’t what you’d want to see–four walks versus two strikeouts–but he limited the damage. If the bats had worked, he’d likely have been all right.
OK, nothing more to say about that one on the field, but some story lines did spin out of it. The first is that Matt Holliday left with a hamstring injury. They’ll check it today and see how bad it is, but the Cards may catch a break with timing. I’d bet he’s out for the rest of this series, but those three days followed by a four-day All-Star Break, might be enough to get him healed up. Hopefully it’s not something more serious, but we’ll probably find out more during this afternoon’s broadcast.
The other was that Matheny was “tossed” after the game (how do you eject someone after the game is over, honestly? I know umps do it, but it means nothing. Not like you are going to have the bench coach give any postgame talks) due to what he perceived as a slight of the ump toward Matt Adams.
Now, I didn’t see the incident, so I don’t know if the pitch Adams was called out on was a ball (he thought so) or if Adams did anything that could be perceived as showing up the home plate ump. Matheny says he didn’t, so I’m guessing it was pretty subtle if Adams did. The ump takes off his mask and makes a big production about running Adams back to the dugout, which raised Matheny’s ire.
I wouldn’t disagree that the manager has a point. Umpires, as we’ve seen time and time again, tend to have a lot thinner skin than they should and do have a tendency to want to focus some attention toward themselves. Adams should have had to stand at the plate and gesture a bit during his argument for a mask to come off, not toss a remark off as he’s going to the dugout.
It’s interesting, though, to see Matheny press the point to this degree. Matheny’s not one that typically gets worked up, though he will from time to time. It wasn’t a bad call that got him, though, but a slight to his players. Why this slight and not others, I don’t know.
I do know that this is the man the Cardinals hired. The man that might need to learn about tactics, but knows about people. He knows when people need to be defended and he’ll do it to the best of his ability. He knows how to lead and a display like that will let people know that he has their backs. Matheny is a player’s manager, maybe to a fault (I think he lets people talk their way into the lineup more than he should) and I imagine that his tirade last night did not go unnoticed by those that wear the uniform.
As we mentioned here yesterday, using our fancy new quick hits function, Carlos Martinez got the call from Memphis yesterday. There was speculation about that, given that he’d been down in Memphis to be stretched out as a starter, but instead he’s bullpen insurance now that Joe Kelly is in the rotation and a number of arms have been used a lot lately. I’d expect he makes it through the weekend, then returns to Memphis during the break with perhaps Fernando Salas getting the other side of the transaction.
Only day game of the series today as the Cards try to even it up. Kelly goes for the Redbirds and he’s had some success against the Cub hitters in his career.
Kelly threw a scoreless inning against Chicago in June for his only appearance against them this season. We’ll see if being in the regular rhythm of the rotation will help him put up a better line than his four runs in six innings that he did against the Marlins last time out.
Carlos Villanueva takes the ball for the baby bears. He came out of the bullpen the only time he faced St. Louis this year, giving up two hits (and allowing an inherited runner from Jackson to score) but getting two outs back in June.
Cards have done OK against him, but the man with the biggest bat is Holliday, who won’t be in the lineup today. We’ll see if they can avenge last night’s loss–otherwise, they might end the day tied for first again. Enjoy the afternoon baseball!