The Cardinals have scored three total runs in two games in Wrigley Field. Luckily, that’s been good enough for a split.
Yesterday’s afternoon affair–and even though it’s against the Cubs, afternoon games at Wrigley are always a fun setting for a game, I think–was almost another one of those “score all you can early and hold on” types, with only a surprising seventh-inning run spoiling that narrative. (A run that mattered, obviously, so a spoiled narrative was perfectly fine with me.) With two runs out of the first four batters, you’d have thought it was going to be a rout. Instead, the offense looked around, said “Not a bad day’s work” and shut it down.
The Hero of the day is Carlos Beltran, of course, with his three hits, run and RBI. Matt Carpenter had a day as well, with two hits, a run and an RBI. His RBI double past a diving centerfielder made sure that Rob Johnson‘s triple in his first Cardinal at-bat was not for nothing and wound up being the game-winner. Still, you aren’t in that position of Beltran doesn’t triple in Carpenter and score in the first. Those two guys did it all, just about.
The Goat will be Jon Jay, who really shouldn’t be at the top of the lineup. I’d have rather seen everyone bumped up a spot and put Jay in front of Pete Kozma. Granted, that’s likely to give you a large dead spot, with Kozma now in an 0-26 slump and the pitcher spot after him (and David Freese, who’d be ahead of him, isn’t exactly tearing it up), but perhaps you can extend some rallies with the guys that are hitting bunched together.
However, the focus of the game was on the bullpen. Joe Kelly had a really good start and, if the offense had supported him more, likely would have gone deeper than 5.1 innings. The problem was that, when it gets to that one-run game, managers tend to want to play percentages and get the extra edge necessary (and that’s a logical thing to do), so when two lefties were coming up in the sixth with a runner on, Matheny went to Randy Choate.
Before we go farther on Matheny’s bullpen usage from yesterday, I want to clarify any criticisms I have with the following. 1) Everything he did was rational, logical and I don’t have huge gripes with it. You know how something just occasionally feels off, like it’s almost right but it could be better? That’s what I was feeling with the bullpen yesterday. Again, though, I don’t fault him for making the decisions he did and they obviously worked out. 2) I complain about Matheny being rigid and then he gets off his pattern and I criticize him for doing that. I realize it’s not exactly consistent on my part, but to be fair, just because he does something different doesn’t mean he does the right thing. (Yes, it’s thin ice.) Really, I’m not arguing he did wrong, but there are other things that might have been better.
So Choate comes in (that I have no problems with) and comes within a hair of being the Goat by walking the first lefty he faced. He got the second to hit into a double play and we’re good.
The seventh starts and Seth Maness is on the mound. Now we start easing out into the questionable waters. He did throw two innings in Houston two days ago with just under 50 pitches. Typically you’ve seen him as a full-inning guy or a double-play specialist, so if you are sending him out there then you figure he’s going to go the route.
Instead, after he strikes out the first guy, he gives up a base hit to Welington Castillo. Now, for most of us, we’re thinking this is just him setting up what he does best. Ground ball double plays are a staple of a Maness outing.
Matheny doesn’t see it that way, though, and pulls Maness. I’m still not sure why he went with Maness there if he wasn’t sure he had the juice to get through a full inning with a minimal hiccup. It’s actually a two-run game there, so there’s some wiggle room.
What is more interesting is, if Matheny didn’t want to run up Maness’s pitch count again, why in the world was Keith Butler not out there? It’s a two run lead, so there’s a cushion. Butler is the only fresh arm out there, having now thrown since last Wednesday. Start him that inning and then, if he gets someone on, you can go to Maness for the double play or, as we saw Matheny do, use Kevin Siegrist.
Matheny pulls Maness and brings in Siegrist, who gets to face two lefties to finish the inning and does so with no qualms at all. (Given, as we saw, Siegrist is having little problem with righties as well, why not let him start the seventh?) He leaves Siegrist in to start the eighth, which was a nice and unexpected move on his part. I liked seeing that, even after Siegrist got tagged by a home run by Starlin Castro. Siegrist strikes out Anthony Rizzo next, so he shows no ill effects from the home run.
At this point, Siegrist had thrown 20 pitches. That’s about the max he’s thrown in the bigs during one outing, so I guess the option to replace him made more sense than I thought at the time. Matheny brings in Trevor Rosenthal, which was understandable, but he does one of his infamous double switches at the time, taking out Freese and putting Daniel Descalso in the ninth spot.
Now this is what I have a problem with there. When you do that move, it indicates to me that you expect Rosenthal to go and pitch the ninth as well. Rosenthal is more than capable of closing a game (though he’s not done it yet) and it would have given Edward Mujica another day of rest after his long run of pitching. Some pretty good long term thinking.
Except, after Rosenthal uses just six pitches to dispatch the next two Cub hitters, Mujica warms up and pitches the ninth. Huh? If you are going to have Mujica in, why the double switch? Just pinch-hit Descalso in the ninth in the pitcher’s spot. I’m assuming you add defense, though I think the upgrade there was minimal. Seemed a strange place to do a double switch in my book.
Mujica pitches the ninth and also throws a minimum of pitches, so it all worked out fine and dandy. And, again, there are a number of factors that come into play and I don’t fault any of the decisions made, save maybe leaving Butler on the bench in favor of Maness. Just, well, it wasn’t quite the way I’d have used the pen, but I’m sitting here in front of a keyboard and Mike’s depositing a nice paycheck to do those things.
The Post-Dispatch headline reads “Oscar Taveras Faces Lawsuit” which is pretty much not what you want to ever read about your team’s top prospect. While it’s not as severe as it could be, as it sounds like it will be resolved out of court with little fuss, it’s a disappointing blight on Taveras given the “immature” tag that is hanging over his head. Is this a situation that, sadly, many athletes (and non-athletes) find themselves in these days? It is, so maybe that will blunt the harshness.
While I don’t think it is the case here, it’s at least worth mentioning that, in the past in St. Louis, negative press has been a harbinger of a move out of town, a way for the fan base to become more accepting of a trade or a free agent departure. Again, I really don’t think that this story coming out is a way for John Mozeliak to signal a Taveras trade by any means, especially since it’s not a long-buried story but one that was just reported yesterday in the Dominican press as well.
I wrote yesterday that I expected Matt Holliday to sit out the rest of this series as to completely heal up that hamstring. The team confirmed that yesterday, which only makes good sense. Plus, if he’s not healed after the All-Star Break, they can put him on the disabled list retroactive to yesterday and save a few of the 15 days. Speaking of Holliday, the story about him going out of his way for a cancer patient is well worth reading.
Evening game tonight as it is a national telecast on the big Fox, the first of two national stages this weekend. Lance Lynn goes for the Redbirds, coming off a nice seven-inning, two-run affair against the Marlins. There’s still concern about Lynn’s tendency to slump around this time of year, but that outing helped alleviate those worries.
The Cubs haven’t done much against Lynn, though they were able to get to him for three runs in six innings last month when the two teams met in St. Louis. While I don’t expect a Lynn meltdown tonight by any means, I do think the bats are going to have to be a little more productive than they’ve been the last few days.
That might be difficult since Chicago is putting Matt Garza on the hill. Garza, whose every start is a showcase for those teams wanting to trade for him, hasn’t faced the Cards this season so it’s hard to tell exactly what the team will see when he’s on the mound.
Again, it’s a time where it’d be nice to have Holliday out there. Maybe a day off for Yadier Molina, since that’s been stated as a goal of the club? Then again, with Garza, little help may be better than no help at all. Could be another tight one!