When you have a game like last night’s game, it doesn’t take long for Twitter and other places around the Internet to erupt with Cardinal fans not exactly happy with those involved.
Some blamed Peter Bourjos, believing he misplayed the hit that led to the eventual winning run. Some blamed Trevor Rosenthal for giving up that hit. Some blamed the offense, including and especially Matt Carpenter, for having the team in that position. Some blamed Carlos Martinez for an overall outing that will go in the “what not to do” example pile.
Most, though, took aim at Mike Matheny.
Adam Wainwright goes tonight, trying to extend his scoreless streak and get the Cards back on track……sorry about that. Matheny just tried to double-switch my paragraphs to get the closer into the game.
The arrows at Matheny centered around two major points. One, using Martinez, who has struggled, instead of Pat Neshek or even Sam Freeman in the eighth inning. Two, double-switching out Kolten Wong to get Rosenthal into the game, which brought along Daniel Descalso as well. It’s possible to at least make an argument pro-Matheny on each of those, even though I’m not sure that I’d believe them.
Let’s look at the first point. Martinez has been the eighth inning guy pretty much all season long and that seems to be where the Cards want to see him. His last two outings before this, he went 1.1 and 2.0 innings without giving up a run, so he wasn’t scuffling as much as we’ve seen him. Granted, he’d given up three hits in those outings, but he’d also struck out five. If that Carlos Martinez shows up last night, I don’t think we complain much about him pitching and it means we wouldn’t have to worry about the second point.
You could make the argument that, when the lead was gone and there were runners on the corners, Neshek should have been the call instead of Rosenthal. I’d get behind that argument, but Rosenthal really hasn’t had any issues since the Braves series and we tend to approve when managers use their closers in tight situations that aren’t just the ninth. I think the biggest argument for using someone besides Rosenthal to get that last out is that you wouldn’t have to double-switch.
Which brings us to the second point. Rosenthal comes into the eighth and bats second, removing Wong. Descalso goes into the ninth spot. Here’s the thing, though. The game is tied, sure, and you want to make sure Rosenthal can pitch the ninth if necessary. However, if you just make the straight substitution, Rosenthal comes up seventh in the bottom of the eighth inning. Odds are you’ve already taken the lead by then–it’s possible his spot would come up with two outs and bases loaded, but fairly unlikely–and you could then pinch-hit to help the inning keep going. If he doesn’t come up, you still have Rosenthal in the game to pitch the ninth.
It’d be different if the pitcher’s spot was coming up first or second in the next inning. That would make sense, but then you wouldn’t be replacing Wong, you’d be replacing someone like Jon Jay and you’d swap in Shane Robinson. Bob Netherton made a point on Twitter last night that I’d never completely thought about, though it intuitively make sense and that’s why we have so many issues with Matheny’s double-switching: you should basically never take your 1-4 hitters out of a close game. If they are good enough to be in that part of the lineup, they are the ones you want hitting if you are tied or behind or even just slightly ahead. You weaken your lineup–and, in this case, your defense–significantly by removing them. (I think the Cardinals are the only team I’ve ever seen that so often double-switch to get worse defenders into the late innings instead of better ones.)
I can’t blame Matheny as much for then not using Rosenthal for a second inning after going through such machinations to be able to do so. When Matheny made the moves, it was a tie game and he was hoping to keep it as such. It was a sunk cost after getting down by two and there was no real reason to run Rosenthal out there again. Just be glad he didn’t double-switch again to get Freeman out there, though with the limited bench last night, that probably wasn’t an option anyway.
Of course, because baseball always finds the weak spot, the Cards rally somewhat in the ninth, scoring a run and putting the tying run on third with two outs for what would have been Wong, who hadn’t been having the best night anyway (0-3 with two strikeouts before his removal) but still would have been a better shot than having to pinch hit Robinson. Then again, we complained about Descalso coming in and he actually drew a walk to put the winning run on, so it would have been very baseball-like for Robinson to get that big hit. Unfortunately, the height of his hit was much greater than the depth of it and the Cards go home frustrated.
The fact that Robinson was the pinch-hitter–indeed, the fact that Descalso got to hit anyway, though with Mark Ellis already being burned as a pinch-hitter to bunt a runner over in the seventh–which has its own issues, most notably why not send up a pitcher if that’s what you want to do–there was no one to play second if you did pinch-hit for Dirty Dan–gives major credence to the fact that Matt Adams‘s calf is worse than he or the club has been talking about.
Which is the biggest issue with using Ellis in such a way. If you know your bench is short, if you aren’t going to use Tony Cruz (because a backup catcher just can’t be touched, you know), then why waste Ellis to do something a pitcher can do and not cost you a bench player? Ellis may not be Brandon Phillips or anything, but he can occasionally get you a hit when you need it. Seems a frustrating use of resources.
I’ll give Martinez the Goat in this one because not only did he pitch his way into trouble, he gave up the lead by not positioning himself in the way that pitchers from the beginning of time have known to position themselves on a throw in from the outfield. To back up the catcher, you actually have to be behind the catcher. Even that faux pas would have been just a casual discussion point had he actually been able to field Bourjos’s throw from the outfield. Once it bounced off his glove, Yadier Molina didn’t have much of a chance and the tying run scampered in. That was about the time the torches started flickering to life and the rest of the game didn’t douse them.
What’s sad is that for much of the game, there was a lot of good stuff. Jaime Garcia had another strong outing save for a couple of solo home runs. Seven strikeouts and no walks in seven innings is definitely a winnable game and every game that goes by means less and less concern about Garcia when he takes the mound. He’ll have his stumbles, but he’s done an outstanding job so far coming off the disabled list and hopefully he’ll keep that up while staying healthy.
The Hero tag, though, goes to Allen Craig. Two hits and a walk, including breaking the 3-3 tie with a home run. Craig’s hitting .375 with two homers over the last 10 games, indicating that whatever he lost, he’s now found, which is good if Adams is going to be on the shelf for a while.
As Dan Buffa writes, if Adams is down for an extended period of time, it may well be time for Oscar Taveras. Taveras got the night off last night, meaning he had a prime seat for Tim Cooney‘s run at a no-hitter that was derailed with one out remaining. He’s got an OPS of about .900 down there right now and given the fact that right field would be open, it would make a ton of sense to bring him up. While Randal Grichuk hit another home run last night and could come up to play DH during the interleague portion, needing someone in right removes a lot of the roadblocks to a Taveras promotion.
Adam Wainwright goes tonight, trying to extend his scoreless streak and get the Cards back on track, which is the best way to wash some frustration away. Wainwright’s been on another level this season and if he stays there, this series will likely be tied up.
Interestingly enough, the Giants have done OK off of Waino in the past. However, the last few times he’s faced them, including the 2012 NLCS, he’s brought home wins with minimal runs scored. In his last outing against San Francisco, he threw a complete game, struck out 10, and allowed only one run. I think we’d take that tonight, wouldn’t we?
In that game, he went up against Madison Bumgarner, who is also his opponent tonight. Bumgarner has been solid if not completely spectacular this season, just another one of those good pitchers the Giants have to run out there. He’s only had one scoreless outing this season–six innings against the Braves–but is coming off a seven-inning affair against the Twins where he allowed three hits, one run, and struck out 10.
At least according to the numbers, this isn’t a matchup that the Cards really want to see. I expect that 5-12 is enough to get Jay into the lineup, though if Adams is still out–and I can’t believe he won’t be–Jay will be there anyway. Unless John Mozeliak makes a call this morning to the land of the Delta blues……..