There was a strong sense of the familiar last night in Pittsburgh. A dominant performance by the Pirate starter to keep the Cards off the board? We saw that Monday as well. A rally against the Pirates bullpen? We’d seen that before as well. All the Cardinals needed was to score late and they’d have matching wins in Pittsburgh.
Someone forgot to tell Ike Davis that.
While Seth Maness gets the Goat in this one, it’s probably worth talking a little about what Mike Matheny did with the bullpen last night. I don’t think you can really fault him for what he did do, actually. As he stated in the post-game press conference, if he takes out Maness and brings in Randy Choate, the Pirates just burn Ike Davis and bring in some righties that have hit left-handers quite well. (Of course, there’s a silver lining there–if Choate does get the out, the Pirates have a very short bench for extra innings, but that’d been a big if and not the way to bet.)
I think what’s a little more interesting or worth discussing is the fact that Sam Freeman only threw five pitches in his inning. With a tied ballgame that could go long, burning through a pitcher like that could have been a major problem. Letting Freeman at least start the eighth and bringing in Maness if he ran into trouble would have seemed the more logical option. After all, Freeman this year is better against righties (.217 BAA) than against lefties (.306) and there were three righties coming up.
I don’t know that Matheny was outmanaged at all or that he outthought himself in this situation, but I do think he wasn’t as creative as he could have been, with the rigid one-inning use of Freeman. That said, you can’t blame this loss on him in my book. Maness should have been more effective in that inning even before the home run. If he doesn’t give up two hits, it doesn’t get to that point.
Talking about managerial decisions, though, can you imagine if Matheny had let a young pitcher, who’d already been on the DL this year, start an inning after throwing 105 pitches? Twitter would have melted down. What Clint Hurdle was thinking letting Gerrit Cole start the seventh is beyond comprehension, but it certainly worked out for the Redbirds. Then again, I don’t think Hurdle is held in particularly high esteem by the Pittsburgh bloggers either.
With nobody having a real strong offensive night and Lance Lynn pitching well but not overwhelmingly well, I’ll give the Hero to Randal Grichuk. Coming off the bench and getting a hit with two outs to tie the game is huge for a guy that was in Memphis last night. Without that knock, it might have been that all the Maness stuff wouldn’t have mattered.
Lynn did do well, though, allowing two runs in six innings. We’re used to Lynn going a little deeper, but his pitch count got up and his spot came up at a time where you had to use a pinch-hitter. Still, with his next start likely September 1, I think it’s safe to say Lynn’s gotten past those August swoons that he used to have. His overall development and the step forward that he’s taken this year, while perhaps not as great in actuality as it appears to folks (because he was better in the past than he got credit for) is a welcome and impressive sight.
Thankfully, Milwaukee lost yesterday to the Padres as well so St. Louis didn’t lose any ground. They try to keep the pressure on the Brewers by winning this afternoon’s tilt behind Adam Wainwright. Wainwright has, as we all know, been a little shaky of late, but hopefully whatever adjustments he said he was making will take hold in this one.
Wainwright’s had mixed success against the Buccos in the past. He’s been able to corral Pedro Alvarez some (though he does have two long balls) and we’ll have to see if Alvarez’s foot injury will keep him out of today’s game anyway. If Waino can somehow get around Andrew McCutchen (who is supposed to play after leaving last night’s game early) and Russell Martin, he’ll probably be all right.
Cards will have to try to come up with some offense against Jeff Locke in order to avoid working on a trilogy of late-scoring games. Locke is no Cole or Francisco Liriano, but he does have a 5-3, 3.69 mark this season and is coming off allowing just two runs in six innings against the Brewers in Miller Park.
The Redbirds have gotten to Locke before, though they’ve not seen him this year. Hopefully the numbers above will look even better by the end of this afternoon’s game!