I’ve tried to write this post for over an hour. And like most of my attempts to write this year, I can’t coherently tie the various ideas swirling around into a post with a common theme. So I’ve just devolved into bullet points.
- That the Cardinals ultimately lost this series doesn’t bother me, but the way they lost does – especially games 4 and 5. I completely agree with the sentiment expressed by others that Mike Matheny lost Game 4 in the third inning, when he didn’t remove an obviously struggling Shelby Miller. At the time they were down 2 games to 1 with on with Madison Bumgarner looming and uncertainty about Wainwright’s health. Every game in the post-season is must-win. In a short series, I believe teams need to be ready to throw ‘the regular season book’ out the window if the situation dictates. We all remember the 2011 run, when for most of the playoffs the Cardinal bullpen threw more innings than the starters did. That’s extreme, but it does represent the mental flexibility needed when the fluid in-game situation demands it.
- Realistically we should have seen the puzzling bullpen usage in Game 4 (and 5) coming based on how Game 3 ended. Did Choate get squeezed on the 3-2 pitch to Crawford? Probably. Why leave Choate in to face Perez? If you put your faith in the small sample size lack of production from Perez in the NLCS, instead of the larger sample size that shows RHH hitting .396 off Choate in 2014, OK. I don’t agree but OK. If you put your faith in that small a sample size, why leave him in to face Blanco who was 3-for-6 off Choate lifetime? A smart man once told me, ‘Hope is not a Plan’. I saw a lot of hope in the late innings at ATT Park.
- Do the Cardinals win if Molina doesn’t strain an oblique? I don’t know; Molina is good, but he can’t throw the pitches for his staff. Too many deep counts, too many walks, too few clean innings from the bullpen.
- Too much, in my opinion, has been made of the Giants ‘winning ugly’, scoring runs without benefit of a hit. What was more frustrating, it seemed whenever San Francisco needed a key hit they conjured one. From the way they tied up Game 2, to Posey’s and Pence’s big hits in Game 3 (third inning), to the HR’s last night. STL could not close out Giant hitters in high leverage situations.
- Maybe next time the Cardinals make the playoffs they’ll go to battle with a 25-man roster, not with a pitcher hopelessly buried on the bench like Wacha was. Until he was asked to perform in the highest of high leverage situations – keep the game tied, season ends if the Giants score, no margin for error.
- It was a disservice to Michael Wacha for Matheny to not use him until backed into a self-inflicted corner.
- I truly hope this wasn’t the last time we see Miller or Oscar Taveras in a Cardinal uniform, as BJ Rains prognosticated on Twitter after the game ended.
There’s no question this is a Golden Age of Cardinal baseball. They’ve made the playoffs in every year this century except 2003, 2007, and 2009. That doesn’t make losing in the playoffs any less disappointing. There are roster questions and, frankly, management questions that need to be addressed this off-season. Based on how they played for most of the season this team did, ultimately, overachieve in the playoffs. Given the wealth of talent on that roster, however, they should be still playing.
At least St Louis won’t be Kansas City’s foil this time when the Royals win the World Series.
How to move past this series and make any fixes needed so next year they don’t come up 3 victories short of the World Series is the next challenge.