As you’re no doubt painfully aware, yesterday’s 9th inning started with a Francisco Cervelli ground ball up the middle. Paul DeJong got to the ball but could not control it, and Cervelli reached on what was charitably called a ‘single’. Two quick things on that: First, it should have been an error. Yes DeJong had to go to his left, but it hit him in the heel of his glove as he was running. Gotta make that play. Second – Statcast scored that a ‘single to left’? Really? Ball didn’t leave the infield.
Eight pitches (and one no-pitch intentional walk) later, the Cardinals lost 4-3. A painful ending on a day they’d fought back to tie the score twice, and taken the lead in the 8th on Yadier Molina’s solo HR.
After the game there was some chatter on social media blaming DeJong for the loss; to paraphrase, ‘hey if he makes that play they win.’ Not unreasonable. But wrong.
Here’s why – players make errors in the field all the time – be it physical errors like DeJong’s, or mental ones like throwing to the wrong base, taking a bad angle to a fly ball, that sort of thing. Pitchers know this. Pitchers need to push the miscue aside and make pitches. Brett Cecil left way too many pitches up in the zone, out over the plate, with nothing on them, after Cervelli reached. That’s why the Cardinals lost.
DeJong’s error did not help. But after retiring Gregory Polanco on an OOPSIE ground-ball back to the box, Cecil had a guy on second and one out. That’s manageable. Leaving a pitch up to Jordy Mercer for a double to LF wasn’t in the manual. The inning devolved from there.
Some folks also commented (again after the game) asking why Trevor Rosenthal didn’t pitch the 9th instead of the 8th. Absolutely fair question. Mike Matheny didn’t really address his thinking other than a vanilla quote about not giving out titles yet. But, if I may: Maybe Rosenthal worked the 8th because he’d pitched the two previous days, and the 8th is considered a lower leverage situation. Or, maybe he worked the 8th because the Pirates’ two best hitters were due (in McCutchen and Bell). I think either reason is defendable. Or maybe Matheny blacked out due to the heat. After all he used Rosenthal with a 4-0 lead the night before.
Bottom line: DeJong’s error hurt; but if Cecil makes his pitches, St Louis wins that game.