ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 23: Reliever Trever Miller #43 of the St. Louis Cardinals is careful not to look Tony La Russa directly in the eye against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on April 23, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Putting the current version of Ryan Franklin into one of the highest-leverage moments you could possibly have in a baseball game—two outs, bases loaded, tie ballgame, division rival—is a disaster waiting to happen, but given the way the inning had been managed to that point La Russa found himself without many other options. The Young Pitchers—Derrick Goold called them the K Kids today, which I like well enough—were mostly out of reach; Fernando Salas had pitched, Eduardo Sanchez has been used early and often, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte were both used in tight situations yesterday. Trever Miller had missed his mark and a right-hander was up, though not an especially frightening one.
I think there's a fair case to be made to just play the inning straight, which is where La Russa can be accused of mismanagement. Pitch to Joey Votto, or bring in Miller at that moment, and don't compound an ugly situation by intentionally walking Votto and leaving your relievers less room for error. But once Batista loads the bases and La Russa goes for the lefty specialist, which is a more defensible move for me than the walk—well, sometimes your worst reliever has to pitch in high-leverage situations.
As to whether Franklin should be even the last guy in the Cardinals' pen, the 40-man roster doesn't show many clearly better options, especially with Adam Reifer out for the season. Blake King is probably not the man for the job with the bases loaded, and after him there's... P.J. Walters? Maikel Cleto?
This loss says something about Franklin's return to high leverage situations, namely that it should never happen, but I don't think it tells us anything new about whether he should remain on the roster. Unless you're willing to stretch Boggs again someone underqualified was going to end up in that situation.