The Cardinals did not win pretty last night. Fortunately, history takes no account of pretty versus ugly wins, clever versus dumb wins or intentional versus unintentional wins. Each win in the postseason is precious and to be held tight at all costs. So the Cardinals will take this win and move forward.
Not that the win didn't come without costs. Foremost is the cost of having to hear about the obstruction rule for most of the day. If you'd like to read more about this rule, I suggest you seek therapy. Alternatively, you can try here, here or here.
A more tangible impact to the series are reports that Allen Craig may not be available after re-injuring his foot during the play on Saturday. Craig's absence would remove a critical bat from the bench -- clearly the most potent pinch hitting option the Cardinals have. That's doubling damning after a night when the pinch hitting opportunities were so ripe.
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Which leads to the next thing that needs to be said. Despite being up 2 games to 1 in the series, Mike Matheny put on a remarkable display of managerial incompetence on Saturday. Joe Kelly bailed him out of early criticism by being seven different kinds of jacked up to start the game throwing fastballs at 98 mph in the early goings.
After getting those 4 dominant innings and (nominally having another starting pitcher who could go for multiple innings named Shelby Miller at his call), Matheny failed to pinch hit for either the eternal cipher, Pete Kozma, or his pitcher, Joe Kelly in the bottom of the 4th. Bases loaded and Mike Matheny lets the two worst hitters come to the plate back to back.
In the regular season, when everything is a marathon instead of a sprint, this would be less damning. In the postseason, this reflects a crucial misunderstanding of how little you need to rely on your starter. For all his faults, Tony La Russa got this and used the strategy to great effect in the last Cardinals championship. There is no excuse for not pinch hitting for Kelly that inning. Arguably, Descalso should have been called in to face Peavy for Kozma and take over at shortstop. Instead, in a wasted moment, the Cardinals fail to break away.
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We'll get to the post season heroics in a moment but there's another stone that needs to be thrown briefly. This post season roster construction sucks. It sucks terribly. Edward Mujica should have been left off the World Series roster. Shelby Miller -- if not available -- should have been left off the World Series roster. Adron Chambers would be a nice compliment to Allen Craig at this point in time given Craig's limitations on the bases. A third left hander could prove to be useful against the lefty dominated lineup of the Red Sox. Two wasted roster spaces are an unforced error that is unacceptable.
The place for Shelby Miller to make a mark was last night after the 4th inning when Kelly should have been pinch hit for. His non-appearance further raises the specter that something must be physically wrong ... or Mike Matheny is doing a really poor job. If something is wrong, then the pendulum has swung to far on team morale by including a player who is of no value on the roster. The Cardinals may end up winning the World Series but it will be in spite of the inclusion of Mujica and Miller, not because of it.
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In the first inning, Joe Kelly threw 11 pitches. They were all fastballs. They were all 95 mph or faster. They were incredible.
I'll still contend that a) this isn't what should have been expected from Kelly and thus b) I question why he's getting post season starts but damn if that first inning wasn't fun to watch.
In the second, Kelly showed more versatility in one inning than we've seen from him in entire games previously. A slider, a curveball and a changeup all made an appearance.
The first four innings were a tremendous performance by Kelly. They showcased a power arm that many thought would be a relief pitcher but who has shown that a groundball skillset still plays -- especially when it comes with a high 90s fastball. Kelly deserves major kudos for that performance last night. I have a hard time faulting him for the shakier performance after his manager failed to pull him from the game but such is life.
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Has their been a more surprising find than Kevin Siegrist this year? His regular season numbers were nothing short of astounding with 50 strikeouts in 39.2 innings against 18 walks. And while those numbers are eye-popping, the bigger surprise is that Siegrist has picked up an extra 3-4 mph on his fastball since being drafted.
That fastball was on display last night. Siegrist had the 7th inning facing Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Will Middlebrooks and Jonny Gomes. Siegrist threw 8 pitches. One pitch at 96mph, three pitches at 97mph and four pitches at 98mph. Strikeout, flyout, flyout.
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It was a solid night at the plate for the Cardinals, though the 23 men left on base is a hard number to swallow. This still feels like a team not quite clicking on all offensive cylinders. Maybe that's because Craig is out of the lineup. Maybe that's because Beltran isn't at 100%. Maybe that's because David Freese and Jon Jay have forgotten how to hit on a regular basis.
In any circumstance, I await another ending like the Cardinals winning the NLCS. A nice uncontested lead that doesn't tax the bullpen or my coronary. Some of the credit for this predicament goes to the Red Sox pitchers but the Cardinals still have some big games in them. Hopefully, they find one in the next 4 games.