Mike Matheny's inability to ever deviate from Rosenthal and Mujica in the final two innings nearly cost the Cardinals a win on Sunday. Thanks to some Cubs goofiness, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina, the Cardinals romped 10-6 and head into the All-Star break in sole possession of first place.
Let’s start with the crucial one:
Trevor Rosenthal (H, 22): 1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO
Matheny wasn’t fooling around. After taking a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning, he turned to Randy Choate, who retired Luis Valbuena. Enter Rosenthal: who had to face at least Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Rosenthal fanned Castro, walked Rizzo, but struck out Soriano looking to end the inning. I loved the move to bring in Rosenthal. Why bring in a lesser pitcher like Maness to face the heart of the order when you have a guy throwing 101?
Then things got weird.
Leading 6-4 in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and two outs, Matheny…let Rosenthal hit for himself. The outcome was predictable, as Michael Bowden whiffed him. Matheny, who has no trust in anyone but Rosenthal to record outs 22-24, let him bat with a chance to bust the game open.
Rosenthal threw 19 pitches in the seventh, sat for 20 minutes, then put on two runners that eventually tied the game.
It was the worst of Mike Matheny, who for once stepped out of his box by being aggressive with Rosenthal, only to decide that nobody else has the Eighth Inning Mentality. Considering that Kevin Siegrist hadn’t given up a hit to right-handed batters until Castro hit a pop fly into the basket on Friday, it was just a terrible decision. The Cubs threw out Dioner Navarro, Cole Gillespie and Dave Sappelt. Are we to believe that Siegrist hasn’t acquired enough Experience Points to pitch against riff raff?
Matheny’s loyalty to his players is admirable. He’s probably the type of boss that you wish you had, but great managers sometimes have to deviate and get creative. The problem wasn’t that Matheny threw Rosenthal out there in the eighth inning, but that he sacrificed a chance to get the La Russian Crooked Number. One could argue that a compromised and diminished bench didn’t give the Cardinals good odds to pile on, but the difference Rob Johnson, Tony Cruz, Shane Robinson, a balky Matt Holliday and Rosenthal is the difference between Earth and Jupiter.
If Matheny isn’t confident in anyone else to take the ball in the eighth inning, then John Mozeliak needs to run interference or acquire another reliever.
Yadier Molina: 4-6, 3 R, 4 RBI, 1 HR
Molina returned to the lineup last Tuesday and went 0-12 in three starts and two pinch-hit appearances. He went nuts on Sunday. His ninth inning blast off Kevin Gregg sealed the victory.
Molina leads the National League in the batting title race, which is significant because holy crap, Yadier Molina could win the batting title!
There’s just not much to add. Catchers aren’t supposed to be pedestrian hitters then challenge for batting titles at 31. They aren’t supposed to be on pace for over seven wins. Three seasons ago, Molina seemingly plateaued. He had a .300 wOBA, and his ISO hit a career-low. Now he’s one of baseball’s elite hitters. I really can’t comprehend how we arrived here.