In the 9th inning of a one-run game with a man on first and one out, Giancarlo Stanton stepped to the plate. Trevor Rosenthal was at the mound pitching in a day game after he had thrown 31 pitches in last night's game. You'd probably think this is when the Cardinals blew the lead. Well, you'd be wrong. He struck out Stanton on a nasty changeup. The Cardinals WPA jumped to 92.6%.
And then Casey McGehee stepped to the plate, the extremely mediocre player who's having a rejuvenated season helped by a .370 BABIP. He worked the count to 3-2 eventually and Rosenthal's rising pitch count was starting to become a concern, considering it was a concern when his pitch count was zero. Then he fouled it off. And he fouled it off again. And again. And again. And finally, when he managed to put it into play, it was a ball awkwardly hit between center and right. Jon Jay made a nice play and threw a strike to Mark Ellis. Donovan Solano had stolen on the play and was trying to score from first. Ellis threw a ball straight to Yadier Molina, but it short-hopped Molina, causing Molina to never really have control. So when Molina tried to tag out former Cardinal Solano, the ball dropped out of his hand causing the game to be tied. Then Jeff Baker hit a line drive single off Sam Freeman, who replaced Rosenthal due to that high pitch count, and Shane Robinson, who came in for possible injury-related reasons, overthrew the ball giving the Marlins the lead.
Look Matheny, if your closer has thrown 20+ pitches and you take him out with the game on the line because you're concerned for his high pitch count, just a thought: Don't bring him in in the first place! There was no reason for Rosenthal to be in that game. None. Unfortunately, that was not Mike's only mistake of the game. This was a master class in "How to slowly hurt your team's chances of winning." I may overstating this, but I absolutely believe the Cardinals win if a competent manager manages that game. It's hard to prove obviously, because Rosenthal wouldn't even be in the game in that hypothetical scenario.
Matheny also nonsensically took out Matt Holliday, who had gotten on base three times in the game, for Shane Robinson. Holliday evidently had a bruised knee. Alright, I guess I'll buy that. But why wasn't Oscar Taveras put in? You know, the highly touted hitting prospect who should be playing everyday. He also pinch-hit with Matt Adams when a lefty was in the game, basically wasting Adams. Sure, Adams got a hit - an extremely lucky one granted - but the decision-making is more important than the results. And hey if you think Adams is good enough to play there anyway, WHY WAS HE SITTING IN THE FIRST PLACE? (I'm ok with him sitting, but seriously either he's good enough to start against a lefty or he shouldn't be pinch-hitting with lefties already in the game!)
I guess I better talk about the rest of the game, which was rather enjoyable for eight innings. Shelby Miller was the Shelby Miller he's been all year, working out of jams and not looking great. He made an amazing defensive play in the 4th though when the opposing pitcher bunted with a man on third. Shelby dove towards the play, grabbing and tossing it to Molina simultaneously getting the runner out. He had one earned run through 5.1 IP with two men on base when Seth Maness gave up a homer. This kind of stuff bothers me less than it used to as Shelby's actual performance probably deserved 3 ER anyway. (Not to mention that Shelby's lucky to even have the ERA that he does with the way he's pitched all season).
As far as the Cardinals offense is concerned, they showed up for about four innings. I'm not going to complain when they score five runs, but the Cardinals only managed three baserunners over the last five innings, none of them in the same inning. In the first, Matt Holliday got hit by a pitch followed by a Allen Craig walk (!). Yadier Molina singled home Holliday for the game's first run. In the 4th, Holliday drove home Mark Ellis followed by back-to-back homers (!!) by Allen Craig (!!!) and Jhonny Peralta. And... that was all the scoring they would do. The Marlins bullpen pitched 5.1 IP with 5 Ks, 0 BBs, and two hits allowed.
Warning: What you are about to see will be extremely graphic. Scroll down at your own risk.
I'm sorry. I know that will in your dreams for the next few days. Don't say I didn't warn you though.
- Maness pitched fine. He did allow a home run, but that was pretty much expected to happen sometime since he had a 6.5 HR/FB%. He struck out two, didn't walk anybody (of course), and allowed one other hit. Pat Neshek and Randy Choate pitched 1.1 IP of scoreless and baserunner-less ball before conceding to Rosenthal, who I don't think should have been in anyway. So basically, for blowing a 4-run lead, I am strangely sympathetic to the bullpen.
- For shits and giggles I presume, Matheny pinch-ran Dan Descalso for Jhonny Peralta when Peralta hit a one-out single in the 9th. Peralta's not fast. But Descalso isn't either. The downside to having Descalso play over Peralta if the game does go into extras way outweighs whatever marginal upside Descalso's speed provides. Add another questionable decision by Matheny to my plate.
- Allen Craig went 1-4 with a walk and a homer. Don't get too excited. He hit two slow groundouts and a pop-out and his homer was barely over the fence and opposite field. So nothing new to see here.
- Not helping the offensive cause was Matt Carpenter, who went an uncharacteristic 0-4 with a walk. Granted, he hit four balls in play, and not one of them were particularly weakly hit. Worth mentioning nonetheless.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals try to recover from that brutal loss that is still the same as any other loss in the standings. It's Henderson Alvarez (3.50 xFIP) facing off against Marco Gonzales (5.61 xFIP). Hopefully, Gonzales can pitch more than three great innings tomorrow cause Alvarez is pretty good.