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Rosenthal Blows Save, Cardinals Lose 4-3

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Cardinals get 13th straight quality start (I don't care if you don't like that stat: that's a lot), take lead late, lose anyway on Rosenthal blown save

sigh
sigh
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

You already know what happened, and there's not a lot to say about it. Let's start with this instead: the Cardinals don't struggle against the proverbial "soft-tossing lefty," or bad pitchers straight out of the minors, or anything like that. There have been persistent narratives for a few years that they do, but they are not true.

With that out of the way, Wade LeBlanc (remember him? me neither) is a soft-tossing journeyman lefty who was making his first MLB start in a while tonight, and most recently was pitching in Japan. It's annoying not to beat up on Wade LeBlanc, and downright frustrating to not score at all off him. Tonight the Cardinals didn't do either. Call it jet lag on the first night of a west coast trip, call it running into a bad pitcher having a good night, call it baseball being baseball. The soft-tossing lefty thing might be a myth, but nights like this against guys like that still aren't fun.

Carlos Martinez started for the good guys, and he was (as pitchers tend to be) pretty good until he wasn't. Through five innings he'd allowed just one walk to go with three strikeouts, and no runs. But his control deserted him in the 6th, when a couple of walks contributed to a bases-loaded jam with one out. Martinez got what he needed in that spot -- a ball pounded into the ground -- but unfortunately it was pounded into the plate, creating one of those super-high choppers that leave the fielders with only a play at 1B. So the Mariners went up 1-0. Martinez pitched another scoreless frame after that, and finished with 7 IP, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 4 H, 1 R.

The Cardinals' first sustained threat was in the 8th. Joaquin Benoit walked a guy and hit the next one to open the inning. With Tommy Pham (who can hit a little bit) up and three outs remaining, Mike Matheny decided that two outs would be plenty thanks very much, and called for a sacrifice bunt. This actually decreased the Cardinals' run expectancy for the inning, which would customarily be considered "bad" -- and that's not even counting the possibility that the Mariners might have converted the force play at 3rd, which Benoit almost decided to try after fielding the bunt.

But the bunt was successful, at least, which left men on second and third with one out. Somewhat predictably, the Mariners chose to intentionally walk the next hitter, Matt Carpenter, which loaded the bases (also a bad move!). But oh ho ho, friends: oh ho ho! Aledmys Diaz worked a bases-loaded walk after an eight-pitch at bat to tie the game, and tonight's little game of managers flicking chess pieces at one another like paper footballs ended with Matheny, I guess, feeling better about what he'd done.

After a pitching change, Matt Holliday smoked a ball under Kyle Seager's glove at 3B -- they gave Seager an error on it, but there was probably no wrong way to score it -- to plate two more runs. This included the IBB'd Matt Carpenter, which is always fun. That made it three runs in the inning without the benefit of a hit, and it gave the Birdos a 3-1 lead.

Seung Hwan Oh kept on being awesome with a scoreless 8th. Brandon Moss (ground rule double) and the prodigal Tommy Pham (juuuuuust missed the RF foul pole) blasted a couple of balls in the 9th but the Cards ended up with zero runs instead of a potential 2+. This set the stage for Trevor Rosenthal in the 9th with a two-run lead.

Double, walk, walk-off home run by Adam Lind. In a couple of my previous recaps I've asked if Rosenthal's going to lose his job.

He's going to lose his job.

Stray Observations

  • As VEBer The Continental pointed out in the gamethread, you can take boy out of shortstop, but you can't take the shortstop out of the boy:
  • GREG GARCIA OBP MONSTER: 0-1 with a pinch-hit OBP on a 1-2 count. Classic Greg.
  • Seung Hwan Oh is awesome. You already know it, but if you need a final bit of convincing, he absolutely ate up Robinson Cano in the 8th; go find and watch that PA.
  • Martinez was throwing 98-99 in the first couple innings but threw a lot of pitches, then dialed it down to ~94 in the third, and got an eight-pitch inning out of it. Deliberately pitching to contact? On his own, or told to? Probably doesn't mean much, but I thought it was interesting.

Editorial Comment

Rosenthal's been outstanding for the Cardinals prior to this year. Comparisons to Ryan Franklin and late-career Jason Isringhausen severely understate how good Rosie's been. But the time has come. I don't know if this is a real decline or just a rough patch in 20-some innings (and neither do you), but (1) it's definitely possible that it's real and (2) there are other options that are nearly as good as a "LOL never mind, I'm fine" Rosie. So it's time to remove him from the highest-leverage role on the team. At least for a while. At worst, he's actually fine and you're shuffling your #1 reliever out for one who is also excellent. At best, this is a real and sudden decline and you're removing a guy who is all screwed up from the line of fire.

The Cardinals play the Mariners again tomorrow at 9:10 CST (horrible). We'll see what happens if there's another save situation.

You can look up the WE% graph yourself if you're that much of a masochist.