To start with the elephant in the room, I don't actually think Mike Matheny is to blame for this loss. Most people do. But a lot of things happened that he can't really control. I think he made one mistake, but it's mostly hindsight. For the most part the bullpen completely and utterly let the team down and you can't really do much about that.
The Reds got on the board first. Adam Wainwright walked Billy Hamilton on 10 pitches to begin the game. Hamilton was 0-7 with 7 strikeouts and one walk against Wainwright so he was probably in full-on "I just don't want to strike out" mode. Obviously it worked for that plate appearance. He stole second because that's what he does. Joey Votto knocked him in with a ground rule double.
Wainwright pitched fine, although not very efficiently. I'm not as worried about starters not lasting long as most. It becomes a problem when all of your starters do it, but my first concern is a pitcher being effective and then I'll worry about how many innings they can go. Nonetheless, his short outing also contributed to the loss, because Cards used relievers sooner than they otherwise would have.
The Cardinals hitters didn't seem too interested in scoring off Dan Straily so Wainwright took up the mantle himself. He led off the 3rd inning with a solo shot, his second of the year. It was his seventh extra-base hit of the year. He still doesn't have a single. (His wRC+ of 61 from a .167/.186/.452 is better than Pete Kozma's career mark of 58. Kozma was really bad, you guys)
Straily and Wainwright traded scoreless innings for the next couple innings, but in the bottom of the 5th, the extremely baseball-named Tucker Barnhart hit a solo home run to take back the lead for the Reds. He got the first two outs relatively easy afterwards, but the final out proved more difficult. Ivan De Jesus hit a single and Votto walked. On a 3-1 count, he got Adam Duvall to ground out. He had 101 pitches and there was some fear by this writer that he would come back out for the 6th. It was not to be however and his night was finished.
What makes this somewhat surprising is that the Cardinals tied it up in the top of the 6th AND Wainwright's spot in the order did not come to the plate. So he didn't try to push him for the 6th to get the win. Good job Mike. Newly arrived from the disabled list, Brandon Moss hit a leadoff double. I've said this before, but it's amazing it's true. Moss only gets extra-base hits. Matt Holliday advanced him to third on a fly ball and Matt Adams struck out. Adams had a rough day. It would get worse.
Zach Duke made his Cardinal debut and...it didn't go well. He didn't give up a run so I guess we will always have that. He allowed a 1-out single to Scott Schebler. After striking out Eugenio Suarez, he could not find the strike zone. He walked the next two batters so Mike made the proactive move and put in Kevin Siegrist. Hamilton was at the plate. He stared at three strikes. Not in a row as it went to a 3-2 count, but he actually did not swing the bat three times at pitches that were in the strike zone.
Jedd Gyorko led off the 7th with a solo home run, jumping on the first pitch. I'm pretty sure at least 10 of his home runs are him jumping on the first pitch. Siegrist pitched into his second inning and promptly gave up the lead. He gave up a single to Votto, who literally did not get out tonight. He then made a perplexing decision, throwing a curveball - a hanger - to Duvall, who deposited into the left field seats. 4-3 Reds. In the 8th, Moss homered (seriously only XBH hits) and Tommy Pham homered. Both were solo shots unfortunately, but it was 5-4 Cardinals.
So I saw people complain that Broxton was in the game in the 8th inning. But this is a weird complaint of Matheny when he did what we all want him to do: use his best relievers earlier and deal with later when later comes. He didn't use Seung-hwan Oh, but I feel like that's an unreasonable complaint. Anyway, Siegrist was used. Duke was used. Bowman was used. The options were Seth Maness, Tyler Lyons, Jerome Williams, and Broxton. Maness and Broxton are probably a wash. Lyons is probably the better pitcher, but I definitely don't think Mike thinks that. I think that's more a commentary on his misuse of Lyons anyway. (Edit: Lyons went on the DL. So yeah Broxton was arguably the right move)
Regardless, the bottom of the order was up for the Reds. Broxton should have been able to handle it. He walked the first two batters, the first to Suarez who actually earned his walk on eight pitches, and the second to Barnhart, who just stared at four straight balls. Somebody named Tony Renda, who it appears was in involved in the original Aroldis Chapman trade, bunted. Adams got to the ball and - well I guess technically we can call it a throw? It was basically like when one of those celebrities who gets to throw the first pitch tries to throw a pitch for the first time in their life: a soft throw about 10 feet short and about 10 feet wide. So the bases were loaded.
Seung-hwan Oh was brought in to get out of that mess. And he did. He struck out Hamilton and De Jesus swung at the first pitch for an easy double play ball. It was amazing. In the bottom half of the inning, the Cardinals got runners at the corner with Jeremy Hazelbaker at the plate. Due to double switching Hazelbaker into the game and Adams out of it, they intentionally walked him to get to Oh. I'll take Oh over Rosario there because he's a significantly better pitcher than the other options and Rosario is still a really bad hitter. So Oh just stood there and looked at him throw three straight strikes.
I wrote two paragraphs complaining about double switching Adams out of the game, but I had to delete it because I was confusing myself so there would be no hope for you readers. Because it only pushed the pitcher's spot back one spot. So I tried to figure out a situation where there was a non-terrible hitter option if we pinch-hit for Oh and that's where things got confusing. Because the obvious move would be double switching Molina out of the game - but then Rosario is up with hitters on 1st and 3rd and we don't score anyway. So then I went down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out if his double switches earlier harmed him and then my brain fried. So whatever. I don't see a scenario where Oh can pitch the 9th and the Cardinals have those runners on the corner with a good option to hit.
So Oh pitched the 9th. He gave up two singles and then an absolute BOMB by Schebler to end the game. Not the best way to lose.
Those later innings need to make up their mind
- Moss went 3-5 with a single, double, and home run. The single must be a mistake though. They will probably change it to an error tomorrow since he only hits extra base hits.
- Matheny made four double switches. I can't imagine all of them were flawlessly executed leading to the situation we found the Cards in the 9th, but it hurts my brain too much right now to try and figure out how he could have used that differently.
- Wainwright final line: 5 IP, 6 Ks, 2 BBs, 2 ER, 5 hits, HR
- Cardinals bullpen tonight: 3.1 IP, 3 Ks, 4 BBs, 5 ER 6 hits, 2 HRs - Think about this: We just lost because the Reds bullpen performed better than the Cards.
Tomorrow, Michael Wacha faces off a pitcher named Cody Reed, who has a 7.07 ERA. I present that without comment.