In a post for Cards Conclave on Wednesday, I urged Cardinal Nation to not blame Mike Matheny for the loss. Sure, it was the finish of a two game sweep by the Rays and Matheny was outmanaged by Joe Maddon, but there were other details in the game that led to it. Tonight, I am going the other way. For the third straight season, Matheny still can’t manage a bullpen. He can’t manage a roster. He takes the roster and turns it into a version of “My Boys” and this Broadway show isn’t fun to watch.
Disclaimer Before the true rant begins. I am aware that Matheny didn’t throw a pitch or take a swing in this game, so spare me the responses that start or end with that phrase. They are tired, overused and useless. Matheny is the master of the chess table and moves the pieces as he pleases. He gets credit when the team wins as a result of a move of his and when the team falls 7-6 to the Cubs in a game at Wrigley Field because he flubbed a series of moves, part of the blame falls on his head. The Cardinals didn’t have to lose this game. They had a lead of 3-0 before Joe Kelly took the mound. They had a 6-5 lead in the sixth inning. The Cards blew this one and while the players didn’t execute enough, the manager got in on the action with illogical management. The game wasn’t all bad so let’s get to the positive area first.
The Good. Power from the Matt’s. The Cards hit a pair of home runs today, and did so in the 5th inning to tie the game at 5 apiece. Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday went deep and each finished with three hits. Carpenter’s average is up to .282 and Holliday’s slugging for the month of July is over .500. The big guy is turning it on and now has 52 RBI on the season. His swing is more vicious and producing more extra base hits and runs. Carpenter is not only getting on base but collecting multi hit games again. Jon Jay continues to shred lefthanded pitchers, and collected a big two run double in the first inning and finished with two hits and a .292 batting average. The small sample size for Jay against lefthanded pitching is now over 50 at bats. He should be starting every time a lefty is on the mound. These three players supplied 8 of the 12 Cardinal hits. Pat Neshek collected four outs and two strikeouts in keeping the game close in the 8th inning.
Now, on to the bad and the ugly. There are plenty. Starting with Joe Kelly’s performance.
The Bad. Kelly was bad. He came in hot off an excellent seven inning performance on Saturday against Los Angeles and produced a downer today. He only lasted 4.2 innings and got hammered. Ryan Sweeney came into the day with no home runs and 11 RBI. He bashed a three run home run off Kelly and later collected an RBI single. He won’t pay for a glass of Old Style tonight in Wrigleyville. Kelly gave up a go ahead solo home run to Travis Wood, the opposing pitcher. Sure, Wood has three bombs on the year but that doesn’t matter. It’s still a bad development to be defeated by a light hitting center fielder and the pitcher but that’s Wrigley in July and August. The ball gets hit in the air and does funny things. Bad bounces. Uneasy moments. Kelly took a step back today in his third start off the disabled list. He looked rough again and hittable. The questions of his health don’t really compute because of his stellar outing against LA. You don’t elicit 21 outs and 13 straight from that lineup on luck. Kelly may just be rusty or he could be more inconsistent in his third year of part time starting. This is why the back end of the rotation is a hazardous area moving into the stretch run. After Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn, the rotation inning reliability sinks. Kelly, Carlos Martinez, and Shelby Miller aren’t going to produce many seven inning performances this year. It’s just not happening. David Price isn’t needed here especially. Another version of Woody Williams would do just fine. Kelly will pitch again in San Diego on Thursday in a pitcher’s park against another weak lineup.
The Ugly. Mike Matheny. He wears the hat today for his poor management in the second half of this baseball game. Believe me, I am not Matheny hater. I don’t call for his job every single time the Cards lose a game. He is young, developing and will hopefully learn how to manage 9 innings of baseball on a consistent basis sometime before my son turns three years old(September 14th). The problem is Matheny is developing slower than usual because his game management is akin to Allen Craig’s swing right now. Ugly and not improving. With a lead of 6-5 and having already gotten one inning out of returning reliever Kevin Siegrist, Matheny sent the lefty out to the mound to start the seventh. Why? Sure, Siegrist has been pitching in the minors for weeks, so his arm is ready. Still, why push a guy making his first BIG LEAGUE appearance in two months? Why not hold off and allow Siegrist to be available tomorrow? It’s as if Matheny couldn’t wait to overuse Siegrist. The arm just got back from injury so let’s push it on day one. Bad call.
Also, I love the Allen Craig resurgence mission as much as anyone but Matheny needs to unplug this guy. I want the poor man to find his swing and remind us of that RBI machine from the past two years. Look, it’s not happening. That Allen Craig is gone and not returning in 2014. It’s sad but true. He is delayed in his approach to a baseball. His swing is ugly. It’s long. It’s easily fooled. Craig can’t power weak fastballs. He can barely hit mistakes. If the team insists he isn’t injured, his head is broken enough. Sit him down. For a while. Why? In the best interest of the team, that is why. He is hitting close to .130 for the month and .240 on the season over 359 at bats. Craig’s brWAR at the moment is -0.5. That’s less than average. It’s bad. His OPS is .648 while his career OPS is .806. Playing him every other day isn’t doing the team any good. It isn’t giving the team a chance to win at all. It’s hurting the team. Play Oscar Taveras. The Cards need to move past this crossroads and into better decisions. Play Oscar. All the time. It is time to run with the kid.
Do you really think Allen is going to find his swing any time soon? Explain in the comments section below.
Matheny logic check, par two. He pinch hit Taveras in the 6th inning and Oscar tied the game with a single. Instead of leaving Oscar in, Craig stayed and this was due to Kevin Siegrist going back out to the mound. Why not leave Taveras in? If so, maybe Oscar comes up in the 9th inning instead of Daniel Descalso. Maybe Oscar doesn’t pop out to short to end the game. Why is Oscar only getting a single at bat in two of the past three games? It makes zero sense. I don’t care about the LH/RH split between Allen Craig and Matt Adams. Whatever happened in May has to be thrown out? If Oscar isn’t starting over Craig, he should be replacing him in the middle of a close game.
The Rest of it. The 8th inning was a joke. Kolten Wong singles, steals second, and Tony Cruz grounds out into a 6-5 force out/rundown. Cruz goes to third base on a wild pitch, but Peter Bourjos pops up and Carpenter strikes out. Inning over. That wasn’t on Matheny. It was just sad.
Our bench is horrible by the way. After Oscar Taveras, it was Bourjos, Descalso and the soon to be released George Kotteras. Those bats don’t scare pitchers. They give them hope. Our bench couldn’t scare a cat.
Folks, this is frustrating. I won’t say the season is lost but it’s definitely hard to predict. We are nearly in August and the Cardinals are STILL underperforming. Please, save me the 2011 comparisons. Those expired already. That is once in a lifetime stuff. It won’t happen this year. If the Cards are 10.5 games out in a month, they will need more than luck to make it in. The extra wild card helps but still, it’s not likely. The Cards are a dogfight and if the play doesn’t start to get consistent, bad things will happen. A trade may help but I am not sure. Pitching help would be nice but only if it can help the team win. No scrubs are needed. A bench bat would be nice. Someone with pop and who is revered.
John Mozeliak will be busy this week. The phone lines are open. Mike Matheny’s guys are the star of the show and his adherence to rookie mistakes is appalling.
These 2014 Cardinals are heartbreakers. They are up and they are down soon after. In less than a week, the trade deadline will strike. What will this Cardinals team look like? More importantly, will Mike Matheny be able to manage it correctly?
P.S-He didn’t lose the game as a whole but Daniel Descalso ended it and should not be on this 25 man roster. If he is our last line of defense, this team may truly be doomed.