It certainly wasn’t the first disappointing series of the year for the Cardinals, but perhaps the toughest to swallow. The Cardinals edged out a nail biting victory on Friday to capture the first of three games against Miami. Saturday started with a feeling of exuberance as Allen Craig and Jhonny Peralta hit back to back jacks to put the Cardinals up 5-1 and in full control of the series.
How quickly things change in the game of baseball. The Cardinals found themselves with their first pair of back to back home runs of the year, a four run lead, and four innings away from being eight games over .500 for the first time all year. Then some offense from the Marlins fused with mismanaging from the Cardinals’ skipper changed it all. Trevor Rosenthal struggled Friday night throwing over 30 pitches, and nearly blowing game one of the series. Pat Neshek had only thrown nine pitches in the 8th inning and seemed like the perfect candidate to finish the game. However, Mike Matheny elected to go back to his closer.
Matt Holliday was lifted from the one run game for Shane Robinson due to an apparent “knee issue” that failed to keep him out of the line-up on Sunday. Rosenthal struggled all the way through the ninth, and the bullpen remained bare because “we want him to feel like a king in the ninth,” said Matheny. While I understand wanting to keep a closer’s morale high, not being willing to take him out of a game before the lead is blown is stubborn. You are costing the team victories at the expense of one player not getting his feelings hurt for a day. It was another one that got away, not the first time this year. It has seemed all year
long that every time the Cardinals seem close to getting over that hump, something devastating like Saturday’s loss happens.
Sunday was perhaps more mismanaged than Saturday, and the Cardinals now find themselves in 3rd place with the 2nd place Pirates coming to town. Whenever the lineup card reads Daniel Descalso’s name, Mike Matheny has already done the team a disservice that day (the Cardinals are 28-8 when Descalso does not see the field). In this particular instance, he was starting over Jhonny Peralta who had two hits including a home run the day before. The offense wasn’t able to muster a lot without Peralta, not to say they would have with him, but it wouldn’t have hurt.
Marco Gonzales put together his “best” start of the year if you want to call it that. Gonzales allowed only 1 run on 7 hits, and 5 walks in his 4.2 innings of work. Seth Maness was brought in to get out of a jam in the fifth, and in true Seth Maness fashion, induced an inning ending ground ball. Skipper struck again, letting Maness hit for himself, but then pulling him for Nick Greenwood. Maness was only out there for three pitches before Greenwood took over. The lefthander gave up 3 runs, letting the game get away from the Cardinals. Kolten Wong homered in his return for one of the only Cardinal highlight of the day, on the way to an 8-4 defeat.
The Pirates are as hot as any team in baseball, defeating the Phillies 6-2 on Sunday. Pittsburgh has won 12 of their last 15, and closed quite a bit of ground to surpass the Cardinals in the standings. With a four game sweep in this upcoming series, the Bucs could essentially bury the Cardinals in the standings before the All-Star Break.
The Cardinals have been devastated all season by lack of consistency not only from their offense, but from their manager. Mozeliak and Matheny need to sit down and have a long talk about what needs to be done going forward. Matheny simply has to start putting the best lineup possible on the field every day; anything else is crippling the team. If a roster move needs to be made, it is Mo’s job to make it, but the reality is that this roster is good enough to win if utilized properly. This upcoming Pirates series very well could define where the Cardinals go from here, but for now they find themselves in 3rd, looking up at the pack.