Another one run victory for the Cardinals. This has become the new normal for the club. At home, anyway. The question yet to be answered: Can the Cardinals win a 2-1 game away from Busch Stadium?
You have to give the Cardinals credit, they are doing all this with a bullpen that is a mess and a very little offense. That is putting it politely. Scoring runs is still the issue. Matheny is slowly making a few changes. Adams batted in the 5th spot last night. Grichuk in the 2 spot. It is a small step.
What is the deal with Kozma getting starts a second base? Why Kozma over Descalso? Does this mean that Kozma will make the playoff roster over Descalso? Why does Matheny give Wong time off and not Adams? Scruggs might be a solution against left-handed pitching, but Matheny seems reluctant to commit to this idea.
Will Taveras even make the playoff roster? Is Grichuk now the starting right-fielder? It will be a very small sample size. However, Grichuk has been getting the big hit.
Can the starting pitching dominate enough to carry the club in October? I don’t think they can. They can be good, but not dominating. Which one of the starting staff is moving to the bullpen for the postseason? Wainwright and Lynn are set. Yet to be determined who will be the third starter? Who will be the fourth starter? No solution is obvious.
In my opinion the Cardinals should have won the World Series last year. I believe Mozeliak deferred to Matheny’s judgement far to often and it continued into this season. I think Mozeliak’s relationship with Matheny is similar to the relationship he had with TLR. Big mistake. In 2014 winning baseball is a team effort of the entire organization, not just tossing the keys to the manager and let him run the team.
Will Mozeliak be more assertive this post season and take away most of Matheny’s options? Can you imagine Descalso starting at first base, if Adams continues to struggle, in the post-season? Matheny’s inclination as a manager is to not make a move and put his faith in his veterans. This is what made his career as a player and this is how he manages. Can he consistently break character and manage aggressively based upon match-ups and trends? This is what will be needed in for the last week of the season and the playoffs.
The Cardinals have 8 games remaining in this season. The last six games away from home. The Pirates are officially on fire. They scored 4 runs in the 8th inning last night to beat the Brewers, after trailing 2-0 going into the frame. The Pirates also play their last 6 games on the road. However, the Pirate offense is clicking, unlike the Cardinals offense. Can the Cardinals hold on to the division?
As you can see, with one week left in the season, the 2014 Cardinals still have more questions than answers. Not good.
Wainwright picks up a complete game shutout. Impressive. That is the 21st shutout of the year and the Cardinals only have 84 wins. It shows just how weak the offense has been this year. The offense had 3 hits last night. Good grief. Not impressive.
The Pirates scored 9 runs last night. The Pirates are now 10-2 since the Cardinals swept them. It’s not over yet.
Derrick Goold over at the Post-Dispatch expressed confusion as to why so many of the Cardinal nation are calling for Holliday or Molina to start playing some at first base. Goold does not understand why so many fans are calling for a platoon system.
Really? Let me explain. An outfield of Holliday, Bourjos and Jay during the playoffs will result in very well-played games that the Cardinals will lose 4-1, 3-0, 5-2, 1-0. Pick any score that ends with the Cardinals not being able to score more than 3 runs. Furthermore, with the bullpen unsettled, the Cards will not be able to hold a 1-0 or 2-0 led, even if Wainwright and Lynn can go 7 or 8 innings of shutout ball.
Everybody can see this outcome. The question is, why can’t Matheny?
What we witnessed in the Cardinals 3-2 defeat to the Brewers is unfortunately, what will most likely play out in the playoffs. The line-up for last nights game is the line-up that Matheny is going to use for most of the playoff run and that is the problem.
The Cardinal pitching will have to be perfect in order to win a game. This might happen. This might not happen. Whatever happens, Matheny will not make an adjustment either way.
Last year the main issue for the Cardinals was the inability to win a game consistently against left-handed starting pitching. Matheny did not solve the problem. This problem cost the Cardinals a victory in the World Series.
This year the problem for the Cardinals is a lack of power and run scoring. Grichuk, Scruggs and Taveras might be the answer. We will never find out, because they won’t be given the opportunity to produce.
Matt Adams is struggling since the All Star game. Matt continues to play almost everyday and bat 4th in the line-up. Why? Matheny is using the same approach that he used with Alan Craig. How did that turn out. I know, lets play Descalso at first base, that will fix everything.
The Cardinals offense has struggled to score runs all year-long. The only constant is that Holliday and Carpenter hit 1st and 3rd in the line-up. Duh.
Problem solving seems to be beyond Matheny’s abilities.
Shelby Miller continued his run of good starts. Shelby gave up 1 run over 6 innings. Game over. Cards win 5-4 over the Rockies. The score was 5-1 going into the ninth inning when Freeman and Neshek gave up 3 runs making the game look closer than it really was.
Neshek looks like he could use a break. Matheny tried to use Freeman to close out the game, but after walking the first batter, Matheny was quick to go to Neshek. Matheny is going to have to figure out a way not to use Neshek and Rosenthal so much over the last 13 games of this season. No answer is obvious.
Once again it falls to Matheny to show flexibility and creativity to find a solution. Not one of his strengths.
Matheny did make a few good line-up changes. Gave Grichuk the start in right. Moved Adams down in the line-up. Gave Kozma the start at second. Unfortunately, none of the moves really paid off. However, the club needs to find out if Kozma can cover short and second for the playoffs.
More questions than answers at this point of the season and Matheny only has 13 games to figure everything out. All this might become nothing more than an academic exercise, because the Nationals and Giants do have everything figure out. Both teams are playing their best baseball of the year. The Cardinals are winning, but still are not looking like a World Series contender.
After the disaster of the road trip to Cincinnati, the Cards had a stress free 5-1 victory over the Rockies. Adam Wainwright went a strong 8 innings. Matt Holliday hit a 3 run homer in the first inning, game over.
Mike Matheny made a couple of good line-up changes that paid off. Randal Grichuk started in right field and hit second in the line-up. It paid off with Grichuk scoring 2 runs. Xavier Scruggs got the start at first, against the left-handed De La Rosa. This also paid off with Scruggs getting a hit and a walk in 3 plate appearances. Both these players can be difference makers in the playoffs if used correctly by Matheny.
Matheny then made a couple of bad line-up changes that did not pay-off. Mark Ellis started at 2nd base and responded by going 0-3. This is vintage Matheny once again giving opportunity to an under performing veteran. Ellis has been a total failure this year, hitting a robust .184 for the season. Ellis has not earned the opportunity and will not be a Cardinal in the future. It is an indefensible managerial move. Factor in Descalso is trending up over the last 6 weeks and the club needs to see if Kozma or Garcia can help in the playoffs. Once again Matheny puts personal values over organizational goals. Mozeliak needs to send a message and release Ellis to drive home this message.
Matheny’s next bad move was to start Bourjos with a left-hander on the mound. This has got to stop. Jon Jay is having a career year and is now batting .403 for the season against left-handed pitching. The Cardinals have difficulty winning games against left-handed pitching, this was the key factor in last years loss to Boston in the World Series. Jon Jay should always start. Bourjos should come into a game off the bench and Jay move to right or left field as the game dictates.
The Cardinals won the game last night on only six hits against the left-handed De La Rosa, this is not good enough for a playoff run. Jay is too valuable not to be starting for the club. Matheny’s failure to acknowledge the clubs trouble with left-handed pitching cost the Cards a World Series win. Let’s hope he does not make the same mistake again.