Let me spin it for you as quick as I can before I drown myself in premium cable entertainment,
I can handle a straight up loss. One team outplaying another and the final score carrying plenty of versatile evidence of why one team lost and the other triumphed. I can handle a punishing 9-2 loss. 10-0. 12-2. 6-2. I can’t handle a loss where the game hinged on one very poor rather stupid decision by a manager. Those kind of failures stick themselves inside your ribs, deep in your cage, travel up to your head and never like to leave early. This Game 1 loss to a very beatable Washington Nationals team sent me off the deep end. With apologies to my wife and son, the last 3 hours have been rough. Let me explain.
With the Cardinals up 2-1 in the top of the 8th inning, Mitchell Boggs had two runners on and Kurt Suzuki at the plate. Suzuki is the hottest hitting Nationals player from the past month. He buried the Cardinals last weekend on a 10th inning double at Busch. This time, facing Boggs, the CARDINALS 8TH INNING SETUP MAN ALL SEASON, Suzuki struck out and Boggs was pumped up. Personally, I think he could have faced a lefthander and righthander at the plate next and fired three strikes past them as well. When I saw him bounce off the mound like a red bull injected rhino, I thought we had this game. Minutes earlier, I had told a few fellow Cards Nerve Center employees that if the Cards lineup blew a bases loaded and nobody out situation, they would lose the game. Boggs put those fears out. Then Mike Matheny climbed the dugout steps and made his way to the mound. By my “watching baseball forever” rule book, I assumed you would take out pitchers when they are struggling. Boggs struggled at first, gave up a couple of hits and got into trouble but was ready to escape danger and maintain the lead. Instead, Matheny pulled him and brought in the problem child lefty, Marc Rzepczynski. “Scrabble” barely pitched all of September, and that was due to a lack of confidence and skill. He had a bad 2012 season and was being avoided for younger nastier lefthander Sam Freeman. All of a sudden, in October, Matheny is going to him in key blood drip situations. Rzep was brought in to face lefthander Chad Tracy, a bench bat added to the Nationals roster at the last minute. It didn’t take a religious baseball fan to tell you the veteran manager of the Nationals, Davey Johnson, would pull back Tracy and send in a lefthander. Tony La Russa fell for this shit all of the time, Hall of Fame credentials and all. Matheny fell for it here, or so I hope he fell for it and didn’t intend for a struggling lefthander to face a rookie righthander Tyler Moore, who had 10 HR and several big hits off the bench. If he sought out that situation, I want his and pitching coach Derek Liloquist’s head checked immediately. This is a no brainer dumbass move. Plain and simple. Mitchell Boggs has been the setup man for this team all year and led the league in holds. He is your guy and he has nasty pitches. Allow me to throw some numbers at you, courtesy of Cards stat magician Tim Trokey, via Twitter.
*Rzep versus first batters he faces-Hitters hold a .338 average(22-65) off him which is 7th worst in baseball.
*Opponents hit .145 with runners in scoring position against Boggs in 2012.
If I had a chance to ask Matheny a question, I would ask him just that. Looking at the numbers and using common sense Mike, why the fuck did you bring in Marc and not stick with Boggs? Let’s not get into bringing in Jason Motte there. If he does that, he has to pinch hit for a Cardinals hitter in the middle of the lineup in the bottom half of the 8th inning, because the pitcher’s spot was due up soon. Also, Rzep had to pitch to at least one hitter when he was brought in. Again, you could walk Moore and pitch to Jayson Werth with the bases loaded, but Werth had already left the bases loaded twice in this game and I firmly believe Boggs had a great shot of getting any batter sent to the plate by the Nationals out. STICK WITH THE SYSTEM MIKE. Don’t get cute, fancy or neat. Do what got you here. Stick with the shutdown crew. Edward Mujica, Boggs and Motte. Done. Simple. Clear. Easy. Instead, when Boggs got into a little trouble yet seem to be escaping it, Mike Matheny pulled him. BAD BAD DECISION that puts the Cards down 1-0 in a series. It happened last year against the Phillies, but that was a clear lop sided loss. Lance Berkman hit a 3 run home run in the first inning but Lohse imploded in the 5th inning and the Phillies beat us 6-3. Here, the Cards lost 3-2 because Rzep gave up a 2 out 2 strike opposite field bloop single to Moore. I don’t care if Moore reached for a good changeup and got a piece of it. He did enough to score two runs and flip the score on its head. 4 outs away from the chance to take control of the series, the Cards coughed it up. The 8th inning started with 2 hits, and runners at first and third. Boggs got two straight outs and was pulled. Ridiculously horrible decision by Matheny. That wasn’t the only reason we lost but in my mind it was the biggest.
What else happened? The Cards were given 7 walks inside 5 high risk innings by 21 game winner Gio Gonzalez, and only scored 2 runs on 1 hit. The offense was missing in this game. In the second inning, we had a chance for a huge inning and came away with two on a wild pitch and a sac fly. In the 5th inning, we had 2 on and 1 out and got nothing. In the 8th inning, we had the bases loaded and nobody out. Given 7 walks during the game, why would Allen Craig and Yadi Molina swing at the first pitch and respectively hit into a forceout and a double play? I have no idea. They are the smartest hitters in the team. I trusted them to do the right thing. They failed. The lineup failed to pounce on a erratic young pitcher sweating under the high beams of playoff lights. On Friday, we took advantage of errors and bad pitches by Kris Medlen(another supposedly unhittable arm) and scored 6 runs. Today, we didn’t take advantage of 7 walks and many big opportunities. We fumbled them and set up the worst decision in Mike Matheny’s first year as manager. I run it through my head so many times and come up with zero excuses for that decision.
Trust me folks, I have seen it all. I have watched this team for over 20 years. I worked for 8 years on the Manual Scoreboard at the old Busch Stadium and saw over 800 games doing that. I have seen enough games to know which moves are good and which moves are insanely stupid. My credentials are legit.
Where do we go from here? Game 2 tomorrow. More torture. More unpredictable baseball, which can be wonderful and poisonous to fans inside of one game. Oh, it’s great when it goes in your team’s direction. When it hits your team’s spine and nearly breaks it, the blood spills down your own cheek and you get violent towards others. In the early goings, the pitchers were going against type. Inconsistent all year, Adam Wainwright had 5 strikeouts through 3 innings. Gonzalez had shut us down for a complete game victory weeks earlier. Today, he struggled mightily in walking 5 after three innings.
After the game, I stared at the television for about 10 minutes and then mowed the lawn in furious anger. Instead of beating an elderly woman on my street or kicking a smart ass kid in his face to appease my anger, I got productive. Did it quell my anger? NO. I am still mad as hell. What am I going to do about it?
Watch HBO and Showtime entertainment. Boardwalk Empire, Dexter and Homeland. Eat some dinner. Make some espresso. Crack open a bottle of wine. Seek out a beer. Slowly make it to my bed for sleep. Or I may go to the gym and punish my body further. We will see.
More Game Notes-
*Yadi Molina, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig went 0-10 with 2 walks in today’s game.
*Wainwright struck out 10 Nationals in 5.2 innings. He deserved a win.
*Edward Mujica pitched a sweet quick 7th inning where he retired the heart of Washington’s order on less than 10 pitches.
After the game, Mitchell Boggs told the media that he wanted the next hitter but doesn’t make the big decisions. I think he should have choked out Matheny with one of those high socks. Instead, he was the noble soldier who took a loss and bullet when he wasn’t afforded the chance to give it up himself. That must suck for relievers. You come into a game. Struggle initially but then get two huge outs. The lead in intact, your adrenaline is higher than the Arch and then…you see your manager walking toward you while pointing towards the bullpen. You see who is coming in and internally say to yourself, “What the fuck is he thinking?” Ask Boggs with a gun to his head what he thought right there. That is the money answer.
If I asked Matheny my question after the game, he would respond in his poor man’s John Wayne low tenor that he was going with the numbers and experience. Wrong and wrong. The numbers say Rzep sucks and last year is history Mike. I bet Joe Strauss, Derrick Goold, BJ Rains and other Cards reporters didn’t have the balls to ask him that question. I would have. As a real journalist/blogger/soul who requires information to put one foot in front of the other, I would have gotten my answer.
For a non baseball topic, I can’t wait for the retarded Peyton Manning haters to come out of their shells and smack him for today’s loss to the Patriots. They will reference the Manning face, the noodle arm or whatever. They will forget one thing. Peyton Manning had a better game than Tom Brady. He completed 70 percent of his passes. He threw for 345 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. It’s too bad he doesn’t play defense, because as Tim Tebow found out in the playoffs last year, his defense is utterly horrible against the Patriots. Manning was a maniac today and led an ill-fated comeback. When looking at the tape and the plays after the game, head coach John Fox and his staff will see a game lost because his defense couldn’t make a stop. After four neck surgeries, Peyton has still got it. If his defense ever catches up, watch out for the Broncos. It’s the opposite situation of the Rams.
That’s it. I’m done. Take care. Sleep tight. Get some rest. You will need it for tomorrow. Jordan Zimmerman against Jaime Garcia. While the skinny Mexican has pitched well as of late, I worry about Garcia on a playoff stage. He was horrible last October. We can only hope room service makes his eggs right tomorrow morning. Hope that he wakes up on the right side of the bed and gets hot water in his shower. We can only hope that Garcia doesn’t get any mean telepathic looks from people on the street. Will he get the right parking spot? Trim his goatee right. Let’s hope the umpire doesn’t miss a strike call or for a defensive mishap behind him to mess up his fragile mojo. Garcia has the arm of a veteran crafty lefthanded starter but the head of a high school varsity virgin. Will he hang tough tomorrow or give the bats a chance to dent Jordan(weak name for a boy)? We will find out.
Goodnight and good luck,
Dan L. Buffa
The L is for Larry. I was named after my grandfather Lawrence Bulus. He was a hunter, fisherman and saint. He died of a heart attack. He was joined by my grandmother, Henrieta(Meme) last December. I still remember watching him cut up the fish that we caught and cooking them with him. He died right before he was going to teach me to shoot a rifle. I ended up learning on my own. Good times from a young Buffa’s life.