It’s over. The 2015 St. Louis Cardinals are done. The Chicago Cubs, via a fiery lineup and surprisingly solid bullpen, knocked out the Birds at Wrigley Field. The Cubs first playoff series win in 12 years happened for many reasons but I’ll toss five at you as the nerves go on ice for the offseason.
I’ll be honest and say it hurts. Seeing another team celebrate in front of your team is an event I can’t say someone should ever get used to. It’s ugly. You can’t say there will be another game tomorrow. You can’t say there’s a chance. It’s over and the dust settles and lockers are cleaned out.
5. Too much power from Chicago. Anthony Rizzo. Kris Bryant. Kyle Schwarber. Javier Baez. Addison Russell. List goes on and on. Schwarber hit a mammoth shot that hasn’t even landed yet. Rizzo wrongly predicted the NL Central winner but his smoked solo blast was the deciding blow in Game 4. While the Cards hit eight home runs, the Cubs made their ten blasts count and had more men on base for a few of them. They are a tough team to play in Wrigley and showed their ability to change a game instantly with the long ball. Cards couldn’t keep up.
4. Mike Matheny’s decisions. Once again, the skipper made some questionable calls, especially at Wrigley. In a tight five game series, every move will be scrutinized. Matheny refused to pitch Tyler Lyons, a guy capable of throwing 2-3 innings, for the entire series. He brought in Kevin Siegrist in the 5th and 6th innings, which didn’t end well. He pulled Seth Maness in the middle of an inning when he needed a double play and brought in Adam Wainwright, who immediately allowed a two run Game 3 deciding home run to Jorge Soler. Matheny wasn’t the main reason, as many on Twitter will point out, the Cards lost but he made some dicey moves that shouldn’t be overlooked. He also started Jaime Garcia with a stomach virus when Lyons was down there. The same Lyons who took over for Carlos Martinez after three batters in a late September game.
3. The plate discipline left the window. The Cardinals tried to impersonate the Cubs and became home run hitters. They struck out over 48 times in the series, averaging 12 per game. They struck out 27 times in their last 54 at bats. They swung at pitches in the dirt or at their chin. Sure, the strike zone was bad for the majority of the series, but that doesn’t excuse the terrible plate discipline by this team. They drew walks but struck out far too often.
3a.-The veterans coming up short. Matt Holliday hit .129 in the series, hitting third. Jhonny Peralta hit .143 and batted fifth. Both unacceptable.
2. The bullpen got smoked, with the biggest culprit being Siegrist. The guy led the National League in appearances in 2015, threw a lot of pitches and was fatigued but saw himself entering the game midway. He served up a bomb to Rizzo on Monday night. He entered on Tuesday with the game tied at 4 and promptly hung a pitch for Rizzo to blast into nearly the same spot. Siegrist missed location horribly on both pitches. He finished by serving up a majestic blast to Kyle Schwarber that left the stadium, 418 feet away. In 2013, Siegrist was unhittable until late September and got beat by David Ortiz and the Red Sox in the World Series. Two years later, he failed to pitch well in the playoffs. He wasn’t alone in bullpen blasting but he is the guy who stands out. As a reliever, you have to be efficient with your pitches and keep the game in hand. Siegrist did not and got smoked. Maybe next year don’t make him throw so many pitches. Anyway…
1. The Jaime Garcia implosion. As the Cards faced elimination, I kept wondering how the series would have went if Game 2 went a different way. As in, what if Garcia didn’t start and Lyons did. What if the enigmatic starter known as Jaime didn’t wait until an hour before the game to tell Matheny he was very sick and take the mound again in the playoffs impaired. Or, what if Garcia fields that bunt cleanly and flips to Yadier Molina to nail Austin Jackson at home plate? What if the Cubs don’t score 5 runs that inning? What if the Cards win Game 2 and don’t need to start John Lackey on short rest in Game 4? All these conundrums and so much time to answer them. Starting a sick Jaime Garcia was a costly and stupid move. Most of that fault falls on the player for not admitting sickness earlier, thus putting his own legacy(or need to remake it) in front of team importance.
Yeah, there’s more. Lackey serving up a two out RBI single to Jason Hammel that preceded the Baez home run. Kolten Wong hitting .143 and swinging at everything in the dirt. Mark Reynolds breaking windows in batting practice but whiffing in real games. Yadier Molina playing badly hurt without an ability to hit. There are more things but the five above explain the meat of the reason the Cards aren’t advancing.
It’s over folks. The 2015 Cardinals took us on a ride that we won’t soon forget, for better or worse. It was thrilling, frustrating and ultimately disappointing while being impressive at the same time. Despite injuries, they won 100 games. In the end, the pitching broke down and the bats couldn’t keep up. 2016 holds a lot of questions, mostly fun and interesting. For now, ice the mind and toss the stress in the trash can. There’s plenty of time in the next six months to think about what could have been.