Welcome back to heartbreak motel with the St. Louis Cardinals, ladies and gents. The first ulcer from the 2018 season has been produced.
Carrying a 4-1 lead into the eighth inning, bolstered by a fine Jack Flaherty start and back-to-back opening home runs by Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham, the bullpen blew it big time. The kool aid crowd will tell you that it's only April and cool it. I'll tell you this: the loss stings no matter when it occurs and it shows that some tendencies can't be undone. Do the Cardinals have to play great just so they can override their manager, Mike Matheny, in bad decision-making?
Let's look at five things from a tough loss.
5) Flaherty was impressive. While the Cardinals streak without a six-inning performance stretched to five games, the rookie dazzled. Flaherty showed you why the front office is putting an off-limits tag on his right arm. He struck out nine in just five innings of work. Does Adam Wainwright really have to come back?
4) On the same day as a colorful Sports Illustrated article illuminated his story and opinions on the team's handling of his career, Pham launched a first pitch blast in the first inning right after Fowler's home run. Two more hits, a stolen base, and an assist in the outfield helped apply an exclamation point on the article, proving to fans that bold voices are best served with a bold performance. Pham is betting on himself and winning. I can get used to that.
3) Paging Greg Holland to the front desk. You are needed, sir. Tyler Lyons couldn't get outs in the eighth and Dominic Leone couldn't finish the ninth. This is more of a hit on the southpaw, because a five out save shouldn't be needed in April. Lyons allowed three times the amount of baserunners as outs recorded. That's just pathetic. Leone gave up game-ending blasts to Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun. The fact that you let scum like Braun win a game on you should bring some kind of embarrassing punishment. Hopefully, Leone can make a mean latte or wash cars well. That was disgusting.
2) Marcell Ozuna may have hit a baseball so hard that he could have been brought in by the Milwaukee police for questioning, but look at Jose Martinez. The hit machine collects three more knocks to continue an assault on NL pitching that is becoming topical throughout the league. Perhaps the main networks can jump off the Cubs' lap for a second and give the Cardinals versatile bat a little love.
1) Mike Matheny makes managing extra difficult. While the man didn't lose the game directly, he still managed to do a few things very wrong. First, you don't let Leone face Braun. I don't care if it's Bud Norris, Braun was 3-3 with big hits against the reliever. Play the numbers and make a change. Tony La Russa and 50 other managers would have pulled Leone. Mistake #1. The second lapse was double-switching Matt Carpenter out of a close game (three runs or less is close enough), and then doing it again with soft-hitting utility bat Greg Garcia. Does he know what a double-switch does and why it should and shouldn't happen? After 6+ years as a skipper, Matheny has learned nothing. If the game goes to extra innings, the Cards are weak in the middle. John Mozeliak had to roll his eyes at these moves, right?
It's not like Matheny is overly aggressive and trying daring things; he simply makes boneheaded decisions that NEVER pan out. The apologists will still find a way to bail him out, because hey, look at his record. Attention, with every season, Matheny's record has gotten worse and worse. Check it out. He's. Not. That. Good.
Memo to Carlos Martinez: go six innings tonight, bud. That's what aces do. They take the sickness of a terrible loss, flush it down the drain, and shut down a team. Do it. Be THE GUY.
Thanks for reading.