(BaseballStL) — Friday’s game featured 19 hits over 76 at bats, but it’ll be the absence of a hit in just one at bat that Cardinals fans will talk about Saturday.
After a spectacular collapse in the ninth inning that allowed the Cardinals to tie the game at 3-3, Cubs closer Jose Veras was replaced by Justin Grimm in the tenth. Grimm picked up where Veras left off, walking Matt Holliday and Matt Adams on eight pitches. With the first two hitters aboard, he struck out Yadier Molina.
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Shane Robinson flew out to left field, setting up a two-out situation with the winning run on second base.
During Robinson’s at bat, Pete Kozma stood in the on deck circle, preparing to hit for closer Trevor Rosenthal. After Robinson flew out to Ryan Kalish, Kozma returned to the dug out and Rosenthal stepped in.
Prior to Friday’s contest the 23-year-old had one at bat in the majors. As a professional he had 18 total. 11 of those were strikeouts. He’s now had 19 at bats, two as a major leaguer. He also now has 12 strikeouts.
“I’m not here to hit,” Rosenthal said after the game, explaining that the outcome at the plate didn’t effect his mindset on the mound.
He’s right though. Logically, just about anyone else on the team would be a better bet to swing the bat, especially someone like Kozma who had taken regular cuts against major leaguers all last season. Tony Cruz was also available, which makes the fact that Rosenthal was in the box with the game on the line all the more perplexing.
Matheny explained afterward that, given the productivity of Rosenthal’s previous inning, he felt the young hurler should bat and return to the mound.
“Trevor had a a very efficient inning, throwing six pitches the previous inning. He’s arguably our best guy in the pen,” Matheny said. “We had an opportunity to bring him back out there, start off the next inning with Bourjos, Descalso and the top of the order. We like throwing our best guy out there and thinking it’s going to give us a chance to get back in.”
Rosenthal struck out, and ended up surrendering a home run to Welington Castillo that would seal the game.
Matheny felt the chances his closer could keep the game tied were better than the chances his bench could deliver the game winning hit. He also felt, given his decision, that it was better to play for the tie for another inning than gamble Rosenthal in an attempt to win in the tenth.
Randy Choate, Seth Maness and Keith Butler were all still available to throw if Rosenthal was sacrificed, and the Cardinal manager said after the game that Randy Choate was the next pitcher slated come in.
Butler and Maness have both struggled early this season, so perhaps the lack of a dependable righty also played a role in the decision.
Matheny did say that if there had been one out, Kozma would have hit for Rosenthal. Robinson’s fly out changed the equation.
“With two outs we made the decision,” he said. “Get Trevor back in and hopefully give our offense another shot.”
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