ST. LOUIS — I guess all it takes is one swing and an entire argument – no matter how much it makes sense at one point – appears to go out the window. Mike Matheny elected to go with the right-handed Randal Grichuk against righty Jake Peavy in Game 2 as opposed to the left-handed Oscar Taveras, much to the chagrin of Taveras supporters.
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Grichuk certainly did his part by coming through with an RBI single in the 4th along and with another terrific play in the outfield (he also forced a Giants runner to stay at third base on a potential sac fly situation by showing a strong and accurate arm).
But Taveras did one better. He homered. And it was a big one. The Big O launched one into the right field stands in the 7th inning to tie the game up at 3-3 just when it appeared San Francisco was going to pull away and take the game.
So what does this mean going forward? Will Matheny go with the suddenly-confident Taveras against righty Tim Hudson on Tuesday afternoon in San Francisco? It would seem the rookie power hitter is the so-called “hot hand,” a position that has dictated many of the moves so far in the postseason. Or will the skipper stay the course with Grichuk?
Defense matters here, and with the Redbirds headed to the spacious confines AT&T Park in San Francisco, it’s important to note Grichuk is a far superior fielder. Would Taveras have caught that ball up against the wall in the first inning of Game 2? Probably not. Would Taveras have forced Michael Morse to remain at third base in the seventh by throwing a strike to home plate? Probably not.
Say what you want about Grichuk’s numbers do far in October (.174 average and eight strikeouts), but he’s mountrf a very good at-bat more often than not. He’s also hit into a lot of hard outs. The man is a no-brainer to start against lefties like Madison Bumgarner, but Mike Matheny probably prefers to go with the guy who’s gotten into an everyday rhythm against righties too.
Taveras is his guy off the bench. You need a bench threat and that’s where Matheny has pegged the 21-year-old. His splits might suggest he could give the Cardinals a slightly better edge offensively against right-handed pitching but you can’t ignore the quality ABs Grichuk has taken against them.
And then there’s the defense.
Historically, Mike Matheny has shown he doesn’t like to go with a platoon in the postseason at any position. He wants his everyday eight on the field regardless of the matchup. Last year’s shortstop fiasco was an aberration. Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso were simply two options for a position that lacked a proven commodity like Jhonny Peralta.
Matheny wants stability. He wants guys getting into a rhythm of playing regularly. Grichuk has gotten into that flow as a starter. Taveras has gotten into that flow as a bench bat.
It may not be what everyone wants to see, but it’s the likely picture going forward.