ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballStL) -- Yes, the Cards somehow pulled a Houdini and beat the Giants in Game 2 of the NLCS at Busch Stadium on Sunday night. Yes, the series is now knotted up at a game apiece as this thing shifts west to the San Francisco bay area.
That does not mean, however, that all is swell and dandy in the Cardinals world. Far from it.
From Yadier Molina missin
g a to-be-determined amount of time to concerns over the ninth inning, Mike Matheny has some things to work out with his coaching staff.
Which is the biggest concern for the Cardinals? Share your thoughts.
This is the big one
. This is concern 1, 1a, 1b, 1c and 2-7. Without their leader everything changes for the Cardinals. Forget the fact he’s now the all-time leader in postseason hits for the Redbirds. Forget his ability to come through in the clutch. Molina’s mere presence on the field has a soothing and calming effect on the pitchers. That’s especially true for the young guys like Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Marco Gonzales, etc.
No one really knows yet how long Molina is going to be out. But a strained oblique isn’t good. Personally, I’ve never heard of anyone come back from that injury in fewer than four weeks. Now, granted, I’ve never seen anyone try and push it to make it back for a World Series so I suppose it’s possible. But the man is going to be in a lot of pain.
Whoever Mike Matheny elects to choose between Tony Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski in the interim won’t have nearly the amount of impact that Molina would have. But, then again, you all knew that. It could come down to matchups. Lefty/righty, who has good numbers against a particular pitcher, who has a good rapport with the starting pitcher that day. All options will be on the table. Unless and until one of them separates himself by making a few big plays it could be a mix and match situation behind the plate.
But if the Cardinals advance to the World Series and have to face the Kansas City Royals – who have turned into a modern day “Whitey ball” club – and they don’t have Yadier Molina behind home plate? That could spell big time trouble.
What sort of leash will Trevor Rosenthal have?
There hasn’t been a more frustratingly effective closer in baseball this year than Trevor Rosenthal. It’s not even close. For a guy who finished second in the National League this year with 45 saves he’s been the opposite of efficient. Rosenthal’s 1.41 regular season WHIP (essentially base runners per inning) is way too high for a big league closer. Considering that number is up to 2.73 thus far in the postseason – albeit in just four appearances – that only underscores his problems.
The Cards closer blew a save chance in Game 2 and was bailed out by Kolten Wong in the bottom of the 9th. But that doesn’t change what will happen with his job moving forward. Mike Matheny is unlikely to pull the plug on a guy who was his horse in the 9th all year long. But he’s also unlikely to go without protecting himself.
I fully expect others to be warming up in the bullpen whenever Rosenthal is on the mound trying to close out a game. That could be Marco Gonzales, it could be Seth Maness or it could be someone else. That really depends on who hasn’t been used up to that point in the game. But the thought of trusting a one run lead to a guy with a WHIP near 3 without having a set backup plan is ludicrous.
It may not be the right time to pull him from the job altogether. But it certainly isn’t a problem taking him out if a couple runners reach base.
The 33-year old ace of the Cardinals has thrown 1,541 innings in his big league career. That’s a lot of baseballs pitched in anyone’s lifetime. Adam Wainwright loves to say that he’s paid an awful lot of money to go out and chew up those innings. But it only matters if he continues to do well in October.
For some reason, that hasn’t been the case this year.
Wainwright has made two starts (one against the Dodgers and one against the Giants) and looked off in both. Granted, he was much less off against San Francisco, leading us to believe he’s progressing towards normalcy. But he still wasn’t nearly as good as the Cards need him to be.
Adam Wainwright just doesn’t give up 6 hits in 4.2 innings in October. He doesn’t walk 3 guys either during that time frame. And he certainly doesn’t need 98 pitches to do all of that as well. Something is amiss. Is it health? Is it mechanics? Something else?
Whatever it is, Mike Matheny has little choice but to go with Wainwright in Game 5 of the NLCS and pray it works out. It’s been so long since Michael Wacha has thrown a meaningful pitch that starting him at this point is just too risky. Marco Gonzales has found his niche in the bullpen as well. There aren’t too many options aside from going with Waino and hoping it works out.