It was the decision heard ‘round the world. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. It was heard loud and clear around St. Louis, though. That’s for sure.
With two outs in the top of the eighth inning yesterday, and runners on second and third, Mike Matheny elected to take out setup guy Mitchell Boggs and bring in lefty reliever Mark Rzepczynski.
You know the rest. Tyler Moore (who was pinch hitting for Chad Tracy who was pinch hitting for Ryan Mattheus) blooped a 2-RBI single to right field and scored the tying/go-ahead runs.
Game over. Cards lose 3-2 at home.
So why go with Rzepczynski? Most fans realize just how dominant Mitchell Boggs has been this season. A 2.21 ERA with a .211 opponents’ batting average? Please. The guy has been incredible.
Well, a day after the fact with all the emotion taken out of it, Matheny says he replayed that decision over and over again in his mind. He says he still sticks by what they did.
Matheny’s explanation is as follows. He says Boggs had been “fighting” that inning by being in a high leverage situation for an extended period of time. First the error on SS Pete Kozma. Then the single by Nationals SS Ian Desmond. Then the sacrifice bunt to get Desmond to 2nd base (which Matheny says Craig saved Boggs on). Then the intense strikeout of catcher Kurt Suzuki to get that second out.
After all of that, Matheny says it was time to get Boggs out of the game. He believed he’d been in a high leverage situation for long enough and it was time to make a move. The options from there were to either go with closer Jason Motte or, obviously, Rzepczynski.
Since the pitcher was due up fourth for the Cards in the bottom of the eighth Matheny would had to have used a double switch to get Motte into the game. Otherwise he’d risk having to pinch hit for him in the top of the ninth and not have him for the bottom of the ninth. But Yadier Molina had made the last out in the seventh. That means in order to do a double switch he’d have to take out either Molina, Allen Craig or Matt Holliday (because they were the three guys due up last at the time). Matheny did not want to do that.
He said from there it was an easy decision to go with Rzepczynski...knowing full well Nationals manager Davey Johnson would pull back the left-handed Chad Tracy and go with the right handed Tyler Moore.
There wasn’t much of a difference between lefties and righties against Rzepczynski this season. Lefties hit .255 while righties hit .259 off of him. Matheny felt comfortable with that matchup.
Obviously, it didn’t work. It can lead to a lot of second guessing because of that. But Mike Matheny received advice from Tony La Russa immediately after accepting the managing job several months back. “Trust your gut”, TLR told him. And that’s what Matheny did in this situation. His gut told him Mitchell Boggs needed to come out and the situation/matchup dictated going to his one and only lefty.
Matheny admitted replaying that situation over and over again. But he sticks by it. You have to respect him for that.