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Mike Matheny gets outmanaged as Cards lose Game 1

Oct 7, 2012, 7:21 PM EDT

Mike Matheny AP

The biggest hit in Sunday’s Game 1 came about because the Nationals got the matchup they wanted and the Cardinals didn’t.

Down 2-1 with two on and two out in the top of the eighth, Nationals manager Davey Johnson sent up lefty Chad Tracy to hit in the pitcher’s spot in the order. The Cardinals had their regular eighth-inning guy, righty Mitchell Boggs, in the game at the time, but Mike Matheny chose to counter with left-hander Marc Rzepczynski. Of course, that just led to another move from Davey Johnson; he put in right-hander Tyler Moore to replace Tracy.

Matheny should have known this was coming; Tracy had nine at-bats against lefties all year. It was a no-brainer that Johnson would go get Moore off the bench. And Moore, getting to face the southpaw, came up big, delivering a two-run single that proved to be the difference in the Nationals’ 3-2 win.

It was Matheny’s second of three very questionable decisions in the game. In the sixth, he picked Skip Schumaker over Matt Carpenter to hit for the pitcher with two on and two out against Craig Stammen. Maybe he felt Carpenter could be employed in a bigger situation later, though that chance to break the game open seemed plenty big at the time. Schumaker ended up striking out to end the inning. And Carpenter did get to bat in an important situation in the eighth. He too struck out, thanks to Tyler Clippard getting a strike call on a pitch four or five inches off the plate.

The third decision came before Carpenter hit in the eighth. With just six outs left in a one-run game, Matheny chose to give away one of them to bunt Adron Chambers — who was pinch-running for David Freese — from first to second base. The sac was successful, but the Cards failed to score.

It’d be silly to say Matheny lost this game for the Cardinals; an offense that came up with just three hits all day was the bigger problem. What Matheny didn’t do was put the team in the best position to win.

  1. otis52gsh - Oct 7, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    Can’t stand that the cards here on a BS call. Always cheered for them post season wise, but I hope they get swept this year.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 7, 2012 at 7:40 PM

      Not sure what the hell you are even saying.
      Translator please.

      • natslady - Oct 7, 2012 at 7:53 PM

        I think he/she means the infield fly call, but the Cards won that game legit. Atlanta stunk up the place with errors and fans who could easily have led to a forfeit.

    • shynessismyelguapo - Oct 7, 2012 at 11:11 PM

      “Can’t stand that the cards here on a BS call.”

      Please, for the love of God, let’s drop this narrative *right now*.

      Win Probability (using Hardballtimes Calculator) if the play had gone the Braves way? 81%…for the Cardinals. (the call going the Cardinals way made it 92%).

      That means, had that call gone the Braves way, there was still an 81% chance they would lose. It was a big blown call, *but it every likely had no bearing on the outcome of the game*.

  2. kkolchak - Oct 7, 2012 at 7:49 PM

    Gotta love Davey J. All season long he has kept the young Nats from getting rattled or thinking that they don’t belog. To win a game in which their ace gave up SEVEN walks? That is something special.

    • dcfan4life - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:25 PM

      7 walks yes, but only 3 hits. The pitching was great, like it has been all season. The Nats won it in the 8th, but getting out of a bases loaded nobody out jam in what was it, the 6th, that was the game. Way to pitch Matheus great game. 2 pitches and inning over. Is that a scouting thing? both batters swing at the first pitch with the bases loaded, i dont get it. But i loved it, great game.

  3. cur68 - Oct 7, 2012 at 7:50 PM

    Were there circles? I expected to see circles managed. That’s how this is done.

    • natstowngreg - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:04 PM

      You should ask Gator. Sounds like something right down his proverbial alley.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:15 PM

      Hahaha! No Cur…he didn’t manage “circles” around him.
      Personally, I don’t agree with the call to bring in Scrabble.
      The double switch wasn’t an option so he couldn’t bring in Motte.
      So in this case…he should have stuck with Motte obviously.
      I think the “Dipwad” is sensationalizing. But thats okay too.

  4. jonrox - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    His decisions are a lot more defensible than Dusty’s from yesterday (e.g. Cozart still batting second, Homer Bailey and Miguel Cairo as the first two bench bats, and leaving Todd Frazier out of the game entirely). The only difference was that the Reds bailed their manager out and the Cardinals didn’t

  5. fearlessleader - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    Agree with your analysis, Matthew, but FYI, it was Adron Chambers (running for Freese) who was bunted, unwisely, from first to second in the 8th.

    • fearlessleader - Oct 7, 2012 at 9:46 PM

      Who thumbs-down this?? It was wrong, and Matthew fixed it, and now it’s right.

  6. natslady - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    The Tracy/Moore thing was entirely predictable–Davey’s done it before, and vice-versa (Moore up first, pull him back for Tracy). That’s why Moore is on the roster instead of DeRosa.

    Davey said he did call for the bunt. Would have put Jackson as a pinch-runner in for a suicide squeeze, but was afraid EJax might get injured. Only curiosity to me was him using Bernadina as a PH instead of Lombardozzi. Davey likes to use Bernie later for defensive purposes. Luckily Morse made that catch in LF.

    From Wapo:

    Baseball Prospectus’s Sam Miller reported that Mattheus became the first pitcher in postseason history to finish an inning in just two pitches.

  7. hushbrother - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:04 PM

    I think Matheny’s biggest problem is failing to notice what a lousy defensive shortstop Kozma is. Kozma has made two misplays late in each game so far that could have or did lead to the opponents scoring. If the Cardinals expect to repeat as champions they need to find someone who can play acceptable defense at short, at least in the late innings.

    • fearlessleader - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:15 PM

      Who? Furcal’s hurt, and moving Descalso over means playing Schumaker at second and putting two un-scary lefthanded bats in the lineup.

    • kkolchak - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:16 PM

      The Nats have TWO outstanding defensive shortstops…one of them just happens to play second base. Makes a world of difference. :)

  8. okwhitefalcon - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    The Schumacher over Carpenter pinch hitting decision was a wash, Carpenter had his shot later.

    Scrabble being called on was just goofy.

    The sac bunt moved Adron Chambers to second, not Freese. Still goofy though.

    Game shoulda been put away much earlier, way to many blown ops and players failing to step up when called upon.

  9. dwrek5 - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    Matheny’s error was thinking match-ups needed to be played here. Leave Boggs in regardless. Rzepczynski equals not good.

    • kkolchak - Oct 7, 2012 at 9:31 PM

      And here I thought “Rzepczynski” equalled a win in Scrabble.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Oct 7, 2012 at 10:29 PM

      Agree with dwrek5 – Davey said as much after the game, that he fully expected Matheny to just leave Boggs in there. The switch made little sense, and then the Nats had several options at that point to counter it anyway, so why Matheny made a meaningless move is a true puzzle.

    • voteforno6 - Oct 7, 2012 at 11:51 PM

      Matheny seems too “by the book” in lefty-righty matchups. These two teams played last week, and Matheny chose to walk Espinosa to face Suzuki, who then knocked in the go-ahead runs. Davey seemed diplomatic afterwards about that, but I had the impression that he didn’t understand why Matheny did that.

  10. triaxfusion - Oct 8, 2012 at 7:52 AM

    Rzep is by far the worst reliever on the team. Why Matheny keeps going to him in the clutch is baffeling. Worst part… All season long Matheny has went right back to him the next day trying to prove some point. Why even have Boggs as your 8th inning guy if you won’t give him the chance to finish it?

    • cardsfanindelaware - Oct 8, 2012 at 11:36 AM

      You apparantly don’t know about Victor Marte.

      Also, Rzep had 9 scoreless appearances up until that moment. Moore is a dead pull hitter and Rzep’s pitches were placed well outside almost in the other batter’s box. Moore flailed at the previous pitch. He poked his bat out there and just happened to get enough of it for it to drop.

  11. makeham98 - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    “Win probability” is a joke when the Cardinals bullpen is involved. And even to rely on it shows that the Braves’ chance to win was cut in half by that garbage call.

  12. triaxfusion - Oct 8, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    Coming in, giving up a hit an a walk then getting bailed out by someone else does technically count as a scoreless inning, you are right. How many times did rzep have a clean inning this season?

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