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Cardinals’ injuries taking a toll with elimination near

Oct 6, 2013, 9:03 PM EDT

Justin Morneau, Matt Adams AP

In some ways, the Cardinals are better off than most. They don’t lose much at first base with Matt Adams filling in for Allen Craig, and they’re still fine in the ninth since Trevor Rosenthal replaced the sore-shouldered Edward Mujica in the closer’s role. But the truth is that both injuries played huge roles in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Pirates.

With Adams filling in for Craig, here’s the Cardinals’ current bench: Adron Chambers, Tony Cruz, Daniel Descalso/Pete Kozma, Shane Robinson and Kolten Wong. There isn’t even one decent pinch-hitting option there. Wong, a rookie second baseman, is the talent in the bunch, but he hit just .153 in 59 at-bats after arriving in the majors. The Cardinals are down enough on him that he was left on the bench while both Kozma and Descalso hit against Jason Grilli in the ninth today.

Chambers is in the roster spot that would have gone to Craig. He went 4-for-26 in the majors this year.

And, of course, while Adams is probably a better hitter than Craig against righties, he was a far lesser option today against Francisco Liriano. He’s also the weaker defender, which played a role in Kozma’s throwing error in the two-run first inning today.

As for Mujica, well, he’s on the roster and available, but the Cardinals don’t trust him right now. That’s why Rosenthal wasn’t out there in a tie game in the eighth when the Pirates scored two runs today. That almost certainly would have been Rosenthal’s assignment a few weeks ago. Since he’s now the closer, he was held in reserve.

The Cardinals are also going it without Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jason Motte and Rafael Furcal, but those are injuries from several months ago. Had they known they’d be without Craig, they probably would have brought in some bench help prior to Aug. 31.

  1. fearlessleader - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    Sadly true. The Cards also went into the year figuring that they’d have Oscar Taveras available to help down the stretch and likely in the postseason. Craig is an enormous loss, but I’m glad they’re treating his injury conservatively and cautiously.

    On the bright side, they fared better against Liriano today than any of us expected, and they’re no strangers to having their backs against the wall in October.

  2. jc4455 - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    The blame is partially misplaced here. Yes Mujica and Craig are useful when healthy, but Wong is still a good hitter despite whatever he did in 59 at bats and absolutely has to bat against the right-handed closer instead of Kozma. Rosenthal is their best reliever. Matheny saved him for the save situation that never came. Managers do the same dumb things over and over. That’s the story here. Plus he let Joe Kelly hit with a runner in scoring position while losing in the fifth inning. Joe Kelly is the Cardinals 8th-10th best pitcher, depending on how you feel about Seth Maness and John Axford. Matheny gets credit because the team wins, but it doesn’t win because of him.

    • fearlessleader - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:24 PM

      I don’t know, jc4455—Wong has, thus far, been pretty much an automatic out in the big leagues, whereas Kozma had had a very nice day (admittedly an aberration….) at the plate. Kelly was pitching well and should have been able to get a bunt down in the 5th, and, as noted above, it’s not as though the Cards’ bench offered a whole lot of better options, especially since Kelly’s one of the guys on the team who can conceivably beat out a bunt. And even if Rosenthal had preserved the tie, which of the kid relievers would you have trusted in the 9th?

      I love me some managerial second-guessing, but I can’t complain about much of what Matheny did today. Good decisions still lead to bad outcomes a lot of the time.

      • jc4455 - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:41 PM

        Kolten Wong and Shane Robinson are better at hitting than Joe Kelly and Pete Kozma. This has been firmly established by scouting and statistics. Kozma going 2 for 3 or Wong performing poorly in 59 at bats doesn’t change their underlying talent or lack of talent. With two on and none out, making a out either intentionally or on accident is a significant negative play.

        As for the 9th, Rosenthal could’ve pitched it if the Cardinals had gone down 1-2-3. The 9th was a significantly easier inning for the Cardinals because the bottom of the order projected to be up for the Pirates.

      • fearlessleader - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:50 PM

        First and second, fifth inning, close game. Cards pitcher is doing well and comes to bat with guys on first and second and none out, with some of the best hitters in the league with RISP behind him. Whatever our positions on bunting, there’s not a more tailor-made situation for it than that one. Joe Kelly just plain didn’t get it done.

        I am frustrated by today’s game too, but I don’t believe your hypothetical moves would have made a bit of difference.

      • jc4455 - Oct 6, 2013 at 10:03 PM

        @fearless The run expectancy matrix tells us fewer runs score with 1-2 no out than 2-3 one out. Plus sac bunts are only successful about 50% of the time (Kelly failed). Half the time the bunt slightly lowers run expectancy; the other half it significantly lowers run expectancy. Keep in mind these assertions are based on what has actually occurred in baseball history. We have all the game logs and have counted what’s happened in every situation.

        Joe Kelly was not doing particularly well – in four innings he had given up seven baserunners. But even if he had been doing well, what he was likely going to do in the bottom of the fifth and beyond is a function of his underlying pitching talent, not what he did in innings 1-4 (which wasn’t particularly good anyway). Joe Kelly is decent. The Cardinals have many guys who are better.

      • fearlessleader - Oct 6, 2013 at 10:10 PM

        Come on, jc—in what universe was Matheny NOT going to be bunting there? I don’t like it any more than you do, but now you’re not talking about changing his moves in one game; you’re talking about changing his fundamental bunt-loving character!

        By the way, those two runs scored anyway, even after the failed bunt, so I don’t think that was a significant turning point in the game.

        This is sort of a pointless argument. Perhaps we should talk instead about how they’re going to turn things around tomorrow.

      • yahmule - Oct 6, 2013 at 10:43 PM

        Wong has been nothing short of overmatched in just about every plate appearance I saw him take this year. Love his potential, but he’s not a major league hitter at this point.

      • jc4455 - Oct 7, 2013 at 12:13 AM

        @mule – I know he’s looked bad. But 59 at bats aren’t very meaningful, and the subset you saw even less so. Anyway we’re talking about pinch hitting for Pete Kozma and Joe Kelly.

      • fearlessleader - Oct 7, 2013 at 1:22 AM

        I’m sorry, but no matter how crummy Pete Kozma has been this year, there is absolutely no reason to think that Kolten Wong would represent an offensive upgrade at this point—not to mention the infield defense the Cards would have been left with if the game had continued. This is getting silly.

      • spudchukar - Oct 7, 2013 at 10:30 AM

        It is true that Wong’s numbers in the minors suggest future success in the “Bigs”, but so far he has been a flop offensively. It isn’t just his stats. He has only squared up one ball if my memory serves me well, and I have seen all his at bats. His swing is long, and right now he isn’t much of a threat.

        Robinson shouldn’t be included in the group of feeble hitters. And Descalso has proven to be an adequate hitter with some pop. But the rest of the group are hardly threatening.

        The move to Martinez was surprising to say the least. Particularly with the good hitters coming up. However, his performance was hurt by Layne’s insistence on calling knee-high and above breaking pitches balls. He was consistent, mostly bad, but since the Pirates hurlers pitched out of the zone with their off-speed pitches, it wasn’t as damaging to them.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 7, 2013 at 9:07 AM

      “Joe Kelly is the Cardinals 8th-10th best pitcher.”

      Seriously? No…you can’t be serious.
      If so…you might want to do your homework on that jc4455.

    • bfunk1978 - Oct 7, 2013 at 9:21 AM

      “Saving” Rosenthal for the save was really dumb, I agree – bring him in to face the heart of the Pirates order in the 8th. One of these days, a team is going to start using their bullpen correctly and they’ll be untouchable, and everyone else will slowly follow suit. The Cardinals said yesterday they’re going to get into shifting like the Pirates have and it can only help them defensively.

    • bigmeechy74 - Oct 7, 2013 at 11:20 AM

      You are just plain wong about this

  3. Oscar D - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    Quit making excuses. I don’t know who will win what is shaping up to be a great series but so far the Cardinals are being outplayed. Except for 1 inning in the first game the Pirates have dominated. Give credit where credit is due.

    • fearlessleader - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:33 PM

      You mean like in every other post about the Pirates? ;)

    • thebadguyswon - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      I agree. The Pirates are just winning – period. No need for excuses.

      • gibbyfan - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:43 PM

        And winning with that payroll is really something special —In these days of ahandfulof teams teams competing to just buy the title gotta give the Bucs,Rays and A’s a ton of credit.

  4. drone501 - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    these cardinal fans are really coming un glued. so, your team is not the better team. injuries are part of the game. the pirates have had their share. so man up cardinal fans. lol

    • cohnjusack - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      Is Matthew even a Cardinals fan?

      Yes, injuries happen, pointing that out isn’t excuse making.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 7, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      Matthew is a Red Sox fan. No one is making excuses. Merely pointing out facts. No one is “coming un glued.” The Pirates are flat playing better. You would be better served to stop making shit up. The Pirates have played better. The Pirates have played better. The Pirates have played better. The Pirates have played better.

      See what I did?

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