With the struggles and inconsistency of the Cardinals starting rotation, manager Mike Matheny has a very tough decision when trying to figure out who should pitch in the one game playoff
When the whole season depends on one game, you want your ace on the mound. Unfortunately for manger Mike Matheny, the Cardinals don’t have a real ace. Adam Wainwright is the natural ace simply because he’s led the staff for so long, but in reality, Father Time caught up to him long ago.
Now we don’t really know who the Cardinals will be playing, where they will be playing, and even if they will actually be playing in this game. Also, the Cardinals will probably not even be able to chose who will be pitching this game because they won’t even have the luxury of setting up their rotation. They will need to throw out their best starters every game because they are still fighting for a postseason spot.
Because of all the uncertainty, we have to go through all of the different possible situations that the Cardinals could be in so we’ll start from the most likely possible outcome to the least.
St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets
I truly struggled with this one because there is no way of knowing how the young right hander will react in a hectic Citi Field environment. Martinez already has 16.2 post season innings under his belt posting a 3.24 ERA in that span but does not have a single postseason start under his belt. He is easily the Cardinals best starter and has been tremendous away from Busch Stadium posting a 8-1 record with an astonishing 2.35 ERA. The Mets strike out a ton with their three starting outfielders alone striking out 343 times. Martinez strikeout numbers have been the lowest of his career due to a few bad starts. Since August, he has struck out a batter for every inning pitched. During his last start against the Mets, Martinez threw an eight inning gem where he surrendered one run on only four hits.
St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants
As expected, the San Francisco Giants are almost the complete opposite of the New York Mets from a hitting stand point. While the Mets are all or nothing, the Giants go base to base. They have hit the third least amount of home runs in the National League while posting one of the highest averages. The natural call for this game is Jamie Garcia. The Giants are predominately lefty and the Cardinals could neutralize that by starting a lefty on the mound. However, Jamie owns a 7.43 ERA during the month of September and is no longer in the starting rotation.
Now as crazy as this call is, Leake is the only pitcher that has fared well at AT&T park. In his last start, he went six innings while only surrendering two hits. He is a ground ball pitcher and the way to beat the Giants is by making them hit the ball on the ground. He has pitched at AT&T park three other times in his career throwing a complete game, an eight inning shutout, and six innings while surrendering one run. Now, I know how crazy it is to say that the Cardinals should put someone on the mound for the most important game of the season with a 4.54 ERA but the $75 million dollar man has made a name for himself in the bay area and compared to the other options, he’s not THAT bad.
New York Mets at St. Louis Cardinals
Oh yes I did. Reyes should start this game for similar reasons that Martinez should start in New York. Reyes is a big strikeout pitcher and will be able to utilize that against the Mets’ hitters. Now, while Martinez would be the call to also start this game because of that logic, his home and away splits simply do not agree. He owns a 3.87 ERA at home this season but the concerning stat to examine is his twelve home runs given up verses only two on the road.
The Mets are a power hitting team and the Cardinals cannot afford to get beat by the long ball especially in a one game playoff. There will be much concern about how the rookie will face in his first taste of postseason action but remember, this isn’t any rookie. Alex Reyes has had high expectations on him since he was signed in December 2012 and has lived up to the hype. He is truly the only Cardinals pitcher who pitches well at home with a 0.71 ERA in his limited action. He was recently moved into the starting rotation and deserves consideration to pitch the Cardinals biggest game of the season.
San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals
This is by far the Cardinals worst match up out of the four. The Giants are a really good away team and will cause a threat to whatever pitcher the Cardinals throw their way. Wainwright gets the start here simply because he’s Adam Wainwright. He has proven himself in the past and has shown during the 2016 season when the Cardinals have needed him, he can step up. He was roughed up in his last start against the Giants but pitched well against them earlier in the year. If Wainwright falls into trouble, Matheny can go to his bullpen because it is all hands on deck in the one game playoff.
While the numbers do lie, it is almost certain that Matheny will either start Wainwright or Martinez in this game. Both pitchers own decent records for the 2016 season and would draw the least amount of criticism, which is normally Matheny’s motto. Regardless of who Matheny throws out there, the Cardinals will need a solid pitching performance as their hitters will be facing Noah Syndergaard, or the 2014 postseason MVP in Madison Bumgarner.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Cardinals