Sunday afternoon, the Cards and Mike Matheny found themselves down 3-2 in the 7th inning of a dogfight with the 1st place Washington Nationals. Having already taken 2 out of 3, a win would have earned St. Louis a series win and excellent momentum going into Milwaukee today.
Instead, Mike Matheny removed Michael Wacha after just 86 pitches, and inserted Jonathan Broxton into a tight ballgame on the road. Broxton promptly allowed a solo shot to Anthony Rendon, allowed consecutive base hits to the 7 and 8 hitters before getting a strikeout and turning the ball over to rookie Dean Kiekhefer in a tough spot.
This isn’t meant to slam Jonathan Broxton. He’s a fine pitcher, and was exceptional earlier in his career with the Dodgers. However, with the highly capable Kevin Siegrist and Seung-hwan Oh healthy and available in the bullpen, it’s fair to wonder why Mike Matheny would instead choose Broxton and his 4.42 ERA instead of the guys who have performed capably in high-leverage situations throughout the season.
It’s definitely unfortunate that Kiekhefer couldn’t get the job done today, but he had some heavy lifting to do. Of course it’s easy to sit back and second-guess Matheny on a day like today, but this is one of those decisions that simply didn’t seem to have a lot of logic behind it.
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The lineup did an excellent job grinding out tough at bats all against the relentless Stephen Strasburg to get into the Nats bullpen in the 7th inning. With Strasburg out of the game and a battle of the bullpens about to begin, Siegrist, Oh, Rosenthal and a couple of runs against an unsteady Washington relief corps seemed to be a good strategy to snag an important win.
Mike Matheny told reporters postgame that he needed to give Siegrist and Oh some rest and get other guys into the ballgame. However, Siegrist hasn’t had much of a workload recently, as he’s hasn’t thrown on consecutive days since May 11th and 12th. Oh had a day off Friday, and threw just 14 pitches in a spotless inning Saturday.
It’s possible Matheny was attempting to play matchups with the trio of righties due up in the 7th, but we’ve seen Oh stifle them to a .143 mark this year. That would have left the southpaw Siegrist available to face Chris Heisey, the lefty Revere, a pinch hitter, and (if necessary) Harper in the 8th before turning the ball over to the well-rested Trevor Rosenthal.
Instead, Matheny made yet another decision that left us scratching our heads as we watched a 1-run deficit balloon into a 10-2 drubbing in the nation’s capital. Michael Wacha, who finally returned to form after struggling for most of the month of May, gets stuck with a tough-luck loss on his record.
Nothing cures a tumultuous road trip like a trip to Milwaukee, and luckily for the Cards, that’s exactly what’s next on the docket. Hopefully Matheny will get everything ironed out before we return home for a pivotal series with the San Francisco Giants.
Photo Captured by Brad Mills – USA TODAY Sports