Jun 22, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (22) sits in the dugout during the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals Bullpen Breakdown: trouble in the late innings

The St. Louis Cardinals completed taking three of four over the weekend from the top offensive and pitching team in the National League since the all star break. The Padres (Yes, the Padres are the best run scoring and run preventing team in the NL since the All-Star game.) came up short in three of the four contests in the weekend set in St. Louis, but the Cardinals looked to be doing everything they could to give them away.

It all started on Thursday. After a strong start from John Lackey — Seven innings, five hits, three walks and two earned runs — the game was tied at two. In the top of the eighth inning, groundball-specialist Seth Maness entered the game to face the two, three and four hitters. Maness set them down in order, keeping the game tied.

Jon Jay doubled home a pair of runs in bottom of the eighth allowing for a save opportunity for Cardinals’ closer Trevor Rosenthal. The Cardinals have had issues with Rosenthal before, but that seemed to be misuse, but on Thursday he had other issues.

Despite only having to record one out in the previous series, Rosenthal loaded the bases while recording just one out. The next pitch was a line drive base hit into right field, which looked like it was going to tie the game. But a good throw from Shane Robinson and a swipe tag (that probably missed) was called an out on the field and was upheld after a lengthy review. Rosenthal walked another batter before striking out Tommy Medica for the final out of the game.

On Friday, the Cardinals bullpen was a bit better, but just as dramatic. Lance Lynn pitched six innings of one run ball and was followed up by Sam Freeman (1.1 innings) and Seth Maness (0.2 innings) working two shutout innings. Leading 3-1, Mike Matheny went with All-Star reliever Pat Neshek for the ninth inning and he proceed to have one of his worst outings of the season. After recording the first two outs he allowed a home run and a double, bringing the tying run to the plate. He struck out Will Venable for the final out and unleashed a mighty sigh of releif.

On Saturday, the troubles came much earlier for the bullpen. After six innings of gritty work by Shelby Miller — six innings, four hits, six walks and four earned runs on a season high 110 pitches — the game was handed over to the bullpen. The Cardinals led 5-4 when second-year reliever Kevin Siegrist entered the game.

Segrist was one of the game’s most effective relievers last year, allowing just two earned runs in 39.2 innings of work, but this year has been a different story. After taking some time on the DL this season, Siegrist’s fastball has become very hittable. He has lost about one mile per hour on his fastball, and it has become 1.2 runs below average, a drop off of about 13 runs. This has increased his ERA more than ten-fold, from 0.45 last year to 6.11 this year.

His ERA reached this new high after his outing on Saturday. After striking out the first hitter, Siegrist loaded and unloaded the bases in four hitters, letting up back to back singles, a walk and a grand slam in just 19 pitches, allowing the Padres to break the game wide open.

Siegrist was demoted to triple-A on Sunday in lieu of Carlos Martinez, but the drama continued anyway. The ninth rolled in with another save oppertunity. The Cardinals led 7-4, and Matheny went with his questioned closer, Rosenthal. On 18 pitches Rosenthal managed to strikeout one and walk three others before being pulled for Maness.

The groundball-specialist got one on the first pitched, but it sneaked through the infield for a two-RBI single, pulling the Padres within one. Maness then got a ground-out to first and a fly-out to center to secure his second save of the year.

With this weekend in the rear-view mirror, the Cardinals will probably have some big decisions to make in the late innings of the game. Neshek would be the most likely candidate to replace Rosenthal in the ninth, if that is something Mike Matheny even wants to do although he has already denied it.

As for the bridge innings that Siegrist managed, Martinez seems like a one for one swap with the Cardinals rotation pretty crowded.

And if the Cardinals choose to make some changes, they better work fast because the Brewers are showing no sign of slowing down after their road sweep of the Dodgers.

Tags: Kevin Siegrist Pat Neshek Seth Maness St Louis Cardinals Trevor Rosenthal

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