Mike Matheny’s mismanagement costs the Cardinals


There’s not many things that Mike Matheny can manage his way out of. I don’t think he could manage his way out of a paper bag. So, it’s no surprise that he couldn’t manage his way out of the 3-1 deficit that his team ended up in after making countless mistakes.

More from Call to the Pen

After dropping game one and three with misplays, Matheny took over some of the mistake making in game four.

Shelby Miller took the mound to start the game. Miller was staked to a 4-1 lead after two and a half innings. Miller coughed up two more runs in the bottom of the third, prompting some action in the bullpen. Miller fought through the inning, but got into trouble the very next frame. He was lifted for the still shell-shocked Randy Choate, who came in to get one out from a pair of lefties. Choate came in, walked the first man (something that Choate made a tradition in the playoffs), then recorded the out against Joe Panik.

So far, so good. But this is where it gets a little hairy. Instead of bringing in Michael Wacha, a starting pitcher relegated what was believed to be a long relief role for the playoffs, Matheny went with Carlos Martinez. Martinez was believed to be the backup to Trevor Rosenthal on the off chance that he imploded once again. Martinez got the job done after walking the leadoff man. In the offensive half of the seventh inning, A.J. Pierzynski drew a walk with two outs, but he never got past first.

Marco Gonzales came out for the sixth inning, marking the first time in his career that he would pitch on consecutive days. Despite the fact that he would likely only pitch for one inning if all went well, Matheny double-switched, brought in his back-up catcher Tony Cruz and began to decimate his bench. Bruce Bochy countered with a pinch hitter for Travis Ishikawa, making Gonzales face a righty to lead off the inning. He walked the lead off man, let up a hit, then the inning went all wrong. The Giants ended up scoring three runs on two ground balls and a single.

Cruz lined-out to lead off the inning, making the double-switch pointless. The Cardinals put two runners on in that seventh inning, but Bochy simply maneuvered around the threat by playing matchups with a fully stocked bullpen.

The game remained uneventful until the top of the ninth. When the last healthy catcher on the roster was due up for the Cardinals came up again, Matheny went back to his bench. Light-hitting Daniel Descalso pinch for the light-hitting catcher and popped out to the shortstop. The Cardinals brought the tying run to the plate when Jon Jay got on base, as he did all series long, but Matt Holiday struck out looking. If Holiday had homered, or the Cardinals had found a way to tie the game, Descalso would have had to catch (he is the emergency catcher) or they could have used Yadier Molina with a strained oblique. Matheny was either being reckless with his injured superstar or just stupid with his bench.

In game five, Mike Matheny managed to keep his roster card clean until the eighth inning. The Cardinals lead 3-2 after Adam Wainwright pitched his best game from the playoffs. He was cruising after letting up the home run to Panik in the third inning. Wainwright retired the final 10 batters he faced, including striking out the side in the sixth inning. After setting the Giants down in order in the seventh inning, Wainwright was told he would not be returning for the eighth.

More from St. Louis Cardinals

All Star Pat Neshek blew the lead in just two pitches, allowing a home run to Mike Morse. I think this was the right move, but Neshek simply didn’t execute, the problem was Neshek was now batting third, as Matheny pulled another double switch. He put Peter Bourjos into center field, moved Jay to left and ruined the middle of the order.

In the top of the ninth the Cardinals got a lead-off walk for Matt Adams. Randal Grichuck singled him to second, where he was lifted for pinch-runner Daniel Descalso. Now, the Cardinals are without their number three and four hitters and have a middle infielder set to play first. Then, when Bourjos’ spot rolled around later in the inning, Matheny pulled him out in favor of Oscar Taveras. Taveras tapped out to the pitcher with the bases loaded, meaning Matheny pulled Matt Holiday for one inning of defense from Bourjos and a tapper to the mound to end the inning.

Matheny capped off this masterpiece of mismanagement by bringing in his not-so-secret weapon, Michael Wacha. Wacha hadn’t pitched in 20 days, was still feeling out if he was OK after a mid-season injury and had no idea what his role was. Wacha was thrown into the fire in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game, where he was crushed by the pressure and a Travis Ishikawa home run. If Matheny had used Wacha in any of the long inning chances he was faced with, he would be able to see if he was going to be in any kind of shape to pitch in that situation, but he didn’t.

Matheny never really learned how to manage an individual game before being named manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. He had never even managed a professional baseball game before spring training of 2012. According to Jim Hayes of FSN Midwest and CBS Sports 920, John Mozeliak seemed confused with Matheny’s bullpen management, but with the manager under contract until 2017 he will probably just have to deal with it unless they want to make a drastic move, which might not be be out of the question. Mo shocked the clubhouse by trading Joe Kelly and Allen Craig earlier this year.