Ninety-seven pitches. NINETY-SEVEN PITCHES. NINE. SEVEN. 97. For whatever reason, that was the magic number that prompted Mike Matheny to make yet another mistake in the 2014 NLCS.
The mishandling of Adam Wainwright didn’t begin last night. It occurred all season, and especially in August. Those of you that follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been concerned about Wainwright, since he threw 122 pitches in seven innings August 7 against the Red Sox.
No. I haven’t forgotten about Wainwright’s incredible 5-0 performance in September. But, that came with a price – Too high of a price. Wainwright was flat against the Dodgers in the NLDS and in Game 1 of the NLCS.
However, that was not the case in the NLCS Game 5. The “old” Waino wasn’t pitching but a close resemblance was, especially in the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th innings. Nevertheless, Matheny chose not to send Wainwright back to the mound for the 8th inning, and chaos ensued.
Matheny said in a post-game interview on aired on KMOX that Wainwright “was done.” The manager also stated he was concerned about the pitcher even in the 6th inning. That’s unacceptable, unless Waino requested a seat in the dugout, which I highly doubt.
I also believe Wainwright’s post-game comments were cover for Matheny, but I do wonder one thing: Why did Waino not fight harder to remain in the game? Of all times to be adamant about returning to the mound, last night was it. Wainwright was THE best 8th inning option for the Cardinals, and I doubt Matheny would’ve had to coerce Wainwright back on the field.
The ace of the Cardinals was used too much during the regular season and not enough in the most important game of the postseason. But, that’s not the only reason the Cardinals will be watching the other Missouri team play in the World Series.
The mishandling of John Lackey in Game 3 as well as Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha in Game 4 also led to losses. Plus, the Choate debacle (and near-debacle) and the choices of what other pitchers to use and when (as well as their performances) all aided a postseason crash and burn.
Speaking of Lackey, the magic number came into play for him as well, but the digits were reversed. 79. Seventy-nine. SEVEN. NINE. That number was far too few for Lackey to be removed in Game 3, yet he was. That mistake by Matheny created the additional circumstances for the mistakes of Games 4 and 5.
The pitching wouldn’t have seemed so poor, if fielding miscues didn’t also doom the Cardinals. Even Wainwright’s Game 1 start may have turned out better if not for Matt Carpenter’s error. The aforementioned Choate fielded worse than he pitched, and Matt Adams gave away Game 4.
The Giants had no need for power until Game 5, as the Cardinals handed them runs in their other three wins. The NLCS was a disaster, yet winnable, even sweepable for the Cardinals.
Power On / Power Off
While Adams struggled with defense in Game 4, he had no problem with offense. His .222 batting average was bad, but when he did connect with the ball, Adams made it count. Two home runs in the NLCS, including a bomb off Bumgarner in Game 5, were tremendous contributions.
The juggernaut for the Cardinals didn’t come from one of the other big guys. Rather, Kolten Wong led the Redbirds with two huge home runs and four RBI. Unfortunately, the rookie was 0-4 in Game 5, but he deserves little, if any, blame.
John Jay carried the Cardinals and proved he belongs in center field for a long time. Jay hit .500 in the NLCS and walked twice.
The lack of power, even just a lack of hitting came from Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday. Peralta finished the NLCS 2-17, which is a .118 batting average, ZERO extra base hits and one RBI. Holliday was 5-22 (.227) with ZERO extra base hits and ZERO RBI. That’s a lot of money spent for no power, when it matters most.
Three For Three
Thea have virtually been swept out of the playoffs in three straight years. For a team built to win championships, that is unacceptable.
Changes will come for 2015, but only minor adjustments are needed in the makeup of the regular season roster. However, major modifications, with the roster and managing, must occur, if the Cardinals reach the postseason next year.