Home > MLB > Nationals/Cardinals Game 2 recap: Blame Beltran

Nationals/Cardinals Game 2 recap: Blame Beltran

In the American League this never would have happened.

Highest WPA: David Freese, .118
Lowest WPA: Jordan Zimmermann, -.361

This one turned into a blowout toward the end, and wasn’t really close at any point beyond the third inning or so, but there was an early decision by Mike Matheny that would have been the cause for a lot of criticism if the Cardinals had gone on to lose.

Leading 2-1 in the bottom of the second, the Cardinals had runners on first and third with one man out. They had scored their two runs earlier that inning, and were looking to add on; the problem was that, because they play in a league that endorses an inferior brand of baseball, they had their pitcher due up. Pete Kozma had just struck out, so there was a very real chance that the Cards would have to settle for only a one-run lead after thinking they would be able to widen the gap a little more.

Rather than let Jaime Garcia bat and try to get as many innings out of his starter as he could, Matheny elected to use a pinch hitter. The reaction was immediate, and most of it was negative; I saw about ten comparisons to Tony La Russa before Skip Schumaker had even taken a swing. Personally, I liked the logic behind it; the Cardinals wanted to put up as many runs as they could, and they knew that they could hand the ball to Lance Lynn and ask him to get them through the middle innings.

If this was game two (or game 22, or game 102) of the regular season, there’s no way Mike Matheny makes this move. But, with every scoring opportunity meaning more in the playoffs, and with a day off immediately following this game in case he wound up having to use his whole bullpen, I absolutely think Matheny was in the right to get an actual hitter up to the plate and let his bullpen handle the last seven innings of this game.

As it happened, Schumaker got a run home on a fielder’s choice, and the Cardinals went on to win big. They’ll go to Washington now for the rest of the series, and it’s entirely possible that Garcia will be able to start Game 4. Matheny’s decision to do everything he could to maximize the chances of winning one game may wind up helping the Cardinals win this whole series.

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