The St. Louis Cardinals have finally managed to string a pair of wins together – although they’re not inspiring a lot of confidence yet with 2-1 victories over the Pittsburgh Pirates that nearly got away in the end.
But at least it’s something to build on.
The victories came largely because manager Mike Matheny was apparently ordered by General Manager John Mozeliak to stop the foolishness of trotting career first baseman Matt Adams out to left field to sacrifice any sort of defensive ability to get his sub-.200 bat into the lineup.
Regular left fielder Randal Grichuk made several plays to prevent runs that Adams had no chance to field. The support helped the pitching settle down a little bit with both Lance Lynn and Mike Leake turning it sharp starts. But the big flaw remaining in the Redbirds’ game is their offense, which isn’t putting up runs on a consistent enough basis.
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Maybe it’s a sign of things to come that leadoff man Dexter Fowler hit the first Cardinals triple of the year in the first inning Tuesday and then scored to plate the first run of the game.
Fowler hasn’t looked comfortable since the start of the season. Maybe he’s feeling the pressure of living up to his sizable contract. But it’s key for him to settle in because Fowler is expected to set the tone for the office, putting pressure on the defense with his speed.
While the starting pitching has been better lately, closer Seung-Hwan Oh has been terrible. He gave up a run Monday and was one bad pitch away from blowing his second save in three tries. On Tuesday he allowed a pair of hits to the first two batters he faced. Then he failed to get over to first with one out in time to retire Jordy Mercer on what should have been a routine play. Instead of having two on and two out, the Cardinals were in a bases-loaded, one-out jam.
Oh seemed like he got off the hook when he coaxed a ground ball right back to him off the bat of Phil Gosselin. But he turned what could have been an easy double play into more drama by throwing the ball at the feet of catcher Yadier Molina to retire the runner at the plate. The poor throw caused Molina to be unable to convert the twin killing and the Pirates had one more chance.
Fortunately, the next hitter flied out to Grichuk. But it shouldn’t have been such an eventful ninth.
Oh lowered his ERA to 8.10 by narrowly avoiding any runs to score. But his three hits allowed gave him 12 in 6 2/3 innings. I can’t help but wonder if his participation in the World Baseball Classic as opposed to working with his team in spring training could have affected his preparation for the season.
Regardless, I think Mozeliak should intervene a second time and tell Matheny to reinstall Trevor Rosenthal as closer.
While Rosenthal, who is still getting up to speed after missing about half of Grapefruit League play with a strained muscle, had one bad outing this season that have skewed his numbers, his velocity has been excellent and he dominated in his other two appearances with five strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings.
Oh is a smoke-and-mirrors closer who gives the other team a chance to put the ball in play. Rosenthal is a guy who is capable of throwing smoke past the best major-league hitters.
Not only is Rosenthal the best choice to close St. Louis games now, Oh is a free agent at the end of the season and I doubt the Redbirds are going to hand him a big contract in his middle-30s to continue to in the role for 2018 and beyond.