Thursday's loss against the Angels, at least in my book, was the most disappointing of the season so far.
The Cardinals had a chance after a big win Wednesday to establish some momentum with their ace on the hill. Win the rubber game against Anaheim then come home with a chance to beat up on the Marlins.
Wainwright did his part with eight strong innings. But he gave up a broken bat single to Albert Pujols in the ninth and then manager Mike Matheny made a series of questionable decisions that ultimately ended up in a loss.
First, Matheny brought in closer Edward Mujica, a righty, to face lefty slugger Josh Hamilton. Although his numbers for the season are awful, Hamilton has become hot lately and is not a hitter to take lightly. So why not bring in one of the two bullpen lefties to face a guy who was hitting .143 with no homers and 36 strikeouts in 82 at bats against southpaws this season?
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Mujica gave up a blast to Hamilton. And then things went from bad to worse. Mujica gave up a pair of hits to put runners at first and third wit no outs. What does Matheny do? Well, nothing, really.
He went out and talked to his pitcher about strategy. But, instead of walking the hitter to create a force out at the plate, Matheny played it straight and attacked two hitters in a row who needed only to hit a sacrifice fly -- or hit a ground ball that forced a fielder to move laterally so they couldn't get a throw with anything on it to the plate. Isn't Matheny the guy who hates collisions at the plate? So why did he pass on the chance for a force out? It seemed as if he had seen enough and just wanted the game to be over as opposed to going to extra innings.
Shockingly, Mujica got the next two batters to pop up -- which makes one wonder why, if Matheny knew he could do that on demand he didn't request it earlier. But the Angels got a two-out hit and the game was lost.
Mujica has done a great job as closer, racking up save after save with confidence. But it will be interesting to see how he can bounce back from his first taste of defeat since he took over for Mitchell Boggs.