Don't send me an application for membership to the Mike Matheny Haters Society. But the St. Louis Cardinals' Sunday game against the Atlanta Braves game film probably isn't something he's going to want to include in his portfolio.
It was an eyebrow raiser that closer Trevor Rosenthal was summoned from the bullpen for a fourth-consecutive day with the Redbirds clinging to a 5-4 lead. It was worse that the Cardinals employed one of those horrible defensive shifts to start the ninth which allowed the Atlanta lead-off hitter to slap a ball to the opposite field and put Rosenthal in the soup with the tying run on and no outs.
The Cardinals got a break when the Braves hit a double into the right field corner and didn't try to score the runner from first. But, with two outs and the tying run 90 feet from home, Matheny opted to pitch around the batter at the plate and set up an all or nothing scenario with the bases loaded and a tired reliever on the mound.
Rosenthal seemed to strike out the batter on a full count pitch, according to the pitch location graphic on Fox Sports Midwest. But the umpire called strike three ball four and the game was tied. Matheny then summoned his other smoked reliever, Carlos Martinez who uncorked a wild pitch to let the go-ahead run trot home. And that was all she wrote.
It was a poor ending for St. Louis starting pitcher Jaime Garcia who, aside from a handful of bad pitches, was remarkably good for missing nearly an entire year of baseball games thanks to shoulder troubles. Garcia gave up a pair of solo homers on hanging pitches and two more runs on a double that appeared to be a foul ball.
But he pitched efficiently and effectively for the most part, allowing only five hits over seven innings. He struck out five and walked none. If the performance was any indication of the status of his post-shoulder problem career, he still has the stuff to get MLB hitters out but could use some refinement in his delivery. That's a pretty good place to be after such a long layoff. If Garcia can keep it up -- and stay healthy -- he could be a huge boost for a team that is already pitching rich.
The Cardinals left 12 runners on base in the game including six by Matt Holliday and Allen Craig.
But the biggest St. Louis rally came when Peter Bourjos struck out with two outs and no one on base. The ball squirted away from the Atlanta catcher and Bourjos scooted down to first base before the throw. Garcia singled in his first plate appearance of the year to make it first and second with two outs and then Matt Carpenter -- who was 2-for-2 with three walks on the day -- collected one of those free passes to load the bases.
Kolten Wong only had one hit for the day. But he made it count with a rifle shot to the right field corner that cleared the bases.
While Matheny didn't have a good day, I'm not surprised to see games like this every once in a while. Let's remember that the St. Louis front office chose to hire a guy based on character despite the fact that they knew he had zero managerial experience. Now and then Matheny is going to take some lumps. That's part of the deal.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Garcia. He might not have left the game with the ERA he would have liked. But he showed a lot of guts and poise pitching late into a game and giving the Redbirds a real chance to win.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Wong's bases clearing double.
Lowlight: Matheny's bad day.