Cheap Seats

Cardinals pitching needs to improve to win NLCS

The glass half full view is that all's well that ends well.

The St. Louis Cardinals managed to win Game 2 of the National League Championship Series in the bottom of the ninth inning on a dramatic home run by Kolten Wong.

But the half empty view is that the Redbirds are extremely fortunate to be tied at one game each with the San Francisco Giants because of sloppy play and even sloppier relief pitching.

The Cardinals, who led at one point by a 2-0 score, allowed San Francisco to score in four of the last five innings including a disastrous top of the ninth in which closer Trevor Rosenthal issued two walks and two hits. He was within a strike of ending the game, despite the shaky appearance, when he unleashed a wild pitch that bounced in front of the plate and caromed over catcher Tony Cruz to allow the tying run to score all the way from second base.

Even before he blew the save, Rosenthal seemed to have a look of fear on his face as he tried to do his job. I'm not sure what's undermined the confidence of the hard-throwing righty. But, following an uncharacteristically wild season, things seem to be getting worse for him at the wrong time.

How are the Redbirds going to move forward in this post season without addressing Rosenthal's issues? They can't really bury him in the bullpen because the Birds are already playing a man short with Michael Wacha on the roster but apparently off limits to manager Mike Matheny.

But I can't imagine Matheny sending Rosenthal back out for a close game, especially in front of a hostile crowd in San Francisco. Enough with the cliches about getting back on the horse that threw you as soon as possible. You can't gamble like that in the playoffs. There is nothing more demoralizing to a baseball team than having 24 guys bust their butts for 8 1/2 innings to get the lead -- and then having one guy blow it all in the course of a couple of minutes.

Set-up man Pat Neshek has done a nice job in the eighth inning and a lot of fans have called for him to be elevated to the closer role. But if he's used to fix one hole, who will fill the new hole that is opened up? Carlos Martinez was a wicked set-up man last year. But he's been much less reliable this season. On Sunday he lived dangerously with a pair of hits allowed in his single inning of work.

It took all the offense the Redbirds could muster to win the game. The team, which had the least home runs in the National League during the regular season, collected four long balls in the game with Matt Carpenter hitting a solo shot to put the Birds ahead 1-0, Oscar Taveras hitting one to tie the game at three and Matt Adams hitting one to make the game 4-3. Wong's blast plated the Cardinals' fifth and final run of the game.

I'm not sure the Cardinals can count on four or five homers a game. That's not who they are. They need to win games with strong pitching and defense and by manufacturing runs by getting on base and moving runners forward.

The Sunday win was plenty exciting. But the Cardinals aren't going to win this series hoping for big fly balls. They're only going to win if they start to do the little things right.

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