Here are three observations from the Cardinals 6-5 loss on Saturday to the Marlins.
Allen Craig Finally Pulls Through
After signing a five-year, $31 million deal prior to the 2013 season; Allen Craig has been a bit of a disappointment. While Craig still leads the team in RBIs with 42, we have not seen his ferocious ability to drive in runs like he did in 2012 and 2013. In those years, Craig hit .400 and .454 respectively with runners in scoring position while this year Craig is only hitting .277. Yet, Saturday may have provided the springboard Craig needs to regain his form. With two-outs and a runner on, Craig blasted a homerun to right center to give the Cardinals a 5-1 lead. The fact that Craig drove the ball to right center is a good sign because when Craig has hit for power, he typically hits to the opposite field. After being benched in the previous two games and coming up empty in the second inning with the bases loaded, this homerun had to be a huge relief for Craig. Hopefully this game will be the start of getting one of the Cardinals big bats back on track.
Should Matheny have used Rosenthal?
Trevor Rosenthal blew a 5-4 lead yesterday by giving up two runs in the top of the ninth as the Cardinals eventually lost to the Marlins. Even though Rosenthal has been an All-Star caliber closer this year, the Cardinals can ill-afford to give up games in the ninth as they continue to scuffle. Which brings us to the question of whether manager Mike Matheny should even have used Rosenthal. Rosenthal earned the save in the previous game, but struggled against the Marlins as he gave up three hits, one walk and two runs. Rosenthal also threw 31 pitches, a high number that he is generally not used to throwing from the closers role.
You could tell that Matheny was reluctant to use Rosenthal for the full inning as he had Randy Choate start off the ninth before brining in Rosenthal for the final two outs. After Rosenthal gave up the tying run, Matheny pulled him for Sam Freeman, who eventually gave up the game winning run. If Matheny didn’t have the confidence to use Rosenthal for the entire inning, why even throw him out there? Matheny has the luxury of Jason Motte, another hard throwing relief pitcher who is very familiar with the closers role, to use when Rosenthal needs a breather. Matheny has been criticized for sticking to close to the “playbook” in terms of using his closer in every save situation and this was another case and point. With Rosenthal struggling the night before and throwing more pitches than usual, Matheny should have opted for Motte to keep the Cardinals win streak alive.
Oscar Taveras needs to play everyday
After getting a hit and a RBI in the previous two games, Oscar Taveras was benched on Saturday as Matheny opted for Peter Bourjos in center field and Jon Jay in right field. If Taveras is being touted as the best hitting prospect for the Cardinals since Albert Pujols, then Matheny needs to find at-bats for him every day. General Manager John Mozeliak brought up Taveras to help the Cardinals offense, not to sit behind the weak bats of Bourjos and Jay. As the Cardinals offense continues to struggle, Matheny needs to sacrifice defense for offense by playing Taveras in center field more often.