St. Louis Cardinals: A Plan From Within To Save the Bullpen
By Nathan Grime
Through the St. Louis Cardinals’ first 41 games, 10 of them have included a blown save, a loss, or both, by the bullpen.
Sunday, April 2
With the Cardinals leading 3-0 heading into the 9th inning on Opening Night, closer Seung-Hwan Oh took the mound against the Chicago Cubs. He needed three more outs to secure for his team its first victory of the season after recording two outs in the eighth inning.
He hit leadoff batter Ben Zobrist with a pitch and with one out, Jason Heyward reached on an infield single. That brought the tying run to the plate, Wilson Contreras. The Chicago catcher connected for a game-tying three run home run, stunning the Busch Stadium crowd.
After the blown save, Oh got the final two outs of the inning and the Cardinals rallied in the bottom half of the ninth to win 4-3.
Thursday, April 6
The Cardinals led the Cubs 4-2 heading into the seventh inning of the Opening Series finale. Lance Lynn and Matt Bowman relayed the lead to Brett Cecil, making his second appearance in a Cardinals uniform.
Cecil struck out Matt Szczur to begin the inning, but he reached first base as the ball in the dirt stuck to Yadier Molina’s chest protector. It was officially scored as a wild pitch by Cecil. The next batter, Jon Jay, drew a walk. Kyle Schwarber followed with a go-ahead, three run blast.
The Cubs chased Cecil for another run in the inning as his final stat line read: 0 IP, 4 ER. Cecil was charged with the blown save and loss as the Cardinals dropped the matinee 6-4.
Tuesday, April 25
Starting pitcher Michael Wacha pitched six inning of two-run ball in the series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. He handed a 2-2 tie to the bullpen in the seventh inning. Matt Bowman couldn’t hold the tie in the seventh, allowing two runs, the first runs he’d allowed all season.
The Cardinals tied the game at four in the bottom half, however, courtesy of Jose Martinez’s first big-league home run. The game remained 4-4 heading into the ninth inning when Brett Cecil took the mound.
He allowed an unearned run to cross the plate, although his errant pickoff throw to first base was reason for the Jays pushing the go-ahead run across. The Cardinals again tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.
In the eleventh inning with the game tied at five, Miguel Socolovich took the mound for his second full inning of work. A throwing error by shortstop Aledmys Diaz allowed the go-ahead run to score, and the Cardinals didn’t have a third comeback in them.
Socolovich was tagged with the loss as the Cardinals fell to the Blue Jays in eleven innings, 6-5.
Sunday, April 30
In the second game of a rain-abbreviated two game series against the Cincinnati Reds, starter Mike Leake pitched six strong innings and handed the bullpen a 4-1 lead heading into the seventh inning.
Matt Bowman began the seventh on the mound. After surrendering a leadoff single, he got the next two batters out. The Reds then got a pair of two-out hits off of Bowman, chasing him from the game and cutting the deficit to 4-3.
Brett Cecil entered the game and allowed the inherited runner to score on a double by Scott Schebler that tied the game at four. He got the final out of the inning with some help from a defensive gem by third baseman Jedd Gyorko.
In the eighth inning, the Reds took the lead off of Trevor Rosenthal. He walked two and Joey Votto drove home the go-ahead run with a single.
Cecil was charged with the blown save and Rosenthal took the loss as the Reds beat the Cardinals, 5-4.
Monday, May 1
Down 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cardinals rallied to tie the game at four. The game went to extra innings, where Seung-Hwan Oh took the mound for a second inning of work in the tenth.
Hernan Perez reached to lead off the inning thanks to a throwing error by second baseman Kolten Wong. Jonathan Villar moved Perez to second on a sacrifice bunt. Oh then intentionally walked Eric Thames, and struck out Domingo Santana.
The strikeout of Santana should have been the third out of the inning. Instead, it was only the second and Travis Shaw had the chance play hero. That’s exactly what he did, as he sent a two-strike breaking ball into the right field bleachers for a go-ahead three run home run.
Jedd Gyorko hit his second solo home run of the night in the bottom of the tenth but it wasn’t enough as the Cardinals fell short, 7-5. Oh took his first loss of the year.
Thursday, May 4
In the final game of the series against the Brewers, both bullpens inherited a 4-4 tie after five innings. The Cardinals were the first to blink, as Jesus Aguilar hit a solo home run off of Matt Bowman in the seventh inning to put Milwaukee ahead.
The Cardinals’ bats couldn’t push a run across the plate from the fourth inning on, and Bowman took the loss in a 5-4 defeat.
Sunday, May 8
Starter Michael Wacha handed the pen a 4-2 lead after the seventh inning stretch. Matt Bowman allowed an unearned run in the seventh inning, and Brett Cecil allowed a game-tying home run to Freddie Freeman the next inning. It was his third blown save of the year.
The Cardinals relief corps bore down after that, however, and held the Braves scoreless through the next six innings. Tommy Pham’s two run home run in the fourteenth inning set up a 6-4 victory for St. Louis.
Wednesday, May 17
Mike Leake continued his stellar year with seven innings of two-run ball. The Cardinals led 4-2 heading into the eighth inning with setup man Trevor Rosenthal taking the mound.
He struck Mookie Betts out on a trio of 100+ mph fastballs to begin the inning. Dustin Pedroia worked a one-out walk thanks in part to a narrow strike zone. Xander Bogaerts followed with a triple to cut the lead to 4-3. Andrew Benintendi tied the game with a sacrifice fly. The game went to extras, tied 4-4.
Seung-Hwan Oh, Matt Bowman, and Sam Tuivailala kept the game tied through the twelfth. In the thirteenth inning, Tuivailala took the mound for his second inning of work. He got two quick outs, but a ground-rule double and intentional walk set up runners on first and second base with two out.
The move to intentionally walk Jackie Bradley Jr. didn’t pan out, as pinch-hitter Christ Young delivered a go-ahead single to put the Red Sox up 5-4.
The Cardinals couldn’t score in the bottom half for the eleventh consecutive inning and Tuivailala took the loss in a 5-4 defeat.
Friday, May 19
On extra rest, starter Michael Wacha hurled six scoreless innings and gave way to the bullpen with a 2-0 lead in hand. In the seventh, Jonathan Broxton allowed two quick hits and was replaced by Matt Bowman. Bowman allowed both runners to score, and was tagged with an unearned run himself as Boston took a 3-2 lead with a three-run seventh inning.
The Cardinals responded in the bottom of the seventh, as Dexter Fowler delivered a go-ahead, three run home run to put St. Louis back on top, 5-3.
Boston trimmed the lead to 5-4 with a run off of Sam Tuivailala in the eighth inning. In the ninth, closer Seung-Hwan Oh blew his second save of the year as Eduardo Nunez delivered a go-ahead two run double with one out.
Bowman and Oh blew saves in the game, and Oh took his second loss of the year as the Giants squeaked out a 6-5 win.
Saturday, May 20
The following night, Carlos Martinez dazzled with nine shutout innings. The only problem was the Cardinals’ offense couldn’t scratch across a single run and the game went to extra innings tied at zero.
It remained 0-0 entering the thirteenth inning, where Kevin Siegrist took the mound for his second inning of work. He allowed four consecutive hits after striking out Brandon Belt to begin the inning, and the Giants took a 2-0 lead. Jonathan Broxton finished the inning and allowed one inherited runner to score, giving San Francisco a 3-0 cushion.
The St. Louis Cardinals scored one run in the bottom of the inning but it wasn’t enough as Siegrist took his first loss of the year in a 3-1 defeat.