Once again, the Cardinals failed to win a close game last night. I wanted to wait until after the Cubs series to see if the Cards could keep the momentum going before bringing it up, but the use of Victor Marte in close games at this point is something I just don’t understand. Tony LaRussa would stick with some of his veteran pitchers to long, sometimes for lack of a better option, sometimes for other reasons.
Why Mike Matheny is still going to Marte in close games at this point in the year is something I just don’t get. There’s just no need. Not with Fernando Salas pitching great since passing a kidney stone. Not with Barret Browning keeping hitters (both RHH and LHH) off balance. Not with Trevor Rosenthal in the mix now and mixing in a sharp slider and curveball to go along with 98-99 MPH with movement. Not with Mitchell Boggs being one of the best relievers in all of MLB. With all of the options available, Matheny is costing the Cards games with his use of Marte, crucial ones.
Using Marte cost the Cards two games against the Reds. With the Dodgers being one of the teams ahead of the Cards for the final WC spot, and considering the Cards are at home, it’s becoming that point in the season where 3 of 4 in this series is close to being a necessity, but the Cards at least need to split these 4 games. I see a lot of fellow bloggers pointing to the Cards offense as the reason for the losses in these close games, but championship teams have to win their share of low scoring games, especially when the SP is outstanding. This isn’t on the offense at all. The defense has put the Cards behind in a few games lately, including last night, but the Cards were still in striking distance. However, instead of Carlos Beltran’s 2-run HR tying the game last night at 3-3, Matheny’s use of Marte all but made it pointless. The Dodgers have a closer in Kenley Jansen that has the best cutter I’ve seen in my lifetime other than Mariano Rivera. His 70 K’s in 46.2 IP along with his 0.86 WHIP are no fluke. I imagine if he stays healthy, he’ll be the best, or one of best closers in MLB over the next 10 years. Yes, his stuff is that good. When the Dodgers got to the 9th inning with the lead, it was over.
Getting back to the Cards, you have to feel for Joe Kelly. In 8 GS since being promoted from AAA, he’s yet to allow more than 3 ER in any start. Kelly is going to be around a while as well, and just to think the Cards have 8-10 prospects that were rated better than him in the minors tells us that the future is bright for the Cards. That’s great news for the future, but 2012 is being wasted. Kelly’s 1-3 W-L record is not indicative of the way he’s pitched at all. His 2.78 ERA really does tell the story, and his teammates continue to let him down. In Kelly’s last 6 games, he’s gone exactly 6 IP in each one, and given up 3, 2, 2, 0, 2, and 2 ER’s.
The Cards are 3-3 in those games, 4-4 overall in Kelly’s starts. They’d be 3-5 in not for Heath Bell. Kelly’s kept them in every game. Last night, Kelly made one bad pitch, and that hitter should have never been to the plate in that inning. Lance Berkman made an error on a routine grounder, and Rafael Furcal dropped a fly ball that was a tough play, as it hit him in the glove and popped out. That was scored a hit, but official scorers all over the league have gotten soft over the years. MLB players have to make plays like that, and I don’t know how in the hell players get away with not having errors charged against them when a ball hits them in the glove. If Jon Jay would have taken charge in CF and called off Furcal, like a good CF’er should, that runner wouldn’t have been on either. That’s right, I’m taking another shot at Jay. I’ll be happy the day he’s a 4th OF’er.
The 10 games since the ASB really are a microcosm of the Cards 2012 season. The Cards are 4-6, with all six losses being close games that could have been won. The blowouts, like the ones in the Cubs series won’t count for much if you can’t win, or at least have better than a 14-28 record in close games (1 or 2 run games). Great SP is being wasted. The Cards have the best run differential in all of MLB, but it’s not showing with their record. 2011 was special, because it’s never happened before. The Cards can’t expect to make a comeback like that again in our lifetime. If Matheny doesn’t stop using Marte in close games, especially now with a BP that has the arms to keep the Cards in every close game, the Cards are going to be watching other teams in the playoffs that aren’t better than the them, they just didn’t let a couple of relief pitchers wreck their season.