ST. LOUIS — In as baseball-obsessed a city as there is in the major leagues, there’s bound to be more attention paid to the ins and outs of the game here than most places.
There was, then, considerable discussion online, on local radio and in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last night and this morning about Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s decision to pull Mitchell Boggs in the eighth inning of Game 1 in favor of his lone lefty in the bullpen, Marc Rzepczynski. That move, of course, prompted Davey Johnson to pull back pinch-hitter Chad Tracy, a lefty, and send up rookie Tyler Moore, who ultimately poked a two-run single to right that proved to be the difference in the game.
It was hardly a bad pitch by the reliever nicknamed “Scrabble” — just a bad result for the home team. But the circumstances guaranteed a barrage of debate and analysis over an issue that already had been on local fans’ minds. The Cardinals dropped rookie lefty Sam Freeman from the roster before the NLDS, leaving Rzepczynski as the only lefty and counting on right-hander Fernando Salas, who handles lefties well, to back him up.
With prominent left-handed batters sitting second and fourth (Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche) in the Nationals lineup, there was concern about when Rzepczynski might be deployed and whether it might have been wiser to have Freeman available for, say, the sixth inning, saving “Scrabble” for the eighth or ninth. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said Saturday he and his team felt comfortable about the composition of the bullpen, but the Nationals seem to like their chances against the alignment.
“Hopefully it’s a big issue for them,” LaRoche said today before Game 2. “That’s the goals, is to get into the bullpen, so if we can get in there early and make them make a decision when they want to use him, then they have pretty much got either myself or Bryce. To not have another [lefty] backing them up, I think can help us out.”