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WHEELER: Blame for Game 1 NLDS Loss on Hitters, Not Manager

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Washington Nationals vs St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of NLDS
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This will be short and sweet but there is a very strong point to be made here…

Mike Matheny’s pitching change in the 8th inning did not lose Game 1 of the NLDS. Anyone who argues that it did is taking an overly simplistic approach to their analysis. Here’s why the “Matheny got out managed by the veteran Davey Johnson” meme makes no sense…

1) Don’t you think Matheny and the Cardinals’ coaching staff knew that Johnson would pull back Tracy when they went to Rzepczynski? Say what you want about the staff’s experience but even those of us who manage from our couches had to know that was a likely result and they’re way more experienced than any of us are. You know why they made the move anyway? Because Tyler Moore, the right hander who replaced Tracy, was a .286 hitter against right handers this year and a .247 hitter against left handers. Oh yeah, and Tracy is a 32 year-old 8-year veteran who happens to be one of the better pinch hitters in the National League.

2) Moore’s single against Rzepczynski was lucky. It was a blooper that didn’t even go as far into the outfield as the “infield fly” play in the Wild Card game against the Braves. So, the pitcher makes a good pitch while the batter barely gets a piece of it and that means Matheny got out managed? Really? Think a little bit people.

3) Here’s what really lost the game for the Cardinals:

* Only getting 2 runs in the 2nd inning when Gio Gonzalez was walking the house (left 2 men on base)

* Matt Holliday and Allen Craig 0 for 2 in the 5th inning with runners in scoring position

* Skip Schumaker striking out with a runner in scoring position in the 6th

* Bases loaded, nobody out in the 7th inning…Allen Craig, the best in the NL w/ runners in scoring position (.400) during the season (amongst batters who had 100 at-bats or more), grounds into a force out at home plate. Then Yadier Molina, who hit .321 with runners in scoring position this year, grounds into an inning ending double play. Bases loaded, no outs and no runs cross the plate.

* Pete Kozma and Matt Carpenter go 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position in the 8th

From the 5th inning on the Cardinals left 8 men on base – 7 of them in scoring position – and many of those at-bats came with key middle of the order hitters. Yet somehow people, even actual baseball writers, want to blame the manager because a rookie hitter got a bloop hit off one of his relievers?

People went straight for the Johnson vs. Matheny theme after the game because they had that in their heads before the game even started. Any move that favored Johnson was going to be “the veteran manager getting over on the rookie manager.”

It’s quick.

It’s clean.

It’s also a dramatic oversimplification.

If any one thing cost the Cardinals Game 1 it would have to be their inability to get a key hit with runners in scoring position. There were other contributing factors but the fact remains that when you go 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position in a playoff game you’re going to lose regardless of how pitching changes are handled.

I don’t know what’s more bothersome, that people overlook the offense’s failing or that they blame the manager when an opposing pinch hitter gets a lucky, bloop hit off a reliever.

Anyway, enjoy Game 2. I’ve ranted enough.

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