By now we’ve all had time to overreact to last night/this morning’s extra inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Before getting into the heart of this post, let me just say this: over the course of a 162-game season, this type of loss will inevitably happen. Yes the offense was strong for the first 9 innings, but the Diamondbacks relief core deserves some credit; especially Josh Collmenter whose arm lulled those back in the 314 to sleep over the last 5 frames.
Now, with that said, after this series there are a few questions to ponder the season continues.
1. What happened to the offense last night?
The Cardinals offense was potent through the first seven innings last night, scoring 8 runs on 12 hits. Then it disappeared as the club managed just 1 run on 4 hits over the final nine frames. I don’t have much of an explanation for this other than perhaps too much aggression at the plate. Diamondbacks pitchers registered only 2 strikeouts over the first seven innings. From the 8th inning on, the Cardinals sent 34 men to the plate with nine hitters swinging themselves back to the dugout. Only two of those nine at-bats went at least six pitches. The longest at-bat was Fernando Salas’ 8-pitch battle, while Allen Craig takes the prize for shortest AB ending with a K after swinging at missing at 3 pitches in the 8th inning. The Cardinals have to know when to adjust late in games and I wonder if hitting coach John Mabry talked to his team in the dugout over the last 9 innings.
2. What can we expect from Lance Lynn this season?
Lance Lynn’s weight loss has been well documented by the local scribes in St. Louis. His lighter frame should lead to more stamina and better endurance as we get into the later part of the season. However, the new figure won’t matter if he can’t get his mechanics figured out and find consistency with his pitches. He only managed a hand full of whiffs on this fastball and struggled to find the zone with his slider. Without Chris Carpenter in the rotation, much will be expected of Lynn this year and the only thing I know for sure is that he will have to do better than what we saw last night if the Cardinals plan to be playing in October.
3. Should Mitchell Boggs be the closer?
I like Mitchell Boggs. I think he has good stuff and is a great 8th-inning specialist. However, I don’t like him as a closer. After last night’s swift kick in the groin, Boggs has converted just 4 of 12 save opportunities. Yes, it is a small sample size, but I still think that is a troubling statistic and makes me question if Boggs can be considered a long-term option for closer if Jason Motte is out longer than expected.
4. Why not give Trevor Rosenthal a shot at closing?
The kid has a cannon for an arm. He consistently hits 100 on the gun with his fastball, has a solid curveball, a slider and a developing slider. Prior to last night he had gone 17 innings without allowing a run. In his last 19 IP he has allowed 1 run and opposing batters are batting a cold .127 (8-for-67) off the righty. Face facts folks, he has closer stuff and could be a better option at the end of games than Boggs.
5. Can Joe Kelly be depended on in close games?
While much of the blame for last night’s debacle will go on Boggs and the offense disappearing, I don’t think you can just sweep Joe Kelly’s struggles under the rug and forget about them. Kelly’s fastball lacked movement and was twice sent into the bleachers at Chase Field last night. Both of those home runs erased Cardinal leads, but one game does not a career make. Dating back to September 19th, Kelly had been pretty solid out of the bullpen, allowing only 4 runs on 12 hits. Chalk up last night to pitching on consecutive nights and early season jitters, and expect Matheny to turn to the youngster without hesitation in the future.
6 . Should Allen Craig continue to see time in the outfield?
I am a big fan of Craig and love the fact that he gives the team added flexibility by playing in the outfield. However, after watching him slide into the wall again last night, I started to question if limiting him to 1st base wouldn’t be better for him and the franchise long-term. The slugger missed significant time after needing surgery to repair damage sustained when he slid into a wall at Minute Maid Park in 2011. Craig has also battled hamstring injuries during his career. With his bat being so important to the offense, is it worth the risk of playing him in the outfield? If we need the outfield depth that badly, bring up Oscar Taveras today.