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The Monday Morning Scrappy Utilityman

It was supposed to be a great weekend. Everything was set up. But, it was pretty rough. The losses by Missouri Saturday and the Cardinals Sunday were horrific. And even the Cardinal win Saturday had a little bit of an empty feeling in the way it all went down.

Two years to the day his mentor, Chris Carpenter, pitched the Cardinals to a World Championship, Adam Wainwright will get the ball for Game 5 tonight in a monster situation.

Jon “Rosin” Lester will go for the Red Sox. Wainwright for the Cardinals.

One of these two teams will be up 3-2 later tonight.

One of these two teams will be a win away from a World Championship.

But, so far, neither one has played much like World Champions in the first four games.

Kolten Wong getting picked off to end the game will be the Andrew Baggett missing the field goal moment of Game 4. But, much like the loss to South Carolina, the set up for the downfall began much earlier than the dreadful end.

Cardinals

Clay Bucholz was vulnerable.

So many times, Bucholz just left meat over the plate, but the Cardinals couldn’t connect.

I guess if he had been throwing 95, they’d connect, but if it’s a soft-tosser or a lefty, they struggle.

Bucholz, normally not a soft-tosser, was just throwing it up there, and the Cardinals couldn’t do any more than get one run in his four innings.

Suffice it to say, the Cardinals missed a golden opportunity against a weak starter.

Down 1-0, the Red Sox rallied in the top of the 5th. David Ortiz led off with a 2B. Gomes walked. Bogaerts walked. Bases loaded. None out.

Stephen Drew, who is the target of plenty of anger from some Red Sox fans for his lack of offensive productivity, drove the first pitch he saw---after two straight walks to Gomes and Bogaerts---and that drove in Ortiz on the sac fly.

Lynn battled and battled and battled David Ross, but he got him on a strikeout, and then the pinch hitter Mike Carp on a hard hit ground out.

Five innings. Only one run allowed. Had to battle through the 5th with some high stress pitches and threw 29 in the inning.

I thought it was a foregone conclusion that that was the end of Lynn’s night.

But, when they got things going in the 6th inning…there he was.

Wow.

I immediately tweeted my surprise to see him back out there.

Unfortunately, the inning imploded when Dustin Pedroia got a two-out hit. Lynn walked Ortiz, a move that I agree with. However, Randy Choate was up and had been warming up. So, that begs the question: why not go to Choate?

Well, I think the answer is the same as the one for the question: “Why is Lynn back out there after a high stress 5th?”

The answer?

A short bullpen.

Joe Strauss of CBS Sports 920 and the Post-Dispatch attempted to get to the bottom of the 6th inning maneuvering, but on his first try, he didn’t get much of an answer from Mike Matheny, and a few questions later from other reporters on topics unrelated to the 6th, Strauss circled back to the 6th, and Matheny gave him a rather unpleasant look and a bit of an irritated answer.

Matheny said, “Once again, we got into a spot. We had to make a decision. And we had taken everything into consideration and tried to keep the game where it was at that point. And that hit (Pedroia’s) definitely added to the equation, and definitely made it easier for us, in our opinion. This a guy (Maness) we have gone to in tough spots whenever we’re in question. He’s been very, very good. And we’ll use him again in that situation.”

So, Matheny went back to the Maness move…but it didn’t address what (I think) Strauss was going for, which is, if one hit gets Lynn out of the game (which is what, in effect, Pedroia’s did), then why was he back out there?

And, that goes to the above answer: a short bullpen.

Shelby Miller hasn’t pitched. Why? Still not clear.

Edward Mujica hasn’t pitched. Why? Because he’s no longer effective.

But, that begs the question why either are on the roster.

Personally, I’m all for Miller being on the roster. I’d just like to see him used. The Cardinals created this situation with him when they only threw him one inning in the Pirates’ series. He was up in the bullpen and ready to go a couple of times in the Dodgers’ series, but he never got in.

Now, perhaps, they’re just hesitant to go to a guy who hasn’t pitched in a game in more than three weeks. Miller has thrown one inning (October 4th) since September 25th.

And then there’s Mujica. He was up in the 8th in case John Axford lost it, but obviously the Cardinals don’t want to go to him unless it’s absolutely necessary.

So, here’s my premise: even if Sam Freeman, Tyler Lyons, or whichever pitcher you want to name are absolutely dreadful, aren’t they a better option for not one, but two, roster spots that are being used by guys you either won’t pitch or don’t trust to pitch?

While the Cardinals are carrying 12 pitchers on the roster, in reality, they’re carrying 10.

And, with Martinez throwing 20 pitches the night before…and with Rosenthal throwing more than one inning the night before…the bullpen was even shorter for Game 4.

Factor in that Wainwright, Wacha, and Kelly aren’t available, and you’re left with Choate, Siegrist, Maness, Axford, Martinez, and Rosenthal to get you those final 12 outs.

Now, that seems like it’d be enough to get it done…but clearly Matheny didn’t think so, and so he brought Lynn back out there.

If the faith was there in Lynn that he was primed for another inning after the high-stress 5th, then one base hit shouldn’t have yanked him from the game.

But, in my opinion, Lynn was sent back out there, because the Cardinals have a short bullpen.

And, that is their own fault.

Remember how Tony La Russa managed the 2011 NLCS and World Series?

If your name wasn’t Carpenter, your ass was out of there quick, fast, and in a hurry.

NLCS Game 1: Jaime Garcia: 4 IP (with 6 ER)
NLCS Game 2: Edwin Jackson: 4.1 IP (with 2 ER)
NLCS Game 3: Chris Carpenter: 5 IP
NLCS Game 4: Kyle Lohse: 4.1 IP (with 3 ER)
NLCS Game 5: Jaime Garcia: 4.2 IP (with 1 ER)
NLCS Game 6:  Edwin Jacson: 2 IP (with 2 ER)

World Series Game 1: Chris Carpenter: 6 IP (with 2 ER)
World Series Game 2: Jaime Garcia: 7 IP (with 0 ER)
World Series Game 3:  Kyle Lohse: 3 IP (with 3 ER)
World Series Game 4: Edwin Jackson: 5.1 IP (with 3 ER)
World Series Game 5: Chris Carpenter: 7 IP (with 2 ER)
World Series Game 6: Jaime Garcia: 3 IP (with 2 ER)
World Series Game 7: Chris Carpenter: 6 IP (with 2 ER)

So, there you have it.

Guys not named Carpenter, which accounted for 9 of the 13 starts in the 2011 NLCS and World Series, pitched past the 5th inning twice, and one of those was Edwin Jackson getting one out in the 6th. And, with the exception of Garcia in Game 1 of the NLCS, none of them allowed more than 3 ER in a start.

Why did La Russa do it, and why was his handling of the bullpen described as masterful so often in the NLCS and World Series?

Because he had so many guys to use…and so many guys he showed faith in.

All 12 pitchers threw in the World Series.

And, 11 of the 12 threw at least two innings.

To me, the short bullpen and its impact is the story of the game…and for the sake of Cardinal fans, I hope it’s limited to the story of this game…and not the series.

With that all out there, the Caridnals have plenty to evaluate offensively. In the Bottom of the 7th, with one out, Daniel Descalso was up and swung at ball four on a 3-1 pitch. He popped it up.

Shane Robinson, who barring a small miracle will be starting in Game 5, doubled as a pinch hitter.

Matt Carpenter followed with an RBI single…making Descalso’s non-Game 2 approach in which he took a ball on a full count hurt all the more.

The Bottom of the 8th was the one that smarted the most, however.

In more managerial hijinks, John Farrell brought in starter John Lackey. Matt Adams got ahead 2-0, and then took a bad beat when a ball outside was called a strike. 2-1. Adams then chased on 2-1 and fouled it off. 2-2. He grounded out to 3rd on a nice play by Bogaerts. But, it looked like Lackey may have some control issues out of the gate, as noted by Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

The next hitter was Molina. Lackey fell behind 3-1. And, on 3-1, Molina ripped a ball down the third base line. Bogaerts made a great play diving to his right. He didn’t need to rush his throw with Molina running, but he did, and that allowed the ball to get away and Molina to get to third.

Here we go…

Jon Jay up with the Red Sox wobbly.

Ball one.

Ball two…and it’s so bad it gets away from Ross allowing Molina to head to third uncontested on the wild pitch.

At this point, Lackey is vulnerable. All the Cardinals need is a bit of contact to cut it to a one-run game, but a walk definitely is in play with Lackey struggling.

But, the Red Sox got a bailout.

On 2-0, Jay swung at ball three inside…and flared it to short for an easy out.

The Fox cameras cut to third base, where Molina had his hands on his head with the body language saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

David Freese grounded out on a 1-1 pitch…and that was that.

Jay is hitting .154 in the World Series.

Freese is hitting .083.

That missed opportunity set the stage for the 9th…in which Allen Craig ripped a single over Daniel Nava’s head. But, in watching Craig struggle to first base, it became clear he’s much more compromised than he was before The Obstruction in Game 3. Before Game 3, I would’ve bet heavily on Craig starting at 1st against the lefty Lester. Now, I’m not even sure he can DH in Boston.

Craig was pinch run for by Wong…and, as Run-DMC said in Peter Piper.

You all know how the story goes.

The game ends on a pickoff with Mr. October 21st Century standing in the batter’s box with the bat on his shoulder.

Poetic, really.

And so something’s got to give tonight.

Wainwright at home in the postseason…where he’s just flat-out dominating.

And Lester on the mound for the Red Sox…a lefty against a lineup that just can’t hit lefties.

One of the teams has to win, which means one of those two scenarios has to give.

Because of Wainwright at home…and because of Wacha in Game 6, I still like the Cardinal chances quite a bit.

Games 3 and 4 scared me…because of the assumption going in that neither Kelly nor Lynn would go deep…and so it’d be in the hands of the bullpen and Matheny’s handling of the bullpen.

But, you can’t help but like the starters for the Cardinals in Games 5 and 6.

The issue will be whether or not they can get to Lester and Lackey.

I’d be shocked if Wainwright lays another egg. And at this point, Wacha has earned the juice to have faith in his stone cold nuts on the mound.

It would get mighty interesting, however, if there’s a Game 7.

Wainwright wouldn’t be available…unless there’s a rain out in Boston (see Chris Carpenter getting a third start in 2011 because of the rain out in St. Louis).

So, it’d be all hands on deck…for both teams.

If I’m the Red Sox, I go to Felix Doubront.

If I’m the Cardinals, I go to Joe Kelly…but man…would it ever be chaos after that?

Lynn would be on short rest.

Wainwright and Wacha would be out…although I could see Wainwright getting in there.

And then maybe…just maybe…Shelby Miller is in the mix?

It’s my opinion that if the Cardinals are going to win this thing, the percentage is much greater that it’s going to have to happen in six. I don’t think that’s a cutting edge opinion. I think most would agree with that.

And considering the lack of offense behind Ortiz---yes, including Gomes who, to his credit, crushed the Maness mistake---and considering Wainwright is on the mound tonight, this game should be the Cardinals to win.

But, you would’ve thought that was the case with the Cardinals getting Bucholz last night.

This series has been batshit.

It hasn’t exactly been pretty.

And therefore, it’s tough to expect things to play to form.

So, maybe that means the Cardinals will rock a lefty tonight.

I know this: even if they don’t rock Lester, they better find a way to get enough runs to head back to Fenway up 3-2.


Missouri

I don’t know what this means, but I know it was how I felt: even though the Cardinals won a World Series game to put them up 2-1 in the series, I was pretty down going to bed Saturday night.

Now, that may prove fans---much like coaches and managers---take greater pain from losses than they do joy from wins…or it may mean I’m a bigger Missouri football fan than I am a Cardinal fan.

I really can’t imagine it’s the latter…although I would say my passion for Missouri football is probably second to the Cardinals in terms of sports allegiances.

I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

When it gets down to it, I think the loss to South Carolina crushed me, because---even though it’s absolutely stunning that Missouri is/was in the position they are/were in---it was there for them. And, unlike, say, the 2007 Big 12 Championship Game against Oklahoma, Missouri should have won this game rather comfortably…and just Missouri’d it away.

Understandably, there’ll be plenty of focus on Andrew Baggett’s missed field goal---which was three yards longer than an extra point---but the play that absolutely blows my mind is the 4th and goal from the 15 that South Carolina was able to convert for a game-tying touchdown.

Talk about conservative play-calling in the second half…and you’d be right.

Talk about the clear gap between Maty Mauk and the injured James Franklin…and you’d be right.

And talk about the absolute indefensible lack of adjustment to South Carolina’s abuse of the screen pass in the 4th Quarter…and you’d be right.

But, with all of those factors in play, Missouri was one stop from still winning the game…and all they had to do was stop the Gamecocks on a 4th and goal from the 15.

Not only did South Carolina’s Connor Shaw find Bruce Ellington for the touchdown to save the day for the Gamecocks…he didn’t even have to look real hard to do so. The man was wide open.

Wide open when the only result that could keep the game going was a touchdown. And they were at the 15. Not 4th and goal from the 1, 2, or 5. The 15.

And the receiver was wide open.

Here’s what Gary Pinkel had to say about it:

“It was just a man coverage route, a corner route. But again there are other plays; you go through a lot of plays in different situations. But certainly it was a big play”.

Yes, I would say so.

Barring Missouri running the table…

…and barring South Carolina somehow losing one of two games at home to either Mississippi State or Florida…

…it’s the difference between playing in the SEC Championship Game or staying at home.

Stop South Carolina…on 4th and goal from the 15…and you win not only the game…but likely the SEC East.

Somehow…in that situation…Missouri, as Pinkel said above, was in man coverage. And, according to South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier, it was the difference when his son, Steve Spurrier, Jr., sent in the call.

“Got a good call from up top. Steve Jr. said try the corner route, maybe they’re playing man again. Sure enough, they played man instead of their usual zone. We’re just very fortunate, very thankful,” Spurrier said.

Yes…thankful to Missouri’s coaches.

Thank you to Gary Pinkel and Dave Steckel for not figuring out that screen play that let South Carolina back into the game for all of the 4th Quarter…and thank you to Pinkel and Steckel for going into man coverage on 4th and goal from the 15 that allowed a receiver to that open in the endzone when the only thing that can beat Missouri is a touchdown reception in the endzone.


Loyal listeners of The Ryan Kelley Morning After will enjoy Pat Forde’s column on “the rocks” and the living hell the north endzone has brought upon Missouri fans:

“They are renovating Faurot Field right now, adding suites and seats to the Missouri stadium’s east side.

That should only be a start.

What they really need to do is detonate the north end zone. Napalm it. Call in a drone strike on the most haunted plot of land in college football.

Add an exorcism to the job list before rebuilding. And just in case the real culprit is the grass hillside behind the end zone, truck all those white rocks that make the “M” out of town and dump them in the nearby Missouri River.

The north end zone is where black-and-gold dreams go to die – in spectacular fashion. It is a place so profoundly, perversely cursed that it is entering the realm of billy goats and the Bambino among the sporting occult. The misery of Missouri football is anchored there.

The north end zone is where Nebraska got the infamous kicked-ball touchdown to beat the Tigers in 1997. The north end zone is where Colorado got five downs to beat the Tigers in 1990. As noted in my column Thursday, the north end zone is where kicker Brad Burditt incomprehensibly came up short on a 39-yard field goal to beat North Dame in 1984.

And the north end zone is where Andrew Baggett earned his own niche in Missouri’s macabre lore Saturday night. Baggett hooked a chip-shot, 24-yard field goal into the left upright to finish Missouri’s come-from-ahead, double-overtime debacle of a defeat against South Carolina, 27-24.”


Some SEC media members were debating whether that was one of the most painful losses in SEC history.

Homecoming.

7-0 season.

SEC East “clinching” win.

17-0 lead in the 4th Quarter.

Blown coverage on 4th and goal at the 15 to win.

Missed 24 yard field goal to tie.

And then on Tigerboard.com, a Missouri fan responded, “Hell…that’s not even in our Top 5.”

Yep.

One of the worst they’ve ever seen in the SEC doesn’t even register in Missouri fans’ Top 5.

We’re pre-disposed to misery at Missouri.

And, it’s because of that, I think, that some fans have what I would describe as a losing mentality.

What does that mean?

Well, it’s this…which I saw plenty of online after the game:

“If someone would’ve told you back in August that this team would be 7-1, you would’ve taken it.”

Yes.

That is true.

I remember hearing something similar after the Tigers missed a shot at the BCS Championship Game in 2007 by getting worked over by Oklahoma in the second half.

“If someone would’ve told you back in August that this team would be in the Cotton Bowl, you would’ve taken it.”

Yes.

That is true.

Except in both 2007 and October 2013, it became clear that a) the team was much better than what everyone thought they were in August, and b) the landscape of college football in both seasons was batshit that Missouri was actually in the national championship picture.

And even though, considering health, I’m of the opinion the 2007 Missouri team was better at this point in the season than the 2013 team, going through the SEC like the Tigers had was legitimizing the program nationally a hell of a lot more than their biggest win in 2007…which was against a program that had no respect then and hasn’t had any since: Kansas.

That line may get some #TrueSons all excited, but it’s not meant as a shot at Kansas. KU was damn good that year. But, from a national perception standpoint, they had little respect. Go and beat Oklahoma or Nebraska at Arrowhead when they’re #2, and it holds more weight…whether that’s right or wrong.

So, even if the SEC East is down---and I don’t think at this point that can really be debated---from a perception standpoint, running through Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina meant more than the run through the Big 12 in 2007. First off, the Tigers lost to the Sooners twice, and second, they didn’t play Texas…even though the Longhorns weren’t great that year.

I’d suggest Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina aren’t “great” this year…but from a perception standpoint, they have a great deal of brand equity, and that---combined with the margin of victory---had Missouri skyrocketing up the rankings.

An opportunity for something great was there. Some will say it’s still there, and mathematically, that’s correct.

Missouri could still win a BCS National Championship. They could still win the SEC. They control their own destiny in the SEC East. But, if I had to put money on it, none of those are better than 50% plays, and two of them are quite remote.

Beating Alabama and winning a BCS National Championship were never---even 48 hours ago---particularly likely.

Of course, neither was being 7-0.

Being 8-0, however, was…and it was with 15 minutes left Saturday up 17-0.

So, let me ask you this: If someone told you at the start of the 4th Quarter that Missouri would be 7-1, would you have taken it?

No.

And while a great deal of credit has to go to Connor Shaw and the South Carolina defense for the comeback, the Tigers had this thing in their grasp…and once again…added another chapter to the heartbreaking history of Missouri athletics.


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BigAlCardsFan
# BigAlCardsFan
Monday, October 28, 2013 10:08 AM
I did not see the second half...

But from what I've been able to gather, Mizzou went into a "Prevent Offense", and the Defense spent a LOT of time on the field in the second half, leaving it winded and wasted at the end, and in overtime.

Just terrible. Should have been 31 - at the start of the fourth quarter, and they can't come back..
BigAlCardsFan
# BigAlCardsFan
Monday, October 28, 2013 10:10 AM
31-0

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