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Cardinals vs. Nationals: Marc Rzepczynski call rankles Mike Matheny critics

The St. Louis Cardinals lost Game 1 of the NLDS to the Washington Nationals on Sunday primarily because they weren't able to take advantage of numerous chances to build on a 2-1 lead they generated mostly thanks to Gio Gonzalez's goodwill, but after the game all eyes were justifiably on the strange decisions rookie manager Mike Matheny made while the Cardinals were still holding on. Most pressing: With two on and two outs, and Mitchell Boggs having just struck out Kurt Suzuki on a high-90s fastball, Matheny pulled his set-up man in favor of Marc Rzepczynski, to get the platoon advantage on pinch-hitter Chad Tracy.

Davey Johnson, of course, pulled his pinch hitter to get the platoon advantage on Marc Rzepczynski. Scrabble didn't pitch badly, but Tyler Moore sent a blooper on a pitch outside into the outfield for the Nationals' tying and game-winning runs. Matheny was simply out-managed in the eighth, and it came not because he under-managed but because he over-managed. Instead of leaving Boggs in or even going to his closer, Jason Motte, he attempted to get ahead of a platoon bench bat without realizing that Johnson had nothing to lose in burning Tracy.

In the bottom of the inning, Matheny again tried to do to much—David Freese reached on an error with nobody out, and instead of hoping for a rally Matheny bunted one of the Cardinals' six remaining outs away, pinch-running for Freese with Adron Chambers while he was at it. The bunt worked, but it also took the pressure off the Nationals bullpen that had been created by an error.

That is: The same pressure that eventually caused Boggs and Rzepczynski to lose control of the top of the eighth inning. The way Johnson and Matheny each handled their gift baserunner says a lot about the things Mike Matheny still has to learn; it wasn't the reason that the Cardinals lost to the Nationals, but it needlessly complicated their potential win.