St. Louis bullpen shows inexperience in high-pressure situations
October 7, 2013 8:00 AM
Pedro Alvarez delivers his go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning off of Kevin Siegrist.
By Paul Zeise Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The St. Louis Cardinals might have more players with playoff experience than the Pirates, but the reality is their pitching staff is not particularly seasoned.
In Game 3 of the National League Division Series, a 5-3 St. Louis loss, the bullpen's youth might have shown a bit.
The Cardinals tied the score, 2-2, in the fifth, but in the bottom of the sixth, Andrew McCutchen walked and Marlon Byrd doubled to set up the Pirates with two runners on and one out.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny then opted to walk Pedro Alvarez to load the bases for Russell Martin and brought in Seth Maness, a 24-year-old rookie ground-ball specialist, in hopes of inducing an inning-ending double play.
But Martin hit a sacrifice fly -- the first Maness had given up this season -- and the Pirates grabbed a 3-2 lead.
Maness, who has been very good at getting out of jams, said he hadn't experienced the atmosphere and pressure of a tied playoff game and that might have factored into not making the pitch he wanted to Martin.
"I'm obviously trying to get the ground ball there but I got beat, he got enough on it to get the run in so I failed to do my job," Maness said. "The pitch was supposed to be in, I didn't see exactly where it was. I am usually able to keep it down, but he did put a good swing on it.
"It definitely helps [to be in tight situations during the regular season] but you are never really prepared for it until you actually are in that situation; the playoffs are a lot different. The atmosphere was different. I just didn't get it done."
Matheny said sometimes the right move doesn't turn out the right way, but he would go to Maness in Game 4 in the same situation.
"We know we have a guy in the bullpen who has had an opportunity to turn a lot of ground-ball double plays for us," Matheny said. "And I figured that was a great strength of ours. It's something that has worked for us all season, so we're going to stick with it."
The Cardinals tied the score again, this time at 3-3, in the top of the eighth when Carlos Beltran hit a long home run to right-center.
But the Cardinals opened the bottom of the eighth with 22-year-old rookie Carlos Martinez, who pitched his way into a first-and-second, one-out jam with Alvarez due up.
Matheny then went to 24-year-old rookie left-hander Kevin Siegrist to face Alvarez.
Alvarez, who was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts against Siegrist this season, responded with a run-scoring single.
Matheny said Siegrist, like Maness, has been lights-out in that situation all season, but the manager acknowledged that the playoffs are different than the regular season and that was a big moment for a young, inexperienced pitcher.
Siegrist, who gave up a home run to a rehabbing Alvarez in 2011 in a Class A game at Bradenton, said the moment was bigger than any he had experienced but he felt like he made a good pitch.
"All I am looking to do is get a ground ball there and I did. I thought I made a good pitch but he found a hole," said Siegrist, who also gave up an RBI single to Martin.
Both Maness and Siegrist said that as young players, the best thing they can do is learn what they can from Sunday's failures and wait for their next opportunity.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said that he doesn't have to say much to Maness and Siegrist because they are professionals with a lot of talent who have been fast learners.
His take was simple: Tip your cap to Martin and Alvarez.
"It is all about making pitches and they did, really, but the Pirates had two really good at bats. So the only thing I'd say is to keep their head up, another game for tomorrow."
Maness added: "You can't think about this one any more, we have to forget about it and move on because we have another game tomorrow."