With just nine regular season games left and only a one-game lead in the National League Central, we Cardinals fans don’t need a cause for concern. Yet after yesterday’s 15-inning loss to the Rockies — with Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica giving up tying runs in the eighth and ninth innings — do we need to worry about them?
The 5 earned runs allowed by Rosenthal in 9 innings pitched this month all came in this Colorado series, with 4 in Monday night’s loss. He’s only allowed 5 hits (also all in Colorado) during those 9 innings, and struck out 14. Opponents are hitting just .161 against him.
Then there’s Mujica. In his 6.1 innings pitched during September, he’s allowed 5 earned runs on 12 hits (including 2 home runs). He has 2 saves. And do you think the opposing team likes seeing him enter the game? They’re hitting .462 off him this month.
As the season has gone on, I’ve noticed more and more fans wanting Matheny to replace Mujica as closer — with Rosenthal. While it’s easy to agree with replacing Mujica, would Rosenthal really be a smart option?
Sure, there’s the fact he throws so hard — everyone, including broadcasters, certainly drools over those flame-throwing fastballs. Remember the reaction by the Cardinals broadcasters when Aroldis Chapman threw several pitches of 103 a couple weeks ago?
But Rosenthal has thrown a lot of innings this season, 71 1/3. That’s the most among Cardinals relievers by a wide margin — second is Mujica with 63 2/3. (Third, if you’re interested, is Seth Maness with 58 1/3.) Rosenthal’s innings are the eighth most among National League relievers while his total number of appearances, 69, is sixth most. Are his performances in Colorado a sign of fatigue? Or just part of pitching in Colorado for the first time?
It’s interesting to look at Rosenthal and Mujica’s numbers since the All-Star break. Rosenthal has a 3.76 ERA, with 11 earned runs allowed in 26 1/3 innings pitched. He’s allowed 21 hits and struck out 33. For Mujica, his ERA is 2.38 as he’s allowed 6 earned runs on 26 hits in 22 2/3 innings. Overall, Rosenthal’s ERA is 2.78 and Mujica’s is 2.26.
As I mentioned at the beginning (and as we all know anyway), there are just nine games remaining in the regular season — three starting tonight in Milwaukee, then at Busch Stadium for three against the Nationals and the finale with three against the Cubs. With just a one-game lead over the Pirates and two games over the Reds — and with those two teams playing each other six times in their final nine games — every game has a degree of importance. Which means the Cardinals winning, obviously, is preferable. (Duh. When isn’t it?)
Even though some fans might want it, I really can’t see Mike Matheny making a change at closer right now — without more painful performances from Mujica in the meantime.
So, just one more thing to worry about.
Are the bullpen pieces that have been solid for so much of the season up for the challenge of these next nine days — and then what’s beyond in October, whatever that might be?
Here’s hoping …
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.