Matheny Talks Lineups, Defense

The official start time for tonight’s game is 7:15pm, however, exact start time will be determined by Mother Nature as storms continue to pass through Busch Stadium. Last night, Mike Matheny saw his St. Louis Cardinals delayed around 90 minutes before they could start play against the Cleveland Indians.

“I sat right here,” said Matheny as he motioned to a spot on the bench in the corner of the dugout nearest the tunnel. “I had to monitor all the guys with their phones and iPads. They were asking my opinions about how far we were the starter and this is what it looks like. They usually keep me in the conversation, but Mike Maddux and I both just sat here and enjoyed a rainstorm.”

When play does get underway, it will be Carlos Martinez making his fifth start since returning from the disabled list. Since his return, Martinez has a record of 0-2 with a 8.10 ERA and has walked 20 batters while striking out 18 in 16.2 innings.

“It’s hard–going on the DL, being shutdown, not competing, not staying sharp, then getting it back,” said Matheny. “It sounds like it should be easier than what it actually is. I think he’s taking progressive steps, each one’s been a little bit better even though the results of the last one were not what he was looking for, the ‘stuff’ looked much more like Carlos. It’s going to be a great test. They’ve got a good starter going. I think Carlos is going to do something special.”

That good starter is Corey Kluber, who three years ago set a Cleveland record as he struck out 18 Cardinals in a game. He is 11-3 this season with a 2.10 ERA. Only five players on the current St. Louis roster have faced the former Cy Young winner, among them being Dexter Fowler who is 0-7 with five strikeouts. That is part of the reason Harrison Bader is starting in right field.

“You’re not going to find a lot of guys with great numbers,” said Matheny. “One guy who did was Jedd, but Kolten’s been doing such a great job too and trying to figure out not putting Munoz on the shelf too long and keeping Carp in there. It’s a challenge with our infielders. But when you’ve got a top-rate pitcher, you’re not going to have a whole lot of great numbers. It’s just how you feel about how each guy is doing and what can he bring to the field–whether it’s defensively, offensively, on the bases, or all of the above.”

That balance of finding offense and giving up defense has been a factor all season for the Cardinals, but with an RBI double from Wong last night and the bats of Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, and Marcell Ozuna producing of late, it’s made it easier for defense to receive more consideration.

“You have a team that’s scoring some runs and then you watch how a player is contributing, either by getting guys over–or getting a big hit, maybe not multiple ones but a big hit, and then they’re doing their job on the defensive side to keep runs off the board, yeah, it plays different than when you’re struggling every night to get offense,” acknowledged Matheny. “In a perfect world, you have a guy who can play defense like Kolten can, you take whatever you can get. That used to be a conversation I was hopeful a team would have and I never really saw it until I got here. We had such a good offense that, truly, they wanted me to do my job behind the plate and anything I did, they thought that was a bonus. We did have a consistently producing offense. When our offense is going like it can, you can have multiple guys on that field that are just out there playing really strong defense and be still being able to be carried by the rest of team’s offense.”

photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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