Maybe Mike Matheny had finally seen enough. He had certainly seen enough of Shelby Miller and sent a message to his team via Miller on the mound Sunday night. It was plain and simple and now he hopes the St. Louis Cardinals got that message loud and clear.
Matheny visited Miller on the pitching mound in the bottom of the fifth inning and let his young pitcher know his efforts were not good enough. Miller had just given up half of a four run lead and was in danger of allowing more Pirates runners to score when Matheny visited. It worked as Miller stopped the rally and the Cardinals held on late to avoid a sweep by the woeful Pirates, winning 6-5.
“Classic Mike. Spitting the truth,” Miller said later. “He told me I had to find a way to get through it. … Pretty much told me, ‘You’re better than this.’”
He may very well have been speaking to the rest of his team. The defending National League Champion Cardinals are nearly one-quarter of the way through the season and are still floundering at 19-19, five games behind the Central Division leading Milwaukee Brewers. The Cardinals have not yet found their way in a season that is not so young anymore. Sooner or later, Matheny’s squad has to turn it up a notch or languish in the reality that they are a mediocre team. The Redbirds manager seemed to be challenging Miller and the rest of the Cardinals to prove they were better.
To be fair the Cardinals are 38 games into the season and have played 26 of those games on the road. That is an a lot of road games but it is hardly the reason for the Cardinals sluggish play. The Redbirds have lacked an edge all season and thus have underachieved. A lack of hitting, Matheny’s own questionable use of his bullpen, and an absence of power has overshadowed a pitching staff that held the team together for the most part.
Where his team goes from here remains to be seen, but Matheny sent a message to the Cardinals Sunday night. “I don’t believe this is a .500 team, and if anybody starts talking like that, we need to re-evaluate,” Matheny said. “I just don’t think we’ve found our identity yet.”
Motte on the mend – Former Cardinals closer Jason Motte finished another rehab stint at AA affiliate Springfield and will now be promoted to AAA Memphis along with left-handed starter Jaime Garcia. Motte pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. His velocity has gradually increased since the beginning of spring training and he is reportedly hitting the mid-nineties on the radar gun again. This would be a welcome addition to the Cardinals bullpen, which Matheny is having a hard time managing, that has been inconsistent this season. Garcia will make a start Monday night in Memphis and his timetable for returning is still undetermined. Motte hopes to be in St. Louis by the end of the month at the latest.
Mike Matheny has sent a message his St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards manager claims they have not found their identity yet. Okay, but 19 of the next 22 games are in St. Louis. What better place than home to find a team identity? The first of those three are against the Chicago Cubs. If the Cardinals cannot find themselves during this stretch then they have a bigger problem than figuring out their identity.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the St. Louis Cardinals