Tonight’s game, from the Cardinals’ side, was pretty straightforward tactically. However, I got a few tweets (@MatthewHLeach) and some comments on the game story about removing Jaime Garcia, so that’s what we’re going with.
The situation: Cardinals lead, 6-0, with two outs and a runner on first base in the bottom of the seventh inning. Jaime Garcia has thrown 102 pitches and is coming off two breezy innings.
The decision: Tony La Russa decides to lift Garcia after seven innings, pinch-hitting for him with Nick Stavinoha and bringing in Kyle McClellan to pitch the eighth.
The outcome: Stavinoha popped up, but it wasn’t really about the pinch-hitter. Kyle McClellan and Mitchell Boggs each pitched a shutout inning as the Cardinals finished off the 6-0 win.
The analysis: It’s April, and Garcia is still 23 and only a year and a half removed from elbow surgery. The club has said all along that it wants to be cautious with him. McClellan and Boggs were both fresh, and the lead was safely in hand.
The counterargument seems to have to do with giving Garcia a chance to finish the game, but it’s April, and even if he’d been extremely efficient, you’re talking close to 120 pitches to finish it off.
The comment: “What’s the point [of leaving him in]? You know now that he comes out of the game and five days from now he’s going to feel great against Philadelphia. That’s a good thing to feel.”
My verdict: 100 percent with the skipper. As I suggested at the top, I was sincerely surprised with the number of people who viewed this as even an issue. After Garcia’s 26-pitch fifth, I believe that he needed an efficient sixth even to come out for the seventh. They’re protecting this guy, and for good reason.
This one, for me, was a very easy call.