Cardinals manager Mike Matheny took a huge gamble early in Game 2 of the series.
Already down a game in the best-of-five National League Division Series and watching his game two starter Jaime Garcia struggle through the top of the second, Matheny opted to go to pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker and sit his starter down after just two innings.
St. Louis scored four runs in that second frame and never looked back.
Garcia’s replacement, Lance Lynn, came on to go three innings and allowed two late solo shots, striking out five.
Matheny seemingly lost the chess match in Game 1 when the Nationals got in position to have Tyler Moore pinch-hit after a pitching change, avoiding eighth-inning set-up man Mitchell Boggs. Moore delivered the game-changing two-run single for a 3-2 Nationals win.
But in Game 2, Matheny pushed all his chips in the middle of the table early, and the gamble paid off.
“Obviously, it was a sense of urgency,” Matheny told reporters. “But Jaime’s arm wasn’t feeling right at the time. So that was the deciding factor.”
Garcia was taken for an MRI after the game on his bothersome shoulder, according to Matheny.
In the end, Metheny’s bold move did not appear to make a big difference in a 12-4 loss, but it seemed that the Nationals, up 1-0 in the second and with two men on, had a chance to get a rally going, something that they have been unable to complete in the first two games.
Manager Davey Johnson felt the Nationals might have had a chance to get to Garcia in the top of that second inning, but instead of a big inning for the Nationals, it turned into the big inning the Cardinals have been seeking to begin the series.
“Obviously early on, young hitters were swinging out of the zone. I don’t think Jaime Garcia threw just a few strikes and he got outs on balls way out of the zone,” Johnson told reporters.