The manager’s role during the post season is much different than during the regular season for a baseball club and one of those decisions by Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke helped give the Cardinals a two games to one NLCS lead. Mark Kotsay’s insertion into the starting lineup over Nyjer Morgan led to two plays that help rally the Cardinals for a 4-3 win Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
Nyjer Morgan hit .304 during the regular season for the Brewers and his speed and defense gave them a solid outfielder in center. However, Morgan (after flying out as a pinch hitter in the seventh) is hitting .150 in the post season. Roenicke decided after game two that he would insert 35 year old Mark Kotsay into the starting lineup to try to provide a spark offensively. The move somewhat paid off in the third when Kotsay took the first pitch he saw from Chris Carpenter over the right field wall to cut the Cardinals lead to 4-3. However, Kotsay was involved in two plays earlier in the game that really set the tone for a wild first inning.
Kotsay drew a one out walk and went to second after Ryan Braun was hit by a pitch. With Prince Fielder hitting a sinking line drive to center field, Kotsay crept too far off the bag. With Jon Jay running in to the make the catch, he alertly fired the ball to Nick Punto who doubled off Kotsay to end the first. Roenicke even admits that Kotsay wasn’t sharp since he usually is used as a pinch hitter. Roenicke audio on Kotsay
In the Cardinals half, it was Jay who hit a ball nearly in the same spot where he caught Fielder’s line drive. The slower, older Kotsay came up just short on making a diving catch. The ball got away from Kotsay allowing Jay to get a double and easily scoring Rafael Furcal. Instead of one out and a runner on second, St. Louis had a run in and another in scoring position with Pujols, Holliday and Berkman waiting.
There’s no doubt Milwaukee starter Yovanni Gallardo struggled against the Cardinals early, as six of the first seven hitters got on base, including three doubles and three walks, but it’s those little decisions that get magnified in post season that can have a big effect on the game and can certainly set the tone.
Poor decision by Roenicke or our is hand’s tied with a struggling Morgan batting second? This is a big advantage for the Cardinals moving forward in this series.