Rosenthal? Siegrist? Axford? Someone has to take the ball in the ninth for the Cardinalsâ€¨
SEP 23, 2013 7:28p ET
That we know.
Who will get the ball?
That we don't know. From what Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said during his pregame media scrum, he's not even sure who he'll call on. He said the ninth inning will remain a fluid situation for the time being.
"We're just gonna see how it plays out," Matheny said. "Don't have anything really mapped out. We've got ideas, guys we can use in certain situations. Once the game starts playing out, we'll have a better feel. The 'fluid' term probably fits as good as any."
Matheny likely is considering no more than four candidates.
Trevor Rosenthal is the obvious choice. He's been working the eighth inning and though he's suffered a couple of rough outings this month, he looked as sharp as ever setting down the Brewers in order Friday night. Because he hasn't pitched since Friday, he's also rested.
If left-handed hitters are due to bat, there's a chance Kevin Siegrist could get the call. The Nationals have three lefty hitters in their lineup: Denard Span is leading off, Bryce Harper is in the cleanup hole and Adam LaRoche is hitting sixth.
If Matheny wants to opt for experience, John Axford is available and has pitched well since being traded to St. Louis, with a 1.93 ERA in 10 outings covering 9 1/3 innings.
Seth Maness got a taste of the ninth inning in Saturday night's 7-2 victory at Milwaukee. After he gave up one run in the eighth, he retired the first batter in the ninth before giving way to Siegrist.
Whoever is called in a save situation one night will not be anointed the next closer. Matheny says roles are tossed aside in such circumstances. "They're all pitchers," he said.
"Ideally, we'd like to have a seventh-inning guy, an eighth-inning guy and a ninth-inning guy, but that's not where we are."
Where they are is in a pennant race, trying to win the NL Central and secure home-field advantage for at least the Division Series. The Cardinals own a two-game lead over the Reds and Pirates and a one-game edge over the Dodgers in the battle for best record.
"We have to get outs," Matheny said. "We have to win games. We'll put in whoever we need to put in. (There are) times you have to put roles aside. You go get outs regardless of what inning, what the situation is. That's what we're doing."
As for Mujica, he is available but he's not likely to be asked to get tough outs anytime soon.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.