Cards shred bullpen in painful loss

Two pitches into Wednesday night’s game, a stunning injury sent Cardinals manager Mike Matheny into panic mode. Three hours later, he ended with perhaps one of the most bizarre moves we have seen in quite some time.

And when the night was over, all he had to show for it was a nine-run loss and a hole in his rotation so large, we could be in store for more fun on Thursday. Here’s how it went down:

On his second pitch of the game, St. Louis starter Shelby Miller was hit on the elbow by a line drive off the bat of the Dodgers’ Carl Crawford and had to leave the game. He was replaced by reliever Michael Blazek, and then came starting pitcher Jake Westbrook for 4-2/3 innings … then came Randy Choate, then Keith Butler.

With two outs in the top of the ninth and the Dodgers up 13-4, L.A. sent reliever Paco Rodriguez up to bat — his first career at-bat. The 27th out and the end of the Dodgers’ barrage seemed all but a certainty, any major league pitcher worth his weight in baseball cards should be able to retire a rookie left-handed specialist who had never batted in the bigs before.

Yet Matheny, who learned from Tony La Russa, the king of over-managing, wandered out to the mound and made a pitching change. Or should we say catching change? He called Rob Johnson from the bullpen, a backup catcher. So we had a catcher throwing fastballs to another catcher, trying to strike out a pitcher.

And he did it — on four pitches.

But all the fun came at a cost. Not only did the Dodgers win 13-4, but Westbrook was Thursday’s scheduled starter. In going nearly five innings Wednesday, he is now unavailable Thursday. Who will pitch for the Cards? Who knows? A minor league call-up, perhaps. Miller, whose X-rays were negative, also has an uncertain status for his next start.

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