ST. LOUIS – Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was asked four different questions about Skip Schumaker’s not appearing in Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. And he finally got a bit testy by No. 4.
The first-year manager went with Dan Descalso at second base again Friday night despite his being stuck in a 3-for-29 skid at the plate. He went 0-for-4 Friday, dropping him to 3-for-33 in 10 games since Aug. 6.
Schumaker is hitting .314 in 70 games this season but continues to get limited playing time for unknown reasons. He’s started just four games in August and went 2-for-4 and scored two runs on Aug. 14, but hasn’t appeared in three games since.
At least three situations came up during Friday’s game where Schumaker appeared to make sense as a pinch-hitter, but Matheny declined to use him each time. The final one came with two outs in the ninth inning, when Descalso lined out to end the game with the tying run on first base.
“He was ready to go,” Matheny said of Schumaker. “You get down to a situation where you use Skip or Descalso and Descalso put together a good at-bat and had a couple good at-bats in the past against (Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan) and we liked our chances there. We were going to use Skip if we got back down to the pitcher’s position.”
Matheny noted that Descalso had two hits in six previous at-bats against Hanrahan while Schumaker was just 2-for-11 against the closer. And those numbers certainly would support letting Descalso bat in that spot like Matheny did.
But the numbers were clearly behind Schumaker pinch-hitting for Descalso in the seventh, when the Cardinals had second and third with no outs and trailed the Pirates 2-0.
Schumaker is hitting .390 (16-for-41) with runners in scoring position – one of the best averages in baseball – while Descalso has just six hits in 59 at-bats (.102 avg) in the same situations. But Matheny stuck with Descalso, who popped up to short left and wasn’t able to score the runner from third.
Matheny initially responded with “no” when asked if he thought about pinch hitting Schumaker in that spot. When a reporter prefaced a follow-up question by saying he wasn’t trying to belabor the point, Matheny replied, “You are belaboring it.”
Pressed further, Matheny said only “We had the guy in there that we wanted in there from the beginning.”
Matheny also could have gone with Schumaker to start the sixth inning or the eighth inning. He let Jake Westbrook bat for himself to start the sixth before using Matt Carpenter as a pinch-hitter for the pitcher to start the eighth when the Cardinals trailed 2-1.
“Matt Carpenter has done a nice job off the bench too, so we got to him, a high on-base percentage and he’s a guy we know is going to put together a tough at-bat most of the time,” Matheny said. “We had that opportunity leading off, it was really a nice spot for Matt and Skip is a guy in an RBI situation, if we have two guys on right there with Descalso in the last inning, you are probably going to see Skip standing up there.”
Saturday may not be the day for Schumaker to get back in the starting lineup either. Lefty Erik Bedard is scheduled to start for the Pirates, and Schumaker is hitting just .231 against left-handers this season.
The Cardinals dropped to two games behind the Pirates for the second wild-card spot in the National League with Friday’s loss. They trail the Cincinnati Reds by eight games in the NL Central race.