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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny not doing his team any favors

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It started with the lineup: Mike Matheny chose to go with Shane Robinson in center field in Game 5 and had him bat second, with Carlos Beltran dropping into the cleanup spot.

On the surface, it didn’t seem like a great move. Maybe it would have turned out better had leadoff man Matt Carpenter gotten on once or twice, giving Robinson a chance to play some small ball. That never materialized.

Really, though, the moment the move no longer made any sense at all was when the hobbled Allen Craig became a late addition to the lineup. But rather than juggle things, Matheny simply had Craig bat sixth, rather than his usual cleanup spot. Perhaps even better than batting Beltran second and Craig fourth: batting Craig second. With Craig severely limited defensively by his bad foot. hitting him at the top of the order might have earned him an extra at-bat before he needed to be removed for defense. But, no, it was Robinson. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

What else? Well, leaving Adam Wainwright in to finish the seventh was the move that really doomed the Cardinals. With Wainwright approaching 100 pitches and an off day tomorrow, there was no reason not to have someone warmed up and ready. That Wainwright issued his first walk of the game to an ice cold Stephen Drew with one on and one out in the seventh suggested he was about done. David Ross followed with an RBI double, giving the Red Sox the lead. Boston later made it 3-1 on a Jacoby Ellsbury bloop single.

I’m not going to blame Matheny for letting Wainwright face Ross; even if Martinez was a better choice in that spot, a move to pull the ace then would have been a true surprise. But leaving him in to face Ellsbury was a bad call. The easy assumption is that it happened only because Wainwright had made Ellsbury look pretty bad his first three times up. Of course, it’s not like Ellsbury ripped a ball into the gap that fourth time, either. Still, it was an assignment that should have gone to one of the Cardinals’ left-handed relievers. Kevin Siegrist was ready and could have taken over.

The other big choice Matheny had to make was whether how to handle the eighth after David Freese’s one-out double off Jon Lester. At that point, the Cardinals seemed to have a much better chance of scoring than they would in the ninth against Koji Uehara. However, the only right-handed hitter on the Cardinals’ bench was backup catcher Tony Cruz, and his last at-bat came in the regular season. Matheny chose to let Kozma hit. Predictably, he was an easy out. Really, any of the lefties would have been better bets. Matheny then chose to have Matt Adams bat lefty-lefty out of the pitcher’s spot, only to watch the Red Sox give up that advantage and go with Uehara. It didn’t matter; Uehara made quick work of the one power threat on the Cardinals bench.

At that point, the Cardinals had the top of the order set to go in the ninth. Unfortunately, that top of the order was Carpenter-Robinson-Matt Holliday. Jon Jay hit for Robinson, who went 0-for-3, and grounded out. For the second game in a row, Beltran could only watch as the Cardinals lost by two runs.

Yankees in, Red Sox out on Edwin Encarnacion

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler AustinGreg Bird combo in 2017.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.

Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.