Have the Cardinals benched Oscar Taveras?

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When the Cardinals traded Allen Craig to the Red Sox for John Lackey the assumption was that the move had two goals for St. Louis: One was to bring in rotation help with Lackey and the other was to clear an everyday spot in the outfield and the lineup for stud prospect Oscar Taveras.

However, now the 22-year-old rookie is struggling with a .206 batting average and .530 OPS through 45 games and it seems as though manager Mike Matheny has decided to bench him. And it’s not the first time, as Matheny has previously held Taveras out of the lineup more often than Cardinals fans would like, before and after the Craig trade.

With a right-handed pitcher on the mound for the Padres in Tyson Ross the Cardinals have the left-handed-hitting Taveras on the bench for the second straight game in favor of the right-handed-hitting Shane Robinson.

Robinson is a 29-year-old career .232 hitter with a .615 OPS who has barely been able to stick around with the Cardinals as a fifth outfielder, so clearly something is up. Taveras, who was Baseball America’s third-ranked prospect both this season and last season, hit .318 with an .872 OPS at Triple-A this year.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.