Cardinals blow late lead, lose in Chris Carpenter’s return

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The good news for the Cardinals is that Chris Carpenter, originally thought to be out for the season after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, turned in a successful five-inning stint Friday in his 2012 debut.

The bad news is that the bullpen blew a two-run lead in the ninth, and the Cards went on to lose to the Cubs 5-4 in 11 innings.

Darwin Barney hit a two-run homer off Fernando Salas with two outs in the ninth to extend the game. Salas was going for the save in place of regular closer Jason Motte, who had the day off after working in all three games in the sweep of Houston.

The Cubs ended it in the 11th when David DeJesus knocked in Brett Jackson with his fourth hit of the day.

Carpenter’s start went off without a hitch. While he wasn’t exactly in midseason form with either his fastball or curve, he held the Cubs scoreless in four of his five innings. He ended up allowing five hits, walking one, striking out two and hitting a batter. His heater was typically in the 88-91 mph range, which is pretty promising considering that he’s still so ahead of schedule in his recovery. Maybe he’ll get back closer to his usual 90-94 mph come playoff time, should the Cardinals advance.

While the loss today snapped the Cardinals’ four-game winning streak, the team remains in position for the second wild card. They’ll end the night with at least a 1 1/2-game lead over the Brewers.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.