Mike Matheny gets outmanaged as Cards lose Game 1

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The biggest hit in Sunday’s Game 1 came about because the Nationals got the matchup they wanted and the Cardinals didn’t.

Down 2-1 with two on and two out in the top of the eighth, Nationals manager Davey Johnson sent up lefty Chad Tracy to hit in the pitcher’s spot in the order. The Cardinals had their regular eighth-inning guy, righty Mitchell Boggs, in the game at the time, but Mike Matheny chose to counter with left-hander Marc Rzepczynski. Of course, that just led to another move from Davey Johnson; he put in right-hander Tyler Moore to replace Tracy.

Matheny should have known this was coming; Tracy had nine at-bats against lefties all year. It was a no-brainer that Johnson would go get Moore off the bench. And Moore, getting to face the southpaw, came up big, delivering a two-run single that proved to be the difference in the Nationals’ 3-2 win.

It was Matheny’s second of three very questionable decisions in the game. In the sixth, he picked Skip Schumaker over Matt Carpenter to hit for the pitcher with two on and two out against Craig Stammen. Maybe he felt Carpenter could be employed in a bigger situation later, though that chance to break the game open seemed plenty big at the time. Schumaker ended up striking out to end the inning. And Carpenter did get to bat in an important situation in the eighth. He too struck out, thanks to Tyler Clippard getting a strike call on a pitch four or five inches off the plate.

The third decision came before Carpenter hit in the eighth. With just six outs left in a one-run game, Matheny chose to give away one of them to bunt Adron Chambers — who was pinch-running for David Freese — from first to second base. The sac was successful, but the Cards failed to score.

It’d be silly to say Matheny lost this game for the Cardinals; an offense that came up with just three hits all day was the bigger problem. What Matheny didn’t do was put the team in the best position to win.

AP Source: RHP Eflin agrees to $40 million deal with Rays

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Zach Eflin has agreed to join the Tampa Bay Rays on a three-year, $40 million contract that’s the largest the club has ever awarded in free agency, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity Thursday night because the agreement was subject to a successful physical and had not been announced.

Eflin, who spent portions of seven seasons with the Phillies, will join a rotation that includes All-Star lefty Shane McClanahan and right-handers Tyler Glasnow and Drew Rasmussen with the Rays, who will pay him $11 million in 2023, $11 million in 2024 and $18 million in 2025.

The 28-year-old right-hander began last season as a starter and later worked out of the bullpen for the NL champions, going 3-5 with a 4.04 ERA in 20 appearances. Overall, he has a 36-45 career record with a 4.49 ERA over 127 games, including 115 starts.

He appeared in 10 games as a reliever during Philadelphia’s postseason run this year, going 0-0 with a 3.38 ERA over 10 2/3 innings.

The $40 million commitment to Eflin is the largest the budget-minded Rays have made to a free agent, surpassing the five-year, $35 million contract pitcher Wilson Alvarez signed in 1998, and the two-year, $30 million deal right-hander Charlie Morton received in 2019.