Steven Matz’s struggles a case of fill-in manager mistakes?

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It was a surprise to see new St. Louis Cardinals starter Steven Matz struggle. Could this have been preventable with their regular manager in the dugout?

Sunday marked the second game in a row that St. Louis Cardinals’ manager Oliver Marmol was out with the flu. Bench Coach Skip Schumaker, who said he was staying in contact with Marmol, did his best to manage the team. But he definitely missed an opportunity to help his team win on Sunday.

A lack of communication from Steven Matz could have also been the problem.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Benjamin Hochman noted in his column Monday that Matz came to the Cardinals as someone who could induce ground ball hitting that would be nabbed by a Gold Glove defense behind him.

That’s great until Matz wasn’t inducing grounders.

Hochman wrote, “A little curveball in the top of the zone — if that’s just down, maybe I get them to hit a ground ball,” Matz said Sunday after the Cardinals’ 9-4 loss.” Continuing, Hochman said, “Location, location, location — that was the problem with pitches by Matz.”

Rather than hitting his location, after loading up the bases in the third inning Sunday, Matz tossed a curveball that Pittsburgh Pirates’ Michael Chavis hit for a grand slam home run.

Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux did visit Matz on the mound Sunday in that third inning. Marmol spoke with Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat about Matz performance.

A blister developing on his fingers prevented him from following through on his pitches? That makes sense. But was that ever communicated?

Cardinals: Steven Matz’s rough start a result of miscommunication?

An apparent lack of communication could really mess things up for a team. And it most likely happened in this case. Not communicating a blister developing on the fingers of your pitching hand will cause problems. The blister will get worse and pitch locations will not be met. Had Matz communicated this discomfort, maybe the training staff could have provided some relief? Maybe he could have gotten out of that inning without giving up that grand slam home run.

Instead, the Pirates became aggressive with first pitch hitting after noticing Matz wasn’t hitting his locations. They load up the bases and Matz missed the location of a curveball with the bases loaded.

Matz finished up that third inning of work but that was it. The Cardinals had to rely on their bullpen for the remainder of the game. That’s fine, but it’s not something the Cardinals want to make a habit of this season.

Matz was brought in to be a dominant mid-rotation pitcher. Not a pitcher they can piggyback. The Cardinals are dependent on Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Matz, Dakota Hudson, and the fifth starter in former closer Jordan Hicks.

Wainwright pitched well on Opening Day, earning the win after six innings. Mikolas struggled in his start as he gave up six hits over 3.2 innings. Five relievers were used to finish off the game, with Kodi Whitley earning the win. Mikolas had only pitched in nine games in 2021, after missing the 2020 season.

On Sunday, after Matz, the Cardinals brought in Jake Woodford for three innings. They got an inning from Andre Pallante who made his major league debut in the outing. And the Cardinals got two innings out of Aaron Brooks, who hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2019.

And their presumptive ace Jack Flaherty started this season on the 10-day injured list after missing much of last season with an injury.

Things happen, but they need to be communicated in order for this club to prevent the ails of last season from happening again. This team has high ambitions. The Cardinals need their pitchers to be effective and dependable in order to be as successful as possible.

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