We already discussed the wild Wednesday that transpired when it came to the tight NL Central and there's more to unpack there. Specifically, Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal gave up a home run to start the bottom of the ninth in Boston on a 91 mile-per-hour fastball. This is a guy we've seen tough 102 and sat 100 at times earlier in the season.
Sure, Rosenthal's velocity was down in the second half, but he was still sitting in the high-90s. And, sure, every once i a while a pitcher will uncork an uncharacteristically lower-velocity heater. It just seems a bit more concerning when teamed with the news on Thursday that Rosenthal has been placed on the disabled list with posterior elbow irritation.
Cardinals.com reported Wednesday night that Rosenthal had told the Cardinals a few days earlier about some tightness in his right arm, so there's definitely a big cause for concern here.
It's always a big deal to lose a closer, but for the Cardinals, this is even more significant.
The Cardinals have gone through issues holding leads all season long, going all the way back to the opening series. They have 22 bullpen losses, have lost 22 games in which they once held a multiple-run lead and have blown 16 saves. The team ERA in the first three innings is 3.25 compared to 4.22 for the rest of the game and an ugly 5.40 in the eighth inning.
Of late, though, things were looking up with Rosenthal back in the ninth. The bullpen ERA -- prior to Wednesday -- was about a run better in the second half than in the first half.
From July 4-Aug. 12, Rosenthal saved seven games in seven chances with a 0.52 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 28 strikeouts and three walks in 17 1/3 innings. A good bulk of this work came during a Cardinals eight-game winning streak that thrust them right up into the Cubs' grill atop the division.
If Rosenthal is out for a bit, though, the landscape is altered. The Cardinals will likely turn back to Seung hwan Oh at closer with other options such as Zach Duke, John Brebbia and Tyler Lyons.
Oh has actually looked good of late as well, but was some of it a function of Rosenthal backing him up? It's hard to say how these things work, as relievers are just so volatile. Oh was very inconsistent as closer.
Duke is only nine appearances back from Tommy John surgery. Brebbia is a rookie having a good year who just gave up a walk-off double to Mookie Betts. Lyons is also having a good year, yet hasn't had a ton of back-end experience.
Things could work out. There's talent in that group mentioned above. It's just that removing Rosenthal and knocking everyone back a notch is a bit of a buzzkill, much like the three-game losing streak, after working up to a tie for first place.
It isn't like the other clubs are without issue. The Cubs are missing Willson Contreras and Addison Russell. The Brewers are without Chase Anderson and Orlando Arcia. The Pirates are 5 1/2 back and in fourth.
Everyone team has had hot streaks and cold spells and it is very close, one through four. Heading into Thursday (projection percentage powered by SportsLine):
% chance to win Central
Things are clearly up for grabs here. We simply can't escape the reality that the Cardinals with a 100 percent Trevor Rosenthal look a helluva lot stronger than with a potentially big injury. The news here is 100 percent something to monitor in the next 24-48 hours. Stay tuned.