ST. LOUIS -- The masterful maneuver Trevor Rosenthal made to deflect disaster and secure the Cardinals' 4-3 win over the Royals on Thursday night had as much to do with what happened in the 24 hours leading up to the moment as it did the final 16 pitches he threw.
Hours before Rosenthal found himself freezing the potential tying run at third, he first had to convince manager Mike Matheny to even give him that chance. With growing concerns about Rosenthal's workload, Matheny had arrived at Busch Stadium with little interest in having his closer pitch a third straight day.
"I really wanted to shut him down," Matheny said postgame.
But Rosenthal made a spirited plea during a pregame conversation with his skipper and was insistent that he felt ready to take the ball, pointing out that he needed just 10 pitches to get through the ninth one night earlier.
"It definitely helped with my argument," Rosenthal said of his efficient outing on Wednesday. "For me, I just felt like I was physically capable of going out there and contributing for the team. I knew we'd probably need it with other guys being down as well. I was happy to go out there and do what I did."
With Kevin Siegrist and Sam Tuivailala unavailable because of their recent usage, Matheny relented. There was an instant upshot in dramatics when he did.
An infield single and RBI triple pulled the Royals to within one before Rosenthal ever settled in. With Omar Infante 90 feet away as the potential tying run, Rosenthal twice reached 97 mph to strike out pinch-hitter Dusty Coleman. Third baseman Matt Carpenter helped Rosenthal get a forceout at home when Alcides Escobar made contact, and a defensive shift put second baseman Kolten Wong in position to field the game's final out.
Amid it all, twice Matheny, in pulling his infielder onto the grass, allowed a second Royals baserunner to advance into scoring position. Matheny described it as "a controversial philosophy," as it was one that put Kansas City a single away from taking the lead.
"We had a thin 'pen. We had our closer in there, a guy who can get us a strikeout. So instead of holding guys on and leaving holes in the infield, let's put our best defense out there and see if we can cut down a run at the plate," Matheny said. "Even with nobody out, we were still going to take a chance that we could get a strikeout, popup on the infield or make something happen. Trevor and the defense made it work."
The save was Rosenthal's 30th, making him the fifth closer in franchise history to post consecutive 30-save seasons, joining Dennis Eckersley, Lee Smith, Todd Worrell and Jason Isringhausen.
Don't expect Rosenthal to get a shot at No. 31 on Friday. As he prepared to leave the ballpark on Thursday, the closer already knew how Friday's conversation with Matheny would go.