ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has been getting plenty of questions lately -- more than he'd prefer -- about who's playing second base and why. While Ryan Jackson started at second on Saturday, most often it's been Daniel Descalso -- who leads the Cardinals with 50 starts there. Skip Schumaker has also started 27 times at second.
The decision to play Descalso was a popular topic of discussion after the Cardinals' 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday, in which Descalso went 0-for-4 to drop his batting average in August to .196. Descalso, who is batting .230 this season heading into play on Saturday, played all nine innings, while Schumaker -- leading St. Louis with a .314 average in 70 games -- remained on the bench.
"The question itself is how we're using players, and I've got no problem answering those questions -- especially to the guys themselves," Matheny said before Saturday's game. "We've had some discussions with the guys to put them in the best situations so they can succeed, and where our team's going to succeed. Sometimes it comes in bunches, and other times it doesn't work out right."
Descalso is highly regarded defensively by Matheny, and the 25-year-old has the highlight-reel diving stops to prove it. With Jake Westbrook, a sinkerball pitcher, on the hill on Friday, Matheny said he wanted Descalso's glove in the game to capitalize on the high amount of grounders and double-play opportunities.
Perhaps Schumaker's bat could have made a difference in St. Louis' second straight one-run loss, notably in a second and third, no-out spot in the seventh. Descalso hit for himself and flied out to shallow left, which did not push home a run. Schumaker owns a .390 average with runners in scoring position, while Descalso is batting .102 in similar situations.
Still, Matheny maintained that with the offensive production the rest his lineup is capable of, he's OK with sacrificing a bit offensively by going with Descalso to bolster his infield defensively.
"You try and keep everybody sharp, and there's some things that go on behind the scenes -- players and matchups that you guys aren't going to be informed about -- and there's gonna be certain pitches some guys just have trouble with that might dictate it," Matheny said. "There's a lot that goes into it. I know that, at the end of the day, we've made the right decision -- and whether everybody understands it or not is really not the goal. As long as the player understands."