Why did Matheny do that? In 157 ABs (172 PA) Soriano has posted a .261/.320/.420 line against the Cardinals. He’s terrorized the Kyles, off whom he’s hit all 5 of his HR (3 off Lohse, 2 off McClellan). Other than those two, and Lance Lynn (he’s 3-7 against Lance), current St Louis pitchers have largely handled Soriano. On the other hand, there’s LaHair. He has a much smaller sample size, having a total of 19 AB (22 PA) against St Louis, but he’s made the most of them. LaHair has hit 3 HR in those 19 AB, and has a .368/.455/.842 line.
Perhaps the critical pieces of data for this discussion are these – Soriano was oh for 9 with 7 K’s career against Boggs. LaHair had never faced the right hander. And, while LaHair was 3 for 4 with a HR in the game to that point, Soriano was 0-3.
So with all that data in mind, Matheny walked LaHair. Boggs promptly fell behind Soriano 2-0 and 3-1, then surrendered a single to left which allowed the tie-breaking run to score. 5-4 Cubs. Chicago would tack on an insurance run in the ninth to win 6-4.
Did Boggs lose Soriano simply because he fell behind? Perhaps, but Boggs had fallen behind in the count to Soriano on three previous occasions, and had recovered to induce a pop-out to first and 2 strikeouts. He had only surrendered a 3-ball count to Soriano once before and it had turned into one of the 2 strikeouts noted above.
So did Matheny do the right thing here? Well, he did successfully navigate a scoreless seventh inning while directing 2 intentional walks. And, had Boggs not fallen way behind in the count perhaps he could have retired Soriano successfully. I think in this game Matheny rolled the dice once too many times. He was bound to get burned.