PHOENIX -- It was late last June when Trevor Rosenthal's ninth-inning implosion in Seattle prompted the Cardinals to make a change in the closer's role. Now a calendar year after handing that job to Seunghwan Oh, it's Oh who has let the ninth inning become a trouble spot once again.Oh's
PHOENIX -- It was late last June when Trevor Rosenthal's ninth-inning implosion in Seattle prompted the Cardinals to make a change in the closer's role. Now a calendar year after handing that job to Seunghwan Oh, it's Oh who has let the ninth inning become a trouble spot once again.
Oh's struggles to lock down wins continued on Tuesday when he squandered a one-run lead in a game the Cardinals would lose, 6-5, in 10 innings to the D-backs. It was his third blown save of the year and the fifth time in eight appearances that Oh had allowed at least one run.
He's searching in much the same way Rosenthal was a year ago. But things are more complicated this time around, as the Cardinals are without a ready replacement should they consider using Oh in another role.
Rosenthal, who would seem the most obvious candidate to slide back into the closer's job given his experience and past success, allowed two runs an inning before Oh frittered away the rest of what had been a three-run lead on Tuesday. With it, Rosenthal's season ERA swelled to 4.08.
"That's a big move," manager Mike Matheny said when asked about a potential change to Oh's role. "Those aren't things that you do off-the-cuff. He's still up there as one of the leaders in the league as far as guys who are closing the door. He's been good. Days like this, I know that hurts him. Same thing with Trevor. They've both been dominating at times."
Not lately, however. Just four days earlier, the two allowed eight-, and ninth-inning runs to the Pirates that left the Cardinals to shoulder a one-run loss. The Cardinals have lost four games this year when taking a lead into the eighth. That's one off their total from 2016.
Much of Oh's trouble has been linked to the long ball, which stung him again on Tuesday. David Peralta tied the game with one swing, taking a 1-2 changeup and dropping it into the left-field seats. Oh has allowed more home runs (six) in 36 innings this season than he did over 79 2/3 innings in 2016.
"I'm just not making good pitches, and those are ending up as a hit or a homer," Oh said, speaking through a translator. "I need to get those out pitches right, especially in these one-run differences. I just have to make those pitches."
He's sought out advice from catcher Yadier Molina, who has confirmed this his pitches aren't as crisp, nor the movement so precise, as they used to be. Of particular issue has been the slider, which opponents are hitting at a .315 clip. Last year, Oh held batters to a .170 average against that pitch.
"There's been some hard hit balls, most of them are balls that are elevated in the zone that don't have the typical life that we're accustomed to seeing with him with that late break on the slider and the deception and the movement on the fastball," Matheny said. "Right now, he's just fighting to find that really good feel."
Oh isn't sugarcoating things either, describing this as "probably the worst stretch I've been through" over a 13-year career. Including his years as a dominant closer in Korea and Japan, only once has Oh had a higher WHIP (1.36) or lower strikeout rate (8.2 per nine innings) than he does right now.
"I just have to make those pitches," Oh said. "I'm really healthy. The stuff is getting there. I just have to do a better job."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast.