Mujica's clean inning a bright spot in Game 2
Cardinals reliever hopes to leave September struggles behind
PITTSBURGH -- In a mostly forgettable 7-1 loss to the Pirates in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Friday, the Cardinals singled out Edward Mujica's performance as something to remember -- and, they hope, something to build on.
In his first appearance of the postseason, Mujica pitched a quick and clean ninth inning. He retired the side in order on five pitches, marking the first time Mujica had pitched a hitless full inning since Aug. 26.
"We needed him to throw a clean inning," manager Mike Matheny said. "[It] was nice to see the kind of swings he had. That's the kind of swings he's had against [him] all season long. He's had such a strong year. It was something we were hoping to be able to get him out there and feel good about himself, because we don't know how [his role] is going to play out moving forward."
Mujica, too, was encouraged by his performance, but was particularly pleased by the results he got when throwing his rarely-used slider. Twice, catcher Yadier Molina called for a first-pitch slider; both times, it induced an out.
According to Fangraphs, Mujica threw his slider just 4.4 percent of the time this season. Not since 2009 has he cracked the 10 percent threshold. But with Mujica's split-changeup running flat for much of September, the implementation of another pitch could help him keep hitters from waiting on the changeup.
"I think they got a little bit surprised," Mujica said. "New weapon."
The Cardinals are still feeling their way through finding the right spots to use Mujica, who was scored upon in six of his 10 September appearances. Certainly, they would like to work their former closer back into a key role, but he will have to continue to prove he is ready for that before such opportunities arise.
"September is gone. October is here," Mujica said. "I've cleared my mind and have prepared myself physically and mentally to pitch in October."