Matheny sits Moss in favor of Martinez

September 29th, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- Having stuck with throughout his historic September slump, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny acknowledged on Thursday that it's time for a change. He pulled Moss out of the lineup, replacing the skidding slugger with Minor League journeyman , making his second career big league start.

With a hitless game on Wednesday, Moss dropped to 7-for-95 with 36 strikeouts since Aug. 27. He's tallied six of those hits in September, leaving him with the fourth-worst September batting average (minimum 50 plate appearances) in Major League history, at .075. His .298 OPS this month is also the fourth-worst in MLB history for players with a minimum of 75 September plate appearances.

"Just let him breathe," Matheny said. "Let him get in his own thoughts and get into a better place. Let him get some work if he wants it, or stay away from a bat altogether until we need him late in the game. He needed to flush."

Even as Moss' offensive spiral lengthened, Matheny had been hesitant to bench him. In fact, over the last 31 games, Moss started 26 times -- 19 as the three- or four-hole hitter.

Matheny justified that playing time by insisting that the potential for Moss to change a game with one swing was too appealing to give up on him. Moss does lead the team with 27 homers, but he's hit just two this month.

"We see so many things that look so close, so you always balance that," Matheny said. "Do we get him in there and the one time it clicks, he takes off? Because he's a guy who can carry this club. Not that we want to put that on anybody's shoulders, but he can do it."

Perspective changed on Wednesday, after Moss struck out twice in three at-bats. That included a whiff that ended the sixth inning with two runners stranded in scoring position. Moss was immediately double-switched out of the game, and as he retreated to the clubhouse, Matheny briefly trailed him into the tunnel.

"You could see he was wearing it hard, just like all the guys are when they get into those big situations and it doesn't work out," Matheny said. "Like when he got here last year, I felt like he was putting a lot on himself that he had to be this guy who came over in a trade. I think now he feels like he has to be that guy who does carry us, and it's just simply not true. He just has to be himself and get back to trusting himself and just be part of what's going on here."

Matheny would not project whether Moss would be back in the lineup later this week.

Worth noting

• Tickets for a potential Cardinals tiebreaker game against the Mets or Giants on Monday will go on sale at 12 p.m. CT on Friday. Prices start as low as $5. A tiebreaker game would be needed if two clubs finish tied for the second National League Wild Card berth.