The Cardinals actually got to play three consecutive games this weekend. No off days, no rainouts, no nothing. It was a rare find for the first week and the Redbirds took advantage, winning two of three in the Queen City. Let’s hit the highlights.
Friday (5-4 loss)
Hero: This game saw the offense spread around a bit, so I’m going to go with Randal Grichuk. He only had one hit, compared to two for a few others, but that one was a two-run home run after the Cards had gotten down by a run early. It was good not to have to play catch-up, though the Cards did have to do so later in the game. It also gave another data point toward Grichuk eventually playing some more center field and perhaps making one of the other guys out there expendable. There’s still a good ways to go in that argument, though. It was the Cardinals’ first homer of the season. (They now have four, meaning they are just one behind Adrian Gonzalez.)
Goat: The perils of being a late-inning reliever is that if you stumble at all, there’s a good chance your name is going to go here. Jordan Walden didn’t have a bad outing, but once you walk Billy Hamilton, especially late in a tie game, you are going to have problems. Hamilton stole second, which meant Walden had to intentionally pass Joey Votto. Then he threw a wild pitch, which compounded things even more. He allowed the tie-breaking sacrifice fly and that was all Cincinnati needed. It wasn’t a meltdown by any means, just one of those things that happens. We’ve seen much worse.
Notes: Jason Heyward just had one hit, but it was key as he drove in the tying run in the seventh….Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta and Kolten Wong all had two hits in this one….John Lackey had the worst start of any Cardinal starter the first time through the rotation, allowing four runs in six innings. Of course, they all came via two-run shots by Votto, so at least the damage was limited and you can rationalize the small ballpark (and very good hitter) for the problems. Lackey did walk two and only struck out one, which is something to keep an eye on. I don’t want to say Lackey is pitching for his job, but if Jaime Garcia heals quickly, someone’s got to be displaced to get him into the rotation and I’m not sure Carlos Martinez is going to be that person.
Saturday (4-1 win)
Hero: Matt Adams. Michael Wacha threw a great game and I really thought about putting him here, but Adams’s home run in the fourth gave the Cardinals the lead that they’d not relinquish and you’d rather go to the late innings with a run lead than being tied. The game changes a lot for St. Louis if they are tied in that situation, I think, and it’s nice that they didn’t have to worry about it. Plus the home run came off of Johnny Cueto, which is never going to cause a Cardinal fan to shed a tear. Adams had a single as well for a two-hit day, making him a worthy selection.
Goat: Jason Heyward. The only starter without a hit, Heyward seems to have hit the ball well (three of the four at-bats have the word “sharply” listed in the MLB play-by-play) but had nothing to show for it. He also grounded into a double play in the eighth after the Cards had a replay go their way and Grichuk reached base on an error. At the time it was still 2-1, so an insurance run would have been nice.
Notes: Wacha was exactly what we were hoping he’d be after his stellar spring. He allowed a first-inning long ball to Todd Frazier but other than that was completely in control, making it to the seventh before Mike Matheny went to get him. He didn’t strike out batters–he only had two on the night–which could be concerning, given that we traced his low strikeouts last year right before it was announced he was hurt. There’s not enough here to draw that conclusion, though, and Cincy seemed to do pretty well about getting the bat on the ball (well, until Sunday). It was good to see him effective again….Matheny did the Dance of 1000 Relievers as well as Tony La Russa ever did in this one, using five relievers for eight outs. Trevor Rosenthal went 1.2 innings to get the save and has been much less worrisome this year, something Tara and I talked about last night on Gateway to Baseball Heaven.
Sunday (7-5 win in 11)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. Extra-inning home runs tend to get you in this spot. Sure, it was nice that Kevin Gregg, who like Friday’s starter Jason Marquis I can’t believe is still in the big leagues, was in instead of Aroldis Chapman, but it doesn’t matter who you hit them against. They count the same either way. Carpenter also had a big hit in the fifth inning, driving in two to get the Cards on the board and have them take an early lead.
Goat: It was kind of a team effort in the seventh inning to blow the lead, so it’s tough to single out just one of the relief pitchers. I guess I’ll go with Matt Belisle, who was the most immediate culprit, allowing back-to-back RBI hits when one out would have gotten them out of the jam. That said, Belisle did walk into a bases-loaded situation, which is never a comfortable place to be. Seth Maness put those two runners on, but he did get two outs before turning it over to Randy Choate and Belisle. Kevin Siegrist finally had to come in and shut the door, keeping it close enough for the Cards to rally.
Speaking of Choate, he’s faced two batters this season, one on Saturday, one on Sunday. Both times he’s allowed the batter to reach, either by a hit or a walk. Choate’s going to lead the league in YOU HAD ONE JOB comments in 2015, I have a feeling. I know he struggled to start last season and came back to be a much more effective pitcher, so hopefully we’ll see that as well. Still, it’s very frustrating when the LOOGY becomes just a LGY.
Notes: Carlos Martinez showed that he didn’t have any inclination to give up his starting spot, striking out eight and allowing two runs (both solo homers in a ballpark designed for them) over six innings. My hesitation with Martinez has always been is he going to have enough control to go deep in games. While six innings isn’t necessarily a terribly great return on 100 pitches, Martinez’s count was run up by the strikeouts and not walks, of which he had just two. It was a fine outing and I’m looking forward to seeing if he can do it again when he faces the Reds again on Saturday. Will they be able to adjust to him?….Also, major kudos to Peralta for his huge two-run home run that tied the game up. It was another two hit day for Peralta, who is quietly leading the team in hits and had a nice first week, which is a stark contrast to how he started last season, when it was basically long ball or nothing. It’s nice to see him start off as a more productive part of the lineup.
So the first road trip of the season is in the books and the Cardinals are coming home for what is always a civic holiday, the home opener. Very little work will get done in St. Louis today, I imagine, and it would be a wonderful thing to be there for today’s game.
We’ll talk about the matchup in a moment, but first let’s continue on the Cardinal Approval Ratings quickly. Our player today is the catcher, Yadier Molina, who got his first hits of the season this weekend in Cincy. Molina is, of course, one of the faces of the franchise now and likely will be the last to wear #4 in Cardinal history. His reputation among the fans is similarly sterling, as he clocked in at 89.9% this season. That’s actually one of his lowest scores and I expect it’s a function of the one or two that gave all the players terrible marks in a small sample. There’s no reason to think Yadi has slipped much in the eyes of most reasonable folks.
For our media member, we focus on Bernie Miklasz. Bernie hasn’t been on our poll before but it seems to me he’s doing more and more covering the Cardinals nowadays. Sure, he always has and he still is talking about the Blues and Rams as well, but his podcast with Derrick Goold about the Redbirds was a huge addition to last year’s coverage of the Cards. Bernie makes his debut at 82.3%, a fine showing.
We stay in the Ms for our management type and it’s the definition of management as we look at John Mozeliak, the Cardinal GM. Mo has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the smartest general managers in the game and there’s a reason we use the #inmowetrust hashtag often, especially around the trade deadline. That said, things didn’t necessarily go Mo’s way as much last year, what with the Justin Masterson trade being a disaster. Mo comes in at 86.3%, which is hindered by a couple of zero marks, including one by someone who made the comment that he’s an “overrated GM”. Your mileage, of course, may vary. While the 86% is a marked decrease from last year, that’s actually pretty in line with historical trends for the GM, so it’s not the outlier you might expect.
Adam Wainwright gets the rare honor of opening the season and opening the home season as well (when those two things don’t coincide, of course, which they haven’t much lately). As his manager said, “We started off with two cities that don’t really like us a whole lot. We’re going back to a place that loves us.” There will be plenty of love shown Waino today by the red-clad faithful, no matter what the results. However, if Wainwright goes at the Brewers like he did last year, there could be many more reasons to shower affection on him. Wainwright went 3-1 with two complete games (one shutout) and a 2.97 ERA against the Brew Crew last season, limiting them to a .639 OPS. Historically, he’s not done all that badly either.
Of course, you have to watch out for Aramis Ramirez, because the Sith Lord has hit all the Cardinal pitchers basically, but he’s been OK with many of the other big bats. Hopefully he can continue his fine work and make sure today’s a happy day all the way around for the St. Louis faithful.
Milwaukee has had a slow start to the season, going 1-5 in their first six with a sweep by the Rockies and losing two of three to Pittsburgh. They’ve already given up 10 runs in two games and have given up at least five in every one of their losses (their one win, they shut out the Pirates). Matt Garza takes the mound for the Brew Crew, looking to do better than his first start against Colorado, where he allowed four runs in five innings. He can’t even blame the thin air as the game was in Milwaukee. Garza struggled against St. Louis last year, going 0-2 in three starts with a 5.06 ERA. Interestingly enough, he’s never won at Busch Stadium and his ERA is almost 7 there.
Peralta’s hot streak looks to continue today as he seems to love seeing Garza. Interestingly, it’s not a great matchup for Carpenter, though he does have five walks against him. Small sample sizes and all that, but everything seems to be pointing toward St. Louis in this one. Which is usually when the script gets flipped, but let’s hope that’s not the case today. It’s a great day for baseball in St. Louis–but when is it not? Let’s open up the home schedule right!