Given the sloppiness and general disappointment of the home opener, it was nice to see the Redbirds come out and play a couple of stronger games to take the series against the Brewers. Let’s take a look at both games quickly.
Wednesday (4-2 win)
Hero: Matt Holliday. His two-run single in the first put the Cardinals out in front early, something that was nice to see after a lot of come-from-behindness in the first game. That stunned Wily Peralta and likely kept him off his game, as St. Louis had more success with him last night than they did all season last year combined, it felt like.
Goat: Kolten Wong. 0-4 and the only starter not to tally something in the hit column. Wong’s off to a bit of a slow start, though it wouldn’t take much for his season numbers to turn around pretty sharply.
Notes: Yadier Molina went 3-4, quieting concerns about his bat for another day or so. Given his off-season weight loss, the early struggles both offensively and defensively were–and probably still are–being traced to him being much lighter. Bernie Miklasz had a nice article recently that showed Molina tends to have a bit of trouble with early season baserunners before getting to his normal vacuum cleaner levels, so that part of the season is right on target. If the bat is coming around, the weight issue probably will be a footnote fairly soon.
Lance Lynn didn’t have his best game, but he did allow only one run in five innings. He ran some deep counts, though, and was gone after 100 pitches. Which then told us something about Mike Matheny’s opinion on Carlos Villenueva, I believe. With four innings to get and a bullpen that had been used a good bit recently (though, granted, there had been an off day on Tuesday), Matheny used six relievers to finish the job instead of turning to Villenueva for a multiple-inning outing. You wonder if the score had been 6-1 or something of that nature when Lynn left Matheny would have had more confidence in putting him in. Instead, he burned through all the main guys in the pen. I don’t think it was terribly egregious yet, given the off day and some of the other usage, but Matheny’s going to have to be careful not to overwork one or two arms down there.
Trevor Rosenthal allowed his first run of the season and people immediately started asking questions about him. Now, I didn’t see the whole inning, but what I saw didn’t really concern me. The leadoff walk (which I didn’t see) probably got people stirred up, but then he got a ground ball that would have doubled up most people not named Carlos Gomez (and Gomez had to bust it so hard he pulled a hamstring and is now on the DL, so he probably wished he’d just let them get him out). Of course, a wild pitch doesn’t help, but allowing a single to Ryan Braun isn’t unheard of. All in all, Rosenthal worked around some gaffes instead of letting them build like he did last year. I don’t see any reason yet to think that he was returning to the walk-prone, tightrope-walking pitcher of 2014.
Thursday (4-0 win)
Hero: John Lackey. On a day when the bullpen could use some rest, Lackey went seven scoreless, striking out eight and allowing just five hits. Lackey never really was in danger, which was good because it took the offense a while to get going. I saw running across the crawl for MLB Network last night that Lackey had had six starts in Busch since being a Cardinal. The club is 6-0 in those starts and he has an ERA under 2.00. Perhaps we should make sure to juggle the rotation to get him more starts under the Arch?
Goat: I hate to give it to him, but I think I’m going to have to pick Jason Heyward. 0-3, though he did draw a walk. He went fishing hard during his one strikeout, though, and you wonder if he’s pressing at times, trying to get going for his new team. Then again, he’s not the only one on the team with a low .200 average.
Notes: OK, do you remember during the spring when there was a lot of talk about Molina resting, not playing in so many games, getting him out of there whether he liked it or not? Yeah, not so much. The Cards have played eight games and Molina has started all of them. Yesterday, the day game after the night game, would have seemed to be the best time to rest Molina, but it was not to be. Matt Adams has now sat twice against righthanders this season, including yesterday, but Molina can’t get a day on the bench. You’d think he’d probably rest Saturday against the Reds, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.
Not starting Adams against the righthander was a strange (though completely believable, given the whole #BecauseMatheny idea) sight, but Mark Reynolds made the most of it. Two for four with an RBI, putting up a similar line as Matt Carpenter. When you are matching Marp, you are probably having a good day. I guess Matheny wanted to get him in there since Reynolds hadn’t played since he started on Sunday, but so far I have as many at-bats as Tony Cruz does this season. Reynolds knew coming in he wouldn’t start very often, though I guess given the fact the Reds aren’t scheduled to throw any lefties meant yesterday was as good a day as any to put him in there.
Next time someone tries to tell you spring training stats matter, just mention the name Pete Kozma. Kozma was the hottest hitter in the spring, yet has only one at-bat this season and has only made it into two games, including yesterday as a second baseman after a double-switch to start the ninth. Basically, the Cards have a three-man bench right now in Randal Grichuk, Reynolds and Peter Bourjos, and Bourjos just has two AB, though he’s appeared in five games. I’m not sure when or where you’d have used Kozma, given that Jhonny Peralta is one of the better hitters on the team right now, but it seems in the early going there’s not been much attempt to mix in those bench guys. Of course, with the various off days and the rainout, it’s not like the starters have been overtaxed, so it’s a fine line to walk. I’m not saying Matheny is wrong in how he’s deploying folks, just that it’s worth noting.
Tonight, 70 means something more than Mark McGwire’s homers or Tyler Lyons’s number. 70 years ago, Red Schoendienst put on a Cardinal uniform for the first time. Save for those few misguided years in New York and Milwaukee, he’s never taken it off since. At 92, Red still looks like he could take some grounders and it’s great that he’s still so involved in the organization. He was often overshadowed by his good friend Stan Musial, but with Musial’s passing it allows us to show some appreciation to a guy that has given so much to the organization. Here’s to you, Red!
Perhaps fittingly, it’s all Red tonight as Cincinnati comes in to take on the Cardinals. Which means we have to see Kickin’ Johnny Cueto again. Cueto has started two games, allowed a total of one earned run, and has a 0-1 record to show for it. St. Louis, of course, pinned that loss on him on Saturday, though they just scraped by to do so. Four hits in seven innings isn’t usually going to win you a ball game.
Adams should be starting this one, of course. For as much trouble as the Cards seem to have against Cueto, there are some good numbers there. Then again, it was pointed out on MLB.com’s preview that Cueto has a 5.80 ERA in Busch Stadium, so maybe that’s why and perhaps that trend will continue tonight.
Michael Wacha makes his second start of the season, his second start against the Reds, and his second start against Cueto. If it wasn’t for the location you’d forgive him for thinking perhaps he’d replaced Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Then again, being that he went 6.1 innings and allowed just one run against them last time, perhaps he wouldn’t mind reliving that start over and over.
Zack Cozart is the only one that’s had significant success against Wacha, though obviously Joey Votto is always a threat. Odds are it’s going to be another fun, low-scoring affair tonight. Hopefully the Cards come out on the winning side!