Before we get into the game, yesterday was the first day in 135 days we’ve not had a post here at the blog. Part of me wanted to rush around and get this up then, but having that sort of streak stop is a bit relaxing. We’ll write when we can, but not being beholden to a consecutive series is a good thing.
Speaking of a series, the Cardinals finished one up yesterday but not in successful fashion. Going into the season, I think many of us believed that Dakota Hudson would be the weak link in the rotation. With the return of Carlos Martinez and the New York state of mind of Michael Wacha, Hudson’s repertoire seemed to be the most likely to be hit. There’s concern about Miles Mikolas as well, but not to the level of Hudson. Many people pointed to his elevated walk rate in 2019 and a fairly high WHIP as an indication he may have overperformed last season.
Those fears weren’t allayed yesterday. True, Hudson didn’t walk as many, passing only one in his 4.1 innings of work. The problem with him working in the zone is if his pitches aren’t moving, they are soaring….right over the wall. The Pirates reached him for three runs in the fourth inning (immediately after the Cardinals scored their first and only run, giving us a #RunsGivenBack situation) on two home runs. He gave up seven hits total and while hits are going to come for a groundball pitcher without overwhelming strikeout stuff like Hudson, it’s not a great look to allow almost two runners per inning no matter who you are.
Last year Hudson started off slow and made the adjustments to be a very successful pitcher for the Cardinals the rest of the way. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have quite as much slack this year with the shortened schedule. Austin Gomber, who got into this one and allowed one of Hudson’s inherited runners to score, and Daniel Ponce de Leon are already on the roster, ready to slide into the rotation if necessary. Given that Mike Shildt warmed up Gomber in the second inning on Saturday when Adam Wainwright was struggling, it doesn’t feel like he’s going to be all that patient. If they stick to this rotation, Hudson will go Sunday against the Brewers (though, with an off day in there, they could skip him and move straight to Martinez, saving Hudson for Detroit). You have to wonder if one of the other two long men will be kept in reserve for then to be ready to come in if things start off iffy.
While we’re on the topic of what didn’t work yesterday afternoon, who would have thought that Harrison Bader was the linchpin of this offense? Shildt ran out the exact same lineup he had used the first two games, with the only change being Lane Thomas instead of Bader. An offense that had looked fairly solid the first two games then struggled to do anything, scoring only on a very aggressive run by Kolten Wong on a two-out infield single by Tommy Edman. It was a great, smart play, but that was about it. The Cards had some chances early on as Mitch Keller walked three and had some deep counts, but they weren’t able to do anything with them.
Andrew Miller made his 2020 debut and it looked a lot like the 2019 version–a little good, a little bad. He walked a guy and gave up a hard-hit double off the wall (that Tyler O’Neill couldn’t come up with, though I still don’t know if that made a difference in Josh Bell scoring) but he also struck out a batter and got a weak grounder. Miller’s not going to return to his legendary status, so this sort of mix may be the best we can hope for.
On the positive side, yesterday saw the major league debut for Kodi Whitley and it went as well as you would hope. Whitley threw a perfect inning and struck out the last batter he faced, keeping the Cards in the game. Whitley has been impressing people all the way up the ladder and it’s good to get to see him make an impact on the big league level. The Cards are going to have to reduce the roster by a couple in about a week and a half and it will be interesting to see if Whitley gets enough play and is successful enough for him to stay when that happens.
It’s hard to pick a Hero, but I’m going with Yadier Molina. Yadi had one of the five Cardinal hits, plus he picked a runner off of first (which is such a fun play, one I wrote about for #YadiWeek) and caught a runner stealing the next inning. Molina looks like he’s about 5-7 years younger than he is and you have to figure the months of rest only did him good. Seeing what Yadi comes up with for his season should be a lot of fun.
Off day today, then a matchup with the very powerful Minnesota Twins as we get to talk about the 1987 World Series some more. The Twins put up 14 against the White Sox yesterday and 10 on Opening Day. Hopefully Carlos is on his game, otherwise things could go south in a hurry!