A Great First Step

Yesterday, we said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  We might have just seen one of 162 games, but that first step was a doozy in a great way.

I mean, what was there not to like?  The Cardinals scored six runs in the first inning, meaning that already On The Run is providing cheap drinks.  The game got a little tense for the fact they had such a lead, but they didn’t stop scoring in the first.  Two outfielders had home runs.  The new star had two hits and an RBI.  Everything went great except for the category we normally expect to dominate, the starting pitching.

We’ll get to the downside in a minute (and even that comes with a caveat) but let’s look at what was great about the game.  We have to start with Hero Paul Goldschmidt, who started his season with a home run, then had that downgraded to a double.  Unsurprisingly, he didn’t let that faze him, tacking on three more hits, scoring three runs, and driving in one.  Batting second may limit his RBI chances but early returns are good on it sparking the offense.  He also made a fine stop of a line drive later in the game which helped things stay comfortable.  Now, to be fair, we can’t assume a regular Goldschmidt year from just this (remember his three home run game in his second game as a Cardinal didn’t lead to such a season) but you have to like what you saw.

Nolan Arenado got an infield hit in his first official Cardinal at bat, drove in a run with a base hit in his second, and should have been able to drive in a run with a hit in his third had not Nick Senzel robbed him of it.  (That dive took Senzel out of the game, though it looks like it shouldn’t be a lingering injury.)  He struck out his last two times, one on a borderline pitch, and I don’t remember anything more than routine plays at third, but I’d say his debut was a success.

Dylan Carlson smacked a three-run homer off the foul pole in the first, capping the serious inning.  Tyler O’Neill got a hanging breaking pitch in the middle of the zone and smoked it for a two-run shot that capped the scoring in the fourth.  The offense wasn’t completely rolling–Tommy Edman‘s only hit was of the infield variety and Justin Williams went 0-4 at the other end–but not everyone is going to click on the same day.  If you can have half your lineup with good days, chances are you are going to win.

It needs to be said, though, that this game would have been a lot different had the Reds played a cleaner game.  Most shortstops turn Yadier Molina‘s grounder with the bases loaded into a double play that would have ended the top of the first with the score 1-0.  Instead, the Eugenio Suarez experiment failed its first test as he completely whiffed on it, letting two score and letting Carlson then bat.  A bad throw by Suarez led to the seventh run as well.  Luis Castillo, who had an uncharacteristically bad start, threw a wild pitch to let another run score.  Some of the best offense was the Reds defense.

That doesn’t even account for the generous gift the Reds gave the Cardinals on the basepaths.  In the sixth, Ryan Helsley had loaded the bases with three singles in four batters.  Nick Castellanos, who had a great day with a homer among his three hits, lifted a fly ball to O’Neill that wasn’t particularly difficult nor did it ever appear that it wasn’t going to be caught.  It looked like a sacrifice fly that would cut the lead to four, but for some reason Tyler Stephenson, who was on second, had taken off with contact and was almost at third base when the ball was caught, allowing for an easy double play.  It was cold enough yesterday in Cincinnati but not so cold players should have had that kind of brain freeze.

Helsley didn’t look sharp but the rest of the bullpen did.  Tyler Webb let an inherited runner score but otherwise quelled a Reds rally.  Genesis Cabrera walked two batters but didn’t allow a hit.  Giovanny Gallegos struck out two in a perfect frame (and got the win for his efforts).  Alex Reyes made it a little interesting in the ninth with a hit and a walk but also struck out Aristides Aquino to end the game.

The only pitching problem came from our Goat, Jack Flaherty, and even that has some qualifiers.  Flaherty was handed a six run lead before he even took the mound and that led to him, by his admission, being more aggressive than perhaps he would have been in a different situation.  He gave up six hits but only the last one, by Joey Votto, was a single.  Through four he’d given up three solo homers but had four strikeouts.  He seemed to labor in the fifth, perhaps running out of gas as he closed in on 100 pitches.  He pitched longer than any other starter in the NL Central yesterday, so maybe that was part of it.  Still, you hate to see him give up six runs, even when the game seems well in hand, because in Great American Ball Park, the game is never well in hand.

On the broadcasting front, I really liked the new look that Bally Sports had.  The picture seemed uncluttered to me and I liked that they used part of the bar for various stats at times as well as other information (how the batter had done in the game, who was in the booth, other scores).  I’m not going to be thrilled once the inevitable gambling information starts showing up but for right now it’s a good looking broadcast.

The Cardinals are now tied with the Pirates for the NL Central lead and have the chance to go wire-to-wire.  Let’s hope that’s the case!  Getting the season started with a win like that was a lot of fun and will have to get us through the off day.  They pick it up again Saturday afternoon against the Reds with Adam Wainwright going against Tyler Mahle.  What’s more fun than one win to start the season?  Two in a row!

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