A sweep in Miami isn’t the craziest thing that you could see from the Cardinals. After all, before last night the Cardinals were 64-36 in Miami since the Marlins came into being in 1993. (Busch has been kinder to the Fish, though they still trail there 56-45.) So it’s not the first sweep, but it might be one of the most unlikely.
Yesterday’s game had a feel of disappointment early on. Jack Flaherty threw a lot of pitches in the first to come away with no runs allowed. The offense sputtered against Pablo Lopez, who gave up only two hits before entering the seventh. Flaherty righted himself, thankfully, but as the game drug on at a scoreless tie, you could almost see one mistake by the Redbirds sending them home with a loss and having to console themselves with the idea they won the series.
Then, as has been the case so many times in his career, Yadier Molina happened.
We continue to wonder when Molina will be ineffective. While the last couple of years the bat has been more league average (or slightly under) and the defense may have slipped a hair, he’s still been more than serviceable, especially considering his age, and still has that knack for coming through in the big moment. This year, though? So far this year either the significant time off in 2020 helped or he followed Daniel Ponce de Leon to his family’s fountain of youth. He’s played 5 1/2 games–which, granted, is a concession. I mean, look at this chart.
|Year||First Day Off/Non CG|
*–left in eighth inning
Anyway, in the first two series, Molina’s gone six for 19. Two of those hits have gone for extra bases, including the one that started this digression. With Matt Carpenter on first due to a walk, Molina took an inside cutter and parked it over the wall, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. The Cardinals would tack on, but a huge weight was lifted off of everyone’s shoulders with that blast. As he has made a tradition of doing, Yadi came through again.
As noted, the Cards did continue to add on, which was good for just the mental side of things, not because they actually needed to do so. Flaherty went six strong, which helped a taxed bullpen catch their breath. Genesis Cabrera looked as good as we’ve seen him this year, I’d say, going two innings and allowing only a single hit. No walks and he only threw 22 pitches to cover that span, striking out two. Jordan Hicks got the ninth and put a couple of runners on, but Justin Williams made a remarkable catch to end the ballgame.
Hicks’s runners would have been in the grand tradition of a Cardinal closer never making it easy except for those extra runs. With two outs in the eighth, Tommy Edman singled, stole second, and came around on Paul Goldschmidt‘s single in a nice display of manufacturing a run out of whole cloth. In the ninth, Zach Pop got wild, walking two around popping John Nogowski in the hand (and I’ve not heard any reports so perhaps he avoided a significant injury, but if he did it’s remarkable). That loaded them up for Dylan Carlson–well, technically they loaded them up for Tyler O’Neill, who struck out. Carlson got down 0-2 and there were probably many a tweet being crafted about the Cardinals again wasting bases loaded situations.
However, one thing that Carlson has figured out this year is how to hit home runs. He only has three hits, but they’ve all gone out of the ballpark, including the one last night that turned the game from 3-0 to 7-0. If nothing else, those should give him some confidence. Other hits will come, I’m sure, but right now we’ll revel in the oddity and the insurance.
Matt Carpenter started again. Given how well he hit the ball on Tuesday, that might not have been a surprise, but continuing to bat him fifth just doesn’t make sense. Granted, the bottom part of the lineup is a general mess right now, but you don’t do Carpenter any favors by putting him in a position where there may be RBI chances. (Unless the idea is that with runners on the pitcher might be forced to pitch differently to Carpenter.) Carp swung through two fastballs in a row in the mid-90s right down the middle of the plate. That’s probably more concerning than any batting average. I expect that Carpenter will start today–there’s a more-than-likely chance it’s his last home opener–but I would hope that 1) it’s lower in the lineup and 2) another weak outing will get Justin Williams back in the lineup. I know that Williams has looked overmatched, though he was able to do better yesterday, not striking out on a two-strike pitch in his first AB and beating out an infield hit in his second, but I would like to see him get a solid run to see what the Cards have in him.
Carpenter’s walk leaves me with little choice but to put Tyler O’Neill in the Goat spot again. I don’t know that I’ve ever put the same guy in this spot three games in a row, so I feel like I’m picking on him. However, O’Neill went 0-4 with three strikeouts last night, giving him a line of 0-12 with seven K during the three games. I know the ball he put into play was hit well but caught, so maybe he’ll come around, but I’m also not sure a day off yesterday wouldn’t have been a good thing. I do think he’ll be out there today, but a mental break wouldn’t be terrible.
The Brewers come to town as today we get all the pageantry of the home opener. It won’t be quite the same, but at least there will be some fans in the stands, the Clydesdales will be making their circuit, and we’ll see some of the Hall of Famers. I wonder if it’ll be weird for Tony La Russa to watch these highlights instead of being there. Even when he was with the front offices of other teams, he could get back to St. Louis. Not so much as the manager of the White Sox.
We also get our first look at Kolten Wong, the Brewer. I’m sure the ovation will be great and I hope he continues to get them until the place is full. There is no doubt in my mind Wong is going to have at least one huge play in this series but it’s still good to see him back. If you want to hear me talk about that and other parts of this series, I was on the most recent Nasty Nine Podcast, which you can find here.
Nothing finer than Opening Day in St. Louis. Let’s hope it’s a winner!