You know, I can really get behind this new idea the Cardinals have of sweeping their weekend series. First Cincinnati, then the Pirates, and now Colorado. If they can do it next weekend against the Padres at Petco, that’d be great.
It was a series with some very different paths to the same results, though. Friday night was the game that was comfortable, Saturday the close high scoring game, Sunday the tight well-pitched game. It doesn’t matter how you get there, though, what matters is you get there and, with yet another sweep, the Cardinals have now gotten to some lofty heights. They are two games clear in the NL Central and have, by half a game, the best record in the National League. I don’t know how long that latter statistic will last, especially since I think the Dodgers are going to eventually come out of the tailspin they are in, but it’s nice to look at it while it exists.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable weekend. We’ll get into the games here in a bit, but there is one issue that I felt we probably should address in more detail. Before Saturday’s game, I saw a couple of folks, most notably joshisnothome, suggesting that Andrew Knizner was better for Carlos Martinez than Yadier Molina. It’s a radical statement to say in any situation there’s a catcher that is a better choice than Yadi, but I’m wondering if there’s not some merit to it, in one aspect or another at least.
On April 16, Martinez gave up six runs to the Philadelphia Phillies. While his defense played a part in that, that raised his season ERA to 7.80 and he had 10 strikeouts in 15 innings in three 2021 starts. That was the last game Molina caught before going on the injured list. Martinez then made three starts with Knizner behind the plate and posted a 0.84 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. Molina returned this weekend, as we all know, and Saturday Martinez threw to him. The results? Five runs in five innings, much more in line with the three starts Molina had with him than what Knizner had.
Both catchers had some weaker opponents and some stronger ones. The most notable comparison might be Philadelphia, as Martinez faced them twice, once with each catcher.
Again, that first game against the Phillies did have some defensive miscues that didn’t show up as errors but that’s a striking change in just a couple of weeks. I honestly don’t know if it means anything, but it’s something to ponder. Maybe someone better than I can go back through the footage and see if Martinez shakes of Knizner more, meaning he’s more comfortable calling his own game or injecting his own opinion on the rookie backstop than the Hall of Fame one. Perhaps Yadi has fallen into the trap of trying to get Martinez to pitch as he used to instead of what’s better for him now, years and a COVID battle away from him being a regular effective starter. Or maybe it’s just a small sample that doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s striking nonetheless. If the Cardinals wanted to continue to get Knizner regular playing time, they could do worse than making him at least somewhat a personal caddy for Martinez. Maybe Yadi still catches him 20% of the time, but letting Knizner have the bulk of Martinez starts would keep Molina rested, something that is obviously beneficial, while letting Knizner be more than a typical Molina backup.
Can we also talk about this a little bit?
Arenado’s message to Pujols got us feeling some type of way
— Starting 9 (@Starting9) May 8, 2021
Beyond the obvious, which is this is extremely cool, perhaps this is an opportunity for the Cardinals. I discussed this some with Tara last night on Gateway, but bringing back Albert Pujols (beyond all the fan aspects of the move) would also let Nolan Arenado see what history means in St. Louis. It would let him know how legendary players are treated by the organization. (To be fair, he also probably noted that Matt Adams got standing ovations this weekend, so it’s not just legendary players.) Bringing in Albert, even if it’s just for the end of the season, would allow Arenado to play with his favorite player for a bit and, while I really don’t think he’s going to exercise either one of his opt-out clauses, the fact that they are there needs to be continually addressed. Something like this would go a long way to cementing #28 in Cardinal red.
Friday (5-0 win)
Hero: Jack Flaherty. Seven scoreless innings with just three hits would typically be enough for this spot. Jack Flaherty doesn’t believe in just doing enough.
Goat: Paul DeJong. Watching the broadcast, Dan McLaughlin and Jim Edmonds talked about how DeJong was looking better at the plate, etc. As he went 0-4 with two strikeouts. (In fairness, he was hitting .273 with two homers in the six games before this one, so they weren’t necessarily wrong.)
Notes: Dylan Carlson continues to be a very good complement to Tommy Edman at the top of the lineup, with two hits in this one. Since he moved to the second spot (and through Sunday) he’s hitting .344/.388/.410. He only has four doubles and no homers in those 67 plate appearances, which would indicate to me he’s changed his approach to be a table setter instead of a run producer. If he can figure a way to balance the two, he’ll be amazing….Nolan Arenado had a double against Austin Gomber then came around to score the first run of the game on Harrison Bader‘s home run….Bader continues to be a force in the limited times he’s seen a lefty….Ryan Helsley and Genesis Cabrera came in for two solid innings after Flaherty left, with Cabrera getting two strikeouts and allowing the only hit….good to see Gomber back in Busch, though I’m sure he will never be able to live down Flaherty’s homer.
Saturday (9-8 win)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. Three hits, including a mammoth home run that immediately restore the Cardinals lead after the Rockies had come back from down 5-1 to tie things up.
Goat: Carlos Martinez. No matter who is behind the plate, giving up a 5-1 lead, especially doing it in part due to five walks, isn’t exactly a great idea.
Notes: Martinez wasn’t the only pitcher with a rough day. Giovanny Gallegos allowed two runs (well, was charged with two, as Alex Reyes allowed one of his inherited runners to score) in 1.1 innings. Those were the first runs Gallegos had on his record since April 20, seven appearances ago, so I think we can just chalk it up to an off day. The problem with a pitcher like Gallegos, who comes into key situations, is that an off day can prove fatal to win chances….Alex Reyes had a dominant ninth, striking out the side. However, he came into the game in the eighth, where he walked the first batter he faced (Trevor Story, which, OK) and allowed a single to Charlie Blackmon that plated two….Paul DeJong had two hits and walked twice while not striking out once and stole two bases. That might be the best all around game he’s ever had as a Cardinal….every Cardinal starting position player had at least one hit.
Sunday (2-0 win)
Hero: Adam Wainwright. 8 1/3 scoreless innings is always impressive from Uncle Charlie. We might wonder about how Martinez and Yadier Molina mesh, but there’s no doubt the melding of Waino and Yadi is a wonder to behold.
Goat: It almost was Mike Shildt here, except the rules don’t allow it and things worked out. Still, letting Wainwright start the ninth at 99 pitches was probably defensible. Leaving him in after he gave up a single was less so. Anyway, Tommy Edman went 0-4 so we’ll go with him. Paul DeJong also went 0-4, but you know we have that leadoff-man-breaks-ties informal rule. Besides, it’s a rare day when Edman doesn’t get on base.
Notes: Nolan Arenado gave the Cardinals all the runs they wound up needing with a home run in the first. You knew at some point he was going to get his former team that way….Ryan Helsley got put in a very high leverage moment and, after walking the first man he faced, got the double play that got him his second career save….two hits and an insurance RBI from Yadier Molina, who I’m still very surprised took 11 days to come back instead of the minimum 10.