That’s why they got him, folks.
When Nolan Arenado was acquired for the Colorado Rockies (the team that is 1) still paying him this season and 2) will do so as he goes against them this weekend), as fans we thought he’d do a few things. He’d get key hits. He’d hit big home runs. He’d play amazing defense. Those things haven’t been lacking this season at all, as going into last night he had an OPS of .827 with 15 homers and a handful of web gems, but last night he put it all together and, basically, won a game for the home team.
He walked in the first inning, putting two on for Tyler O’Neill, but nothing came of it. He singled in the third, again setting the stage for TON who wasn’t able to come through. (O’Neill gets the Goat for going 0-4 and leaving four men on, though Paul Goldschmidt gave him a run for the “honor”.) In the fifth, with two outs and Tommy Edman on third (because of Arizona blundering, as he should have been picked off trying to steal second), Arenado hit a drive that not only gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead, it was one of the coolest homers you’ll see.
You don’t see many like that pic.twitter.com/Nc6I5theAS
— Zach Buchanan (@ZHBuchanan) June 30, 2021
Arenado seemed locked in that whole at bat and I honestly expected something like that to happen. The run was coming in one way or another. The man wasn’t done, though. Remember, he’s probably known more for his glove than his bat and that’s saying something given his bat.
With one on and nobody out in the top of the sixth, Arizona looked to make things dicey when Pavin Smith hit basically a swinging bunt down the third base line. That’s dangerous territory, though.
Nolan Arenado #stlfly pic.twitter.com/LfvTNS5WI3
— cardinalsgifs (@cardinalsgifs) June 30, 2021
You can watch it a dozen times and still be trying to figure out how he did that. It was a big play because Carlos Martinez, who was having a good night, could have started to unravel there. Indeed, the next batter, Eduardo Escobar, singled in a run. Without Arenado’s play, it could have been runners at the corners with nobody out and a one-run game. Instead, Martinez was able to retire the next two batters and finish his night with six innings of one-run ball.
This was a big start for Martinez, though it is fair to temper excitement because it’s Arizona. Not that bad teams haven’t gotten to Martinez this year–his last start against the Pirates saw him give up five in five–but Martinez had a quality start against them out in the desert as well, throwing six no-hit innings before stumbling in the seventh. You can discount it some because of the Diamondbacks, but it was still quality work against a big league team and one that was sorely needed for Martinez. He was probably going to make another start anyway, but the clock was ticking. Now, his next start should be in Coors on Sunday, which has a built-in excuse if necessary. The next would be the Cubs in Wrigley the weekend before the All-Star Break. Martinez should stay in the rotation until the break, but two rough outings, combined with what we saw in June, might be enough for a change.
The Cardinals got a two-out rally in the sixth when Edmundo Sosa singled and pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter was hit, the second Cardinal hit by pitch on the night. Maybe things are starting to even out. Given Carpenter’s recent run, a HBP was a gift to St. Louis and Tommy Edman made it pay off by singling in Sosa, making it 3-1. That extra run proved to be key.
With Martinez giving you six, you’d like to think that the bullpen could handle things. Sure, maybe you couldn’t use Giovanny Gallegos since he threw Monday night and had that long at bat against David Peralta running up his pitch count. Genesis Cabrera threw Monday, though only to three batters, and I guess Mike Shildt wanted to get him back out there for a better experience, so he started the seventh. He left five batters later, getting two outs but also loading the bases. Andrew Miller was the choice to come in and he wound up walking in a run (man, have you heard that before from this staff?) but got the final out to leave it at 3-2.
Not wanting to risk the game any further (and, as we’ve noted, they need to do something to help build his innings), Mike Shildt turned to Alex Reyes to get the final six outs. The ninth was no problem, like it often is with Reyes. The eighth made up for it. It wasn’t entirely Reyes’s fault, as the inning started with an error by Sosa, which Reyes compounded with a walk. Josh VanMeter then singled, but the runner didn’t read it correctly and wound up a third instead of scoring. Still, first and third, nobody out.
I told my broadcast partner Allen Medlock that a strikeout, then a double play was coming, but even I was surprised that it actually happened that way. Reyes worked out of the jam perfectly and was understandably fired up about it. The saves don’t necessarily come easy with Reyes, but he’s 19 for 19 so something is working. He’s probably way down the line for consideration for the All-Star Game, but he’s probably the only pitcher that really could be on the list. Even as well as Adam Wainwright has thrown for the Cardinals, he’s not in the same breath as a lot of the starters around the league.
The Cardinals have two wins in a row! However, you might say, they were against Arizona and Arizona is very bad. Plus both games were very close (at least until the big inning on Monday) and both probably turned more on Arizona’s misplays and questionable decisions (for example, Stephen Vogt bunting Christian Walker to third after a leadoff double when they are down by two runs in the seventh). Shouldn’t a team that wants to be a contender dominate a team like this?
It’s tough to dominate another major league team, I think. The Dodgers are very good and they recently swept the Diamondbacks, but only the middle game was a rout. (The final game started out like that but Arizona made a rally to lose 9-8.) The Padres, a team that has done a number of the Cardinals this year, lost to them by nine runs in the series before this and only won the rubber game by a single tally. How you win isn’t as important as that you win and the Cardinals did that. They were also able to make up ground on everyone in the division except Milwaukee, which is starting to pull away from everyone with their seven game winning streak. You take what you get and you don’t throw a fit as the elementary teachers say. A win is a win in the standings.
Hopefully the Cardinals pull out their brooms this afternoon, sweep the Diamondbacks, and they can be on a roll when Nolan goes back to Coors. Won’t that be something to watch?