After handling Pittsburgh and Kansas City, at least before the rains came in both series, the Cardinals got their first chance this weekend to see how they’d stack up against what should be the class of the NL Central. They leave Milwaukee on their way to Miami knowing that, at least right now, the Brewers might be as good as them, but they aren’t significantly better.
The Cards were pretty evenly matched against the Brewers. If Adam Wainwright is more in line with the Wainwright we’ve been accustomed to over the past few years, perhaps they are able to take three of four. If Dakota Hudson didn’t put them in an early hole yesterday, they might have had the same result. Even with that early deficit, though, the Cardinals were able to rally to tie and, when they fell behind again, rally against Devin Williams to force him out of the game before they did it again.
As Mike Bauer and I talked about last night on Gateway, this offense is going to play with basically anyone and keep them in a lot of games that past Cardinal teams might have called it a night. Whether the pitching is going to make them play at their top of their game regularly to climb out of holes or hold off an advancing charge from the other team remains to be seen. Every starter except Hudson–who has had two fairly rough outings–has had one good and one bad. “A bit of both” might work for the Guardians of the Galaxy but it’s not the best way to go about having a rotation. You’d like it to be a lot less balanced between the good and the bad.
That said, of course, it’s still early. Wainwright’s going to have an off day here and there, especially if he’s not getting calls around the edges of the strike zone. Miles Mikolas and Steven Matz both rebounded from bad first starts–even if Milwaukee’s offense is somewhat lacking, you’d still say it’s better than Pittsburgh, whom both struggled against. And, of course, we still haven’t seen the fifth starter be the fifth starter. With the rainouts, the Cards have been cautious and Jordan Hicks‘s two appearances so far have come out of the bullpen. Those appearances, which included two innings on Sunday, have been scoreless and effective, which makes you a bit excited about the idea of him finally getting a regular spot and starting to extend out past the two inning mark.
The offense is good, the bullpen is good–not perfect, mind you, but overall very solid with some legitimate heat at the end. If the rotation steps up to the level of the other parts of the team, the next time they see Milwaukee things might not be so even.
Thursday (5-1 loss)
Hero: Tommy Edman. There weren’t a lot of choices in this one, so we’ll go with Edman, whose home run at least avoided a shutout in Milwaukee’s home opener.
Goat: There are a few options, but I think you have to go with Adam Wainwright. It’s a rare game when Wainwright gives up a majority of his runs with two outs in an inning. It might not have mattered, because Brandon Woodruff was on, but if he gets the third out before allowing those two runs in the third, the game might have gone differently. At least it would have felt more competitive.
Notes: Tyler O’Neill went 0-4 and left three on base, so he was in the running for the Goat, as was Dylan Carlson going 0-4 and leaving two on….figures that old friend Kolten Wong would up his game with the Cardinals in town, leading off the bottom of the first with a triple and tacking on another hit later on….a single and a walk by Albert Pujols, making him one of the most productive bats in this one. Maybe there’s a reason Oli Marmol wanted to see him against Woodruff….Drew VerHagen is doing a decent job as a long man but he’s so far unable to escape without some damage. Here, he went 2.2 innings and allowed a run which didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things but it’s worth noting given Sunday.
Friday (10-1 win)
Hero: Nolan Arenado is just on fire to start the season. Two for three, two walks, a home run, and three RBI. That’ll get you in this slot more times than not.
Goat: Dylan Carlson. It’s been a tough stretch for Carlson and here, in the midst of so much offensive production, he went 0-5 and left four men on base, though he did score a run. He went 2-23 this week (.087) and it’s kinda remarkable how well this offense has been going with the top two hitters in the lineup being relatively quiet.
Notes: You have to love seeing a team score four runs in the first when the first two batters of the game are retired….Tommy Edman with homers on back to back days? Maybe the wrong second baseman went to Milwaukee….Lars Nootbaar and Edmundo Sosa finally got into a game. Noot went 0-3 but had two walks and Sosa went two for five. Watching Sosa is going to be interesting because even though Paul DeJong seems to be taking better at bats, the results haven’t quite caught up with him yet….Andrew Knizner with three hits and breaking the record for most starts for a Yadier Molina backup in the first two weeks of the season….one of the great moments in this one was Albert Pujols warming up Miles Mikolas between innings, though it turned out in part because Molina was dealing with soreness….Mikolas allowed one run in 6.2 innings with seven strikeouts, a welcome return to form after his opening stint against the Pirates.
Saturday (2-1 win)
Hero: Steven Matz. With the blister solved, Matz put together more of an outing you’d like to see from the major free agent signing of the winter. He only went 5.2 innings, but he allowed just three hits and no runs while striking out six. Given the thin margin of error, it was a huge outing.
Goat: Paul Goldschmidt. The only Cardinal without a hit, though he only left one on base because every other Cardinal had just one hit and they rarely were strung together.
Notes: The second straight outing that Genesis Cabrera has allowed a home run. His only non-homer outing, he walked two. Hopefully he can find some way of not walking folks but not letting balls leave the yard….you know it’s a team effort when Paul DeJong and Corey Dickerson drive in the only runs….it got a little interesting in the ninth but Giovanny Gallegos got the double play to let the Cards take home the victory.
Sunday (6-5 loss)
Hero: Albert Pujols. His three run blast tied it up after an early deficit and he drew a walk in the eighth inning rally.
Goat: Dakota Hudson. Four runs (three earned) in three innings with two walks. It’s been a rough couple of starts for Hudson but you probably remember that he had an ERA around 6 in April of 2019 and most everyone was saying he needed to return to the minors. He had a 2.99 ERA after that point. Hopefully he, like Paul Goldschmidt, is just a slow starter.
Notes: I may write a bit more about this at the Substack but I found the matchup of Devin Williams versus Pujols pretty intriguing, given that Williams is a St. Louis native….T.J. McFarland walked in a run, which gave 2021 flashbacks, but at least the Brewers returned the favor later….Jordan Hicks continues to dominate these longer relief outings and hopefully he’ll get his actual start sometime this week….Drew VerHagen almost got out of the jam he got himself into in the seventh, but those two runs were very costly….another two-hit day for Nolan Arenado, the only Cardinal with multiple knocks….lineup drew seven walks, though three were off of Williams who had little command.