Oakland wasn’t in town last night but boy, did the As come to play.
First there was, as there has been every game so far, Nolan Arenado. Arenado wasted no time getting what turned out to be a rich #bombsaway game started by crushing a two-run homer in the first inning. That gives him three on the year, tying him for the major league lead with Byron Buxton and new Cubbie Seiya Suzuki. He also is the first Cardinal to have an extra-base hit in each of his first four games since Mark McGwire in 1998–you may remember that year (or, depressingly for me, you may have just read about it). Arenado said regularly this offseason that he wasn’t content with what he did last year offensively, which most all of us found pretty, pretty good, and he’s definitely doing his best to make sure he improves in his second year in St. Louis.
Then there was Andrew Knizner. The fact that he played last night, after a rainout meant that Yadier Molina had had two days off in the last five, seems to confirm the team’s commitment for him to play more often this season. In past years, even last year, a situation like that would have meant Molina was in the game, especially during the opening week. Oli Marmol stuck to his plan, though, and Knizner rewarded him with the three-run homer that turned out to be the game winner. He also drew a walk so his first playing time of the season was a rousing success and should only enforce the idea he should get more time.
Finally, there was our Hero. For the first time (as far as I can tell) since September 20, 2011, Albert Pujols is our Hero of the night. Getting his first home run in his return was a great moment, especially going back-to-back with Arenado, who has made no secret of his admiration of the legend, would have been enough to get him into consideration. However, he tacked on two more hits and came around to score on Knizner’s homer. Add in the fact that he called his shot before the game and there’s no doubt who gets top billing here.
Tommy Edman–who doesn’t really fit the A theme but whatever–had two hits, including one right before Knizner’s home run. It was nice to see Marmol shuffle the lineup based on the fact that a lefty was on the mound. Edman moved up to sixth because of his success against people that throw from that side. With Zack Greinke out there today, he’ll probably return to his spot at the bottom of the lineup. That is, unless Edmundo Sosa gets a shot today. Sosa and Lars Nootbaar (who I could have sworn had gotten in, so I must be thinking of one of the last spring games) should get a chance today to get their first ABs of the season if there is a game. If not, we’ll see if they do on Thursday.
For the Goat, there were a few options. Paul Goldschmidt went hitless, though he walked a couple of times. Genesis Cabrera didn’t walk anyone but allowed a home run that made it 6-5. However, I think I’ll go with Harrison Bader, who went 0-4 and stranded four on base. Bader had two hits on Opening Day but only one since then. Not that three games really says anything.
Also, who had Nick Wittgren being this year’s Matt Bowman? Wittgren, who was for me a bit of an afterthought, coming on the heels of the Drew VerHagen signing, has pitched in three of the four games this season. He ran into his first bit of trouble in this one, allowing a walk, two hits, and a run. I’m not questioning Marmol’s selection, just surprised that Wittgren was able to make himself that trusted that quickly. I’m sure they want VerHagen to pitch in a spot with multiple innings, but at some point you just have to get him out there. It might be a focus today if it wasn’t for the fact Adam Wainwright is pitching and there likely will be less need for the bullpen.
Afternoon game at Busch, assuming the weather holds. Right now that doesn’t look like a good bet as there are strong chances of rain and storms from 11 AM to 6 PM. With the Cardinals needing to get to Milwaukee for tomorrow afternoon’s tilt with the Brewers, they may not want to play a game at 7 or 8 PM this evening, assuming the grounds crew can even get it playable. Good likelihood the game gets banged, which denies us a Greinke/Salvador Perez vs. Wainwright/Molina matchup but does put Waino against the Brewers which would mean more for the division race. We’ll see what happens!