Around the seventh inning last night, I said to myself, “I’m not sure who will get the Hero tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure Nolan will be the Goat.” He’d just struck out for the third time and in a night that looked like whichever team scored first was going to win, those strikeouts hurt, most notably the one in the first inning with runners on first and third with one out.
Redemption can come quickly, though.
Our Hero from last night is Nolan Arenado because when you save the best for last, it tends to wipe out everything that’s gone before. Arenado made contact against Anthony Bender after Tyler O’Neill walked and the ball just had enough to get out, first glancing off of Jorge Soler‘s glove, then the padding of the wall before bouncing over. That counts just as much as one that reaches the upper deck and it came at just the right moment. The two run lead gave Giovanny Gallegos a little padding for the bottom of the frame, padding that made the bloop hit and questionable walk a little less nerve-wracking.
Tuesday night was the first game this season that Arenado had not gotten a hit and he was 0-7 in Miami until his at bat in the ninth inning. Baseball-Reference has him at 1.2 WAR already and, barring some sudden change, it seems likely that we’ll see Arenado return to the levels that got him MVP votes when he was in Colorado. I know that he wasn’t happy with last year but I thought he was pretty darn good his first year in a Cardinal uniform. That very well may have just been a taste of things to come, much like Paul Goldschmidt‘s first year in Cardinal red was worse than the next two.
Before Arenado’s ball cleared the wall, Tommy Edman was probably in line for a Hero tag. Edman had two hits, half of what the team had up until the ninth. He had a stolen base as well, though grounding into a double play in the eighth didn’t help much. Dylan Carlson, as we discussed in yesterday’s post, got a much-needed day off and Edman moved up to the top spot. I don’t think it’s fair to pair that with the fact that this was the longest the Cards have been shut out this season but I also think that doesn’t give Oli Marmol any motivation to leave Edman there long-term.
The biggest reason that the Cardinals were scoreless was a former Cardinal. You know Sandy Alcantara would probably like to beat his old team and he always pitches like he does (though he’s a good pitcher against everyone). He has a career ERA after last night against St. Louis of 0.99 in four starts. Four starts, in which he’s averaged close to seven innings a start. What’s his record? 0-3. The last two times have been possibly the most painful, as he faced them last June and threw eight scoreless before giving up a walkoff single to Yadier Molina in the ninth, then throwing eight scoreless innings last night before watching his bullpen let it slip away. It’s a crazy quirk but as long as the Cardinals keep winning, I’m fine with it!
Another good start by Miles Mikolas. Marmol didn’t waste time getting him when he put a runner on to start the sixth, mainly because Mikolas was already at 86 pitches. He didn’t walk any and struck out five, but there were some long counts. In fairness, the strike zone was a little tight and somewhat inconsistent, though both teams benefited at times. I know the Cardinals got a late strikeout that probably should have been a walk. Anyway, Mikolas following up his great start against the Brewers makes you feel better about relying on him. If he stays healthy, and right now there’s no particular reason to think he won’t, he should give the club some solid innings and when the lineup is clicking, that’s all they need.
I was very interested to see Marmol turn to Andre Pallente to replace Mikolas. It’s a scoreless game and there’s a runner on but the manager didn’t hesitate to go with the rookie. Pallente performed admirably and I imagine his stock continues to rise. He probably still goes down when rosters contract in May, but only because he needs to get more innings. He’ll get back into the rotation at Memphis and be an option if injury or other need requires a starter.
For our Goat, let’s go with former Marlin Corey Dickerson. Dickerson went 0-4, leaving two men on in the process. Dickerson still seems to be trying to get his feet underneath him. He’s driven in three in his 17 plate appearances, but he’s not had a real standout moment. The Cards signed him to just the one year and it’s possible at some point that they’ll be forced to cut ties to clear room for Nolan Gorman or Juan Yepez, but that time is still a long way off.
Jordan Hicks finally gets his start tonight as the Cardinals go for the sweep. I believe the plan is three innings for Hicks and if he’s as effective as he’s been in his relief outings this year, he’ll probably be able to get there. Should be fun!