So If I was superstitious or egotistical, I’d say that the Cardinals terrible work in 2023 was my fault.
After all, once the season started my ability to watch the Cardinals went away, since I dropped DirecTV Stream and I’m in the blackout area for MLB.tv. I’ve also written one entire post for this season, falling way behind on Heroes and Goats and just general commentary. (In fairness, the Substack has had a couple of posts since I’ve written here, but still.) Perhaps it’s all my fault that the first month of the season was historically bad.
And if you believe that, you think that Kyle Reis is a man of decorum.
It’s not my fault the club sits 12th in OPS after being touted as one of the best offenses in the league and one of the better collection of Cardinals bats in the past 25 years. We probably expected them to be comparable with the Toronto Blue Jays in power, but I don’t think we expected to be tied with them for 17th overall with almost half of the leader (Tampa Bay is crushing the ball, ’tis true.) We knew the pitching staff wasn’t as great but I don’t think you can lay that 4.45 ERA on me. That’s mainly on the starters, who have a 4.94 mark, but the relievers have had their own issues, as they have converted just four of nine save opportunities.
The list of players that are meeting or exceeding expectations (Paul Goldschmidt, Giovanny Gallegos, Willson Contreras, Jordan Montgomery) is overwhelmed by the ones that aren’t (Nolan Arenado, Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, Ryan Helsley, Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, etc.). Trying to find anything that is working for the Cardinals is like me trying to read without these bifocals. You’re going to have to really squint and look hard. The offense has sputtered–11% of their total runs on the season came in one game against the Diamondbacks and after scoring nine twice in the first series against the Jays, they’ve averaged 3.9 since and that’s with that big explosion. The starters have, on the whole, not gone deep and have given up a lot of runs. The relievers have cracked in key moments. The defense has failed. It’s been really, really bad.
But I wonder if it’s not about to get better.
It seems in baseball that about the time the story gets big, it ends. A hitting streak reaches 20 games and gets people to take notice, then ends the next day. A team wins 10 in a row and it’s all people can talk about, then it loses. A team looks like it’s going to be historically bad, only to win a few games and take that off the table.
I’m not saying that this season is going to completely turn around but I think there’s a chance we start to see them climb out of this hole starting as early as tonight. It was a terrible April, about as bad as you can imagine, so May has to be better. The calendar has turned plus there was an off day that allowed players to reset, come home (the first off day they’ve been able to spend in St. Louis), and maybe relax a bit. I think the 0-9 in openers ends tonight (with a couple of #bombsaway homers), the Cards win two of three from the Angels, and a weight is lifted off this team.
The roster changes that happen should help as well. Adam Wainwright‘s going to replace Jake Woodford and while it’s reasonable to be concerned about how Waino’s stuff is going to play in the big leagues, it’s not like he has huge shoes to fill. I also think there will be some sort of roster move announced today, whether it’s getting rid of Taylor Motter…again….and promoting Juan Yepez or sending Matz to the bullpen, shifting everyone up a day, and bringing up Matthew Liberatore. I don’t think the club allows this break to go by without some sort of change.
Of course, I could be completely wrong on all counts, the Cards run it to 0-10 with a loss tonight and staring down the prospect of Shohei Ohtani on the mound Wednesday and the spiral continues. It could go that way. I just don’t think it will.
We’ll recap the games below, though it may take me a few days to catch it all, so if you are interested in the Heroes/Goats, keep checking back!
Monday, April 10: 7-4 loss at Colorado
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. Two hits, two RBI. Also a walk and a run scored. Goldy’s keeping up with last year’s version of himself so far this year.
Goat: Steven Matz. Nine hits and six runs in 5.2 innings. The fact that he almost made it through six was a small victory the way the staff was going back then.
Notes: Alec Burleson with a triple isn’t something you can say most any other place….Nolan Arenado went 0-4 with three left on in an early indication that not everything was going well for him….six hits in Coors Field is almost like a no-hitter.
Tuesday, April 11: 9-6 win at Colorado
Hero: Nolan Arenado. His bases-loaded double tied the game at 6 in the 7th after it looked like it was another dreary night for the Cards.
Goat; Miles Mikolas. The Cardinals should never again pitch him in Coors Field. Six runs in five innings after he allowed 10 runs there last year.
Notes: Nolan Gorman gave the Cards the lead with a pinch-hit home run in the ninth….Tommy Edman went yard in the first as one of his three hits on the night and Juan Yepez (remember when he was around?) went deep in the third….the bullpen was outstanding, with Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos, and Ryan Helsley throwing three scoreless….if the Cards hadn’t rallied in this game, they’d have ended April with the worst record in the NL.
Wednesday, April 12: 7-4 win at Colorado
Hero: Jack Flaherty. After the first two games, having a pitcher allow only two runs (one unearned) in five-plus innings was a delight.
Goat: Drew VerHagen. He started the season strong but here allowed two hits and a walk in a third of an inning. Andre Pallente allowed one of them to score but still, not a great outing (and a sign of things to come).
Notes: A day game in Colorado led to some long balls, as Tyler O’Neill, Nolan Arenado, and Nolan Gorman all went deep….O’Neill and Paul Goldschmidt were the only batters with two hits, however….Ryan Helsley was used in back-to-back games, something that didn’t happen often in 2022, with good results both times.
Thursday, April 13: 5-0 loss vs. Pittsburgh
Hero: Jordan Montgomery. At this rate, Montgomery’s going to be glad he didn’t sign an extension. Two runs in 6.1 innings should get you a better result.
Goat: Nolan Gorman. He did draw a walk, but he struck out twice in going 0-3 and stranding five runners.
Friday, April 14: 3-0 win vs. Pittsburgh
Hero: Willson Contreras. We were recording Meet Me at Musial while this game was going on and after talking about Contreras’s struggles in the early going, it was gratifying to see him come through with a big hit, driving in the first run of the game for the Cards in the sixth.
Goat: Tyler O’Neill. 0-4 is rough enough but leaving 7 on base in a tight game is very unpleasant.
Notes: Nolan Gorman went 3-4 and provided some insurance by driving in two in the eighth….Nolan Arenado went 3-3 and scored twice….a good start (so far, the only one really) from Jake Woodford, who went 5.1 and didn’t allow a run, though he scattered seven hits….Zack Thompson struck out four of the five outs he recorded.
Saturday, April 15: 6-3 loss vs. Pittsburgh (10 innings)
Hero: Brendan Donovan. Three hits and a walk from the leadoff spot.
Goat: Jordan Hicks. With no one else available for the 10th, Hicks was tapped and allowed three runs while recording just one out before Genesis Cabrera had to come stop the bleeding.
Notes: A better outing by Steven Matz, but he still walked five in just under six innings….Ryan Helsley gave up a run-scoring double to the first batter he faced, but it’s not the last save he’s blow in 2023….Nolan Arenado struck out four times in his 0-5 day and left eight men on base, so it’s fair to say he could have been the Goat instead.
Sunday, April 16: 5-4 win vs. Pittsburgh (10 innings)
Hero: Tommy Edman. Coming through with the bases loaded and two outs in extras seemed to be a spark for the club. It wasn’t, but it made for a good afternoon.
Goat: Andre Pallante. Again, he allowed an inherited runner to score, this time putting the Pirates on top. He also walked two batters in his inning of work.
Notes: Nolan Gorman also spared the club from a series loss, doubling in the first run in the 10th to tie things back up….Gorman, Edman, Nolan Arenado, and Willson Contreras with multiple hits….Miles Mikolas started to come around here, going 5.2 and allowing three runs (two earned) after Pallante couldn’t help him out….turned out splitting with the Pirates wasn’t as ignominious as we though.
Monday, April 17: 6-3 loss vs. Arizona
Hero: Alec Burleson. His two-run homer in the eighth cut the deficit and made it at least reasonable to hope for a rally.
Goat: Andre Pallante. Some of the runners were Jack Flaherty’s, but giving up a grand slam as a reliever is almost always going to have you here.
Notes: Flaherty was sharp until the seventh, when he allowed a home run to start the inning to break the 1-1 tie, then followed that up with a double and a walk….if he’s not started that inning he’d have given up one run in six with four strikeouts and two walks, which would have been fine given the state of the rotation….Willson Contreras was the only one with multiple hits and drove in the tying run in the sixth before the meltdown.
Tuesday, April 18: 8-7 loss vs. Arizona
Hero: Willson Contreras. His first two homers as a Cardinal, including one in the ninth to get the Cards so close.
Goat: Jordan Montgomery. Every pitcher has a clunker and this one was Monty’s. Seven runs in four innings is hard to come back from.
Notes: Jordan Hicks threw in the ninth with the Diamondbacks comfortably in front and struck out the side, which was good to see….Tyler O’Neill had two hits and two walks….Paul Goldschmidt continues to torment his former team.
Wednesday, April 19: 14-5 win vs. Arizona
Hero: Tommy Edman. Three for five with a double, a triple, a homer, and 5 RBI. I think that’s good.
Goat: Nolan Arenado. With a booming offense, the third baseman went 0-4 and left three men on, though he scored a run.
Notes: Two hits for Dylan Carlson, including a double, and 2 RBI….Jordan Walker with a couple of hits as well….only Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt went hitless….grand slam by Nolan Gorman capped the Cardinal scoring….Jake Woodford’s four runs in five innings goes down better when the Cards score 10 in that span.
Friday, April 21: 5-2 loss at Seattle
Hero: Jordan Walker. His two-run double was the only time the Cards dented the scoreboard.
Goat: Brendan Donovan. 0-4 from the leadoff spot.
Notes: After the rousing game Wednesday, the entire team managed three hits….you know your season is going bad when four runs in 5.1 innings doesn’t get you the Goat because “what else can we expect from Steven Matz”. Plus he did have seven strikeouts….Drew VerHagen allowed both inherited runners to score and gave up one of his own.
Saturday, April 22: 5-4 loss at Seattle
Hero: Tommy Edman. 2-4 with a homer in the ninth.
Goat: Tyler O’Neill. 0-4 with two strikeouts and four left on.
Notes: Zack Thompson and Giovanny Gallegos combined to let the game get away in the fourth, when Gallegos gave up a two-out single that brought in both of Thompson’s runners….two hits for Alec Burleson and Willson Contreras….Miles Mikolas continued to get closer to form, allowing three runs in 5.1 innings.
Sunday, April 23: 7-3 win at Seattle
Hero: Paul DeJong. Three hits, including a home run, in his first game back in the big leagues.
Goat: Nolan Arenado. A good day all around makes for a hard choice but the third baseman only had one hit, two strikeouts, and left three on.
Notes: Three hits for Lars Nootbaar, including a leadoff homer….two hits for Nolan Gorman, who had a three run homer….Jack Flaherty looked pretty good, striking out nine but giving up three in six innings. These days, you take the quality start….Ryan Helsley came in to the seventh to kill a rally, then pitched the eighth as well.
Monday, April 24: 4-0 loss at San Francisco
Hero: Jordan Montgomery. Only one unearned run allowed in six frames, striking out six and getting nothing to show for it.
Goat: Drew VerHagen. One inning, three runs. Given the way the Cards are going, that basically put it out of reach.
Notes: Another good outing for Jordan Hicks, though in a low-leverage spot….Brendan Donovan with two hits, the only Cardinal to have more than one….Alex Cobb went the distance for the shutout, which is never a good thing to see against you, especially in this day and age.
Tuesday, April 25: 5-4 loss at San Francisco
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. Two for four with two runs driven in.
Goat; Ryan Helsley. This should have been a slam dunk. Two run lead, non-fastball hitter, flamethrowing closer. Instead, Helsley never threw a fastball and gave up a walkoff.
Notes: Tommy Edman homered in the third to tie the game….Tyler O’Neill had a pinch-hit RBI double and scored a run as well….Willson Contreras and Dylan Carlson had a couple of hits each….a passable game from Jake Woodford, allowing two runs in 5.1 innings with four strikeouts.
Wednesday, April 26: 7-3 loss at San Francisco
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. Two homers as part of a 4-5 night. Unfortunately, all for naught.
Goat: Zack Thompson. Two runs in the seventh on two hits and two walks.
Notes: Thompson and Chris Stratton both allowed two runs in their relief work, ruining the efforts of Goldy….Paul DeJong had two doubles….Lars Nootbaar went 0-4 with three left on in the leadoff spot while Nolan Arenado went 0-4 with two strikeouts and four left on.
Thursday, April 27: 6-0 win at San Francisco
Hero: Miles Mikolas. Much more in line with what we’ve come to expect from the mustachioed one. Six and a third, no runs, six strikeouts.
Goat: Paul Goldschmidt. The only batter without a hit, he went 0-4 but still drove in a run.
Notes: Paul DeJong with another two hit game, this time including a home run….two hits for Lars Nootbaar and Tommy Edman as well….low leverage but finally a bounce-back outing for Drew VerHagen, who threw a scoreless frame with two strikeouts.
Friday, April 28: 7-3 loss at Los Angeles (Dodgers)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. Two hits and a run. Ho hum.
Goat: Jack Flaherty. Just when you start to think he’s got it, it’s another step back. Five runs (four earned) in 4.2 innings, though he did pile up seven strikeouts.
Notes: Same old same old as the Cards drop to 0-9 in series opening games in 2023….Brendan Donovan also had two hits, as he seems to often do….Paul DeJong struck out three times but walked once.
Saturday, April 29: 1-0 loss at Los Angeles (Dodgers)
Hero: Jordan Montgomery. Where would they be without him? (Well, probably in the same spot since they can’t seem to win his games either.) 6.2 innings, one run, seven strikeouts.
Goat: Tyler O’Neill. Three strikeouts and a man left on.
Notes: Jordan Hicks came into his highest leverage situation in a while and struck out Mookie Betts to end a threat, then struck out two more (and walked a batter) in the next frame….Dylan Carlson made two remarkable catches and broke up Clayton Kershaw‘s perfect game, but was unable to come through in the ninth (and Oli Marmol stuck with him even though Nolan Gorman was on the bench)….another one of those only three hit games for the club.
Sunday, April 30: 6-3 loss at Los Angeles (Dodgers)
Hero: Tommy Edman. One for three with one of the only extra-base hits plus he scored a run.
Goat: Jake Woodford. In what will likely be his last start in the bigs for a while, allowed three runs on four hits and three walks in 3.2 innings.
Notes: Zack Thompson was again touched for a couple of runs, reversing his trends from last season and earlier this year….two hits for Willson Contreras and Brendan Donovan….Dylan Carlson went 1-3 with an RBI as the club seems to want to stick with him for a bit….Giovanny Gallegos was tagged with a run when Ryan Helsley allowed a sacrifice fly.