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Spring Training Recap 3/19: Cardinals 3, Twins 1

Matt Adams' solo home run in the 5th inning jump starts the Cardinals to a 3-1 victory.


There once was a team called the Twins
Whose trouble compiling some wins
Lasted into spring training
And their lineup was paining 
So the Cards came out with the grins.

I am glad the Cardinals won today, because I wrote that limerick before the game was over, and I really didn't want to have to change it.  (Don't worry, I won't do that during the regular season - this is akin to posting a WPA graph in the game thread.)

Both starters pitched well today - Kyle Gibson for the Twins and Carlos Martinez for the Cardinals (more about him later) - and the game was tied 0-0 through the first four innings.  The Cardinals broke the tie in the bottom of the 5th when Matt Adams committed first degree murder on a hanging breaking ball from Gibson.   Gibson got the next batter Bourjos to ground out, but allowed a single to Piscotty, which prompted Ron Gardenhire to pull him.

With Wong up to bat next, Piscotty was thrown out attempting to steal.  It was a close play, but Matheny chose not to challenge it.  The decision made sense in the context of the game: Cards up by one, still somewhat early in the game, two outs, and Wong up to bat.  I suspect that if it were the 8th inning and Matt Holliday were up to bat, Matheny may have made a different decision.  Instant replay adds another level of strategy to the game, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the regular season.

The Twins came back and scored in the top of the sixth to tie the game.  Aaron Hicks singled, then scored on a hit by Jason Bartlett - his first (!) this spring training season.  The Cardinals scored again in the bottom of the 8th on hits by Angels' bequests Bourjos and Grichuk.

Bourjos is FAST.  It is going to be so fun having speed on this team again.

Carlos Martinez had a terrific outing for the Redbirds today.  He threw 81 pitches (56 of them for strikes!), gave up three hits, allowed one run, and struck out four over 6 1/3 innings.  As discussed in the game thread, Martinez appears to be winning that fifth spot in the rotation.  The fact that Matheny let him pitch in the sixth and didn't limit him to 60 pitches is perhaps an indication of how the manager is thinking.

Additional takeaways from the game:

1) Who are these people claiming that they baseball for the Minnesota Twins?  I recognized Jason Bartlett in the lineup and honestly no one else.  Mauer and Suzuki both sat on the bench today, which is a shame, because I was looking forward to watching Mauer play.  He's a great athlete, and some expect him to have above-average defense as a full-time first baseman.  Not me, necessarily, but some.

2) Speaking of above-average defense, Matt Adams' range continues to surprise me, though at this point it probably shouldn't.  He made a fantastic play ranging to his right in the 7th inning.  Of course, on the very next play, he made the second of two errors.  Still, even on that play, he ranged far to his right again on a ground ball that perhaps should have been Wong's.  The error came on the throw to first base.

3) Still speaking of above-average defense, Wong continues to look sharp at second base.  The Cardinals turned three double plays today, including one in the 2nd inning started by Wong.  He made a great play to field a ground ball with the runner crossing right in front of him.  I think the infield defense is going to be solid this year, which will really be a nice change of pace. 

T-minus 12 days until Opening Day!  Go here to join Ozzie Smith's petition to make Opening Day a national holiday.  It's your civic duty as a Cardinals fan, as a baseball fan, and as an American.