The Cardinals needed to get quality starting pitching if they were going to live up to their expectations and potential, and, for the 3rd straight game, they did not get that. Once again, a Cardinal starter faltered with his command, racked up high pitch counts, and was gone from the game in the early goings.
That concerning trend coupled with lackluster offensive performance with runners in scoring position begat today’s result. Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, & Marcell Ozuna each ended potentially big innings with poor swings that snuffed out any opportunity for a big inning. The numbers the Mets hitters put up in the first 2 games of the series should have served notice to the Cardinal offense that a run here and there would not be enough to keep them in these games.
Fortunately, the Cardinals actually won today’s game, 5-1! Oh man, you should see your face! (please don’t fire me)
Luke Weaver was not sharp, walking 3 and striking out 3, and bowed out after just 5 innings. But he limited the damage by stranding 6 baserunners, and picking off another. His fastball sat 93-95mph, and his change-up and curveball generally sat 10mph below that. He had trouble spotting them and ran a lot of deep counts, but was ultimately able to get good results despite his objectively mediocre performance.
On the offensive side, the Cardinals were garbage with runners on the bases, stranding 10 and going 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, featuring 2 fruitless bases-loaded situations. Dexter Fowler continues to look lost at the plate, going 0-4 with 3 K’s, bring his season line to .000/.200/.000 with 9 K’s in 14 PA’s.
The high points of the game were a trio of home runs and a trio of excellent relief outings. The home runs came from Molina and Met-killer Paul DeJong (2). In 2017, the Cardinal shortstop hit 4 home runs in 7 games against the Mets, while batting a characteristic .367/.367/.933 overall, and today only made that better. The relievers earning today’s praise were a redeemed Matt Bowman, Jordan Hicks, and Dominic Leone. Bowman struck out a pair and allowed just 1 baserunner, Hicks breezed through a 1-2-3 inning, and Leone struck out a pair in his Cardinals debut.
The Cardinals picked up where they left off, with Dexter Fowler taking a called third strike on the inside corner. Steven Matz lost Pham and Carpenter via consecutive walks, but visibly frustrated Ozuna struck out on a check swing, and Jose Martinez lined out on a ball scorched to CF. Matz required 26 pitches to navigate his leading inning.
Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Luke Weaver had his own inefficient inning in the bottom half. He got Cabrera to pop out, before allowing a Cespedes seeing-eye single up the middle and walking Todd Frazier around a Jay Bruce line-out to CF. He then battled Wilmer Flores for 9 pitches before getting him on a low curveball with the help of CB Bucknor. He required 27 pitches.
Matz continued to struggle in the 2nd. He battled Molina to a 7-pitch deep fly out to CF, before surrendering a long home run to Paul DeJong, his first of the season. Gyorko flew out to deep RCF, and even Weaver managed to battle him for 7 pitches before striking out. Matz was at 51 pitches already. 1-0 Cardinals.
Seemingly intent on mimicking Matz, Weaver threw 5 straight balls to start his half of the 2nd, walking Plawecki in the process. He then got Lagares to fly out to CF, and accepted Matz’s sacrifice bunt, but Amed Rosario beat the shift with an inside-out, RBI single. He would not remain on base long, as Weaver immediately picked him off first to end the inning at 42 pitches. 1-1 Tie.
Fowler continued his miserable start to 2018 with another strike out, this time swinging. Tommy Pham picked him up by lining a single through the right side of the infield, and then stole second. After Carpenter grounded out, Marcell Ozuna finally broke through with his first hit of the season, an RBI double down the LF line. Martinez ended the inning with a hard-hit come-backer. Matz was at 73 pitches. 2-1 Cardinals.
Weaver successfully shut the Mets down after gaining his second lead. Asdrubal Cabrera ambushed a first-pitch fastball for a single through the hole, but Cespedes and Bruce flew out to Pham in CF. He then battled Frazier for 8 pitches before benefiting from a possibly make-up called strike 3 from CB Bucknor. He was at 60 pitches.
Yadier Molina continued his torrid start, socking an inside 1-2 fastball over the wall in LCF. DeJong worked a walk (!!!), but Gyorko grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, and Weaver grounded out on a come-backer. Matz was at 89 pitches and his day was done. 3-1 Cardinals.
Weaver got a quick pair of outs to start the 4th, getting Flores to strike out over the top of a change-up and Plawecki to fly out to RF. But Lagares reached on an infield single because Jose Martinez neglected to stretch for Carpenter’s throw from behind second base. Pinch-hitter Adrian Gonzalez then worked a walk to put Weaver in trouble, but Lagares harmlessly grounded out to second. Weaver was at 81 pitches.
Paul Sewald relieved Matz. Fowler ascended to grounding out to first to start the inning, but once again Pham picked him up with a well-struck single to LF, and Carpenter worked another walk to set up another Ozuna RBI, this time via a grounder to LF past a diving Frazier. Martinez then caught an 0-2 fastball on the pinky finger, but Molina grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3 with the bases loaded to end the threat. 4-1 Cardinals.
Weaver returned for the 5th, but appeared to be on fumes. He got Asdrubal to fly out to medium LF, and then hung an absolute mess of a change-up that Cespedes just missed and popped out to 3B. Bruce lined a double on the RF chalk line before Frazier crushed a fly ball to the track in RF that was corralled by a spinning Fowler. Weaver was at 92 pitches and his afternoon was complete.
Despite throwing 30 pitches in the 5th, Sewald returned for a second inning of work, which proved to be a good move. He struck out DeJong, lost a 10-pitch battle to Gyorko’s single to LF, got pinch-hitter Greg Garcia to fly out to the track in RF, and struck out Dexter Fowler on a low slider, featuring an obnoxiously late call from CB Bucknor.
Matt Bowman relieved Weaver, and was much better than we saw him on Opening Day. He got Flores to ground out on the first pitch, struck out Plawecki with a sharp slider and, after surrendering a single to Lagares, got pinch-hitter Phillip Evans to line out to Ozuna in LF corner. His 11-pitch inning was a breath of fresh air.
Jacob Rhame relieved Sewald. He got Pham to fly out on a hard-hit ball to CF and Carpenter to ground out to 3B. After Ozuna muscled a broken-bat single into CF, Martinez ripped a line drive right at the third baseman, Frazier.
In light of his brisk 6th, Bowman returned for a second inning of work. He got Rosario to swing through an elevated fastball before Cabrera crushed a ball in the gap. Fortunately the Cardinal outfield kicks ass now, and Ozuna was able to track it down in the gap. Finally, he got Cespedes to pop out to CF.
Following the trend, Rhame also returned for a second inning of work, which finally proved to be ill-advised. After Molina popped out into foul territory, Paul DeJong thumped his second HR of the game, just over the wall in LF. He walked Gyorko and struck out pinch-hitter Yairo Munoz, and was lifted for LHP Jerry Blevins.
Blevins struggled with his control, walking Fowler and Pham, while letting Jedd swipe a bag in between. But after a visit from his pitching coach, he got Carpenter to pop out to LF with the bases juiced. 5-1 Cardinals.
Jordan Hicks relieved Bowman, and Kolten Wong replaced Carpenter in the field. The upstart righty got Bruce to ground out on a come-backer, Frazier to strike out swinging, and Flores to fly out to LF.
AJ Ramos relieved Blevins. He battled Ozuna and struck him out looking at an 8th-pitch fastball, got Martinez to pop out in foul territory, and induced a pop up to second from Molina.
Dominic Leone made his Cardinal debut to close this one out. The favorite to get save opportunities until Greg Holland is ready, Leone struck out Kevin Plawecki & Jose Reyes, surrendered a harmless single to Lagares, and ultimately got Rosario to pop out to Wong at second. 5-1 Cardinals win.
Luke Weaver: 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 K, 3 BB, 0 HR, 54GSc
Steven Matz: 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 K, 3 BB, 2 HR, 33 GSc
- Official word is that the CF scoreboard broke, and was not shut off at the request of the hitters.
- Weaver’s pitches by inning: 27, 15, 18, 21, 11
- Matz’s pitches by inning: 26, 25, 31, 16
- Bowman’s 2 innings of work required just 23 pitches. Weaver and Matz were green with envy.
- Jordan Hicks sat 99-101mph on his fastball, and flashed an inconsistent 88mph slider. He is fun to watch.
Jose Martinez, who came into today 5-for-7 this season, is 0-for-3 today.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 1, 2018
His three outs:
- 102.7 mph lineout
- 100.5 mph comebacker
- 106.8 mph lineout
Two of the three had at least a 60% hit probability.
The Cardinals look to pull to .500 tomorrow afternoon, beginning a 3 game series with the Brewers in Milwaukee. Game starts a 1:10pm CST, and can be viewed on FSMW.