St. Louis’ offensive struggles came to a head on Thursday night, getting shut out 5-0 by the Marlins. This is the fourth game that the Cardinals have scored two or fewer runs in the last week, in what is becoming a concerning trend. Dylan Carlson, Paul Goldschmidt, and Paul DeJong combined to go 1-for-11. Nolan Arenado continued to show he is the lifeblood of the Cardinals offense, at the moment anyhow, picking up three of the team’s five hits and hitting four of the team’s nine hardest-hit balls. Yadier Molina did show some encouraging signs. Yadi went 1-for-3 at the dish, and he did impact the ball well, with batted balls of 100 MPH and 96 MPH.
The story of the night was Marlins starter Pablo Lopez’s dominance, mainly of the inside corner of the plate. Lopez commanded it all night with ease. He retired the final 11 batters he faced, six of which came via the strikeout. Lopez allowed three baserunners — all of which were singles — fanned nine batters, and generated 15 whiffs on 100 pitches.
Outside of Nolan Arenado and Molina, Cardinals hitters really struggled to impact the ball against him. In his seven total innings he allowed an xBA of .163 against.
Getting Lopez out of the game and getting into the Marlins’ bullpen did not result in much more success for the Cardinals. Tanner Scott, who pitched the eighth inning, allowed a hit on a weak bloop single to Molina. Scott struck out two batters. Anthony Bass was equally as dominant, pitching a scoreless ninth inning where he struck out Tyler O’Neill and Lars Nootbaar.
If there was to be a positive from tonight it is Jordan Hicks showcase as a starting pitcher. Hicks reinforced a lot of the reasons as to why the Cardinals view him as a potential starter at the front of their rotation. He flashed a high-end sinker hitting 100+ MPH on 14 of his 46 pitches. His slider showed great movement, although he regularly missed his spot to his glove side with it. His sinker did miss high a lot. Nonetheless, the Cardinals are treating this as if it was his first spring training start of the season, so there is some rust that is expected.
Hicks did a great job of limiting hard contact. Outside of a couple hard-hit balls from Jazz Chisholm and Jesus Aguilar, he forced five batted balls that were below 85 MPH. The only run Hicks allowed scored on a single up the middle, that was stopped on the edge of the dirt by Tommy Edman, who flipped it to Paul DeJong but missed him high. The play could’ve resulted in a double play, getting Hicks out of the inning, but DeJong couldn’t make the catch and was charged with an E6 on it.
The bullpen hurt the Cardinals with Drew VerHagen, whose command was not great, allowing one unearned run. The run came off of a passed ball that Molina should’ve had, and it, instead, slipped out of his glove, allowing for Jesus Sanchez to score his second of three runs on Thursday.
Aaron Brooks allowed two home runs: a solo-shot laser to Sanchez in the sixth inning and a two-run homer off the bat of Jazz Chisholm. Brooks allowed three hits, all of which were hit hard, and one walk in his 2 2⁄3 relief innings. Nick Wittgren and Kodi Whitley were able to right the ship for the Cardinals bullpen, combing for 1 1⁄3 innings of scoreless baseball without allowing a baserunner.