This weekend series against the Pirates could have been a lot worse. But it also could have been a lot better. Either way, we’ll all take a win, especially one in dramatic fashion. Today’s Cardinals game was a pitcher’s duel most of the way. The Pirates scored first, but the Cardinals bounced back and tied the game on an RBI single by Willson Contreras, who seems to be heating up.
Austin Hedges put the Pirates ahead in the top of the second, but from there Miles Mikolas settled in. He made it through 5.2 innings and held the Buccos to three runs, two of which were earned. The third run scored on a rare error by Brendan Donovan. However, the Cardinals weren’t about to quit. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Lars Nootbaar went deep and sent the crowd into a frenzy on a cold afternoon.
The Cardinals certainly had plenty of missed opportunities, two of which came in the eighth and ninth innings. That ultimately meant extra innings. With Andrew McCutchen on second, Carlos Santana grounded out and moved him to third. Canaan Smith-Njigba followed with a groundout of his own, which scored McCutchen. In the bottom half, the Cardinals were staring defeat in the face, on the verge of losing three out of four.
Paul Goldschmidt started as the free runner at second base. After Nolan Arenado popped out, Contreras drew a walk. Nolan Gorman, who barely missed a home run earlier in the game, hit a ground-rule double to tie things up. Nootbaar was given the intentional pass before Jordan Walker struck out. Tommy Edman then put the finishing touches on the game with a walk-off single. Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s important win.
Starting Pitching Appears To Be Improving
Though Miles Mikolas looked shaky at times this afternoon, I was ultimately impressed with the way he limited the damage. He struck out four and only walked two. This is the Mikolas that we were all expecting to see, and I think as the season goes on, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this. I still would like to see more quality starts, and that goes for all Cardinals starters. But Mikolas did a good job today and I was very encouraged by his progress, especially after solid bounceback performances from Jake Woodford and Steven Matz.
Clutch Hits With The Bases Loaded
One thing that has been concerning is the fact that the Cardinals have struggled with the bases loaded. Twice today, they loaded the bases and failed to score. But when it mattered most, things finally fell their way. Edman’s game-winning hit was a perfect example of just how important it is to get those timely hits. With all the stars in the lineup, this is what we expect to see, and I must stress that I believe this is also something we’re going to be seeing more of.
The good thing is, the Cardinals finally put their struggles with the bases loaded behind them and delivered a much-needed victory.
Solid Work From The Bullpen
Once again, the bullpen was solid. Andre Pallante managed to bail out Mikolas in the top of the sixth. He then gave way to Zack Thompson, who got out of a seventh-inning jam and proceeded to pitch a scoreless eighth. Giovanny Gallegos had a perfect ninth and continued his early-season dominance. Then Drew VerHagen earned the win with a 1-2-3 tenth.
I will say that I’ve been quite impressed with what I’ve seen out of VerHagen so far. He did get unlucky today because of the runner at second base. But he retired the Pirates in order and got three key ground ball outs. In addition, Pallante and Thompson’s ability to work out of jams paid dividends today and it was encouraging to see them get those key outs late in the game.
Another thing to note is just how well Gallegos has adapted to the pitch clock. Once one of the slowest working relievers, he’s done a great job picking up the pace while also maintaining his composure and coming through when the Cardinals need him the most.
Ultimately, the Cardinals were able to pull off a very important win today and set up what should be an exciting series with the Diamondbacks. First pitch tomorrow is at 6:45 p.m. Jack Flaherty will face off against Merrill Kelly in what should be a very entertaining pitching matchup.