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Cardinals vs. Braves Recap: April 4, 2023

Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

It was not a fun night for the Cardinals. For the first time this year, the bats fell silent and the Cardinals continued their long trend of struggling against left-handers making their Major League debuts. Tonight, the rookie in question was Dylan Dodd. Dodd pitched quite well, allowing just one run over five innings of work. He also allowed just six hits and struck out three batters.

The only offense the Cardinals were able to muster was an RBI single by Willson Contreras, which could have kept the fourth inning going. However, the rally was cut short when Ronald Acuna Jr. nabbed Contreras at second to end the inning. After Dodd was done, the Cardinals couldn’t get anything else going against the Braves bullpen, with any threats being snuffed out quickly. Here are a few takeaways from tonight’s 4-1 loss.

Starting Pitching Remains An Issue

I’m sure I wasn’t alone tonight when I said to myself, “This is what happens when you don’t upgrade your rotation.” Matz looked good in spring training, and I don’t think we’re at a point where we need to hit the panic button. But no Cardinals starters have delivered a quality start through the first five games. Matz went the longest out of the current starters in his outing, pitching into the sixth. But he still gave up all four Atlanta runs and simply was off tonight.

Granted, I was encouraged to see him settle down in the fourth and fifth. Still, as I watched the Braves pound some early homers, I felt all of my pent up frustration from the offseason over not signing a starter flow back into me. Again, it’s only the first turn through the rotation, but with what we’ve seen so far, it’s hard to imagine this rotation being able to compete with the top contenders in the National League, or the American League for that matter.

Miles Mikolas will go tomorrow. We can only hope he bounces back from his tough start on Opening Day, but I’m not exactly impressed by what I saw from the Cardinals current rotation. Even when Adam Wainwright returns, there are still issues that need to be fixed, issues that could have been alleviated had the Cardinals added a starting pitcher in free agency. Relying on internal improvement has only gotten the team so far in recent years.

Drew Ver Hagen Looked Sharp

At the onset of spring training, I was skeptical about Ver Hagen. I was about ready to consider it a repeat of the Brett Cecil situation after he struggled last season. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. The Cardinals turned to Ver Hagen after Matz was pulled with a runner on and one out. After striking out Orlando Arcia, he gave up a hit to Eddie Rosario, but immediately settled back down and struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. He then had a perfect seventh inning.

Personally, I’m encouraged to see this. Ver Hagen came into spring training healthy and has looked sharp, both in Grapefruit League action and tonight against the Braves. Perhaps the Cardinals have yet another swingman option for the rotation if somebody goes down.

Baserunning Blunders Aplenty

Twice tonight, the Cardinals were felled by baserunning miscues. The first came in the bottom of the fourth when Willson Contreras tried to stretch a single into a double. Ronald Acuna Jr.’s arm had other ideas. But that wasn’t the end of it.

In the seventh inning, Brendan Donovan came off the bench and picked up a key hit. However, Tyler O’Neill was sent home by third base coach Pop Warner. It did not end well for O’Neill or the Cardinals. Acuna once again showed off his arm and threw a strike to Sean Murphy to gun down O’Neill at the plate. O’Neill was out by a mile.

From there, the Cardinals couldn’t muster anything else and went down quietly in the bottom of the ninth. After dropping the series, the Cardinals will look to salvage the finale tomorrow.