It was a pretty weird series against the Diamondbacks and it was capped off by a marathon game that sent most Cardinal fans to bed before completion.
There’s a good energy around the Diamondbacks already just three games into the season. My favorite hockey team, the Ottawa Senators, have been calling themselves the “Pesky Sens” this season as they hang around in games and find a way to win them, despite having lost their two best players and starting goalie to injuries. I get that same feeling with this team.
The team worked towards a little makeover in the offseason. Traded Justin Upton and brought in guys who fit manager Kirk Gibson’s desired style of play, a grinding style where they play hard until the final out is tallied. That’s something Cardinals fans ought to be able to respect, it’s the same type of play we appreciate. And grind they did.
Ian Kennedy, a former draft pick of the Cardinals, turned in a stellar Opening Day start, allowing just 5 hits and a walk over 7 innings before handing the ball to the bullpen who finished it out quietly. The Cardinals lost 6-2 as Wainwright struggled with control after taking a line drive off his shoulder before Fernando Salas came in an the Dbacks blew the game wide open.
On Tuesday night, the story was Jaime Garcia coming just shy of turning in a quality start on the road. He allowed just two hits through his 5 2/3 innings and the only earned run was a second inning solo shot by Miguel Montero. Garcia was bailed out by Mujica and the bullpen did their job the rest of the way. A two-run line drive home run by Matt Holliday put the Cardinals on top in the sixth inning before Heath Bell imploded in the seventh, allowing home runs to Pete Kozma and Jon Jay.
And Wednesday was the see-saw. Arizona’s Gerardo Parra led off the game with a home run off Lance Lynn. Then neither team could keep the other down for long. Cardinals put up four runs in the third. Diamondbacks followed with four of their own in the fifth. Cardinals answer with three in the sixth. Diamondbacks answered with two more to tie up the game. Yadier Molina launched a seventh inning home run to put the Cardinals on top. The Diamondbacks rallied on Trevor Rosenthal in the eighth to tie up the game with the run that would send them to extra innings. The two teams swapped runs in the twelfth before the Diamondbacks put a little small ball together on a leadoff walk to Jason Kubel for the winning run.
If there was a storyline to be had over the series for the Cardinals, it’s in the pitching staff, it would have to be the fact that no pitcher has made it further than Wainwright’s 6 innings. Garcia went 5 2/3 and Lynn went 4. All three ran into trouble before being yanked. Is that just still needing to work up the endurance to pitch that deep after spring training? It’s a little concerning to me right off the bat. Just something to keep an eye on.
The offense was good, but looked dead at times as well. That’s the same sort of thing we saw most of last season. They would have a couple innings where everything seemed to be clicking for the offense and they feasted on opposing pitchers and then there would be complete famine in between. That’s something the team is going to need to figure out if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs this season.
Pete Kozma leaves me questioning everything I know about baseball.
Okay, not yet, but he’s close.
While I’m still disheartened by his defense (not just by the stats but with my own eyes), his bat is bringing me around on whether he’s a passable option. Despite six years of evidence that he can’t hit worth a lick (.236/.308/.344 in 671 minor league games) he keeps doing it, driving in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning last night. He was the best shortstop in baseball last September and if he keeps it up, he may be again in April.
Through the first three games of the season, Kozma has 4 hits. A pair of singles, a double, and a home run. His OPS+ is 182. Advanced defensive metrics seem to be viewing him favorably, but I haven’t seen him get a good jump on a ball yet.
Needless to say, another few weeks of this and I may go full Kozmaniac.
Boggs out as closer?
I’ve already seen a few articles saying that it’s time for Mike Matheny to start looking at other pitchers for the opportunity to close as a result of Mitchell Boggs‘ bottom of the 12th blown save last night. In one the author said it was time to try Trevor Rosenthal in the role (who conveniently also had a blown save last night).
It’s one blown save. In a game that featured three of them, two by the Cardinals. The game also featured two offenses that, for the most part, couldn’t be stopped. It happens. Small sample sizes. I’m convinced that Boggs can do a satisfactory job as the closer until Jason Motte returns. Unfortunately, we won’t know when that will be for about another week.
David Freese will be playing in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis this weekend where he is expected to be in the lineup tonight. There is hope that he will be ready to return for the team’s home opener on Monday, April 8th, though manager Mike Matheny said the other day that he was unsure if he’d be ready for it. Freese is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday.
In the bullpen, Jason Motte is still not throwing. From what I’ve found he’ll pick up a baseball again and throw next week at some point during the home stand. From there the team will determine a game plan to get him back in the bullpen and closing games. He will be eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, but they don’t know yet when he’ll be ready.