St. Louis Cardinals: Keys to Avoiding an Opening Series Sweep
The St. Louis Cardinals haven’t been swept in a season opening series since losing three in a row to the Mets back in 2007. They’ll look to avoid the sweep tonight in Pittsburgh.
Game one was ugly.
Outside of the ninth inning comeback effort and Seung-Hwan Oh’s debut, there weren’t many positives to take from that one.
Last night was better, but still somewhat troubling.
Pittsburgh bats were all over Michael Wacha as he struggled to get the baseball down around the knees all night long.
The offense scored five times, and more often than not, that’s going to be enough to win.
But, after posting five runs in the first five innings off of starter Jonathon Niese, the Pittsburgh bullpen shut down the Cardinal offense over the final six frames of the 11-inning contest.
The bullpen was phenomenal. Oh, Kevin Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton and Trevor Rosenthal were all lights out. Tyler Lyons did everything he could to bail Wacha out of trouble.
Seth Maness was Seth Maness. He had a nice bottom of the 10th before surrendering the lead and the ballgame in the 11th.
The defense was solid for the most part, other than the ball Aledmys Diaz kicked at short that proved to be very costly.
It all adds up to an 0-2 record, and a quick two-game hole in the NL Central standings to start the season.
While two games is a small sample size, there are already a few key points that the Cardinals have to improve upon if they want to avoid their first opening series sweep in nearly a decade.
3-22 with runners in scoring position, 27 combined strikeouts through two games
It’s going to be really, really hard to score runs this year if the offense keeps going with numbers like these.
The offense is already putting itself in a precarious situation. They don’t look like they are going to hit for a ton of power (shocker, I know). They’ve struck out at a ridiculous clip so far (without said power to alleviate the K’s), and they aren’t hitting in scoring situations.
You can get away with high strikeout numbers if you hit for power. We don’t.
You can get away with a lack of power if you hit with runners in scoring position. We haven’t.
Something’s got to change.
The “big” bats need to get going
Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, Matt Adams and Brandon Moss are a combined 4-33 (.121) with 14 strikeouts and just three RBI thus far in 2016.
Grichuk, perhaps the teams biggest power/production threat ahead of the year, has struck out five times in nine at-bats while stranding six base runners.
Sure, it’s really cold in Pittsburgh. Their pitching staff is phenomenal. Those are both legitimate excuses, if that’s what we are looking for.
The fact of the matter is that the Cardinals HAVE to have production out of that group of guys.
Those guys are in the lineup to be run producers. It’s time to get to it.
Can Mike Leake get the starters back on track?
If we are emphasizing ugly early-season numbers, I guess we can throw the starters in the mix as well.
After Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha’s efforts, Cardinal starters are 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA in 10 1/3 innings. Their combined 1.94 WHIP certainly isn’t good.
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- MVP voter listed Cardinals’ Arenado 8th on ballot
- St. Louis Cardinals non-tender former All-Star closer Alex Reyes
- St. Louis Cardinals sign Oscar Mercado and four others to MiLB deals
- St. Louis Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt named 2022 NL MVP
- Lars Nootbaar is a prime Cardinals trade candidate
The simple fact of the matter is that neither Waino or Wacha are going to be effective if they are up in the zone. Wacha’s fastball is way too flat, and his changeup becomes very average when it’s not below the knees. Waino just doesn’t throw hard enough any more to get away with many mistakes.
Both guys were definitely up in the zone against the Pirates.
Again, sure you can blame it on the cold weather or early season rust. Francisco Liriano didn’t seem to have any trouble.
The Cardinals really need a quality outing from Leake tonight. They need it as a pick-me-up for the entire starting rotation.
Next: (4/5) Pirates 6 Cardinals 5 Recap
They need it to provide relief to the bullpen that got emptied out last night, and they need it to have a chance to get out of Pittsburgh with a win and to get some positive thought processes going again.