St. Louis Cardinals: Opening Day recap and thoughts

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29: Todd Frazier
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29: Todd Frazier /

The St. Louis Cardinals suffered defeat at the hands of Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets  9-4.

Opening Day did not go as planned for Carlos Martinez and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds, stymied by Noah Syndergaard and the rest of the Mets’ pitching, fell to 0-1 on the young season. A number of issues plagued the Cardinals, including pitching and hitting. Here is a recap of how the game unfolded for the Cards.

Game recap

After a quick 1-2-3 inning for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets used a Carlos Martinez HBP and a walk to get a runner into scoring position. Jose Martinez‘s error on a ball hit by Asdrubal Cabrera scored the Mets’ first run of the game.

The Cardinals sprang back into life in the top of the second inning thanks to their workhorse, Yadier Molina. After a one out single to left by Jose Martinez, Molina drove an inside fastball to left and watched it clang off the left field foul pole. Molina has now hit home runs in back-to-back Opening Days.

The two-run shot, however, wasn’t enough to keep the Mets at bay. In their bottom half of the second inning, once again two Carlos Martinez walks and a single by ninth place hitter Amed Rosario loaded the bases for Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes then lined a ball into left field two plate two runs, pushing the score to 3-2. Martinez then walked another guy before getting out of the third inning.

The St. Louis Cardinals would respond in their top half of the fourth inning thanks to a lead off double by Matt Carpenter and a RBI single by Jose Martinez. Despite the many clamoring for Carpenter to hit leadoff this season, Mike Matheny stuck to his game plan and placed Carpenter in the three hole. Paul DeJong then singled to put Martinez in scoring position, but Kolten Wong could not bring him in.

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Just when things seemed to be going well for Carlos Martinez after a quick 1-2-3 fourth inning, the wheels came off once again for the St. Louis Cardinals’ ace.

After giving up a walk to Todd Frazier, Martinez served up a double to Adrian Gonzalez giving the Mets the lead back at 4-3. That effectively ended Martinez’s afternoon, but the Mets weren’t done.

Matt Bowman was brought into the game, but he struggled as well. He walked his first batter, then served up three straight single to Mets’ batters.

The Mets had now extended their lead to 6-3 by the time Matheny came to the mound to replace Bowman with Brett Cecil. Cecil proceeded to give up a hit to lefty Jay Bruce to push the Mets lead to 7-3 by the end of the fifth inning.

After a long Jose Martinez solo shot in the sixth inning cut the Mets’ lead to 7-4, the Cardinals’ pitchers seemed to find some stability in the form of Mike Mayers and Jordan Hicks. Both surprise addition to the Opening Day roster made quick work of the Met’s batters in their respective innings. However, it was Hicks who dazzled in his major league debut.

Hicks, known for his power arm, displayed every bit of why he was on the team at such a young age. In fact, he is the youngest Cardinal to make his debut since Steve Carlton in 1965. His quick work of the Mets’ hitters did not go unnoticed either. It was his face-off against Jay Bruce that caught the eye of many, and for good reason.

Hicks started Bruce with a 102 MPH two-seam fastball for a ball. Then came back with another two-seam fastball at 101 MPH. Then he dialed it all the way down to throw a slider at 86 mph for a swinging strike. He struck Bruce out with a 100 MPH fastball up and away. There was no way Bruce was catching up to Hicks’ stuff. It was just awesome to see.

The Mets would score two more runs and finished off the St. Louis Cardinals by the score of 9-4, with Syndergaard getting the win and Carlos Martinez taking the loss.

Quick thoughts on the game

  • Obviously Carlos Martinez was VERY underwhelming in yesterday’s game. Six total walks across 4.1 innings off of 90 pitches is not good. It hurts even more when the Cardinals tagged the Mets’ ace for four runs themselves. Four runs should be enough for Martinez to win games, but if he is going to lose control and walk batters, it becomes that much harder.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals struck out fifteen times yesterday, ten by Syndergaard. Take this with a grain of salt, but I definitely don’t expect to see that many strike outs a game. Also take into account you were facing one of the best pitchers in the National League, arguably top-five in baseball. One particular player that stands out though is Tommy Pham. Pham totaled three strike outs yesterday. Knowing his attitude, he will look to redeem himself come Saturday.
  • Middle innings relievers need to strive to do better. Earlier this week I said the bullpen middle relievers were key to the success of the team. The need to have clean innings will be so important this year, especially with their young pitchers. It becomes even more compounded if Martinez cannot do his job either.
  • But I can’t blame the middle relievers that much. Mike Matheny brought Bowman into the game when he needed strike outs to limit the damage. Instead of using Hicks then, Matheny opted to throw a guy whose arm has been taxed by Matheny throughout the years. I thought pitching coach Mike Maddux had a little more autonomy to tell Matheny which pitcher should be used in these situations.
  • While we are still on the bullpen, boy did that Greg Holland signing come out of nowhere. While it is a welcome addition, what does that do to the dynamic of the bullpen order? What does this mean for Hicks as well?
  • Lastly, Yadier Molina’s power is still there whether you believe it or not. the St. Louis backstop once again is showing signs he isn’t slowing down. While it may just be one game, he is still producing when the Cardinals need it most. His bat is a major key to the offense if he is to hit behind Marcell Ozuna or Jose Martinez.

Next: Cardinals sign Holland

The St. Louis Cardinals are back in action Saturday against the Mets. Michael Wacha and Jacob DeGrom are penciled to start. The game starts at 12:10 CT. What were your takeaways from yesterday’s loss?