The St. Louis Cardinals wasted a stellar performance by wunderkind starter Luke Weaver as tempers, but not temperatures, flared.
The St. Louis Cardinals squandered an excellent start by starting pitcher Luke Weaver, losing 4-1 to new rival Arizona. Weaver dueled, and outpitched starter Taijuan Walker of the Arizona Diamondbacks, tossing an excellent six and one-third innings allowing just three hits with one walk, one earned run, and seven strikeouts. But, the final line does not tell the entire story of Dream Weaver’s dominance.
The one run allowed was not actually allowed by Weaver, although the runner he allowed to reach base did score after manager Mike Matheny again misused the bullpen to lose another contest. Weaver’s lone earned run came in after recently dominant Matt Bowman allowed a soft blooper to fall on the right side of the field. A.J. Pollock scored from second base on the play.
Matheny called on Bowman even though Tyler Lyons came on to strike out the only batter he faced. Matheny did not trust Lyons, who is equally skilled at retiring left and right-handers, to face light-hitting Nick Ahmed. That decision ended up a costly one with the game being tied.
Matheny then pulled Bowman in favor of Dominic Leone. Leone quickly gave up two additional runs without retiring a batter – highlighted by a two-run bomb by former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher David Peralta. With the lead surrendered and the team now losing by two, Matheny finally allowed Mike Mayers to pitch again for the first time since the opening series against the New York Mets.
Temperatures Flare and Benches Clear as Arizona Manager Torey Lovullo Infuriates Yadier Molina
Unfortunately, one of the biggest highlights from this contest occurred in the second inning when the benches cleared. Yadier Molina framed a low fastball from Weaver for a called third strike on Arizona batter A.J. Pollock. Pollock thought he had received a walk and that the pitch was a ball. Much to Arizona’s chagrin, David Peralta was called out on a similar pitch in a similar 3-2 count.
Pollock and Lovullo took exception to the call. Lovullo came out to argue balls and strikes and was immediately tossed. Lovullo had enough with this umpiring crew after questionable calls on both sides all series. Where Lovullo crossed the line, however, is when he said something directly to/about Molina. Yadi was infuriated and ripped his helmet off and had to be restrained by the home plate umpire to keep Yadi from destroying Lovullo.
The benches cleared, as did the bullpens, and everyone stood around in the cold while everything was sorted out. In the end, Tim McCarver made odd comments about the whole incident and only Lovullo was ejected. In my opinion, this means that whatever Lovullo said to/about Molina was so bad the umpires thought Molina’s reaction was justified. I say that because Molina ordinarily would be tossed for making contact with the umpire and opposing manager. He was not ejected in this game.
Three glass half full takeaways from a dreary, dragging game
The obvious takeaway from this game is Luke Weaver continued his early season dominance. Fellow contributor Larry Levin was correct when he said Weaver is something special. Weaver made a really solid Arizona lineup look like a little league B team today. He worked in the 93-95 MPH range on his fastball and masterfully located his curveball, slider, and changeup.
Weaver even attempted to help his own cause by singling up the middle for the first hit of the game. Ultimately the only run that came across occurred after Molina reached on a single and aggressively took second base on a deep flyout. Kolten Wong then drove Molina in by poking a soft single just to the left of second base.
Speaking of Wong, he finally decided to show up for the 2018 season. After singling in the only run for the St. Louis Cardinals, he added a line drive single up the middle off of stud reliever Archy Bradley. In both at-bats, Wong took what the pitcher gave him and showed that same inside-out swing that he put to such great use last year.
My final glass half full takeaway is Jose Martinez. Yes, Jose made a mistake in the field and was hitless today. But, like most of his outs this season, he made hard contact and just hit into some bad luck. On a cold day where the ball was not carrying, Jose smoked the ball a few times right at defenders.
Areas to improve
Management: Mike Matheny did his best Gabe Kapler impression today when he called Mike Mayers into the game after Mayers had just started warming up. This is inexcusable. Mayers has not pitched due to Matheny’s incompetence since opening day and it was an incredible frigid game. Yet, Matheny gave Mayers no time to warm up. Thus, I do not fault Mayers for giving up a solo home run. Frankly, we are fortunate Mayers did not suffer an injury due to this managerial mistake.
Unfortunately for Mayers, giving up that home run will likely place Mayers deeper into Matheny’s group of pitchers in purgatory. Matheny will throw Bowman and Leone until their arms fall off before we see Mayers again. Wasn’t Mike Maddux supposed to fix these bullpen management issues? Are these his calls or Matheny’s?
Offense: The top half of the order must be more consistent for the St. Louis Cardinals. Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter have been mostly awful this year. These two guys have to produce more if this team is ever going to be more than a .500 team. Moreover, we need to see Tommy Pham be more like the Tommy Pham of last year. I would like to see him jumpstart this team by being more aggressive on the base paths. He had such great jumps when he was on today but he never pulled the trigger.
Depth: The team lacks some depth right now. We need guys like Jedd Gyorko to get healthy so a guy like Matt Carpenter can take a day off and figure out how to do more than just walk. We need a little time to get Greg Holland up with the big club so the bullpen can fall into place. Finally, this team could really benefit from Alex Reyes out of the bullpen. Maybe some of the bullpen problems will be solved by his arrival in late May – will that be too late? We shall see.
Overall, today was a poor performance by the offense and the bullpen. Luke Weaver shined again but his start was erased by the other poor parts of this game. I know it was cold, but these are the close games against good teams that the St. Louis Cardinals have to start winning to contend this year. The brutal early schedule continues against the Milwaukee Brewers tonight.