Ho hum. Five games against the lowly Cincinnati Reds, five victories. No complaints, of course, but the focus in these early-season tilts with the cellar dwellar ought be on what’s working and what isn’t for the St. Louis Cardinals. And in Friday’s 4-2 victory, there was a bit of both.
First and foremost is the showing of the St. Louis Cardinals‘ Michael Wacha and his potential to shine. Despite some early baserunners, the righty took control, at one point retiring 11 in a row. Taking the game into the seventh, Wacha showed good command in minimizing damage to one run on six hits.
Tyler Lyons held the Reds at bat in relieving Wacha in the seventh, and Bud Norris, despite a late tally, picked up his fifth save. Unless and until Greg Holland returns to the form that merited his one-year, $14 million contract, Norris seems the closer of the month.
Jose Martinez continued his hot hand with three hits, contributing one of the four RBIs and raising his impressive OPS to 1.010. A Yadier Molina double contributed two more driven in, and Jedd Gyorko added a sacrifice fly for the fourth RBI.
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It was also reassuring to see some contact from the clearly struggling Paul DeJong. He paired a double with a rare walk (he only has five to go along with 31 strikeouts in only 68 at bats). Faint praise, but praise nonetheless.
It must be remembered, though, that the Cards managed only four runs, with well over a dozen men left on base, against a Reds’ pitching staff that is surrendering 5.38 earned runs per game and is only superior to the near-AAA Miami Marlins and Chicago White Sox in their run-preventing skills.
And while we’re on the grousing path: Where is the bat of Matt Carpenter? Surely it is not his fault that the manager, Mike Matheny, continues to believe Carp can hit lefties like the Reds starter Brandon Finnegan. But the second baseman can’t, and he turned in a lackluster one-for-five overall.
While Fowler and Kolten Wong got sat for their weak plate appearances, Carpenter was elevated to the two-hole with Pham leading off. One might thing that at least the continuing ability of Carp to draw walks would have helped him there, but alas no — a line out and three ground balls paired up with a sole single.
The frustration of it all is that Matheny continues to treat Carpenter as he was two years ago, not as he is today. And this is a drag on the team’s defense, which clearly is superior with the Gyorko-Wong tandem on the field, as Gyorko demonstrated last night with a nifty cut-off throw for an out.
As the Cardinals play competitive major-league teams — ie, those other than those like the Reds — the team, and the manager, will have to up their game to create an advantage. Solid pitching like last night, more timely hitting, and better lineup construction will be needed as the going gets tough.