Stressful is the first word I can think of recapping this two-game series for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After a rollercoaster series in Milwaukee, the St. Louis Cardinals hoped to head to Pittsburgh and find their pitching under control and their players hitting more consistently and producing. Through the first four games of the season, the Cardinals led the league in strikeouts and in general, were scoring all their runs by the homer.
While homers are exciting and seem to be where the game is trending, the unfortunate consequence of being a homer-heavy lineup is that there will be games where they explode for tons of runs (see Friday’s 9-5 win) but there will also be games where they are shutout. It’s an inconsistent game to play.
While both games in Pittsburgh were very close, the St. Louis Cardinals found a way to come out on top in both of them. There were a lot of losers in this series and some winners in this odd two-game series, so let’s dig in on who falls in which category.
Loser 1: Marcell Ozuna
A huge disappointment doesn’t begin to describe how the former All-Star, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner has played since becoming a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Ozuna has batted .259, 23 home runs (zero so far in 2019), an OPS of .658 and a WAR of 2.9. He’s been plagued by a nagging shoulder injury and it has shown in his attempts to throw towards home in important games.
Ozuna was also a late scratch on Tuesday due to a right side tightness and will need an MRI that very well may lead to him hitting the IL. He’s definitely not living up to his hype from the Miami Marlins days.
Loser 2: Miles Mikolas
Mikolas has gotten off to a shaky start and in his first two starts of the season. Granted, the Milwaukee Brewers opener was always going to be a tough start due to the tough dynamic hitters of the defending NL Central Champs. On Wednesday’s game, he only went 5 innings allowing 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, and only 2 strikeouts. He definitely doesn’t look sharp so far in this early season but I trust him to find his way again after he led the staff last year.
Loser 3: Adam Wainwright
Unfortunately, Waino’s form has looked like this for a while now. He has shown some moments of brilliance, but for the most part, he’s not the same All-Star caliber pitcher anymore. I know Wainwright would love to go out on a high note but it’s not working and it’s putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on both the offense and bullpen to carry his slack. Going forward, Mike Shildt should consider moving him to the bullpen for relief and moving John Gant in the rotation.
Loser 4: Dexter Fowler
Dex looked like he was in a foreign country in Wednesday’s game in the outfield. From dropped catches to passed balls, Fowler looks nervous to live up to all of the pressure from Cardinal Nation to be that All-Star player he used to be with the Cubs. Hopefully, Dex can contribute to this team on defense and offense but it’s not looking great so far after this series
Loser 5: Paul Goldschmidt
Now this one is a borderline pick for me, especially after his series in Milwaukee, but Goldy went 0 for 8 in both games against the Pirates pitching. He had 3 strikeouts and didn’t contribute too much to the offense. I expect Goldy to bounce back quickly for the home opener this weekend. He will love Busch Stadium!
Winner 1: Kolten Wong
“The Pebble” was outstanding once again in this series coming up with huge hits in both games to help spark some the offense. He has shown more discipline at the plate and patient to execute on the right pitch. Wong deserves some consideration to be moved up in the lineup to help the offense get going again. I expect Wong to keep raking his offensive numbers and possibly get his first All-Star nod in 2019.
Winner 2: Dominic Leone
A huge contrast in comparison to the 2018 season, Leone looks healthy and in control of all of his pitches. He pitched 1.2 innings in Pittsburgh with 3 strikeouts and zero walks. He is going to play an important role going forward due to all of the question marks surrounding the rotation at the moment that makes the bullpen have to be stronger.
Winner 3: Harrison Bader
Bader, along with Wong, has shown that he deserves to be in that lineup and possibly be moved up in the lineup to inject his speed and offense. He went 3 for 7 in both games in Pittsburgh, including an important 2-run home run in game 2 of the series. I’d love to see him get more at-bats at the top of the lineup and have more situations to steal bases.
In general, this series win against the Pirates is a huge momentum boost going back home for the next eight games. With the Brewers off to a hot start and the rest of the NL Central falling back, the St. Louis Cardinals are in a good spot to start over and gain some ground on the first place Brewers. This season will always have some ups and downs with how tough the division will be, but this team can definitely get better without having to look externally for replacements.