St. Louis Cardinals: Takeaways from a big Game 1 win

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 03: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates his teams 7-6 win over the Atlanta Braves in game one of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 03: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates his teams 7-6 win over the Atlanta Braves in game one of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals took the first game of their NLDS series with the Atlanta Braves. What were the biggest takeaways from the first game?

It may not have been pretty, but the St. Louis Cardinals found a way to gut out a big Game 1 win in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday.

After shaking off the rust in the first inning and allowing a run, Miles Mikolas settled down and gave Mike Shildt and the Cardinals five solid innings. Rare defensive slip-ups led to another two runs for the Braves in the bottom of the 6th. After an absolute bomb from Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter tied the game in the top of the 8th.

Going to the 9th, Marcell Ozuna and Kolten Wong doubled home four total runs and it felt like the game was over. Unfortunately for the hearts of Cardinals fans, the Braves hit two homers off of Carlos Martinez in the 9th, drawing the lead to just one before Martinez finally shut the door.

Digging deeper past that (rough) recap, what were some of the main takeaways from Game 1?

The Cardinals’ bats seem ready to play

The Cardinals offense was a big concern coming into the series after being a concern all year. Stacking up the Cardinals against the Braves, the Cardinals had a clear advantage in pitching and defense but lacked in the batting department. It was going to be absolutely necessary that the team’s biggest bats stepped up to be able to keep pace with the Braves and their sluggers.

The top of the order seemed up to the challenge though as the 1-4 batters went a combined 7-17 with four RBI’s, a homer, and five runs scored. Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Marcell Ozuna all came up big with two hits apiece and while they led the way, the 14-hit output by all the offense was a great start.

Never let off the gas pedal against the Braves

This whole day was almost ruined. As mentioned before, Carlos Martinez entered the 9th inning with a 7-3 lead and after committing the cardinal sin of walking the first batter of the inning, allowed a two-run homer to Ronald Acuna Jr. and a solo shot to Freddie Freeman before finally shutting the door.

As we noted, the Braves have the better offense of the two teams and the top four batters in their lineup have a combined 140 homers in the regular season. Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Freeman, then Donaldson is a murderers row and as we saw last night, if you give them an inch, they may take a mile and it almost cost the team the game.

As is usually the case, there is no lead that’s safe in the postseason and the Cardinals saw last night just how quickly things can turn. Always keep the pedal down.

Things might get chippy

This may turn out to be nothing, but Carlos Martinez took exception to how Acuna rounded third base after hitting his two-run homer to make it a two-run game in the 9th inning of last night’s game.

Mr. Saxon also shared that Martinez lost a family friend Wednesday night so that could’ve factored into not only his rough performance but his emotion on the mound. Regardless of what you think about what Martinez had to say about Acuna, this dynamic between the two could spark more controversy as the series goes on. It’s something to watch for sure.

Baserunning and defense is key

There are a lot of things that went the Cardinals way last night but there was one thing that they made happen themselves. That was without a doubt their baserunning. The only reason the Cardinals tied the game at one was because of Harrison Bader‘s speed.

After beating out a swinging bunt at first base, Bader got to second on a bunt by Miles Mikolas, stole third, then scored on a Dexter Fowler groundout to second. Without Bader’s great baserunning, that run doesn’t score.

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Later in the game, Fowler deked Atlanta right fielder Nick Markakis by stutter-stepping around second base before turning it on to get to third. Fowler’s move made Markakis hesitate slightly which was just enough to get him to third where he then scored on the Ozuna double.

The Cardinals do need to make sure they calm down any nerves that led to the defensive miscues. It could be argued that all three of the runs the Braves scored before the ninth inning shouldn’t have scored. An error on Kolten Wong led to the first run, Edman being unable to field a ball cleanly and then an ill-advised throw to second by Paul DeJong led to another two.

The defense has been this team’s strength all year and it needs to continue to be for the rest of this series.

Next. How the Cardinals rotation stacks up against Atlanta’s. dark

It was an awesome first game of the NLDS and a win there set the Cardinals up wonderfully the rest of the NLDS. Everyone else hates that the Cardinals are back in the playoffs and doing well but as a Cardinals fan, you have to just enjoy the ride all over again.