In a 180 degree flip from what we expected, the St. Louis Cardinals’ bats took the lead in Game 1 of the Wild Card round to beat the Padres.
The St. Louis Cardinals kicked off their postseason series against the San Diego Padres with a bang on Wednesday in the best-of-three Wild Card round.
On paper, the Padres have a clear advantage at the plate with their top-five offense in baseball clashing with the bottom-10 offense of the Cardinals. The Cardinals have an advantage in their starting rotation, especially with the Padres missing both Mike Clevenger and Dinelson Lamet for this series.
The first game got off with a bang as the Cardinals put up four runs in the top of the first inning on the back of a Paul Goldschmidt two-run homer, an RBI single by Yadier Molina, and a Matt Carpenter sac fly.
After the top of the first inning finally finished, Cardinal starter Kwang Hyun Kim came out a little rusty and gave up a walk, single, then sac fly to begin the bottom of the first before settling down.
Neither offense was done swinging though. The Padres added another run on a sac fly in the second, then the Cardinals countered with two more in the top of the third. The Padres then tallied one run in the third and the sixth, leaving the score at 6-4.
In the ninth inning, the Cardinals tacked on an insurance run against our old friend Trevor Rosenthal before Alex Reyes put the finishing touches on a stellar four-out save against the heart of the opposing lineup.
Game 1 Hero: Dylan Carlson
It’s almost unbelievable how much different Dylan Carlson looks right now as opposed to a month ago. No longer does Carlson look overmatched. He’s not taking half swings, he’s rarely chasing, and he’s making a lot of hard contact.
Facing off against a superstar his age (21) in Fernando Tatis Jr., Carlson outplayed Tatis Jr while batting cleanup in the Cardinals’ order. In his first four at-bats in Game 1, Carlson hit a double, single, then walked twice. We didn’t see many walks in the regular season for Carlson which goes against the player he was in the minor leagues. However, he wasn’t doing anything to urge pitchers to do anything other than attack him. Things have changed now.
Walking twice is great, getting two hits and scoring two runs is great, but he also made a fantastic play in left field.
It was an amazing playoff debut for Carlson and if he can keep this up, the Cardinals’ offense will be better than we expected.
Honorable Mentions: Paul DeJong, Alex Reyes
While Carlson captured a lot of the attention from the ESPN broadcast, Paul DeJong had an even better night.
The single by DeJong was with runners at second and third with just one out which is a situation where we have seen the Cardinals struggle in at times this year. Any night where a player gets on base five times is deserving of praise.
Alex Reyes had a fantastic outing in Game 1. After he was a complete question mark coming into 2020, Mike Shildt trusted Reyes to face 1-4 in the Padres’ order over the final four outs of the game. He didn’t give up a hit or a walk and held onto the lead for the huge win.
Game 1 Villain: Harrison Bader
To call anyone on the Cardinals a villain in Game 1 is unfair, but for Bader, he was the only starter in the game to go hitless. Not only did he go hitless, he struck out in all five of his at-bats (platinum sombrero?). Not only did he strike out in all five at-bats, but they were also all swinging strikeouts.
It was an awful game at the plate from Bader, but he slightly redeemed himself with a huge catch to finish the game.
On Thursday, there will be plenty of debate about whether or not Bader should be in the lineup still, but I think you have to keep him out there because of the huge Petco Park outfield.
No matter how you look at it, Game 1 was a huge win by the Cardinals in a way that nobody expected. Chris Paddack is the best starter the Cardinals are going to see in this series, so beating him while making the Padres use seven relievers could be huge in Game 2 or 3 if needed.
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Kwang Hyun Kim held his own, tip-toeing his way through 3.2 innings while giving up three runs. Kim kept the lead, so it doesn’t matter to me if he gave up three.
Mike Shildt is deserving of praise for his job in Game 1. He pulled Kim earlier than he may have earlier this season and also pushed the right buttons at the right times including using Giovanny Gallegos in a big spot, even though it was the 6th inning.
The biggest question will be whether or not the Cardinals can keep up this offensive wave on Thursday, but for now, we can revel in this win.
Winning Game 1 of any playoff series is huge, but it is even bigger when the series is just best of three. On Thursday, the Cardinals will look to clinch a trip to the NLDS on the back of Adam Wainwright against Tyler Davies.