Cardinals' bullpen almost saves the opening weekend series

The Cardinals want to avoid 2023 trends
Andre Pallante
Andre Pallante / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

St. Louis Cardinals fans weren't excited about the prospects of the season's first series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Already loaded with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and a cast of talented role players, the storied organization signed Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto to highly lucrative deals over the next decade. 

The Cardinals are coming off their worst season in over 30 years with a 71-91 record. With the promise of getting pitching, pitching, and pitching, Cardinal fans were flummoxed when John Mozeliak, Cardinals president of baseball operations, only brought in Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson to a pitching staff that includes Miles Mikolas and Steven Matz. The team made moves that should help them into the future, with deals at the trade deadline, bringing in some young arms with Drew Rom, Adam Kloffenstein, Sem Robbersse, and Tekoah Roby. 

The Cardinals manager was passionate about having pitchers who could induce swing-and-miss stuff. Thankfully, the Cardinals are getting good results in this area so far. 

Mikolas had a terrible first start, going 4.1 innings, giving up seven hits, five earned runs, two walks, and two home runs. He struck out five batters. Andre Pallante looked great in his first bullpen outing, going 1.2 innings and giving up two hits and an earned run. He struck out two batters. Both pitchers induced six swings and misses. 

Riley O'Brien also looked good in his first outing. He pitched an inning and gave up a hit and a run while striking out two batters and walking two. He induced five swings and misses. Matthew Liberatore had an inning of work, striking out one. 

Zack Thompson was the Cardinals' starter on Friday. He pitched 5.1 innings, giving up six hits, five earned runs, two walks, and three home runs. He struck out four batters while inducing ten swings and misses. Giovanny Gallegos pitched 1.2 innings, giving up a hit and a home run. He struck out four batters while inducing seven swings and misses. Jojo Romero also had a good inning of work on Friday, striking out one. 

Lance Lynn made quite the return to the Cardinals with his debut on Saturday. He pitched four innings, giving up four hits, walking one, and striking out five while inducing 11 swings and misses. Liberatore pitched two innings of relief, giving up two hits, two runs, two walks, and two strikeouts while inducing seven swings and misses. Romero pitched an inning, giving up two hits, one earned run, and striking out two batters. Andrew Kittredge pitched an inning in his Cardinals debut, striking out one batter. 

Ryan Helsley blew a save but earned a win in his season debut. He gave up four hits and two earned runs, including a home run. He struck out two batters while inducing six swings and misses. Interestingly, Helsley's top velocity was 98.7 mph on Saturday. This is considerably less than the speeds of over 101 mph he met in 2023. 

Gallegos earned his first save of the season, pitching the tenth inning, giving up a hit and a walk, but striking out two batters. 

O'Brien is on the injured list Sunday, with John King arriving from Memphis. O'Brien experienced right arm tightness, prompting placement on the injured list.  

Steven Matz had the best start of his career on Sunday night. He pitched 5.1 innings, giving up five hits, two earned runs, two walks, and striking out three batters while inducing 11 swings and misses. Matz's velocity topped at 96.8 mph.

Kittredge pitched two-thirds of an inning Sunday, giving up a hit and walking one. Pallante pitched again on Sunday, hitting a velocity of 97.5 mph. He pitched 1.1 innings, giving up a hit, two earned runs, a walk and a strikeout. He gave up a home run to Teoscar Hernandez. 

King, who had just arrived from AAA before the game Sunday, pitched two-thirds of an inning, striking out two but giving up the game-winning home run to Max Muncy. 

Yes, it's just the season's first series, but it's a gut punch to see that the trend of taxing the bullpen is still alive and well. Knowing how the Cardinals respond to this considerable adversity will be essential, as they likely want to avoid a repeat performance in 2023. 

It's early, but the Cardinals must not fall into the same trap of overusing the bullpen. Once their starting rotation is at full health with Sonny Gray and is built up, things will get better for the club. Thankfully, the Dodgers series is over, and the Cardinals will move on to play the San Diego Padres. The Padres are scary but the Cardinals like have a sour taste after Sunday evening's game. Here's hoping things take a turn for the better for the Cardinals.