Jake Woodford’s first April start in his career was one he’d like to forget.
Last season, Woodford logged miles traveling to-and-from Triple-A Memphis to refine his pitching arsenal. In particular, Woodford needed to utilize his slider more often. His hard work earned the praise of Oliver Marmol before yesterday’s start. Indeed, his Spring Training stats, 17.2 innings pitched with a 2.40 ERA and 18 K, showed he earned a spot on the Major League roster.
Last night’s start was a combination of getting behind Atlanta hitters. Woodford and the Cardinals found themselves down 1-0 thanks to a monster solo home run by Austin Riley. Riley got himself into 2-and-0 and 3-and-1 counts as Woodford threw a mix of four-seamers and sinkers. After fouling off a sinker up, Riley smashed an elevated four-seam fastball 473 feet. At no point during Riley’s first at-bat did Woodford throw that slider.
The second inning provided more nightmares for Woodford. Facing Ozzie Albies, Woodford fell behind 2-and-1, this time using more of the slider. The next pitch was a near-identical four-seam fastball up.
The result? 103.4 MPH off the bat over the right-field wall. 3-1 Atlanta.
With two on and one away, Ronald Acuña Jr. stepped in. Again, Woodford fell behind into a hitters’ count, 2-and-0. On a 2-and-2 count, Woodford threw an elevated slider, and Acuña connected. 108.2 MPH to center-field. 6-1 Atlanta. To his credit, Woodford battled, threw two scoreless innings, and got one out in the fifth before turning it over to Zach Thompson.
Manager Oli Marmol's comments after the game further highlighted what got Woodford into trouble Monday.
"“What gives [Woodford] success is, and if you watched the entire spring, was a lot of being stubborn at the bottom of the zone. He left two fastballs, four-seamers, at the top of the zone that got clipped, and then a slider that didn’t a whole lot for another homer to their leadoff guy [Acuña].” - "- Oliver Marmol
Woodford’s start simply lacked execution and precision, which was what helped him get a spot starting with the Cardinals. At this level, pitchers cannot get by hanging pitches, especially to a loaded team like the Braves. For the Cardinals, it is disappointing since this team, albeit four games in, has not gotten strong starting pitching performances. Hopefully, Woodford’s next start will be a bounce back, but it was one step back on Monday night.