It’s been a weird season in St. Louis so far. Opening Night. Sunday Night. Cubs. Cardinals. Jon Lester. Carlos Martinez. Martinez had a chance to show he was the ace of this team. New extension, the torch passed from Adam Wainwright now to himself. And Carlos took the opportunity and ran with it...at least for that Sunday Night he did.
Carlos was dominant: seven and a third innings pitched, six hits allowed, no runs, and TEN strikeouts against the mighty Chicago Cubs offense. But after their new ace exited, seemingly out of nowhere, the wheels fell off...at least temporarily. Seung hwan Oh entered and looked to have this under control after escaping near disaster in the 8th. Randal Grichuk added what looked to be plenty of insurance to make it 3-0, but it wasn’t enough. Oh surrendered a HR to Wilson Contreras to tie the game. It looked like an early season gut punch. But it was Grichuk to the rescue again. With the bases loaded and 2 outs in the bottom half of the 9th, Grichuk lined a single off the LF wall and made it Opening Day the first for a few things: first win, first home win, and first walk-off win. But that was about the end of the excitement in this early season, until the last three days.
After that Opening Day win, the Cardinals would drop the next two to Chicago in devastating fashion, lose two of three to the Reds over the weekend, salvage one game in Washington, then got swept by the red hot Yankees. 3-9. First time since 1988 a Cardinals team had started this bad. A team that a lot of people picked to finish anywhere between 86 wins (last year’s total) and around 92 wins, had dug itself an early season hole. 3-9. And here come the Pirates fresh off a sweep at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. Prognosis to turn things around? Not good. Well, that’s what I know at least. The starting pitching at home has been nothing short of excellent. Even the first homestand when they went 2-4, the starters were great. And the last three days against Pittsburgh? Even better. And they had to be. The Cardinals scored six total runs in a three game series, and swept Pittsburgh out of St. Louis. It started with seven shutout innings from Lance Lynn on Monday, followed by six and a third innings of one run ball from Mike Leake, and finished off today by six and two thirds of great pitching from Michael Wacha. The starters won the series, and the bullpen was able to finish it off. Oh nailed down the first two saves, then the reincarnated Trevor Rosenthal was lights out today.
3-9, now 6-9 and that looks much better. The offense has been a big problem. No starter hitting over .250. But the early returns on a staff that had to be better this year, have been high. The Cardinals now pack up again and leave for Milwaukee. A four game set at Miller Park. The Brewer bats have been hot. Can Carlos Martinez rekindle that Opening Day start after two bad ones in a row? That’s a question that will be answered tomorrow. But the bigger question: Is this team a playoff team? We’re a few weeks away from having a good feel for that, but the next week or so will give us a good idea.