Beyond the Box: Cardinals win on Opening Day
Beyond the Box: Cardinals win game two against the Reds
The St. Louis Cardinals once again proved that “you can’t win em all” is more than a cliche today. The Cardinals suffered their first loss of the season in a 2-1 game which was dominated by pitching a defense. The Reds were able to avoid being swept with a walk off home run by Jonny Gomes in the ninth inning. A full box score of the game can be seen here. Here is the story of the game beyond the box score.
Brad Penny was as dominant as his state line (7 IP 6 H 1 ER 4K) suggests. He was consistently throwing his fastball at 93-95 MPH and his breaking ball was fooling hitters. The lone run he gave up was to Bronson Arroyo who kept fouling off Penny’s fastballs until he finally blooped a curveball over the infield for an RBI single. Most of the day Penny seemed in control and even showed some flashes of the ability to dominate hitters in the way he did as an All-Star game starter two years ago.
You could see why Cardinals coaches feel Mitchell Boggs has closer potential. He was throwing his fastball at 96-97 MPH and made some hitters look foolish with his slider. If he can harness his stuff Boggs has the potential to dominate hitters.
The defense was excellent highlighted by good plays on two tough ground balls from Brendan Ryan and Felipe Lopez on the left side of the infield.
Matt Holliday lost out on a key moment to provide protection for Albert Pujols. With two outs and Skip Schumaker on first the Reds walked Pujols unintentionally to put runners on first and second. Arroyo then threw a curveball on the outside corner to Matt Holliday. Holliday took the bait and offered a weak off-balance swing which produced a lazy flyball to right. The inning and the Cardinals last threat was eliminated.
Which brings us to the larger issue of Cardinal hitters struggling against junk pitchers. Arroyo is generally regarded as a lesser pitcher compared to Aaron Harang and Johnny Cueto. The Cardinal hitters were able to dominate Harang and Cueto but they could never make consistent contact off Arroyo who was only throwing fastballs about 33% of the time. Hitters were off balance and guessing wrong. So the frustration of being dominated by soft-tossers seems to continue for the Cardinals even with new hitting coach Mark McGwire.
The bullpen has generally not looked good and that trend continued. Jason Motte is throwing fastballs at 93-95 MPH but they are very straight. The home run was off a 95 MPH fastball right down the middle and up in the zone. It was the kind of pitch Motte probably routinely got away with in the minor leagues but major league hitters simply turn on it. If Motte never learns how to locate better he will forever be plagued by these home run troubles.
The first inning had some bad base running. With Schumaker on second and Pujols on first Matt Holliday hit a high pop up. The umpire called for an infield-fly rule but Pujols took off running. The wind caught the pop up and carried it behind the second baseman where it dropped. At this point Holliday stood and second and Pujols simply started to walk off the field. By rule Holliday was automatically out. The Reds simply tagged Pujols for a double play and the inning was over.