All in all it was a disappointing first series for the Cardinals in Cincinnati. The Cards hammered the Reds 11-6 on Opening Day, only to have the cudgel turned on them for repeated blows during two straight wins by the cranked-up Reds. 

Onto the review: 

St. Louis Pitchers Had A Historically Bad Opening Series:  In their initial test of the season, the Cardinals took quite a beating. How bad was it? In 121 seasons of Cardinals baseball, their 27 runs allowed was the fourth-highest total in franchise history through the first three games.

Have a look at the most runs against St. Louis pitching through the first three games of the season:

  • 1954: 43
  • 1955:  32
  • 2001:  32
  • 2021:  27
  • 1924:  25

Cards pitchers had a 9.72 ERA for the series, the third-worst in franchise history for the first three games of a season. Hey, at least that was better than the ‘54 team (12.51 ERA) and the ‘01 Cardinals (10.12). 

The Reds Attacked The Cardinals Rotation: Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez provided only 12 innings in three games. The ensuing numbers, of course, were brutal: there was the 12.00 ERA, worst by an NL rotation in the opening round of ‘21. 

The Cards starters yielded eight extra-base hits including four homers; labored to a 15% strikeout rate; and were battered by aggressive Reds hitters for a .327 average, .397 OBP and .654 slugging percentage. 

Batting with runners in scoring position the Reds hammered the three Cardinals starters for eight hits in 15 at-bats (.533) and a .933 slug. Ugh. 

And to think that Flaherty, Waino and C-Mart were the three starters that avoided injuries in spring training. They weren’t rotation plug-ins. They were healthy and ready to go.  

There’s not much more to say about the Cards starting pitching in Cincinnati except the usual “It’s a long season, so take a moment to exhale.” 

Or if you’re in a really bad mood, maybe go with “Is Rick Porcello still out there? Has he signed with anybody?”

Just kidding. Just trying to lighten the mood. 

That said, it’s always wise to remember the words of Hall of Fame manager and St. Louisan Earl Weaver: “Nobody likes to hear it, because it’s dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” 

What About The Bullpen? Giving The Relievers A Pass? Well, yeah.  At last for the most part. The bullpen took a lot of punches, and had a 7.62 ERA in 13 innings. But honestly I don’t care about that overall number. 

Bullpens are primarily judged for how they protect leads.  In Thursday’s 11-6 win, Cardinals relievers supplied 5 and ⅓ scoreless innings to keep the Reds in check. It was a lot worse over the final two games (11 earned runs in 7.2 IP.) But this is what can happen when a bullpen has to do the cleanup after terrible outings by starters. For the series, the bullpen worked more innings (13) than the starters (12) and that’s never a good thing. 

The team’s most important relievers — Alex Reyes, Giovanny Gallegos, Jordan Hicks and Andrew Miller — combined to pitch 5 innings against the Reds, with one run allowed. 

Nicholas Castellanos Owned Cardinals’ Pitchers And Won The Weekend: OK, now he’s the newest baseball villain in St. Louis. How exciting, and Brandon Phillips must be jealous. And sure, Castellanos was at fault for stirring up the hostilities in the Saturday-afternoon skirmish between the rivals.

And do you know what Nicholas Castellanos did? He kicked the Cardinals’ arse. He spouted off, showed off and went off. Castellanos may have been a poser but more important, he was a bruiser and intimidator. 

Castellanos was 6 for 11. He blasted two homers, two doubles and a triple. He knocked in five runs and scored six. He batted .545 with a 1.364 OPS. With men on base, he went 4 for 6 with two homers and five RBIs. He did not strike out. And he stood over rookie Cards pitcher Jake Woodford to play the role of badass and  start a rumble. 

Here’s the narrative in Cincinnati: Castellanos emboldened the Reds with his hard edge, his braggadocio, and his desire to initiate conflict as a way of motivating teammates against the despised Cardinals. Teach those St. Louis bullies a lesson, St. Nick! 

Or, as C. Trent Rosecrans wrote for The Athletic: “The attitude Castellanos has with his slicked-back hair, his gold chain and his puffed-out chest is a bit of bravado, a sense of swagger the Reds haven’t had for years. With his headfirst slide and celebration, it was a message to his teammates.” 

For his part Castellanos said: “I don’t know if I’m a leader.  I damn sure ain’t a follower.”

Here’s Reds manager David Bell: “Respect is really important to us. But also, you have to have an edge and toughness to play in this league. He has all that. We love how he plays the game.”

Here’s Reds rookie second baseman Jonathan India: “I love watching him play. His mentality throughout the game is unbelievable. He’s a dog out there. I’ll go to war with that dude all day.” 

Coming into the new year, the Reds had a losing record against St. Louis in the overall season series for nine consecutive years. Evidently there’s a new attitude — or at least an attitude adjustment — in Cincinnati. 

I think it probably should be pointed out how the Reds already had a 6-2 lead when Castellanos gave the tough -guy performance over a prone Woodford to trigger the brouhaha. Interestingly, Castellanos soon retreated and walked to a safe-distance area as the Reds and Cardinals tussled. But he definitely won the weekend. Not even close. 

Tracking The Cards Outfield: Dylan Carlson and Tyler O’Neill led the way on Opening Day by combining for two homers and five RBI. The bats largely went quiet over the next two games, though O’Neill doubled and scored in the fifth inning Sunday to briefly tie the game at 1-1. 

In the two losses to the Reds, STL outfielders went 2 for 19 with 11 strikeouts. That includes Austin Dean, who was 0 for 2 with a strikeout. 

Rookie rightfielder Justin Williams struggled in the series, going 0 for 9 with five strikeouts. Williams was 0 for 6 with two strikeouts on fastballs. Overall he whiffed on 47 percent of his swings during the series. 

Goldschmidt & Arenado: Officially playing together for the first time, the cornerstones had a good series at Cincinnati. With Goldy batting second and Arenando hitting third, the two combined to hit .370 (10 for 27) with three doubles, a homer, four RBI and seven runs scored. They reached base on 39% of their plate appearances and slugged .593. 

An Eye On The No. 4 and 5 Spots: when batting with runners in scoring position, Paul DeJong (4th) and Yadier Molina (5th) went 2 for 8 in the series with five strikeouts and three RBI. A positive: DeJong swatted two solo homers in Saturday’s loss. 

The John Nogowski Watch: The Big Nogowski had one at-bat and singled. Of course he did.

Next Up: The Cardinals open a three-game series at Miami on Monday night (5:40 STL time) with Daniel Ponce de Leon starting against Marlins lefty Trevor Rogers. Austin Dean, who bats RH, will start his first game of the season in right field. 

Thanks for reading … 

–Bernie 

Please check out Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com  … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.