THE REDBIRD REVIEW
One down, 161 to go.
Goodness, it’s wonderful to have baseball back.
Scoreboard: Cardinals jumped into the season at Cincinnati, attacking for six first-inning runs in their 11-6 victory over the Reds. For only the 10th time since 1901, a Cardinal team scored 11+ runs on Opening Day. Two of those teams (1982, 2006) went on to win the World Series. Another (1928) won the NL pennant.
Baseball Hero of the Day: We have a few options here but will go with Paul Goldschmidt. Batting 2nd in the lineup, Goldy fired up the offense with four hits, three runs scored, and an RBI. He became only the third Cardinal to have four hits and three runs scored on Opening Day.
Mike Shildt’s Lineup Design: In Jupiter the manager made the decision to frontload his lineup with Goldschmidt batting second, followed by Nolan Arenado in the 3 spot. Well, it sure looked boffo in Game One, with the acclaimed and highly decorated corner infielders combining to go 6 for 10 with two RBIs and four runs scored.
A Frolicsome Start For The Season of Opportunity: Cardinals president of baseball ops John Mozeliak vowed to let the team’s young outfielders play plenty of ball to get their careers rolling in 2021. As if on cue, wonderboy CF Dylan Carlson smashed a three-run homer in the first, LF Tyler O’Neill rudely bro-bashed a two-run homer in the fourth, and Justin Williams made a difficult, run-preventing catch in RF. Only 161 more games to go.
Kind Of Cool: I must say it was fun to see proven All-Stars Goldschmidt and Arenado team with the 25-and-under crowd (Carlson and O’Neill) to wreck the Reds. The foursome delivered eight hits, seven RBI and seven runs scored. If Goldschmidt and Arenado do their usual thing, and O’Neill + Carlson have take-flight seasons, the Cardinals will have a pretty scary offense.
Significant Stat: the Cardinals went 6 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Six different Cards drove in at least one run when presented with RISP opportunities.
And Now Some Nitpicking: As we know, leadoff hitter Tommy Edman and cleanup man Paul DeJong occupy crucial spots in the lineup. In the first game Edman reached base one time in five plate appearances and DeJong went 1 for 5 with a strikeout, ground-ball double play, and three runners left on. DeJong, however, did drive in an early run to do his part in the Cards’ first-inning eruption. This was one game. No big deal. The Cardinals plated 11 runs; they scored 11+ in only two of 58 games last season.
Let’s Talk About Jack Flaherty: Going forward, The Ace has to do better. Gifted with 11 runs to work with, Flaherty was rocked for six runs and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning. Lasting for only 22 batters, Flaherty was perforated for three doubles and two homers, walked two, and hit a batter. The Reds reached base in 43 percent of their plate appearances vs. Flaherty. He struggled to finish off Reds hitters; they had three hits including two doubles after Flaherty had them down in the count at 0-1 or 0-2. It’s not a good day when the Reds had more extra-base hits (5) than strikeouts (4) vs. Flaherty.
It was a laborious 94-pitch outing by Flaherty. In his first time through the Reds lineup, Flaherty was nicked for one hit in seven at-bats with three strikeouts. But he scuffled after that, the Reds went 5 for 11 against him with four extra-base hits, two walks and only one strikeout.
On a blustery day in a hitter-congenial ballpark, Flaherty could have helped himself getting a bunch of ground balls for his infielders to handle — but he induced only two grounders for a GB rate of 13.3%.
The Reds did a lot of damage against Flaherty’s four-seam fastball, slamming two homers and a double. The other two doubles came on the Flaherty slider.
Flaherty’s Game Score of 29 was well below league average (50) and replacement level (40.) This was the first start of many for the abundantly talented Flaherty in 2021. But after his 4.91 ERA last season and 5.40 ERA this spring, a string of strong starts would offer reassurance.
Don’t Worry. Call The Bullpen: Cards relievers bagged the final 14 outs and didn’t allow a run. The boys doused the danger, sure. But let’s be honest here: Ryan Helsley created danger by allowing three hits to load the bases in the 6th; potential disaster was averted when a careless Red (Tyler Stephenson) made a bonehead base-running mistake on a routine air ball to left, getting doubled off second base to end the inning. Otherwise, really fine work by Tyler Webb, Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes. The four relievers combined to pitch 3.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks. Webb did allow an inherited runner to score on a sac fly after relieving Flaherty … but so what? Webb did a helluva job in a volatile situation. Good day for the ‘pen.
Reds Seeing Red: It was not a smooth ride for the home team. There was the six-run first inning by the Cardinals … No. 1 starter Luis Castillo was plundered for 10 runs (8 earned) and did not not strike out any of the 21 batters faced … starting the season at shortstop after being moved from third base, Eugenio Suárez committed errors on the first two balls hit to him … fragile center fielder Nick Senzel went down with another injury (shoulder) … first baseman Joey Votto couldn’t dig out two throws in the dirt, and that set up multiple runs for the Cardinals … and poor Stephenson snuffed any realistic hope of a Reds comeback with the base-running boo boo. Good grief, it looks like the Reds will be a defensively challenged unit this season. As reliever Amir Garrett observed during spring training: “If we put balls into play around here, it usually turns into something bad.”
Because I Like Nerd Numbers: In the 11-6 win, Carlson had the highest Win Probability Added (.123) among Cards hitters, and Webb posted the best WPA (.051) among pitchers.
Next Up: Adam Wainwright vs. Tyler Mahle, first pitch 3:10 p.m. STL time on Saturday. Carlos Martinez goes for the Cardinals against new Reds starter Jeff Hoffman on Sunday (12:10 pm STL time.) Hoffman had a 7.19 ERA for Colorado over the past two seasons.
Thanks for reading …
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