The Cardinals lost their opening series of the season, losing three of four to the Dodgers. I’m thinking that the Dodgers will win a lot of series at Dodger Stadium this year. Two reasons: (a) They had a home winning percentage of .679 over the past two seasons, and (b) they upgraded the roster in advance of 2024.

The Cardinals could have gone 2-2. They were in position to do just that, and let Sunday’s game slip away.

The visitors from St. Louis just as easily could have lost all four games, because the Dodgers sort of gifted the Cardinals a 6-5 victory on Saturday night before rallying to seal a series success with a 5-4 win on Sunday.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda … it’s time to move on. Which is what I’ll do after finishing this column. A new series gets underway tonight for the Cardinals in San Diego.

There’s no reason to go nuts while trying to interpret the deeper meaning from the first four games of a long odyssey of a season. I would have written that if the Cardinals went 0-4 at Chavez Ravine. I would have written that if they went 3-1 or 4-0 at Chavez Ravine.

The best part of the four-game series from an overview standpoint?

The Cardinals don’t have to play at Dodger Stadium again during the 2024 regular season. Let the other teams take a shot at winning a series there.

I saw some things that I liked. I saw some things that I disliked. (I’ll get to that later.) But in looking at the early returns, I saw a few MLB teams scuffling to get on track including the Astros, Phillies, Cubs. I saw a few (supposedly) lesser teams sprint out of the gate, most notably the Pirates are 4-0 and Tigers are 3-0. There’s a lot of .500 baseball out there.

Gee, if only baseball had a 162-game schedule for every team.

Don’t peak too soon, my friends.

Let’s Review …

AS THE ROTATION TURNS: The Cardinals came out of LA with a collective 5.68 ERA from starting pitchers Miles Mikolas, Zack Thompson, Lance Lynn and Steven Matz. But most of the damage was inflicted in the first two games, with Mikolas and Thompson allowing 10 earned runs in their 10 innings (9.00). They were clubbed for five homers and 13 hits.

In the final two starts of the series, Lynn and Mikolas combined to allow only two earned runs (by Matz) in 9.1 innings for a 1.92 ERA. Lynn put up four scoreless innings against the Dodgers and struck out 29.4% of batters faced. The rain delay limited Lynn to four innings. Matz, on a pitch count, covered 5 and ⅓ innings on Sunday.

IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE: A lot of National League rotations were punished in the early days, and eight NL teams have a worse starting-pitcher ERA than St. Louis: Rockies, Marlins, Pirates, Mets, Phillies, Cubs and Braves. And while the St. Louis rotation provided only 19 innings in four games, their average of 4.8 innings per start matches the MLB average, and 11 teams received fewer average innings per start than the Cardinals. So let’s hold off for a while until issuing premature judgments. The St. Louis starters need to be better, and over time they will tell us who they are. But the first four games of the season against a stacked LA lineup is hardly conclusive.

BULLPEN FAILURES: The Dodgers had full command of the first two games of the series, so the St. Louis bullpen wasn’t much of a factor. But Cardinals relievers were awful in the final two games, squandering leads of 5-0 and 4-2. After a blown save by closer Ryan Helsley on Saturday – he gave up a 5-3 lead in the ninth – the Redbirds were fortunate to emerge with a 6-5 win in 10 innings.

The Cardinals led Sunday’s game 4-0 after the top of the sixth inning. Matz allowed two runs in the bottom of the sixth, but Andre Pallante steadied the situation by pitching a scoreless seventh inning, and recording the first out in the eighth. The Cardinals held a 4–2 lead and needed only five outs to escape with a series split. They can’t let that game get away. But that’s what happened. And it happened quickly. Pallante was popped for a solo homer (Teoscar Hernandez) and walked Chris Taylor.

At that point manager Oli Marmol brought in lefty John King, who served up a winning two-run homer by Max Muncy. On the surface it was the right move; Muncy batted .155 with a 27 percent strikeout rate vs. LHP last season. This is also true: King isn’t a shutdown lefty when taking on left-handed batters. Last season LH batters slapped King around for a .347 average and .793 OPS. But Marmol’s choices were limited after having to go to his bullpen early in the three previous games.

Several relievers were presumably unavailable for Sunday’s competition. RH Giovanny Gallegos and lefty JoJo Romero each pitched Friday and Saturday. Lefty Matthew Liberatore worked two ineffective innings Saturday. King was hustled up from Triple A Memphis to replace Riley O’Brien (flexor strain) and was Marmol’s only live LH.

After pitching Saturday, Andrew Kittredge entered Sunday and got the final two outs of the sixth, but he walked a hitter and allowed a single while throwing 18 pitches. For the time being the Cardinals want to stay away from using Kittredge in multi-inning appearances. Kittredge worked only 11.2 innings late last season after returning from an extensive absence due to Tommy John elbow surgery that ruined his 2022 season.

Over the final two games, St. Louis relievers were punched for eight runs in 8 and ⅔ innings (8.30 ERA.) In the two games the Dodgers tore into the STL bullpen for 13 hits, three homers and five walks and batted .342 with a .419 OBP and .605 slug. In the final two games their relievers blew two saves and allowed both of their two inherited runners to score.

However …

THE OFFENSE FAILED TO TACK ON: The Cardinals could have given the bullpen more of a cushion in Sunday’s game. The opportunity was there, but Nolan Gorman struck out with the bases loaded for the final out of the sixth. Before Gorman’s whiff, the Cardinals had a 4-0 lead and a win expectancy of 90 percent. If Gorman gets a big hit there, the Redbirds probably would have had enough to hold the Dodgers off.

The Cardinals did produce two runs in the sixth but the Dodgers invited them to score more. In the weird sixth the Cardinals put four runners on base without getting a hit. The Dodgers walked two batters, hit one, and had another reach on catcher interference. Their two runs came in on the hit-by-pitch and catcher’s interference. The Dodgers invited the Cardinals to score more in the sixth but the visitors couldn’t get a hit in eight plate appearances.

Gorman’s strikeout wasn’t the only buzzkill; before that the Cardinals had stranded five runners Sunday including two in the third and two in the fifth.

LOS ANGELES PITCHING DOMINATED: It’s just one series, but St. Louis hitters were handled pretty easily by Dodger pitchers. The Cardinals averaged 3.5 runs per game but scored only eight total runs in their three losses. And Dodger screwups were a significant factor in the only St. Louis win – an imperfect but 6-5 victory in 10 innings. For the series the Cardinals batted .200 with a .269 OBP and .243 slug and had more runners left on base (25) than base hits (23).

* This is the stat of the series: in their first time through the lineup against Dodger starters the Cardinals failed to get a hit or a walk in 36 plate appearances and struck out 17 times. That’s a strikeout rate of 47.2 percent.

* In the first inning of the four games, the Cardinals went 1 for 13 with 10 strikeouts.

* For the series Los Angeles starting pitchers had a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings and were dinged for one homer, a .165 batting average, .195 onbase percentage and .228 slug. LA starting pitchers zipped a 32.5 percent strikeout rate vs. St. Louis.

* The Cardinals scored three runs, total, over the first five innings of the four games.

* The Cardinals got a combined .304 batting average on seven hits in 23 at-bats from Paul Goldschmidt and Masyn Winn. The other Redbirds batted .145.

* Two Cardinals struck out in half of their plate appearances during the series: Gorman and Willson Contreras combined for 28 plate appearances and 14 strikeouts. Nine by Gorman, five by Contreras.

* The Cardinals had 37 innings of at-bats at Dodger Stadium and scored in only seven of the 37 innings. Take away the “Manfred Man” run Saturday’s 10th inning, and the Cardinals scored in only six of 36 innings.

* For the series the Dodgers outhomered the Cardinals 9-1.

* As the Cardinals hopped on the bus caravan to San Diego for a three-game series, they ranked last in the National League in batting average, onbase percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, adjusted OPS, and total bases – and had the NL’s worst strikeout at 28.9%.

Only 158 games to go.

VICTOR SCOTT II’S DEBUT: If you just glanced at the series box score, you wouldn’t see much to talk about, because Scott went 2 for 14 with five strikeouts. But there were things to like. He had a 44.5 percent hard-hit rate. He connected on the sweet spot 44 percent of the time. Fear of Scott’s speed caused a throwing error and put him on first base. And from there he picked up the first stolen base of his MLB career. Scott also had his first hit, first walk and first double.

Scott scored three of his team’s 10 runs in the Saturday-Sunday games. Scott played very well in Sunday’s 5-4 loss, getting two hits and a walk to reach base three times. With his blazing sprint speed – covering 30 feet per second – Scott scored two of STL’s four runs. As the extra-innings runner on second in the 10th, Scott scooted around to score Saturday’s winning run on two ground balls. His speed is an asset, and that’s already been established.

Scott made a diving catch in centerfield on Thursday, and played flawless defense in the four-game debut.

At no point did Scott look overmatched or overwhelmed or otherwise lacking in confidence. His emotions were under control, and he went about his business like a veteran ballplayer. It was fun to watch him play, and we can’t say that about many Cardinal position players during the first four games of 2024. Scott and shortstop Masyn Winn don’t have much big-league experience but made a positive impression at Dodger Stadium.

SECOND GUESS? Manager Oli Marmol was getting blasted on “X” for pulling Matz after 81 pitches Sunday, but I suppose I’m in the minority here. With Matz and his injury history, I’ll accept a little caution in Game 4 of a 162-game season. In spring training Marmol and Matz both discussed the value of bringing him along somewhat slowly and building up over time. In the modern game a six-inning start is valuable, and Matz fell two outs short of that. But did you actually watch the bottom of the sixth? Matz pitched to three batters and it went like this: double, hard-hit line drive for an out, and another double. Two of the three pitches struck by the Dodgers were at least 104.3 miles per off the bat. But second-guessing the manager is a natural and entertaining part of baseball, and I do it myself. I just try to be fair about it … which is definitely out of style these days, but I’ll stay with my approach.


* Lynn’s fiery stubbornness in the first inning Saturday. He loaded the bases, dug in, and struck out the side. He let loose some primal screams during his four shutout innings before the rain intervened and ended his first start. Lynn struck out 29 percent of the Dodgers faced. The swing-miss stuff was there. The Dodgers went 1 for 6 with three strikeouts against Lynn’s four-seam fastball. His cutter and sinker were effective. The slider needs work, but … again, it’s early.

* Matz looked sharp in his first start. The Dodgers didn’t score on Matz through his first five innings. They got to him for two in the sixth. In his 5 and ⅓ innings, Matz had a swinging-strike rate of 13 percent. Matz had a terrific changeup in the early innings but the Dodgers adjusted and got three hits on it later. Against the Matz sinker, which averaged 94.9 mph, the Dodgers went 1 for 6. And Los Angeles barreled only one pitch by Matz over his 5 and ⅓ innings.

* One more note on Lynn and Matz: it sure was looking like a four-game sweep after the first two games. But Lynn and Matz did what they needed to do – and what the Cardinals needed them to do. And with better bullpen work and more timely hitting, the Cardinals would have left LA with two wins. That didn’t seem possible after the first two losses. Lynn and Matz gave the Cardinals a chance to get a 2-2 record at Dodger Stadium. It’s obviously very difficult to quiet the LA lineup, but Lynn-Matz cooled them down.

* The maturity, poise and performance of Winn and Scott, who have combined to play in only 44 big-league games.

Paul Goldschmidt stood out in the series by batting .286 with a .412 OBP and .500 slug. He had four hits, three walks, a homer and four RBI. He struck out five times but that was a team-wide epidemic. He had the best at-bats among Cardinals.

* I liked Giovanny Gallegos striking out six of the first 11 batters he’s faced (54.5%) so far in the regular season.

* Leadoff man Brendan Donovan didn’t have a good series overall but I liked his  two RBIs in each of the Saturday-Sunday games. Even against the Dodgers it’s surprising to see Donovan go through a four-game series with no walks and six strikeouts. But that will change.

* Despite the late problems Saturday-Sunday, the St. Louis bullpen had a 32.4 percent strikeout rate in the series. Right now that punch-out rate is the best among NL bullpens and ranks No. 2 in MLB. Nice but can they keep it up?

* The Cardinals did a nice job against Shohei Ohtani, who went 4 for 16 (.250) with six strikeouts. He was 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position. Sure, Ohtani had two doubles and walked twice and scored three runs — but did anyone think he Cardinals would completely shut him down?


* Nolan Arenado was 1 for 16. He reached base just once in 18 plate appearances. He did drive in a run with a sac fly, but that was about it. Arenado had an average exit velocity of 84.8 mph, didn’t barrel a single pitch, and either “topped” or hit “under” pitches on 75 percent of his contact. Arenado seemed awfully frustrated during the weekend, and it’s too early for that. It doesn’t help him. Frustration played a part in Arenado’s down season in 2023. Maybe he’ll calm down during the three-game series at Petco Park; Arenado has a career .298 average and .543 slugging percentage at San Diego’s home ballpark.

* Zack Thompson, who started the second game, showed a loss of velocity on his fastball and slider. His velo on both pitches was down two miles per hour from last season. The Dodgers had a 95.7 mph exit velocity on Thompson’s fastball, and they hit one homer on the pitch. They also homered on his slider and curve. Sustaining velocity has been a problem for Thompson in the majors. He threw harder during spring training but his velo dipped in his first real start of 2024.

* As a group, Cardinals outfielders went 7 for 44 in the series (.159) with a .229 OB and .227 slug. Donovan drove in four runs when starting in left field, but the other outfielders had one RBI in 30 combined plate appearances. Their outfielders struck out 15 times for a 31.3 percent strikeout rate and drew only two walks. Jordan Walker went 1 for 10 with three strikeouts.

* I didn’t like seeing the Cardinals get bullied by Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Teoscar Hernandez, Max Muncy, Will Smith and others. Check this out: The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th spots in the LA lineup combined for 8 homers, 4 doubles, 20 RBI, 19 runs, a .370 average, .447 OBP and .753 slug. Those five lineup spots collectively went 11 for 24 and drove in 13 runs with runners in scoring position.

* Masyn Winn has to be utilized as a late-inning defensive replacement. Marmol stayed with Brandon Crawford at shortstop for Saturday’s entire game and got away with it. (One bouncer went for an infield hit; Winn’s arm may have gotten the out.) Marmol said he wanted to give Winn a full day off. OK, so why did he play in the last four exhibition games including the final two against the Cubs in Arizona? If you’re going to commit a full day off to a fresh 22-year-old shortstop so early in the season, then why disregard the chance to do it in a practice game and give him that total day off in a game that counts? The Cardinals won 6-5 so it didn’t matter on the scoreboard. But that isn’t the point.

* Ryan Helsley: come on, dude. Since the start of last season Helsley is 14 for 20 on save opportunities for a subpar 70 percent rate. And since the start of last season Helsley has a 3.64 ERA in save situations and a 1.38 ERA in non-save situations. The Dodgers got him for two runs in the ninth inning Saturday. He faced seven batters and gave up four hits including a homer. After Helsley opened the ninth by getting a pop out, the Cardinals had a 95 percent win expectancy. By the end of his one inning of relief the win expectancy was down to 50 percent.

TODAY’S FICTIONAL STUPID OVERREACTION: This will be a regular feature in The Review this season. I’ll have some fun – positive or negative – by going bonkers after every bad or good series (or game) in a total overreaction to what just happened.

Here’s today’s dumb fictional overreaction:

Former Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill went 4 for 10 with two homers in his first series for the Red Sox and only struck out once. The Boston front office swindled the Cardinals and every Cardinal fan saw this coming! That’s not all. In his first start for the Giants, former Cards reliever Jordan Hicks dominated the Padres with five shutout innings. Wait. It gets worse. Former Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty made his former club look silly-stupid with an impressive first start for the Tigers, getting nicked for just one run in six innings. What a disgrace. The Cardinals don’t know what they’re doing, and this just proves it again. We all knew it was a huge mistake to move on from all three of the ex-Cardinals, and those three guys went out and proved how crucial it is for chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. to clean house and do it in time for Thursday’s home opener at Busch Stadium.

NEXT UP: The Cardinals will say hello to their former manager Mike Shildt and then play three games of baseball against the Padres. San Diego is off to a 3-3 start this season. After returning from South Korea after splitting a two-game series with the Dodgers, the Padres went 2-2 against the Giants at Petco. The Friars are averaging 7.5 runs per game while batting .297 with a .371 OBP and .481 slug. They’ve ripped 13 doubles and eight homers in their first six games. The Cardinals will encounter three right-handed starters. In order beginning Monday: Kyle Gibson vs. Kyle Waldron, Miles Mikolas vs. Yu Darvish, and Zack Thompson vs. Joe Musgrove. The Padres gave up six runs per game against the Giants over the weekend, so perhaps the Cardinals can put points on the board.

If the Cardinals lose this set at San Diego, brace for another tsunami of hot takes.

UPDATE ON TOMMY EDMAN: Our friend Will Carroll, the Injury Expert, had this item Monday in his “Under The Knife” blog on Substack. Please take a minute to think about subscribing. Will has done an excellent job with injury info for a long time and is a trusted resource in this area.

“So, the worry is that Tommy Edman may need a second surgery on his wrist,” Carroll wrote. “He’s scheduled for an MRI mid-week – and no, I don’t know why the delay, though I think it’s travel related – that will give doctors an idea if it’s healing and if they think the problem is getting worse. The difference in my sources is what the problem might be, but either one takes him back to surgery and another half-season of healing and rehab before he could get back out there.”

FINALLY: Note to readers: I’m going to try hard to write shorter Reviews in 2024, but I wanted to let it flow after the first series of the season. It was a four-game series, with a lot going on. 

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.