St. Louis Sports: 5 takeaways from the Cardinals series loss to Cincinnati

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos scores on a wild pitch as St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jake Woodford attempts to tag him at home in the fourth inning on Saturday, April 3, 2021. (USA Today Sports)


If the first three games were any indication, the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals season is going to be an entertaining yet bumpy ride. 

There were high run totals put up all weekend, without a pitching duel in sight. Major League Baseball saw its first brawl of the year when Nicholas Castellanos took exception to Jake Woodford hitting him with a pitch (possible revenge for earlier Cincy actions, perhaps?) and posed above the pitcher after he scored on a wild pitch. All in all, the two teams combined to score 55 runs in just three games-but Cincinnati came away with the series after a 12-1 beatdown on Sunday afternoon. 

Now that’s over and the team is headed to Miami for a three game set, let’s look back at the first series of the season. 

The rotation looked awful 


All the warning signs about this year’s talented yet lacking depth Cards team. Instead of locking in a surefire arm in Jake Odorizzi (even when the team had to know about Miles Mikolas’ fragile medical state entering the spring), Bill DeWitt Jr. and John Mozeliak doubled down and stuck to his uneven rotation. A group that was already lacking Dakota Hudson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, didn’t add an arm in the offseason despite all the flashing lights saying, “get more proven pitching!” 

Daniel Ponce de Leon and John Gant are good arms, but proven starters they are now. Kwang Hyun Kim had impressive starts last year, but nothing in the Majors before to base any expectation for this season on, and Mikolas has produced a single great season. Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, and Carlos Martinez got mauled in Cincinnati, a team not deemed to be a threat this season, or any of the past 30. Not a great opening look. 


Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado make the Cards lineup look imposing again (on most days)

At least for a couple games. Before finding their bats frozen with the rest of the team on getaway day, the #2 and #3 hitter were a combined 9-19. Goldschmidt had a four-hit game on Thursday while Arenado collected a hit in every game. On the field, they were terrific and set the pace for the rest of the lineup, even bringing out some robust clean-up work from Paul DeJong. Tyler O’Neill showed off the power on Opening Day and added a couple more base knocks to the weekend count. 

Averaging six runs a game usually leads to a series victory but not at Great American Ballpark-especially when Jeff Hoffman holds you to one run in five innings. Who is Jeff Hoffman? A guy with a lifetime 6.30 ERA. Still problems, but the big guns look good. Also, Tommy Edman doesn’t look too bad in the leadoff spot. He proved the Cards had a pulse yesterday. 

Justin Williams looked overmatched

He went 0-9 in Cincinnati with five strikeouts. I’m sure exit velocity majors will find a way to tell me he hit a couple balls really good, but this lineup will eventually need production from the right-fielder. If he goes out there and goes 0-4 again, it’s time to throw Austin Dean out there for a couple games. Again, “if” this continues. The Small Sample Size police force gets out in full force in April. It is important to remember that Williams has less at-bats than even Lane Thomas in the big leagues. 

He’s a journeyman prospect for only being 25, so patience is necessary but requires a timer as well. The team needs production out there. Also, the right field issue will cease to exist when Harrison Bader gets back from his forearm injury. Dylan Carlson (a big HR in Game #1) will slide to right field once Bader returns most likely. 

Spring stats are once again proven meaningless with Wainwright outing

No pitcher looked more locked-in than Wainwright this spring. It was as if a few years were stripped off the arm and the knees were extra flexible. The veteran pitcher has been impressive in his resistance to Father Time, and it showed last month. But exhibition games end don’t exist in April, and real lineups drop the funny business and take serious swings. Some would think the guy would switch from Jupiter, Florida pitching rubber to cold Cincy and just put up zeroes. Not in this league. In other news, Wainwright will be fine.

REMINDER: It’s only three games, man!

Writing baseball columns in early April can fall on tough crowds, because we’re both new at this-the 2021 season I mean. One tries to pinpoint something in a hitter and pitcher, but only has a few games to reference. So, my advice right now would be to enjoy the return of baseball. Don’t allow batting average or OPS+ to climb into your mind yet. Let April and May run through the turnstiles before you get too hot and heavy about this team’s chances. Just advice. 

There’s really no way to tell what’s going to really happen, unless you’re a Los Angeles Dodgers fan. In that case, World Series parade passes have already been purchased. Most prognosticators had the Cardinals winning between 83 and 87 games. That’s it. Some guessed even fewer wins, but 99% of predictions are fool’s errands. 

Out of all the sports, baseball is the hardest to predict because the season is so long and relentless. 162 games, six months, road trips, few breaks, lots of COVID-19 tests, and constant misfortune due to the unpredictable nature of the human body. Injuries. Delays. Surprises. Collapses. Comebacks. It will all happen. 

Enjoy the spring action. The games matter and the mistakes will add up, but the time to worry about those things is down the road. A year ago, everything was closed. Today, things are opening back up, including baseball. America’s favorite pastime will break your heart and put it back together, so settle in for the long haul. 

This team is better than the last few years of Cardinals teams. That was known on paper–but just how much better is the real question. The 2021 Cardinals will be entertaining yet taxing on Cardinal Nation. 

Same story, different year. Play ball and pitch better!