Let's go live to New York!
The St. Louis Cardinals won a baseball game. Folks, this is not an April Fools joke. The Cards walked into Citi Field like ruthless athletes on Easter Sunday and stole the finale of a three-game set against the New York Mets.
In doing so, the team avoided an embarrassing sweep to open the season and kept the message boards on websites all over town from filling up with "fire Matheny" chants. For the time being, the skipper is safe. My keyboard, however, is not. I've poured a cup of coffee, slipped on some Sinatra, so let's pop the hood and take a look at the 5-1 win.
5) Luke Weaver wasn't perfect, but he was the first pitcher to record five innings in a start. The effort got him a win and helped the Cardinals give *some* rest to an already busy bullpen. The Cards never trailed in the game and Weaver only handed one lead back. He struck out three while allowing eight baserunners, getting around an illogical strike zone from CB Buckner.
4) Dexter Fowler leaves New York hitless and frustrated. It could be the return to the leadoff spot or the start of a season with bigger implications that come with playing right field, but a lot of bats can start a season cold. Fowler did draw another walk, but he struck out three times and was pressing in his final two at-bats. However, nothing cures an ailing bat like a visit to Miller Park in Milwaukee. Keep your head up, Fowler. A hit would be nice though.
3) Marcell Ozuna stopped buffering and started clubbing, collecting two RBI and three hits to boost the box score. Ozuna has a Ron-Gant-type finish to his swing and it's beautiful when it connects, and the guy gets solid contact quite often. The rep on him was being able to hit good pitches and he did a few times on Sunday. He cleaned up, which is what he was signed to do. Things get easier when you aren't dressed at the plate for a trip to Poland.
2) Paul DeJong cranked a couple home runs like I would drink a couple cups of coffee. With ease and expected. Similar to Jose Martinez, the Illinois State recruit hasn't stopped hitting since last summer. He punishes inside fastballs and launched a couple today. For the people who fear an Aledmys-Diaz-type descent for the newly extended shortstop, be calm. This kid isn't putting the boomstick down anytime soon. 25-30 home runs is a good bet.
1) Yadier Molina isn't ready to mentor or hand the plate to anyone at the moment. He smashed a long home run, his second of the year, to extend the lead for good. Molina collected a potpourri of hits in New York and is picking up where he left off last year. I'll have more tomorrow on his refusal to age properly, but let me give you this. In 1,556 at-bats from the 2014-16 seasons, Molina had 19 home runs. In 512 at-bats between 2017 and this first series, he had 20 home runs. He's not done yet. Not even close.
Bonus Takeaway: The bullpen could be a fierce weapon for this team, and it showed its swagger today. Jordan Hicks and Dominic Leone needed only 23 pitches to dispatch the Mets in the final two innings. Hicks' sinker hits 99 mph and has movement. Leone's slider dips in tight on righties. It's a problem for other teams to solve, but imagine this late-inning trio: Hicks, Leone, and Greg Holland. Be very afraid, MLB.
That's all I got. The Cardinals fly into Milwaukee tonight for three before Thursday's home opener. Have a drink, swallow a few jelly beans, and kick your feet up on a rather chilly St. Louis evening.
I'll talk to you tomorrow about the unbreakable machine that is Yadier Molina.