Well, that's not how opening day was supposed to fly, Cardinals fans. St. Louis figured out a way to lose to the New York Mets while scoring four runs off their ace, Noah Syndergaard. While you digest the first loss of the season and look in the rearview mirror at the chances of a 162-0 season, let's examine a few takeaways from the 9-4 loss at Citi Field.
5) Carlos Martinez is just fine. When it comes to this 26-year-old phenom, Cardinals fans are somewhat divided. One group thinks he is the real deal with a couple of fine tuning mechanisms to fix before winning seventeen Cy Young awards, while the other doubts his ability to be a true ace. Martinez didn't help the former, struggling to finish five innings on Thursday. He walked too many, wasn't accurate with much, and wasn't the ace the Cards needed him to be. While it's okay to be disappointed, canceling the rest of Martinez's 2018 season would be a mistake. He made huge breakthroughs in the 2017 season and is still a young guy. He may not be upper-echelon elite yet, but he's the best guy the Cards have to offer.
4) Yadier Molina likes hurting the Mets. He walked to the plate with a smattering of boos awaiting his next step, and Molina greeted the home crowd with a two run blast that must have reminded New Yorkers of that memorable 2006 two-run homer in the National League Championship series. While some have a desire to see Carson Kelly get a fair amount of playing time, I am glad when Molina reminds them who is boss. There's a reason the Cardinals signed him to a three-year extension: Molina is far from done and can still produce. He owned the first home run of the 2018 season.
3) Mike Matheny still hasn't learned anything yet in game management and bullpen skills. In a 3-2 game, Matheny went to Matt Bowman, a right-handed toy that the skipper broke last year due to overusage. Bowman is a contact pitcher in a bullpen full of lightning-rod arms. A safe valve next to pure electricity. Any of the pitchers that followed Bowman would have been a better option. Instead, the game got out of hand, the Mets scored five, and the game was lost. Matheny simply will not learn.
2) Jordan Hicks showed everyone why he made the roster over John Brebbia and forced the team to release Josh Lucas. The kid has nasty stuff that puts hitters in a tough spot. A lot of guys can throw 100 miles-per-hour straight to the plate. Hicks is one of the few who can put some sink on that cheddar burger. He tore through three hitters yesterday, doubling down on the promise that sparked late in spring training. He made Jay Bruce stare up at the sky for help and induced a double play ball. With the expected arrival of Greg Holland, Hicks can take a little while in deciding where he needs to be. A bullpen fireman isn't a bad spot to start.
1) Jose Martinez won't stop hitting. His glove/arm cost the Cardinals an early run at first base, but he more than made up for it at the plate, going 3-4 with a solo home run and a pair of singles. The guy is the epitome of "never give up", accumulating 3,200 at-bats in the minor leagues before arriving with a bang last summer. He will force Matheny's hand in creating the daily lineup card-and for good reason.
The Cardinals lost the first game, but there were some good signs. The defense turned a few slick double-plays, the majority of the bullpen work was fine, and there were some healthy bats in an otherwise cold loss. Baseball resumes tomorrow, so chin up. As Jake Taylor once told the raw-minded Rick Vaughn, "relax, we have a 161 of these games left."
Thanks for reading and see you soon.