Losing two out of three in the opening series isn’t the ideal start to the season, but there were plenty of positives to take away. From the newfound ace of the staff to the new lineup configuration, the 2017 Cardinals have taken a new shape. Look for each Cardinals – Cub series to be a dogfight.
Carlos Martinez was electric
Taking the ball for Opening Night, Carlos Martinez fortified his position as the teams ace. Striking out 10 Chicago hitters over 7 1/3 innings, Martinez didn’t shy away from the bright Sunday lights.
For the first time since 2012 a starter not Adam Wainwright would take the ball for Opening Day. Martinez showed why he was the obvious choice and gave a new face to the rotation leadership.
Not optimal lineup placement
Pointing out the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position brings back the frustrations of 2016. The team has a cleanup hitter on the roster that fits the improved athleticism that was a major offseason focus. Jhonny Peralta did not look good in the first two games of the series. He also may have been put in a position to fail. The lineup configuration must change moving forward to get the best results with the current and best, one through three spots on the order.
Stephen Piscotty should be given the job and allowed to work through any lingering effects from a somewhat poor Spring Training. Piscotty is not the conventional cleanup hitter, but has all the attributes needed for this new look lineup.
The best aspect of the opening series was the results from the added emphasis on baserunning this offseason. Cardinals baserunners did a fantastic job of advancing the extra bases and forcing the defense to make plays.
Aledmys Diaz is the teams best base runner and the perfect hitter for the 2 hole in the lineup. Diaz took extra bases several times and twice had third base stolen against Jon Lester. Successful on the second attempt after a Peralta foul ball halted the first attempt.
The first run of yesterday’s game would have been a wasted opportunity for last years team. After a single off the glove of Ben Zobrist, Diaz went from first to third on a Matt Carpenter single to center. Taking off on a 3-2 pitch, Diaz read the ball perfectly and took third base, scoring soon after on a bobbled double play ball.
The current lineup of Dexter Fowler, Diaz, and Carpenter will produce many run scoring opportunities. Piscotty and Randall Grichuk to follow would give the Cardinals two more very good baserunners.
Yes, there were hiccups from the bullpen. One of which could be attributed to the dugout as easily as pinned on Suang Won Oh. Brett Cecil paid the price for a poor pitch today two hitters after a strikeout pitch was lost in the chest protector of Yadier Molina. A mistake, yes, but more just bad luck.
There were defensive mishaps, but not as atrocious as last year. The Cubs were given extra bases on a couple of occasions, which this team will take advantage. Expect less of the lackluster play than you saw last year. The positives outweighed the negatives.
This 2017 Cardinals team seems to have an edge. Hopefully more than just the rivalry to open the season. The series could have gone either way, but the team with the most recent winning persona took advantage of the mistakes.
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