St. Louis Cardinals MLB Notebook: Week of March 19-25

photo: Marcell Ozuna (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

Spring Training game recaps

Monday, March 19 – off day

Tuesday, March 20 – Cardinals 7, Mets 8

Mike Mayers (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The final full week of St. Louis Cardinals Grapefruit League games began with a loss to the Mets in Jupiter.  Mike Mayers made the start in place of regular Adam Wainwright, as the Cardinals made the decision to make the last few games in Florida bullpen starts to rest the starters and keep the Mets from getting too many looks at the starters before they play in the first series of the regular season.

Mayers continued his standout spring, pitching two scoreless innings, allowing no hits and striking out two.  A string of pitchers then threw one inning each.  Estarlin Arias, Josh Lucas, John Brebbia, Jason Motte, Preston Guilmet, Bud Norris, Ian McKinney, and Luke Gregerson.  Norris was the losing pitcher.

Paul DeJong’s solo home run in the fifth inning finally put the Cardinals on the board.  In the sixth, the Redbirds plated three more on Luke Voit’s triple that scored two, and a DeJong sac fly.  Harrison Bader added a sac fly in the eighth, and two more runs came home on a throwing error.  Dexter Fowler went 2-for-5, while Marcell Ozuna and Francisco Pena each went 2-for-3.

Jose Martinez stole his second base, and Kolten Wong was picked off first base.  Norris and Brebbia each committed an error on pickoff attempts.

Wednesday, March 21 – Cardinals 13 at Marlins 6

Marcell Ozuna (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

In a high scoring contest as the visiting team in Jupiter, the Cardinals defeated the Marlins.  The long ball was front and center, as Paul DeJong hit his fourth spring home run, a two-run shot in the second inning. Matt Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna hit back to back solo shots in the sixth.  Also driving in runs were Tommy Pham, on a double in the first inning, and on a first inning double play off the bat of Ozuna.  Ozuna also had a sac fly in the second, Pham plated a run on a fielder’s choice, and the final second inning run scored on Yadier Molina’s single. In the fourth, Harrison Bader drove in a run on a double, and in the ninth, a Steve Baron single and a Greg Garcia force out brought the final two Redbird runs home.  Bader was 3-for-3, Carpenter was 2-for-3, and Ozuna was 2-for-4.

Filling in for Michael Wacha, who like Wainwright the day before threw on the back fields instead, Matt Bowman pitched the first two innings, giving up two runs, one earned, on two hits.  The right hander struck out four and walked none.  Following Bowman were Jordan Hicks, Tyler Lyons, Brett Cecil, Sean Gilmartin, and Sam Tuivailala.  Bowman was the winning pitcher.

Paul DeJong made a throwing error, his third miscue of the spring.

Thursday, March 22 – Cardinals 8 at Braves 2

Miles Mikolas (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The Cardinals defeated the Braves in Kissimmee on Thursday, behind the first member of the rotation to start a game in the final week.  Miles Mikolas pitched six innings, giving up two runs on four hits while fanning five and walking one.  Preston Guilmet followed with a scoreless inning of relief.  Josh Lucas and Dominic Leone each also pitched a scoreless frame to close out the road win.

Streaking Marcell Ozuna hit a long ball for the second consecutive day, blasting a three-run blast in the first inning.  Yairo Munoz contributed a solo shot in the third.  Four runs crossed the plate in the second on a force out by Dexter Fowler, a two run single by Matt Carpenter, and an Ozuna sac fly.

Mikolas committed a throwing error.

Friday, March 23 – Cardinals 5 at Mets 1

Dakota Hudson (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The Cardinals blanked the Mets to begin the last weekend of Grapefruit League play.  The Redbirds got on the board in the first inning on Matt Carpenter’s RBI single.   In the third, Francisco Pena plated the second run on a single to center.  A Jose Martinez double to right, and a Yairo Munoz single to center brought two runs home in the sixth. A throwing error on Kolten Wong’s stolen base in the sixth plated the final run.  Wong went 2-for-3; Carpenter was 2-for-4.

Back from minor league camp, Dakota Hudson started and pitched five innings, surrendering one run one four hits.  Hudson struck out four and walked one.  Sean Gilmartin followed with two scoreless innings.  Brett Cecil and Tyler Lyons each pitched a scoreless frame.

Saturday, March 24 – Cardinals 8 at Mets 7

Lane Thomas (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Saturday’s game against the Mets ended in a walkoff win for the Redbirds.  Eight pitchers took the mound, beginning with one scoreless inning from Mike Mayers.  Edward Mujica tossed a scoreless inning.  Austin Warner followed with one inning in which he relinquished the first Mets run.  Jacob Evans added a scoreless inning.

The bulk of the Mets scoring came in the fifth inning with Ian McKinney on the mound.  The young lefty gave up five runs on four hits in 2/3 of an inning.  Matt Bowman did his thing, getting the final out of the inning, then returning to pitch a scoreless sixth. Brett Cecil handled the seventh, Bud Norris allowed a run in the eighth, and Dominic Leone pitched a scoreless ninth to get the win.

Cardinals scoring didn’t begin until the fifth inning.  The Redbirds put up seven runs in that frame, beginning with a two run RBI single by Francisco Pena.  Jedd Gyorko hit a sac fly, Patrick Wisdom singled in a run, Marcell Ozuna plated two on a double, and Andrew Knizner added an RBI single.  The winning run came in the ninth on a single by Lane Thomas.  Ozuna was 2-for-3 and Adolis Garcia was 2-for-4.

Patrick Wisdom stole his first base of the spring.

Sunday, March 25 – Cardinals 2 at Nationals 4

Jordan Hicks (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The final spring game in Florida ended in defeat for the Cardinals at the Nationals. The only Redbirds runs came on a first inning Marcell Ozuna double and in the sixth on a double play by Jose Martinez.  The lone Cardinal with multiple hits was Tommy Pham, who was 2-for-2.

Taking the place of injured Adam Wainwright, Jordan Hicks started and impressed in this final Florida game, pitching four scoreless, one-hit innings.  Hicks fanned two and walked none.  John Brebbia gave up two Nationals solo home runs in his two innings pitched.  Ryan Helsley surrendered a run in one inning, as did final pitcher Sam Tuivailala.  Helsley took the loss.

Pham stole his second base of the spring.

The big picture

The six Spring Training games for the fifth week are complete, with a four-game winning streak bookended by two losses for a 4-2 record. With the team holding an overall 16-12-2 record and just two games remaining, a winning spring is assured.

St. Louis’ offense remains in the bottom third, with the unit’s .253 batting average and .749 OPS ranking 23rd and 22nd, respectively, of 30 MLB teams this spring. The pitching has been far better, with the team ERA of 4.06 ranking fifth overall.

Red-hot Marcell Ozuna streaked to the top of the team batting average ranks at .345. (Matt Carpenter is hitting .474, but in just 19 at-bats.) The youthful duo of Yairo Munoz (.333) and Adolis Garcia (.320) continue to impress. RBI leaders are Jose Martinez at 13, Ozuna at 12 and Yadier Molina with 11. Paul DeJong took over the team lead in long balls with four while Ozuna’s eight doubles lead the way.

Mike Mayers has allowed just five baserunners in 12 scoreless innings while striking out 12. Josh Lucas fanned 12 in 11 1/3 scoreless before being optioned out. Luke Weaver has been changed with just one earned run in 13 1/3 spring innings, on five hits and four walks. He also has 15 K’s.

Trade and Acquisition Rumors

Jason Motte (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Jim Bowden of The Athletic tweeted that the Cardinals are one of three teams who have checked in on reliever Greg Holland.  Bowden reports that none of the teams feel they can be competitive financially at this time due to the salary range being asked for. On Sunday’s broadcast, President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak reiterated the club’s intent to go with its promising young pitchers instead of bringing in a free agent.

Although the Cardinals have given RHP Jason Motte his unconditional release, the team remains open to bringing him back should he be unable to ink a deal with another team, reports Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch. Later reports pegged the reunion as unlikely.

Transactions

3/22 The Cardinals gave RHP Jason Motte his unconditional release.

3/23 The Cardinals optioned 1B Luke Voit, CF Harrison Bader, and RHP Josh Lucas to the Memphis Redbirds. Details here.

Injury Report

Luke Gregerson (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

RHP Luke Gregerson (left hamstring strain) will begin the season the disabled list.  Gregerson is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. This opened the door for Mike Mayers to make the opening roster with Dominic Leone and Tyler Lyons slated to share the closing duties.

RHP Adam Wainwright also suffered a left hamstring strain and was scratched from Sunday’s Grapefruit League start.  Wainwright will begin the season on the disabled list and miss 1-2 starts. In his likely final season with St. Louis, the veteran will be unable to make his scheduled start in the home opener on April 5. Jack Flaherty has been recalled from Memphis and will become the temporary #5 starter.

OF Tyler O’Neill (right hamstring strain) is recovering in minor league camp and it is hoped he will be ready to play by Opening Day for the Memphis Redbirds.

RHP Alex Reyes continues to pitch in minor league simulated games. The plan remains for the top prospect to open the season on the disabled list. A likely path is to build up his workload on a minor league rehab stint in preparation for a May 1 return to St. Louis’ active roster.

The full details of the Cardinals expected Opening Day roster can be seen here.

Looking Ahead

The final full week of Grapefruit League play ended on Sunday.  The Cardinals have two games remaining against the Toronto Blue Jays, to be played in Montreal on Monday and Tuesday.  Michael Wacha and Miles Mikolas are scheduled to make the starts.

The regular season begins on Thursday, March 29 as the Cardinals play the Mets in New York in a three game set. Friday is an off day, and then the final two games of the series will be played on Saturday and Sunday.  Carlos Martinez will make the Opening Day start, followed by Wacha on Saturday, and Luke Weaver on Sunday.

A three-game series against the Brewers in Milwaukee follows, with Mikolas, Flaherty and Martinez the scheduled starters.  St. Louis’ home opener is on Thursday, April 5, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, with Wacha on the mound.

Blast from the Past

This week’s Blast from the Past features the 1957 St. Louis Cardinals.  That year was the franchise’s 76th season and its 66th in the National League.

St. Louis’ record in 1957 was 87-67 as they finished second in the National League, eight games behind the Milwaukee Braves.  The manager was Fred Hutchinson; the general manager was Frank Lane.  The owner was Gussie Busch.

The Opening Day lineup was Don Blasingame (2B), Al Dark (SS), Stan Musial (1B), Del Ennis (RF), Ken Boyer (3B), Wally Moon (LF), Hal Smith (C), Bobby Smith (CF), and Herm Wehmeier (SP). (Note the unpopular one-year-only non-Birds on the Bat uniforms worn in 1957.)

1957 St. Louis Cardinals

The longest losing streak was nine games, from August 6-15.  The longest winning streak was eight games, twice, from June 5-12 and July 28-August 3.  The highest winning margin was two 10-run wins, a 13-3 defeat of the Reds on July 6, and a 14-4 victory over the Reds again on Sept 3.  The worst loss was a 13-2 defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Braves on Aug 9.  Splits were 42-35 at home and 45-32 on the road.

The top starting pitchers were Larry Jackson and Lindy McDaniel, both with a record of 15-9 and ERAs of 3.47 and 3.49 respectively.  The best offensive performance unsurprisingly came from Stan Musial, who hit .351/.422/.612, with 28 home runs, and 102 RBI.

Musial’s .351 batting average led the National League in 1957.  Musial also led the league in OBP (.422), OPS (1.034), and HBP (19).

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