photo: Jake Woodford and Nick Castellanos (Albert Cesare/Imagn)
Spring Training Game Recaps
The St. Louis Cardinals’ final spring game ended in a 3-3 tie with the Mets in Jupiter. Adam Wainwright had his final spring tune up and pitched only 2 2/3 innings in his final spring appearance. The right hander gave up two runs on three hits, struck out one and walked one. Jesus Cruz came in to get the final out of the third inning. Carlos Martinez followed with three scoreless innings and Andrew Miller tossed one scoreless frame. Ryan Helsley surrendered one run in the eighth and Giovanny Gallegos tossed a scoreless ninth.
The Mets took a 2-0 lead in the first before Nolan Arenado answered with a solo home run. In the third inning, Matt Carpenter plated St. Louis’ second run on a single.
The Mets grabbed a 3-2 lead in the eighth, but in the bottom of the ninth, Edmundo Sosa thumped a solo home run to end the game in a 3-3 tie.
Regular Season Game Recaps
The Cardinals began the 2021 regular season with a three-game series in Cincinnati. In the chilly opener, St. Louis came out ahead by the score of 11-6. Jack Flaherty made the opening day start and pitched 4 1/3 innings. The right hander gave up six runs on six hits, fanned four and walked two. Tyler Webb secured the final two outs of thre fifth. From that point on Cardinals pitching shut down the Reds offense. Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos, and Alex Reyes each pitched a scoreless inning. Gallegos got the win.
The Redbirds offense scored 11 runs on 10 hits. The bulk of the scoring came in the first inning off Reds starter Luis Castillo. Paul Goldschmidt hit a missile that hit the right field wall and was initially ruled a home run. A review overturned the ruling and Goldschmidt had a double. He scored on a single by Paul DeJong following a Nolan Arenado single. Tyler O’Neill was hit by a pitch and a fielding error on a ground ball hit by Yadier Molina allowed Arenado and DeJong to score. Dylan Carlson then hit a three run home run to make it 6-0 in favor of St. Louis.
The Cardinals scored a seventh run in the second inning on a single by Arenado. In the fourth, Flaherty drew a walk and Tommy Edman singled. Goldschmidt singled to score Flaherty, and Edman came home on a wild pitch. Tyler O’Neil then blasted a two run home run to left field.
Goldschmidt went 4-for-5 and Arenado was 2-for-5. O’Neill had two RBI and Carlson plated three.
O’Neill had an outfield assist at second base.
Friday, April 2 – Off day
The Cardinals did not take their winning momentum into Saturday’s game in Cincinnati. The game started out fine, as the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a solo home run by Paul DeJong.
The wheels came off the bus in the bottom of the third inning. Starter Adam Wainwright cruised through two, but gave up a leadoff walk in the third. Leadoff walks are a bad omen generally and this time was no exception. A bad pitch to Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart sent the ball over the right center field wall for two runs. That one bad pitch led to a torrent of weak and lucky hits to follow. Six ground ball singles, two that never left the infield, led to four additional runs scored and a 6-1 Reds lead. After the sixth run, Wainwright was removed. Jake Woodford got the final out of the inning and stopped the bleeding.
St. Louis got one back in the top of the fourth on a second solo home run by DeJong. With Woodford still pitching, the Reds added two additional runs in the bottom half of the fourth. A brawl ensued after Nick Castellanos, who Woodford had earlier hit with a pitch, scored on a wild pitch and then flexed himself with Woodford sitting on the ground after attempting to tag the Reds outfielder at the plate. After the melee was over and the play resumed, Woodford hit Jonathan India with a pitch with the bases loaded, allowing Joey Votto to score.
The Cardinals made the score 8-3 in the top of sixth when Arenado singled and then later scored on a Dylan Carlson fly ball misplayed in the sun by Reds outfielder Aristedes Aquino. The Reds responded with one more run in the bottom frame off Andrew Miller. A three up and three down seventh inning occurred for both sides, with Jordan Hicks in for Miller. In the eighth the Cardinals manufactured a run on two walks, a single and a sac fly by Carlson. Tyler Webb retired all three Reds he faced.
In the top of the ninth, with the Cards down five runs, Nolan Arenado hit a two run home run to make it 9-6.
Sunday’s game was even uglier than the day before, except without the brawl. Once again it started fine, with starter Carlos Martinez cruising through the first three innings, though the offense had yet to score.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Reds broke through and Cardinals nemesis Nick Castellanos tripled on a Martinez slider that didn’t slide. Joey Votto followed with an RBI single.
Things hadn’t gotten bad yet though, because the Cardinals scored in the top of the fifth to knot it up 1-1. Tyler O’Neill doubled and Yadier Molina followed with a single to plate O’Neill.
Martinez came back for the bottom of the fifth and after retiring his first batter, gave up a single to catcher Tyler Stephenson. A wild pitch and a walk followed. Martinez induced a ground out for the second out to bring up Castellanos, who smacked a cutter up in the zone for a three run home run. The Reds led 4-1.
In the sixth, the Reds knocked relievers Ryan Helsley and Tyler Webb around for six runs. They scored two more against Genesis Cabrera in the seventh. The only Cardinal pitcher to come out unscathed was Andrew Miller, who pitched a scoreless eighth.
The Cardinals did not score again after the one run in the fifth inning.
The Big Picture
It is only three games into the season, but it is not looking good so far. The Reds series was ugly after the first game. The pitching throughout the series was not good, though the offense hit enough in the first game to overcome it.
The state of Cardinals pitching was precarious coming into the season because of injury to two pitchers in the rotation, Miles Mikolas and Kwang-Hyun Kim. Because of those injuries, two pitchers who would ordinarily be in the bullpen were put in the rotation, Daniel Ponce de Leon and John Gant. So they have yet to pitch in 2021. Gant had been one of the Cardinals’ most reliable relievers, so his services could have been beneficial in the Reds series. Previously, Ponce de Leon had mostly been deployed as a long man out of the bullpen.
None of the three front-line starters in the series lasted past the fifth inning. This was taxing on the bullpen and it showed.
The offense didn’t show up in the final game of the series. It is too early to start talking about either pitching or offense being an issue but the Reds series loss was a bad omen. Perhaps things will go better in Miami against the Marlins, although the Cardinals had a tough time with the Marlins in spring training so it won’t be a cake walk. The pitching has to be better and the offense more consistent.
Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Paul DeJong, and Tyler O’Neill provided the bulk of the offense in the Queen City. The rest of the lineup needs to be better, most especially RF Justin Williams, who was 0-for-9 with five strikeouts in the series. Williams will likely get the day off on Monday in favor of Austin Dean with a left hander on the mound for the Marlins.
St. Louis is now 1-2 on the season and will face the Marlins in Miami starting Monday. The Cardinals need to win at least 2 of the 3 games to return to .500.
NL Central Standings
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.
- 4/1 The Cardinals placed CF Harrison Bader on the 10 day injured list.
- 4/1 The Cardinals placed RHP Miles Mikolas on the 10 day injured list
- 4/1 The Cardinals placed LHP Kwang-Hyun Kim on the 10 day injured list.
- 4/1 The Cardinals placed RHP Dakota Hudson on the 10 day injured list.
- 4/1 The Cardinals claimed LHP Bernardo Flores Jr off waivers from the Chicago White Sox.
- RHP Miles Mikolas (shoulder) still has not faced live hitters since February 25 but is making progress. He opened the season on the 10 day injured list. He threw a bullpen session on Friday and the plan is for the right hander to pitch to live hitters at the Alternate Site in Sauget, IL in the near future. Mikolas could be ready for a return in late April/early May.
- LHP Kwang-Hyun Kim (back tightness) has been placed on the 10 day injured list and is set to pitch in a simulation game on Tuesday in Jupiter. It is possible that the left hander will fly back with the team to St. Louis when they return from the three game series in Miami that begins on Monday.
- CF Harrison Bader (right forearm flexor tendon) has been placed on the 10 day injured list. The injury is described as a right flexor strain but with no damage to the ligament. Bader has received a platelet rich plasma injection and is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks. Like Mikolas, he will be rehbbing at the Alternate Site.
The Cardinals will play the Marlins in Miami a three game series beginning Monday, April 5. Daniel Ponce de Leon is scheduled to make the Monday start, followed by John Gant on Tuesday, and Jack Flaherty on Wednesday.
The Cardinals return to St. Louis on Thursday, April 8 for the home opener against the Brewers. Adam Wainwright will make the start. After a Friday off day, the series continues on Saturday and Sunday against the Brewers, with Carlos Martinez and Ponce de Leon the probable pitchers.
The team continues the homestand next Monday against the COVID-struck Nationals for three games before a day off Thursday. The Cardinals will travel to Philadelphia for a three game weekend series starting next Friday with the Phillies.
The Cardinals regular season schedule can be found here.
Blast from the Past
This week’s installment of the Cardinals Hall of Fame candidacy series takes a look at a man who made history as the first Latin player for the Cardinals and one of the first Latin players in baseball. He was a player, a coach, and a manager for St. Louis.
Miguel Angel Gonzalez Cordero a/k/a Mike Gonzalez, was born on September 24, 1890 in Havana, Cuba. Gonzalez played baseball as a boy, as the sport had become popular in Cuba at that time. He also played in school at the Institute of Havana. Working as a bank clerk, he was recruited to play baseball by the Cuban baseball Club Fé. At a height of 6’1”, he first suited up for the club as a shortstop in 1910, appearing in six games.
The next winter Mike was playing catcher and was spotted by the owner of the Long Branch Cubans, a New Jersey minor league team composed almost entirely of Cubans. Mike played catcher for the New York/New Jersey League pennant winners of 1912.
The Cubans owner sold Gonzalez’ contract to the Boston Braves following the season. He made his major league debut on September 28 at the age of 22. He played in one game and in 1913 the Braves attempted to assign him to their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre but he refused and the Long Branch Cubans purchased his optional release and then subsequently his outright release.
Gonzelez returned to Cuba in 1913 and was traded from Fé to Habana. He was signed by the Cincinnati Reds for the 1914 season. Gonzalez returned to Habana in the fall as the manager and would have a long standing role as manager of Habana over his life, winning 13 Cuban League titles.
In April 1915, the Reds traded Mike to the Cardinals. Gonzalez would play eight seasons for the Cardinals in three separate stints over his major league career, from 1915-1918, 1924-1925, and 1931-1932. In between he also played for the New York Giants and the Cubs. In 1933, he returned to the minor leagues as a player/coach for the Columbus Red Wings at the age of 42. In eight seasons for the Cardinals, Gonzalez slashed .262/.320/.332 with seven home runs and 150 RBI.
Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch needed a coach for the 1934 season and added Gonzalez. As a coach for the notorious “Gashouse Gang”, he helped that team win the World Series over the Detroit Tigers in seven games. Mike continued under Frisch until the manager was fired with 16 games remaining in the 1938 season. Gonzalez was named interim manager, making him the first Latin manager in the major leagues.
It was Gonzalez who recommended Ray Blades to Branch Rickey as the new manager of the Cardinals. Mike would coach for Blades until Blades was fired in June 1940 and Mike again became interim manager. The Cardinals then hired Billy Southworth and Mike coached for Billy until he left in 1945 to manage the Braves. The Cardinals hired Eddie Dyer and Gonzalez was kept as the third base coach.
One of the most famous plays in World Series history happened in the 1946 series while Mike was third base coach. Enos Slaughter’s “Mad Dash” that scored the winning run occurred either because Gonzalez waved Slaughter home or Slaughter ignored a stop sign. No one knows which one it was to this day although films appear to show Gonzalez waving Slaughter home. Other accounts suggest otherwise.
Gonzalez is credited with contributing to baseball terminology that is still in use today. Mike was asked to scout a winter league player by the New York Giants and he sent back a brief scouting report that said “Good field, no hit”.
Mike resigned from the Cardinals after the 1946 season in protest of a ban by major league baseball of players who played for the Mexican League. MLB subsequently ruled him ineligible from working for U.S baseball. Although the dispute between MLB and the Mexican League was ultimately resolved, Gonzalez never returned to major league baseball.
Gonzalez returned to Cuba and continued to manage Habana until he retired in 1953. He passed away at the age of 86 on February 19, 1977. He was survived by his second wife and a son, Miguel Jr.
Mike Gonzalez was a history maker for the Cardinals and a loyal player, coach and manager. He received accolades from everyone around him, including Rickey and the managers for whom he coached. He was considered an astute baseball man who had the ability to crack the code of signs and who had such a memory that he could recall the strengths and weaknesses of every player. The dispute that resulted in his leaving MLB and the US was resolved and is long past. Gonzalez’ contributions are obvious and he deserves a posthumous induction into the Cardinals Hall of Fame.
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