COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals traveled to Arizona with a few players on the disabled list but overall very optimistic about the 2013 season. They leave Arizona looking to learn some lessons from the first three games as they travel to face the World Champion San Francisco Giants in a rematch of last year's league championship.
Dropping two of the first three games of the season was obviously not the ideal situation for the team. Dropping the final game in a 16-inning marathon was not in the best-laid plans, either. Throughout the three games, there were moments of positive impact as well as moments of negatives of which to be concerned.
The Offense Showed Up to Play
The team put up 17 runs over the three game set. Run production is showing up from the players that are being depended on to produce with Matt Holliday driving in four runs, Yadier Molina driving in three, and Allen Craig driving in two. Gaining some support from Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay and Pete Kozma, who each drove in two runs, is helpful as well. Averaging more than five runs a game will put a lot more marks in the win column than in it will in the loss column.
The Defense Is Shaky
An error in each of the first two games is bad enough, but play kept runners on base, and in scoring position, for the Diamondbacks far too often. There were bright spots, such as Matt Carpenter's stellar defensive plays, but the pitching staff deserves better support than what they received in Arizona.
The Middle Infield Is Better Than Advertised
Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma took the early opportunity to show that they are both capable of solid defense while also producing well at the plate. Descalso was credited for one of the errors on a ball that should have been handled at first by Craig, but was otherwise solid. Both young men produced well with the bat and sent notice to the rest of the league that the bottom of the Cardinal batting order is not as weak as projected.
The Pitching Has To Improve
I know, it's early in the season and you cannot expect the pitchers to be sharp. That may be true, but I expect a little bit more than what they gave. Skinny Lance Lynn has to figure out his mechanics. Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright have to go deeper into the game. The bullpen has to be more dependable. Fernando Salas may not be long for the major-league roster. Joe Kelly may be starting in Memphis soon. Two blown saves in one game is beyond less than acceptable.
The Bullpen Had Bright Spots
Mark Rzepczynski and Edward Mujica were impressive. Mujica picked up where he left off in 2012, giving manager Mike Matheny the ease of knowing that the seventh inning would be well taken care of. Rzepczynski showed why the Cardinals traded for him two seasons ago: he can get right handed hitters out as well as lefties. The two of them give hope to an otherwise uneasy bullpen situation.
All totaled, it is early in the year and it is hard to say that these points will be consistent throughout a 162-game schedule. For now, it gives the team some areas to focus on and some areas to be proud of.
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