The Cardinals opened their home season with the usual rolling out of the red carpet with Clydesdales, Hall of Famers and currently conquering heroes, as well as a touching look back at the impact of Stan Musial. However, it also featured a tough match up against their chief division rivals in the Cincinnati Reds.
After a late inning implosion cost them game one by an ugly 14-3 tilt, they came out flat in for the first half of game two as well. However, after breaking up just over 5 perfect innings Bronson Arroyo framed on Tuesday, the club owned the Reds to the tone of a 15-1 split over the final 13.2 innings of the series, and took two of three to win the series. They head into this weekend winners of their previous two series against two playoff teams from a year ago, and tied for first place in the National League Central. But before setting sites on the upcoming series with the Milwaukee Brewers in town, here’s three points to walk away from the just finished 3-game set with the Reds.
1. Adams forces his point: Matt Adams solidified the fact that he has an everyday caliber bat during the series. He had a ridiculous 2013 performance escalated with a pinch-hit home run that blew open Tuesday’s game and a 416-foot shot on Wednesday afternoon. For the season, in 14 at-bats he has nine hits (a .643 average) with two home runs, two doubles, four runs scored and seven runs batted in.
The big question coming into 2012 was how to get at-bats for Allen Craig with the presence of Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran looming on the club. Fast forward a year, and Adams has created the same dilemma this season, with Craig playing the role of Berkman. While the future is what it is, the now finds the Cardinals with a plus bat that will keep the heat on to find more chances for his undeniable skill set to play.
2. Mitchell Boggs will be okay: On the heels of his blown save in Arizona and follow up implosion during the ninth inning of Monday’s opener, the already hot question about if he is suited for the ninth inning continued. When compounded with the confirmation of the torn elbow ligament for Jason Motte, and the debate on Boggs role on the club hit a fever pitch. Taking full advantage of Mike Matheny’s decision to put him back on the bump just a day after his disastrous outing, Boggs put plenty of confidence in his ability to deliver once again. In setting down the Reds in order to close out Wednesday’s win, and in impressive fashion (12 pitches, eight strikes, one strikeout), he put arm’s length between himself and the growing sentiment for Trevor Rosenthal and his 100-mph excitement (to over exaggeration creating) fastball, to take over the role he hasn’t even had much of a chance to prove himself unworthy for yet.
3. Warrior Westbrook: The best arm in the young season has been Jake Westbrook. With his complete game shutout on Wednesday, he ran his 2013 total to 15.2 innings, and he is yet to surrender an earned run. Yet what’s more than the result however is the method that he’s gone about it. While he has struggled with walks some (11 in total, one more than total hits he’s surrendered), he’s taken on a solid innings load when it has been needed. In the two games prior to his starts, the bullpen has pitched a total of 14.1 innings, using a total of seven different relievers.
The strength of what Westbrook brings to the middle of the rotation is a workhorse that can lower the sometimes heavy load the bullpen carries behind Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia’s starts, and potentially a day before Shelby Miller’s as well, who will have his innings monitored closely. If Westbrook can keep up his effective innings-eating efforts, the ripple effect through the rest of the pitching staff is full of positive scenarios.