From the very beginning, things were much improved for the St. Louis Cardinals compared to Friday night. For that matter, things were much improved in facing the Pittsburgh Pirates Francisco Liriano than they had been during the entire 2013 regular season when they only scored two runs off him in three games.
Last night, the Cardinals scored two runs before they even made two outs in the top of the first and finished that inning with a 3-0 lead. Matt, Matt and Matt all played a role as Carpenter led off with a single, Holliday drove him in following a Jhonny Peralta walk and Adams followed an Allen Craig sacrifice fly and Yadier Molina single with an RBI single of his own.
And though Liriano settled in and began throwing like his usual self facing the Cards, retiring 13 straight from the second inning through the sixth, Yadi homered to make the final total on the night four runs allowed.
That kind of game is so much better, as the Cardinals ultimately won 6-1 since Jhonny Peralta has apparently decided the only kind of hits he’s going to get as a Cardinal are home runs — he hit a two-run shot in the ninth with Matt Carpenter on base. (Now, if only Peter Bourjos can get that bat going …)
With just a lone run scored by the Pirates, it’s obvious the pitching was much better too. Yes, Pirates Stopper Joe Kelly retains that title once again. And while it wasn’t necessarily the most efficient of outings for him — the run allowed came on a bases-loaded walk, one of four he gave up for the night along with six hits and four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings — it was good enough to get the job done.
The bullpen too was much improved over Friday night. Carlos Martinez — remember, he’s not starting because he’s needed as the Eighth Inning Setup Guy — entered the game in the sixth after Kelly had given up a lead-off single and, with one out, hit Jose Tabata with a pitch. Martinez threw one pitch for the first ground out, then ended the inning with another. In the seventh, he walked Andrew McCutchen before retiring Pedro Alvarez, Russell Martin and Neil Walker in order.
The real eighth inning guy this time was Kevin Siegrist, who retired the three Pirates he faced in order. Thanks to Peralta’s homer in the top of the inning, it was no longer a save situation so Pat Neshek pitched the bottom of the ninth — retiring all three batters he faced as well, which was nice to see.
Effective bullpen, effective starter, plenty of offense — successful night.
And this afternoon the Cardinals will attempt to make it a very successful road trip by winning both series of the season so far. The finale begins at 12:35 p.m., with Adam Wainwright facing Edinson Volquez in his debut as a Pirates starter. Then of course, it’s back home to St. Louis at last for tomorrow afternoon’s home opener.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates and like AMF on Facebook if you don’t already.