Cards vs. Mets: A defining series

The New York Mets head into St. Louis Tuesday night for a three game series against the Cardinals.  Two teams sitting at the top of their respective divisions will meet for the second time in 2018. This matchup will determine where the Cardinals currently stand when it comes to the hierarchy of National League contenders.

Winners of 8 of their last 10 games, the Cardinals climbed up the MLB power rankings. Power has been the key to the movement, they have 30 home runs, tied for most in the National League and second most in the majors. Yadier Molina and Paul Dejong’s power surges along with Jose Martinez’s emergence as the 3-hole hitter that the birds on the bat have been looking for since the departure of Albert Pujols.

While the Cardinals sit at the top of the Central Division, most of their wins have come against the dumpster fire that is the Cincinnati Reds.  They head into the matchup with the New York Mets looking to win their first series against a team with a winning record. The Mets will enter this series with a chance to make another statement against a proverbial contender. New York entered the 2018 season with mid-level expectations sitting in a division with everyone’s favorite regular season team, the Washington Nationals.  The Met’s have come out firing the first month of the season starting the season 14- 6, also winning their opening weekend series against St. Louis.  New York’s addition of Adrian Gonzalez and Todd Frazier has brought consistency to the lineup as well as veteran presences.  Outfield Brandon Nimmo’s sudden emergence has also brought an unexpected spark to the lineup. The pitching staff has stayed healthy early on, the signing of veteran lefty Jason Vargas has also given them depth to handle the breakdown of the Dark Knight Matt Harvey.

The Cardinals may have caught a small break with Met’s pushing back Zack Wheeler to start this series after a rainout cause him to miss his start against Atlanta. The righty will seek his first career win against the Cardinals, as he’s 0-2 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts. The rainout means the Cardinals will not see one of the two phenom’s the Met’s rotation sports as Jacob Degrom has been moved out of this series.  After Wheeler, the Mets will send out  lefty Steven Matz, who took the loss in his first start of the season against Cardinals giving up three runs over four innings on April 1st in New York.  They will conclude the series against Noah Syndergaard who has 39 K’s in 27 1/3 innings, but his inefficiency has left him “disappointed and frustrated with how I’ve been throwing.” He is 1-2 with a 3.79 ERA in his career vs. St. Louis.

Rotational stability is up in the air at the moment for the Cardinals as Adam Wainwright was sent to the 10-day DL for the second time in 2018.  Luke Weaver will take the mound in game one of the series. Weaver suffered his 1st loss last time out, when he allowed 6 runs in 4 innings to the Cubs. He earned his 1st win of the season against the Mets earlier this month. After Weaver, the Cardinals have left it uncertain for the final two games of the series. Micheal Wacha and Carlos Martinez would make sense, as they both would be on normal rest. Matheny though, has already shown that he is willing to tweak the rotation. With an inner division series in Pittsburgh coming up after the weekend, he could look to give Martinez an extra day off to pitch the opener in Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals will head into this series with a chance to make an early season statement to the rest of the league.  They will have a chance to show the league that they are a legit contender.  It will be important that they contain the middle of the order especially Asdrubal Cabrera, the switching hitter has been a lightning rod for the Mets lineup all season.  The Met’s have had a problem giving up home runs early in the season giving up 1.15 homers per game in 2018 which has them ranked 23rd in the league. The Met’s seem to have a problem with home runs, which is perfect for a Cardinal team that ranks 2nd in the league in home runs per game.

The Cardinals are set up to win this series. They should win this series. Playoff teams win these series at home, let’s see what they are made of.

Game 1: Recap Cards vs Mets

Opening day has come and went for the St. Louis Cardinals losing to the New York Mets 9-4.  Game 1 of 162 is usually not considered a problem , but Cardinals fans watching the game had to feel as if they were seeing a lot of similarities to the team of 2017.

The Negatives

Martinez’s Control

Card’s starter Carlos Martinez, whose emotions can sometimes impede his ability came out finding issues throwing strikes.  Martinez lasting just 4.1 innings, walking 6 Mets while throwing 90 pitches.  The Cardinals chose not to resign innings eater Lance Lynn or add a veteran starter in the offseason. They will need their ace to be the leader emotionally and physically as the season progresses.

Matt Bowman- Still Tired?

The bullpen got off to a shaky start as Matt Bowman came in and gave up 3 runs over just 1/3 of an inning.  Bowman is Mike Matheny’s work horse.  Matheny was ridiculed all last season for over working Bowman. Despite Bowman’s second half struggles, he is still one of Mikes “guys”.  He will be relied upon in big situations this year no matter how many pieces Cardinals management brings in.

Strikeouts

The Cardinals struck out 15 times Thursday afternoon.  Met’s ace Noah Syndergaard was able to fan 10 of those 14 over his 6 innings pitched.  The Cardinals have power up and down the lineup but they at lack the ability to make contact way to much.  While I would love to credit opening day jitters and a dominate pitcher on the mound this team is full of veteran hitters that have to make adjustments as the game gets into the later innings. You know Paul Dejong and Kolten Wong tend to have issues with strikeouts but having 9 strikeouts in a game from the top four in your lineup cannot be a trend that continues.

Jose Martinez Defense

It’s not good. I will cover that more in the positives.

 

The Positives

Jose Martinez

I told you I would get to Jose. Martinez was the bright spot at the plate for the Cardinals going 3 for 4 with a home run and 2 RBI’s.  His bat has to be in the lineup everyday, the man has proven himself as an impact bat.  The negative of Martinez is that while he can hit he is not a stellar defender. His throwing error in the first allowed the first run of the season to score.  He also forces the Cardinals to move Matt Carpenter to 3rd which takes arguably your best infielder defender Jedd Gyroko out of the lineup.  This will be a problem all season long for the Cardinals.  Do you sacrifice offense for defense?  That usually is not the way it works.

Jordan Hicks

The rookie is electric.  Certain pitchers have the ability to cause everyone to stop what they are doing to watch when they are in the game.  Trevor Rosenthal was one of those guys when he first came up and now Hicks looks to be the next.  With the signing of Greg Holland, there is talk either Hicks or Mike Mayers will be sent down.  Unless Mike Matheny was not watching this kid throw today, the choice is very simple. Hicks needs to stay!

 

Summary

Game one was not what fans were looking for.  This team still has way more talent then last year.  My message to St. Louis fan is please don’t panic over game one.

The Cardinals will have a chance to even the score between these two teams Saturday at Citi Field when Michael Wacha (Cardinals) looks to out dual Jacob Degrom (Mets). First Pitch at 12:10PM.