Last Night, the Cardinals Suffered another Tough Loss, Falling to the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 in 11 innings.
Even though most Cardinals fans would be concerned with the 0-2 start to the season, especially with division foes like the Cubs and Pirates both starting 2-0, there are still plenty of good things to take away from the first couple games of the season. Specifically, the bullpen has looked absolutely tremendous. The bullpen was good in the first game, but in the second game they showed that they could be the best bullpen in the league this year.
Michael Wacha started the game, but lasted only 4 1/3 inning, giving up 4 earned runs on 98 pitches. Not a good start by any measure and definitely not a good start by the high expectation the Cardinals have on their pitching staff. There, in the fifth inning (possibly too late), Manager Mike Matheny turned to his bullpen, which was absolutely dominant the rest of the way (expect for the last inning, in which the Pirates walked off with a win).
Tyler Lyons entered the game in the fourth, inheriting a bases loaded situation with only one out in the inning. In only 3 pitches, Lyons got out of the inning without giving up a hit. Even though he gave up a sacrifice fly, he was handed a tough situation and did the best he could.
When the Cardinals bullpen has retired the last 17 batters in a row…I'm so sorry. pic.twitter.com/WOIQx0G3PC
— Cards Nation (@CardsNation13) April 6, 2016
Seung-hwan Oh, making his second MLB appearance, took the 6th and was absolutely perfect, striking out the side with 12 pitches and 9 strikes. Oh, once again, displayed his composure on the mound, showing Cardinals fans why he was nicknamed the “Stone Buddha” in Asia. Oh has been one of the bright spots of the young season for the Cardinals. It looks as if he as seamlessly transitioned to the Major League from Asia. His pitches are painting the edges of the strike zone and his off-speed stuff looks great.
Kevin Siegrist, making his 2016 debut after a 2015 campaign in which in he was the most used relief pitcher in the league, also looked very good. In 9 pitches and 8 strikes, he recorded 2 strike outs. He struck out the first two batters in the inning with 6 pitches. Again, just as important, he did not give up any hits. If this performance was any indication of how Siegrist will pitch this year, Matheny might have no choice but to use Siegrist a lot this season again. Jonathan Broxton, also making his 2016 debut, took the 8th inning and also looked good. He used 13 pitches to get a strikeout and did not give up a hit.
Trevor Rosenthal, one of the best closers in the game, took the 9th in a non-save situation. In 11 pitches and 8 strikes, he struck out two batters. Again, he didn’t give up a hit either in an inning of work. Notice the trend here? For 4 and 2/3s innings of relief work, the bullpen did not give up a hit. Pittsburgh had 12 total hits in the entire game. Yeah, they were dominant. The offense just didn’t bail them out.
Unfortunately, the dam broke in the 11th inning. Seth Maness, like he had done in the first game of the season, gave up a run in relief. Even though he had a scoreless 10th inning, his 11th inning was less than ideal. He walked a batter who ended up scoring the winning run.
In the early part of the season, Maness has looked like the weak link, giving up two runs in 2 and 1/3 innings of work. Don’t worry. He’ll figure it out eventually. But the main take away from this game is that the Cardinals bullpen was dominant. Giving up 2 hits and 1 run from the 4th inning on in an extra inning game was a tremendous performance all around.
This loss was, by no means, on the bullpen. The offense simply didn’t produce after the 5th inning. In a close rivalry game, that simply can’t happen. However, if the bullpen can keep up this productivity, the Cardinals will win more often than not.