After rainy start, Cardinals' offense shines in 7-6 win over Reds
After being held to eight hits over their first two games, the Cardinals' offense was open for business Thursday -- and what a beautiful thing it was to watch.
Jhonny Peralta crushed his first hit of the season out of the park Thursday in Cincinnati.
David Kohl / USA TODAY Sports
By Stan McNeal
Maybe the Cardinals regained some of their timing because they were able to play on back-to-back days for the first time since leaving Florida. Maybe it was the effect of Lance Lynn, who has a habit of bringing out the best in the Cardinals' bats whenever he pitches. Or maybe the Reds' pitching was down after two excellent outings.
Whatever the reason, the Cardinals' offense woke up in Cincinnati on Thursday afternoon. After being held to eight hits over their first two games, the Cardinals went for 11 hits and walked six times in a 7-6 victory that put them on a happy flight to Pittsburgh. The top eight hitters in the lineup all reached base and scored, drove in a run or both.
Matt Holliday doubled, singled, walked, had two RBIs and yet his longest hit, a 400-foot fly to center, was an out. Matt Adams doubled twice, singled and took the team batting lead with a .417 average. Jhonny Peralta supplied the biggest -- and so far his only -- hit with a two-run homer in the second that doubled the Cardinals' run output of their first two games.
The acquisition of Peter Bourjos is the main reason the Cardinals spent the offseason talking about how their newfound speed would make a difference. It did Thursday, but Bourjos didn't supply it.
Kolten Wong did. After a one-out walk in the fifth, the spunky rookie scored the go-ahead run when he zipped around the bases and scored on a double by Holliday, completing the play with a nifty feet-first slide to elude the tag of Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart.
Wong is off to a fast start at the plate, too. He has reached base in all three games, with three hits (in nine at-bats) and four walks. Aside from an error on Opening Day, he also has looked sharp in the field. He snagged a hard one-hopper by Jay Bruce that likely saved a run when the Reds had two on with two out in the fourth inning.
Bourjos did not play after going hitless in his first two games. Jon Jay started in center field and contributed a run-scoring double.
Watch the Cardinals Live pregame and postgame shows before and after every St. Louis Cardinals game on FOX Sports Midwest.
REDS' BULLPEN SHORTAGE SHOWS UP
When the schedule came out, facing the Reds six times in their first nine games did not feel like an ideal way to start the season. In a perfect world, a team would like to be in a groove when facing a tough division rival, and it's tough to find a groove this early.
But the Cardinals won't complain. They actually are catching the Reds at an opportune time, and it showed on Thursday. Among the eight Reds to begin the season on the disabled list are their three top relievers. Their depleted 'pen finally came into play in the final game of the series.
The Cardinals took advantage by scoring three times in the seventh off Trevor Bell, who did not retire a batter in his first big-league outing since 2011. After Bell loaded the bases, Logan Ondrusek came in and allowed all three Cardinals to score. The runs would prove the difference when the St. Louis bullpen endured its own struggles in the bottom of the inning.
There's a chance the Reds will have Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall when they play three games at Busch Stadium beginning Monday with the Cardinals' home opener. Reds manager Bryan Price told reporters that Broxton will close until Aroldis Chapman returns, which the Reds hope is sometime in May.
Like the Cardinals, the Pirates enter this rematch of last October's National League Division Series coming off an opening-series victory after they beat the Cubs two out of three at PNC Park. Also like the Cardinals, the Pirates' offense has sputtered in the early going.
Strong starting pitching, of course, has something to do with that, and this weekend should feature more of the same from both teams. Gerrit Cole, the young right-hander who looked so strong against St. Louis in the NLDS, will oppose Shelby Miller on Friday night.
The Pirates are scheduled to send out Opening Day starter Francisco Liriano -- surely you remember him -- on Saturday night when Joe Kelly makes his first start. The Cardinals' starting depth should make a difference on Sunday when Adam Wainwright starts against Edinson Volquez, the Pirates' fifth starter. He went 9-12 with a 5.71 ERA for the Padres and Dodgers in 2013, but did beat the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in July when he allowed three runs in five innings of a 5-3 Padres victory.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.