Yadier Molina homered and Joe Kelly gave up just one run in 5.1 innings as the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 yesterday at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The win lifted the Cardinals record to 3-2 on the season and put them in a three-way tie for first place in the National League Central Division with the Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers.
The Cardinals meet the Pirates again today with ace Adam Wainwright on the mound before heading to St. Louis for their home opener tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. The Cardinals have will continue to get a heavy dose from their division rivals early this season as they took two of three from Cincinnati in the first week of the season and host them for three more games this week. Sprinkle in a three game series with the Pirates and the Chicago Cubs next weekend and the Cardinals will have a pretty good pulse on the NL Central early in the season.
Although if they keep this up it may not matter. St. Louis has defeated both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on the road this season with their number one pitchers on the mound. Molina homered off both Johnny Cueto and the Pirates’ Liriano yesterday to keep the Cardinals moving confidently along in the first week of the season.
They also picked up impressive performances on the mound from Wainwright who will go again today in the rubber game against the Bucs and from Michael Wacha. The second-year pitcher held Cincinnati scoreless earlier in the week in a late 1-0. Lance Lynn also picked up a victory this week for Cardinals.
Manager Mike Matheny has a lot to work as Molina and Matt Carpenter have helped an offense that is still finding their way while winning early on in the season. Newcomers Kolten Wong and Jhonny Peralta have also held their own for the Cards this week as Peralta homered twice this week and Wong has infused the Redbird lineup with much-needed speed and athleticism.
If the Cardinals do have an area of concern this early in the season it would likely come from a bullpen that is having issues getting the game to set-up man Carlos Martinez and closer Trevor Rosenthal and second-year starter Shelby Miller. The Pirates hammered Miller Friday night with six hits and five runs in 5.1 innings as Miller’s spring troubles have now spilled over in the regular season. Miller has not had the same command that he did in his rookie season when he picked up 16 wins and occasionally dominated opposing teams.
St. Louis center fielder Peter Bourjos had a great spring for Matheny, winning the job from incumbent Jon Jay easily but has struggled so far as a Cardinal, going hitless in his first 13 at bats. Jay has already spelled him for one game and may continue to do so until Bourjos finds his swing again.
Molina and the starting pitching are going to win a lot of games this season for the Cardinals and the opening week of the season proved just that. Another week of NL Central division opponents while the St. Louis offense continues to develop makes for a good start to the 2014 Cardinal season for Matheny.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Sports Writer covering the St. Louis Cardinals