Every year, Spring Training comes along allowing baseball fans to rejoice after a long cold boring winter. Although, to call the off-season long, cold or even boring this time around would almost be amusing. Today, the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals returned to Roger Dean Stadium for the Grapefruit League opener. Let’s dive into what went down.
It was no surprise to find ace Jack Flaherty on the mound for the Cardinals. (I’m quite certain that Cardinal Nation would have turned into a fire-storm if anyone else started.) In true Flaherty form, he only allowed one hit during his first appearance of the season. JD Davis doubled on a line drive that took flight in the Florida wind and landed in no-man’s land between Lane Thomas and Dexter Fowler.
The dominating Flaherty struck out Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith, which kept Davis stranded on second base and the Cards were sent to do damage against Marcus Stroman.
Now Dugout Dish adores the Mets and has suffered a plenty of seasons as a Mets fan so seeing Stroman strike out Goldschmidt and Molina, it felt aggravating and exciting all in mere seconds. It needs to be noted that Matt Carpenter showed up and ate his Wheaties this morning. This is a hot take but Carpenter is back and will be better than ever this season. (Don’t send that into Old Takes Exposed in a few months, either.)
The first hit of 2020 belongs to Matt Carpenter! pic.twitter.com/Tsv2sakyxv— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) February 22, 2020
End of the first inning. Mets and Cardinals tied at zero. Both starters allowed one hit.
Flaherty returned to the mound in the second, once again only allowing one hit by Luis Guillorme. Eduardo Nunez grounded out, Ryan Cordell was called out on strikes and Rene Rivera grounded out as well.
Not trying to jump on the Matt Carpenter train too early this season but his defense seemed sturdier at third base today. He and Rangel Ravelo made a fairly decent team today with Goldschmidt being used as a DH.
Stroman returned to face Tyler O’Neill, who at Cardinals Winter Warm-Up admitted that he wants to whatever he can to earn the starting left field position. Today, he proved that he meant what he said in St. Louis last month.
The first home run of the season belongs to O’Neill. And let me tell you, the ball was smoked. Danny Mac’s voice cracked while calling a home run for the first time in 2020 and for a second, everything felt whole once more for Cardinals fans.
4⃣1⃣ sends one over the wall! pic.twitter.com/lpRvjh43VW— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) February 22, 2020
While Tommy Edman grounded out and newcomer Brad Miller sent a fly to short, Ravelo drew himself a nice walk to first base. Stroman’s day ended with Thomas coming to the plate. Thomas singled, allowing Ravelo to easily make it to third. Just when things were looking to heat up, Thomas was caught trying to steal second.
End of the second inning. Cardinals led the Mets 1-0. And O’Neill crushed a baseball that quite possibly landed in his hometown back in Canada.
The King of Ground Balls, Dakota Hudson replaced Jack Flaherty going into the third inning. While this could worry some due to Hudson’s gift of giving up walks to his opponent, he looked very sharp today.
New Met Jake Hager singled off of Hudson, while the next three batters all grounded out. It was pretty nice clean and quick inning for Hudson. Something Dugout Dish would like to see a lot of this season from the right-handed pitcher.
Leadoff man Fowler continued his offensive woes in the bottom of the third. (Clearly the leadoff position will be up for grabs again this season. My money is on Kolten Wong.) Carpenter, looking like his former self with more beard, earned himself another single. I’m telling you, he had Wheaties this morning.
Justin Williams replaced Carpenter as a pinch-runner and almost found himself in a TOOTBLAN but with a little friendly help from the umpires, the misstep turned into the first Mets balk of 2020. Williams found himself at second and Goldschmidt kept himself from going after something in the dirty — earning a walk. Yadier Molina ended the inning with a Marcell Ozuna-like double play.
End of the third inning. Cardinals continued to lead 1-0. Experienced an almost TOOTBLAN and a balk in the same inning. Baseball!
Prospect watchers rejoiced as Nolan Gorman entered the game to play third base. Williams stayed in and played right field. Hudson’s inning went smoothly once again and rather quickly.
The Mets went down in one, two, three order.
But do not fret Mets fans, the Cardinals also went down in order against Stephen Gonsalves.
End of the fourth inning. It was almost too quick to even catch who replaced who defensively. Cardinals continued to shutout the Mets 1-0.
A new battery came in as rain began to drizzle from the sky. Kwang-Hyun Kim and Andrew Knizner replaced Hudson and Molina. And by the looks of Twitter, everyone was ready in anticipation for KK’s debut.
And it was worth the meme-able Hello St. Louis flag that newcomer KK made for everyone back in December. Another hot take from Dugout, Kim looks strong enough to find himself in the starting rotation. Dugout Dish is here for it.
It was nice out, then KK made it rain 🌧— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) February 22, 2020
19 pitches | 14 strikes pic.twitter.com/egWq3B0XXv
KK struck out Cordell swinging, yes, his first batter faced. Patrick Mazeika walked on a questionable ball four, even KK looked bothered by it. Hager struck out, making it two Ks for Kim. Rosario grounded into a force out and once again the Mets were shut down.
Pedro Payano replaced Gonsalves, hitting the first batter he faced. Ravelo clearly unphased made his way to first. Thomas popped out but Gorman hit a nice little zinger to center field. Prospect watchers rejoiced once again for Gorman.
Nothing could get started despite Gorman and Ravelo both being ready to run. Williams and newcomer Austin Dean would fail to advance either runner.
End of the fifth inning, Cardinals on top 1-0. Prospect Nolan Gorman did his thing and KK became the fifth starter in Dugout’s mind.
During the top of the sixth, Mike Shildt began to do the old switcharoo and bring in most of Memphis. Yairo Munoz, Edmundo Sosa, Max Schrock, John Nogowski, Dylan Carlson and the myth himself Brett Cecil entered the game.
Lots of switching.
If you’re a Cardinal fan, you know Cecil is someone who really hasn’t been able to prove himself. In fact, he didn’t do anything last season. Mets fans and new fans might believe Cecil is a new guy on the squad. Rest assure, he’s not.
Cecil hit Nimmo, his first batter faced and the clouds began to cover most of the Jupiter, Fla. sky. Johneshwy Fargas (had to do a double take after thinking it said Vargas) replaced Nimmo as a pinch-runner and quickly stole second base. It ended up all OK for the ‘birds with Cecil striking out Jake Mangum, David Thompson popping out and Blake Tiberi grounding out.
Not much to note from the Cardinals in the inning. Knizner grounded out. Dylan Carlson made his first appearance at the plate and hit a screaming line drive to left field. He would be stranded on first after Munoz and Schrock become outs two and three.
End of the sixth inning. No change in score. Dylan Carlson should probably be on the Opening Day Roster but that’s another hot take, right?
Well, we made it to the stretch with the Cardinals leading the way. Evan Kruczynski replaced Cecil and started off a wee bit shaky. Walking his first batter faced, you could clearly see the jitters with each pitch. Teammates Schrock, Sosa and Nogowski had his back though. Tossing up a pretty clean double play that would make Ozzie Smith proud. Kruczynski managed to make Mazeika ground out.
Clean. Shaky but clean.
Sosa, Nogowski and Gorman would give the Mets another chance at a one, two, three inning.
But hey, play of pace right?
End of the seventh inning. By this time Jim Edmonds and Danny Mac are back to their ways in true broadcast fashion. Cardinals are shutting down the Mets, while the other Mets are beating up on the Marlins in Florida. Cardinals 1-0.
Rob Kaminsky replaced Kruczynski. Things looked at a little hairy for a moment. Wagner Lagrange touched first, second and third but didn’t get an opportunity to touch home plate.
Williams and Dean both struck out but Knizner earned himself a nice triple out of a fly ball to right field. Carlson singled and drove in Knizner. Carlson hit the ball so beautiful, it would make a grown man cry.
End of the eight inning. Munoz struck out and left Carlson stranded. No need to fret, the Mets were still being shutdown by the ‘birds. 2-0.
All Genesis Cabrera had to do was get three outs and the game would end with a glorious win. But could he do it? If you are anything like Dugout Dish, you may have flashbacks to Arizona. Yeah, let’s not talk about it today.
Blake Tiberi struck out, Edgardo Fermin struck out and the Cardinals were down to their final out. Fredbird was off somewhere celebrating already.
But then Braxton Lee singled on a line drive straight to left field. Munoz tossed in back into the infield and suddenly things went a little hairy once again. Another single would allow Lee to touch third.
Once again, flashbacks to Arizona began to flutter in Dugout Dish’s mind. It is only Spring Training but you have to win as many as you can, right?
Luke Ritter struck out. Cabrera earned the save and Flaherty earned the win.
The final score: 2-0 in favor of the St. Louis Cardinals.
(Photo Credit: MLB’s At Bat application for iPhone)