(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Last season, it wasn’t until May that the Cardinals had lost three straight games. And it wasn’t until July that they had experienced a three-game sweep. Interestingly enough, that first three-game sweep last season took place at PNC Park.
And just like last season, the Cardinals got swept by their NL Central rivals at PNC Park, but this time, only a few months earlier than Cardinals fans (and the organization) had anticipated. Not to say they expected to be swept at all, but not expecting to have gotten swept this early.
One of the bright moments that did occur for St. Louis during Wednesday’s game was seeing rookie Jeremy Hazelbaker hit his first Major League home run, which cut the deficit to 4-1. But that was as close as the Cardinals would get, ultimately falling 5-1 in the third game of the season.
Newly acquired pitcher Mike Leake, who was signed over the off-season with a 5-year, $80-million deal, was roughed up in his first regular season start for the team, going 4 1/3 innings.
“I don’t foresee us allowing it to snowball,” Leake said. “I think either we weren’t ready or they just beat us. Like we said, it’s early right now.”
But much like the first two games, the bats struggled more than the pitching did. In the three game series against the Pirates, the Cardinals struck out 37 times in 29 total innings, and Pittsburgh’s starters had a total ERA of 1.86, allowing only seven runs.
On Wednesday, the first four batters in the lineup for St. Louis went 1-14 with no runs scored.
As for the bullpen, which has been a constant positive over the past few seasons, once again actually had a successful first few games. In fact, they performed better overall than the three starters (Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Leake): Cardinals relievers pitched 11⅔ innings here and allowed three runs. Cardinals starters pitched 14⅔ innings and allowed 12 runs.
So, is it time to panic? No.
It’s still a long season. And now, as they head to Atlanta to face the Braves, the Cardinals can look back and understand what they need to improve on to get back to their winning ways.