Saturday’s Game Report: Cardinals 6, Pirates 2
By Rob Rains, STLSportsPage.com
For as long as Skip Schumaker has known Nolan Arenado, he doesn’t think there has even been a day that Arenado wasn’t thinking about hitting or tinkering with his swing.
“I’ve seen Nolan hit in almost every offseason, that’s how close we live to each other,” Schumaker said. “I’ve seen him work at incredible rates … I don’t see him taking days off or at-bats off. That’s just not in his blood. It’s just who he is.”
Arenado worked more than normal over the last winter, trying to make adjustments to his swing by concentrating more on his hands than his legs. He thought there were fastballs he didn’t get to last year, and wanted to do something about it.
Two days into the season, Arenado is seeing that work pay off.
He went 4-of-4 on Saturday, including three doubles, and drove in three runs to lead the Cardinals to a 6-2 win over the Pirates at Busch Stadium.
After hitting a home run on opening day, Arenado has five RBIs in the two games and is the first Cardinal with four extra-base hits in the first two games of the season since Jim Edmonds did it in 2001.
“I got a little lucky today, but what I’ve been working on it’s showed up the first two days which is a great feeling,” Arenado said. “Hopefully I can continue to do some good things.
“I hit a double to left on a 98 mph fastball and I think last year I was having trouble with fastballs, so it was great to see that adjustment happen. It’s only been two games, but it’s a great sign I’m getting my swing off and I feel pretty good. I feel I can build off this.”
Arenado’s first double in the first inning produced the first run. He then had an RBI single and scored in the three-run third, then doubled again in the fifth and capped his day with another RBI double in the sixth.
His big day came on a day when manager Oli Marmol had to go home before the game, suffering from the flu, putting Schumaker, the bench coach, in charge.
Having somebody like Arenado anchoring the middle of the lineup made his task a little easier.
“I’ve known Nolan for a long time now and I think he works on his swing every minute of every day,” Schumaker said. “It’s not surprising he’s constantly trying to make adjustments and growing as a player. You’re talking about one of the best players to ever play the position still trying to get better.
“When your best players are the hardest workers it makes things easy. Between him and Goldy it’s fun to watch.”
Here is how Saturday’s game broke down:
At the plate: Paul DeJong’s two-run homer in the third broke a 2-2 tie and put the Cardinals ahead to stay … Corey Dickerson made his first start as the DH and had an RBI single in the fifth … For the second game in a row Dylan Carlson led off with a hit and scored in the first inning … The Cardinals have been retired in order in just three of the first 16 innings to start this season.
On the mound: Miles Mikolas threw 41 pitches in the first inning, getting only one swing and miss, but managed to get out of the inning allowing only one run. He needed 77 pitches to get 11 outs, coming out of the game after just 3 2/3 innings… Five relievers combined to cover the final 5 1/3 innings, shutting out the Pirates on three hits and two walks … Kodi Whitley, who relieved Mikolas, was credited with his first career victory. He walked one in his 1 1/3 innings of work … Ryan Helsley struck out three of the four hitters he faced … Giovanny Gallegos pitched the ninth inning even though it was not a save situation.
Key stat: By getting a single and drawing a walk, Paul Goldschmidt became the first Cardinal to reach base safely seven times in the first two games of the season since Rafael Furcal in 2012. Goldschmidt had four walks and a single on opening day on Thursday.
Worth noting: Before leaving the stadium to go home, Marmol said he received 311 text messages after winning his debut as Cardinals manager on Thursday but had yet to go through them … The Cardinals will have to wear their traditional white uniform for Saturday home games for the time being, instead of the cream-colored alternate jerseys, because they have not received those uniforms from the manufacturer … The first run came after the Cardinals won a challenge that Carlson was safe at second on a stolen base after he originally had been called out on the field.
Looking ahead: Steven Matz will make his Cardinals debut on Sunday in the third game of the series.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains