February 28th, 2021 fans (although a limited amount) filed into Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, to watch the opening day of Spring Training for the St. Louis Cardinals. They watched as the Redbirds fought to a 4 -4 tie with the Washington Nationals.
You had the young Cardinal ACE Jack Flaherty on the mound. Newly acquired Nolan Arenado at 3rd base. An outfield that looked like they belong in a college Fraternity. Plus, a familiar figure squatting behind the plate. Yes, indeed, baseball was BACK! After a four-month layoff from one of the most unusual seasons in recent memory, baseball and a glimpse of normalcy had arrived. It brought the hope that soon we will be in the backyard burgers and brats on the grill. Coolers of ICE COLD refreshments on hand and an outdoor TV or Radio with the game on.
As Spring Training's first games go, it was relatively normal, some rust, some promise, and the fans' usual fun and frustration.
Flaherty had a good first batter, and that was about it. The first inning was called after 23 pitches ending in a bases loaded and only one out. The second inning did not go any better. Four batters in, and the Cardinals were down 3 to 1, and Flaherty was yanked. Prospect Tom Parsons came in, gave up one hit, then closed the door.
The Cardinals got a run in the first when Tommy Edman came home on a wild pitch. They got a run in the second when Harrison Bader doubled home Tyler O'Neill, who reached a base hit. The Cards plated two runs in the bottom of the 9th when an Ivan Herrera Ground ball went under the National's SS glove, scoring Austin Dean, who got on with a single, and Max Moroff, who doubled.
After the second inning, a group of St Louis relievers held Washington at bay, led by John Gant, who threw two scoreless innings, not even giving up a hit. He was followed by Roel Ramirez and Alex Reyes, who both put zeros on the board. In the 7th, the Nats got a double by Drew Mendoza off of Genesis Cabrera to plate their 4th run. After that, Conner Jones pitched a three up three down 8th, and Giovanny Gallegos followed with a similar 1,2,3 inning in the 9th.
Now there is very little you can take away from the first game of Spring Training. There were some high points, however;
John Gant pitched a solid two innings, no hits, no runs, walked 2, but struck out 3. He was looking like a strong candidate for the 5th starter spot.
Prospects Tom Parsons, Conner Jones, and Roel Ramirez pitched very well in their one-inning stints.
Alex Reyes also pitched very well in his 1,2,3 inning.
Giovanny Gallegos to me was as impressive as Gant. He only pitched one inning but came in focused and intense and recorded 2 Ks.
Genesis Cabrera, who gave up the RBI double to Mendoza, walked two and struck out no one.
Offensively, Tommy Edman showed himself as a leadoff batter going 1 for 2 with a run scored. (I honestly think it is his job to lose). The much-maligned outfielders Tyler O'Neill and Harrison Bader provided a run in the second inning, with Bader driving O'Neill home with a double. Dylan Carlson also had a hit in the game, as did Reserve OFs Lane Thomas and Austin Dean. Max Moroff showed some very aggressive base running by running a single into a double. Matt Carpenter was the DH hitting second today and went 0-1 with a first-inning walk.
Defensively O'Neill looked very comfortable and confident in Left Field. Lane Thomas showed a good arm with quick release in CF on Mendoza's double off the wall. But despite a good throw and relay, the runner beat the ball. Nolan Gorman took over for Arenado and made a very nice play backhanding a ball down the line and throwing out the runner at first.
So, all in all, not a bad first game, but at least a tie isn't a loss. The Cards are off Monday and will face the Marlins on Tuesday. One down 23 games to go until opening day.
See ya soon