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Matheny debut goes great, notes from Game 1Posted Thursday, April 5, 2012, at 8:28 AM
It may as well have been Game 8 of the World Series.
When the Cardinals took the field in Miami Wednesday evening, April 4, 2012, they played like the team who pushed straight through September all the way to a world championship.
Here are a few tidbits from the game:
Mike Matheny -- Not a bad managerial debut at all. He called some good plays, all of his pitching changes worked out. When his first team took the field for his first game, they played like a well-oiled machine. From beginning to end, there were many things for Cardinals fans to be excited about.
Kyle Lohse -- The idea of Lohse going up against Josh Johnson initially sent chills down my spine. I know he had a great spring, but still, it's a well-founded nervousness. For Lohse to pitch into the 8th inning and remain hitless into the 7th inning was quite the night. I hope that's a glimmer of what we have to look forward to from him in 2012. Lohse gave up only one earned run, due entirely to a botched call at first base by Angel Hernandez. What would have been an inning ending double-play turned into runner left on first that shouldn't have been able to score anyway. But, it is what it is. Umpires make mistakes just like everyone else so they shook it off and moved on. Nice job, Kyle.
David Freese -- The reigning World Series MVP went 3 for 5 with a pair of RBIs and was left on base four times. When he walked to the plate in the first inning with Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman on base, you could see it in his eyes. He's a young man ready to prove that he's not a fluke who will fade away with his trophy in a quiet corner of some team's AA squad. Wednesday night he took the first step in that direction and with any luck he'll keep taking those steps all season.
Jon Jay at centerfield -- I mentioned earlier in the week about how Jay quietly had a solid spring, both offensively and defensively. While he only went 1 for 4 Wednesday evening, defensively he showed that he has grown. He made several good plays in a huge outfield with a ton of room in the gaps. He moved quick and showed his instinct has improved with several good catches.
Rafael Furcal -- "Fookie," who struggled through spring Training, took his lead-off start and went 3 for 5 with an RBI. A night like that is exactly what he needed to come out of his slump. Defensively, he's not a big concern for me. Offensively, if he can stay consistent, has the potential to make or break a team. A solid lead-off man is always a huge asset.
Men on base -- The team didn't do too hot with runners in scoring position. While 2 for 14 is definitely not the kind of numbers you want to see, there is something important to read into that: In order to have that number, you have to have a lot of men on base. That is key. If your players are getting hits, drawing walks and doing whatever necessary to get on base, then the wins will come.
Baserunning -- Smart base-running in the first inning led to the first two runs of the game. Well, that and Freese's blooper into left center. Rafael Furcal, more of a speed threat than he is given credit for, picked up the team's first stolen base off of Josh Johnson. Jay tried to take second on Johnson but was tagged for the out. Those attempts are what I want to see. Matheny has said repeatedly he wants the team to be smarter and more aggressive on the basepaths. It looks like he means business.
The only "0-for" at the plate last night was Matt Holliday. Don't read too much into that. It's only one game and Holliday, aside from last year, doesn't traditionally come out of the gate on fire. There's not enough to base any judgment on yet, so give him time. I still think he's up for a big year.
All in all, there is a lot for Cardinals fans to be excited about this year, so sit back, kick your feet up and prepare for another wild season of Cardinals baseball.
Don't forget to check the website Friday for the first question of Corey's Cardinal Trivia for a chance to win free DVDs from A&E Home Video. For more information, see page one in the Wednesday, April 5, 2012 Daily Statesman.
To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail email@example.com , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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