The image that will linger from Monday night's loss at Busch Stadium is Paul Goldschmidt, milliseconds after his diving stop that could have won the game, showing frustration as the series of events unfolded that cost the game.
That was the noise.
The signal may have come earlier.
Goldschmidt reached base three times, singled twice, and for the fourth consecutive game had at least two hits. In less than a week, he's raised his batting average from the .146 he left Miami carrying to a .259 as the Cardinals continue a three-game series against Mets on Tuesday night. Goldschmidt is still seeking his first home run of the season after hitting more than anyone else on the team during spring training.
He'll take his swings Tuesday in a new spot: designated hitter.
The Cardinals intend to use the DH at least twice this week to get what former manager Tony La Russa called a "half day" for an everyday starter. Rookie Brendan Donovan, promoted Monday, will start Tuesday at first base, and manager Oliver Marmol indicated that Donovan could start at third base later in the week so that Nolan Arenado can get a day at DH and away from the hot corner.
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This season, Goldschmidt's on-base percentage is higher than his slugging percentage, .348 to .328, as he's been among the group of Cardinals looking to get in sync offensively.
Tyler O'Neill stirred with the two-run single Monday night that put the Cardinals ahead against the Mets however briefly. That swing gave O'Neill his first multi-RBI game since opening day, when he had five RBIs. Paul DeJong, at shortstop, returns to the position Tuesday, as advertised by the team. In his place, Edmundo Sosa struck out four times Monday and has six strikeouts in his eight at-bats as the starter at shortstop over the past two days.
Offensive struggles are not isolated to one third of the lineup or one corner of the clubhouse. It's a team effort for the Cardinals.
Credit does go to the pitchers the team has faced, from the trio of young talents in Miami (Sandy Alcantara, Jesus Luzardo, and Pablo Lopez) to Max Scherzer on Monday and Brandon Woodruff up in Milwaukee. The Cardinals have not countered that group with much of a threat. The offensive struggles and the quality of the pitching faced is the chicken/egg of the early season.
Which came first?
The Cardinals have now gone seven games without a home run, stretching back to Arenado's homer in Miami. In the past 11 days, only Arenado and Albert Pujols have hit home runs. They have two.
All of this is early, but the Mets are hardly the pitching staff to get well against. Awaiting the Cardinals on Tuesday night at Busch is Met's right-hander Chris Bassitt, a spring training acquisition from the Oakland Athletics' sell-iff. Bassitt has a 3.00 ERA in three starts for the Mets and he's averaging six innings per outing. In his most recent start, he did allow five runs on eight hits in six innings while striking out six. His other two starts of the season were quality starts, and they were wins.
The Cardinals counter with Jordan Hicks' second start in the majors.
The right-hander will look to build stamina on his three-inning, 46-pitch outing in Miami this past week. He was sharp, especially as he limited the Marlins to one fly out and one run. The next step is increasing his efficiency along with his pitch count.
Major League Baseball and the players' union agreed Tuesday to permit teams to carry, at most, 14 pitchers when rosters shrink to 26 by May 2. Originally, teams were going to be limited to 13 pitchers. That extra arm buys the Cardinals another four weeks of having an extra long reliever in the bullpen if they feel they need to cover leftover innings. That eases the pressure on getting a consistent five innings every time out in the near future from Hicks.
Here is the Cardinals' lineup for the second game of the Mets' visit.
1. Tommy Edman, 2B
2. Paul Goldschmidt, DH
3. Tyler O'Neill, LF
4. Nolan Arenado, 3B
5. Dylan Carlson, RF
6. Harrison Bader, CF
7. Paul DeJong, SS
8. Andrew Knizner, C
9. Brendan Donovan, 1B
P: Jordan Hicks, RHP
Check back for the Mets' lineup and more information from the ballpark here at C-Beat and StlToday.com. Rick Hummel will have complete coverage from the game in the pages of Wednesday's Post-Dispatch and online here.