A road trip that saw a bit of everything — a couple debuts, a brawl and a tempest — ended with relative normalcy, as the Cardinals came home with a winning record after their 5-1 win Wednesday in Milwaukee.
It was the second success of the young season for Jack Flaherty, as he was stretched to seven innings and 84 pitches. A monstrous three-run homer from Tyler O’Neill was all the Cardinals needed, but a couple late insurance tallies didn’t hurt either.
The Brewers, whose only score came on back-to-back doubles in the third, attempted a comeback in the eighth, with two runners on and only one out against John Brebbia, But the right hander struck out Lorenzo Cain to end the threat. John Gant came on to pitch the ninth and kept it uneventful.
The top of the eighth featured the Cardinal speed that proved so valuable to the 2919 squad, as a double steal by O’Neill and Kolten Wong, who both had singled, allowed Harrison Bader to drive in a couple ounces of protection.
Those tallies were against Devin Williams, a righty with good stuff but considering his shaky spring outings and this one, might have a challenge sticking with the big club.
Woodruff really didn’t struggle much other than with the O’Neill second inning blast. Paul DeJong and catcher Matt Winters walked and singled before the homer, which highlighted the left fielder’s Herculean strength as it traveled 445 feet.
On the other hand, the two times O’Neill wasn’t on base, he fanned on flailing swings, once in reaction to Woodruff’s strong four-seamer and the other to the righty’s excellent changeup.
The Brewers really couldn’t solve much of anything against Flaherty, who seemed to have even more determination than usual to match his special stuff. He struck out eight and retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced before departing after seven.
”That’s what an ace is, what an ace does,” said Winters. “I didn’t do much. Just put down what I thought was best and he followed it with amazing stuff most of the time. I think he shook me off twice, but whatever he threw, it was where it was supposed to be, and the fastballs were moving better than usual, if you can believe that.”
Between the fracas Sunday in Cincinnati and the raging wind toss Tuesday night, the Cards were ready for a pretty normal day as a send off to the home opener Thursday.
“Starting with six on the road isn’t always easy,” said O’Neill. “You want to play in front of your fans, and so there’s some delayed gratification. We are so looking forward to coming home.”
Manager Mike Shildt offered a modest surprise a week ago by setting up the rotation for veteran Adam Wainwright, rather than Flaherty, to get the assignment for Thursday. But as he said at the time, “We’re at the point now that we just don’t know if and when it’ll happen again, and I mean, this guy’s life, as a major leaguer, is all St. Louis. We honor that for Adam, and for the team.”
Next Up and Notes: Kiener Plaza festivities begin at 1 pm, with game time slated for 3:10. Adrian Houser will face Wainwright. Shildt was mum on whether Dylan Carlson, who had several key moments in his first major-league season kickoff, will start for the Redbirds.
“You’ll just have to come or tune in to find out,” the low key Shildt said with a mischievous smile.