The Orioles pitching staff had a 2019 to forget, with an MLB-worst ERA. While there was no evidence of that for the Cardinals home opener, the Baltimore problems surfaced mightily in Saturday's 9-4 St. Louis win.
Eight different Cardinals joined in the fun, which surprisingly featured no home runs at all, but rather a dozen hits and half that many walks.
The offense fest led to a lengthy eight and a half inning game. Five Orioles pitchers and 18 reaching base led to a dawdling 3:24 pace, and many in the 41,223 crowd left the afternoon contest before it ended.
It was a pretty good outing for Cards starter Dakota Hudson, who hadn't taken the mound since the second game of the year. He lasted six and a third innings, struck out four, induced nine grounders, including two double plays, and only five fly balls reached the outfield.
Of Hudson's three runs, two were earned, with the third coming on a miscue from Tommy Edman at third, who, as the cliche goes, "let the ball play him."
The Cards offense featured five doubles and a triple. Two of the two-baggers were courtesy of Kolten Wong, and the triple from Dexter Fowler, all off Orioles starter Alex Cobb.
Cobb had two modes in the game: Wild and hittable. Trying to rebound from 2019 season-ending hip surgery, Cobb looked equal parts awkward and stiff. No matter what he tried, he couldn't keep his delivery or his release point consistent, and when he wasn't throwing balls, he was aiming strikes that were too fat.
The Cards took advantage, scoring one or two runs in each of the first four innings. By the time Cobb departed after that stretch, it was 6-0 and Hudson looked like he would have an easy time of it. Fowler, with his triple, drove in two, Wong one each with his doubles, and Paul DeJong and Harrison Bader one apiece with a double and single, respectively.
But the fifth caused a bit of angst for the home side, as Hudson allowed a string of two hits and a walk to load the bases with two outs. A Hanser Alberto single drove in two, and then a Jose Iglesias sharp topspin bounder caused Edman to backup, and he couldn't figure out the between hop.
The Cards got all three back in the seventh off lefty Paul Fry. A Bader double, Rangel Ravelo pinch single, Edman walk and two-out Yadier Molina double took St. Louis to its final tally.
Tyler Webb has proven a workhorse in the early going, already appearing for the fourth time, and took the last two stanzas. Webb surrendered a solo shot to center fielder Austin Hays, but was otherwise untouched.
Manager Mike Shildt appears more comfortable using some of his relievers for multiple innings in the early going.
"People asked me if it's because of the new (pitch to three batters) rule," said Shildt. Not really. I just had a few of the guys express some real positive goals of taking longer stints this year. We have enough depth here and in Memphis that I'm letting them stretch a bit more."
The Cards moved their record to 5-3, and haven't lost more than one in a row so far. The Orioles, on the other hand, have only won two, as they try to best their atrocious 2019, when they own only a third of their games.
Next Up and Notes: Molina will rest the final game of the series, giving Matt Wieters his third start of the young season (in one, Molina played first base). Dylan Carlson did not suit up, with what appeared to be a mild bug, so the team dressed only 25 for the game. Only one sub, Ravelo, and one reliever, Webb, were needed.
Carlos Martinez faces his second start on Sunday, against the lefty veteran Wade LeBranc.