The Cardinals made the biggest splash of any team in the NL Central. They revamped their rotation with two new starters at the cost of some key parts of their 2012 team. Many of the Cardinals’ players, most of which had come through the system with Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, were unhappy with the players that had to be moved.
But in a key series against the Brewers over the weekend new starters Justin Masterson and John Lackey made their Cardinals debuts. Masterson squared off against Kyle Lohse on Saturday and was followed up by Lackey on Sunday who matched up with Matt Garza.
The new additions had the tall task of bouncing back from a tough loss with Adam Wainwright on the mound. Wainwright allowed 7 runs and 9 hits in just 5 1/3 innings. With Waino dropping the opener the Cardinals were three games back in the NL Central, and the new guys had to change that.
After being swapped for minor-league outfielder James Ramsey, Justin Masterson joined a Cardinals rotation that is supported by a strong infield defense, a pleasant change of pace coming from Cleveland. While inducing a groundball rate of 59.6 percent, Masterson has allowed a BABIP of .351.
In his first start for the Cardinals Masterson still had to shake off the rust after a stint on the DL. After officially inducting himself into the Cardinals’ rotation by allowing an RBI hit to Cardinal-killer Aramis Ramirez (.316 average with 138 RBIs and 37 HRs). The Cardinals tied the game in the bottom of the first and Masterson settled in in the second inning before taking his first at-bat in the National League. Masterson drove a two-out ground ball through the hole on the right side for his first career hit as a part of a big two-out rally.
The Cardinals scored 5 during that second inning rally, staking him out to a big lead. Masterson gave back three runs in the fourth and one in the fifth, but the Cardinals scored their seventh run in the fourth inning and added two more in the fifth. Masterson held the Brewers scoreless in the sixth, which would prove to be his final inning of work despite throwing just 90 pitches.
The Cardinals held on for a 9-7 win giving Masterson his first win for his new team. Masterson induced 12 ground-ball outs and no fly-outs. Masterson allowed 5 earned runs and walked three while striking out four over his six innings. Cardinals fans should look forward to similar outings moving forward, lots of ground balls with a mix of strikeouts and walks. Whether the ground-balls find holes will determine how many runs Masterson will allow.
The Lackey trade was the one that had some of the Cardinals’ players up in arms. Trading two well liked clubhouse guys for someone who is often grating to his teammates and opponents. Despite all of this, Lackey can endear himself to his new teammates by helping them down the stretch. Lackey has already said he will honor his $500,000 option for next season, so he will pitch for the Cardinals for at least one and a half seasons.
In his first start with the Cardinals, Lackey went to work right away joining the rotation. He baptized himself in the waters of allowing RBIs to Aramis Ramirez in the first inning. Then, in the second, Mark Reynolds went deep, giving the Brewers a 2-0 lead. But after that the Brewers’ bats went silent.
Lackey allowed just two hits over the next four innings, giving the Cardinals a chance to get back into the game, but they failed to take advantage. Matt Garza was dealing, but a strained left oblique forced him from the game after six innings and just 71 pitches.
Lackey remained in the game in the seventh inning to face the bottom of the order. After retiring the first two hitters he allowed hits to number-eight hitter Elian Herrera and pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay before sending new manager Mike Matheny back to the dugout. He retired Carlos Gomez on a pop-out to end his day.
The Cardinals rallied from two-runs down to take the lead with five straight hits starting with a solo home-run by Matt Holiday. The Cardinals fought back to make Lackey the pitcher of record on the up side after his seven-inning, two-run performance.
The Cardinals closed out the game and the series with the 3-2 win, cutting the Brewers’ division lead to one game.
If the Cardinals can get six or seven innings from their new additions, it will put them in a good position to catch the Brewers in the Central or take one of the Wild Card spots. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and both Lackey and Masterson successfully made good ones over the weekend.