(KMOV) -- The Cards take down the Marlins 4-2 at Roger Dean Stadium on the heels of a 3-run home run by David Freese in the bottom of the 8th inning. The story lines from the win:
-- David Freese hits his 3rd HR of spring in the 8th which proved to be the game winner. It was an absolute bomb that easily cleared the fence. We're going to find out a lot about Freese this season in the sense that he's not going to surprise anyone anymore. He's on the national landscape and everyone knows what he is capable of. It's gotten to the point where he's going to be pitched much differently. Teams will be much more apt to avoid him than through him. Depending on the situation teams would probably be more willing to pitch to the next guy (whether that's Berkman or Molina or someone else) than Freese. He's shown an ability to take a great at-bat when things matter most. I've heard a lot of sabermetric guys say hitting in the first inning with no one on is the same thing as hitting in Game 6 of the World Series with your season on the line. That's ridiculous. Some players are like Rick Ankiel who have all the talent in the world but fold in the clutch. And there are guys like David Freese who thrive in that type of moment. He is not affected in any way, shape or form of being in a clutch spot. Players like that don't come along very often.
-- Matt Holliday went 2-3 and is hitting .500 this spring. I don't care if it's just spring training and stats don't matter. Holliday is absolutely murdering the ball. Does that mean he's ahead of schedule and will produce Albert-like numbers? No. But it's certainly not a bad thing to see. The Cards are going to miss Pujols and his MVP numbers in the 3-hole and they'll have to make up for that loss through balance. That will be the key to the offense. However, if Holliday can hit over .300 with a .400 OBP, 30+ HR and 100+ RBI this season...that will come awfully close to what Albert did. Then...if they get that balance we've been talking about (more pop from Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran) this offense could easily be better than it was with Pujols in it. The players won't come out and say it, but they believe this offense will be more than fine without #5 in it.
-- Adam Wainwright made his 3rd start of the spring and went 4 innings while giving up 1 unearned run. He struck out one and walked two. Through 9 spring innings Wainwright is yet to give up an earned run. That's a 0.00 ERA. He said he felt great out there and took terrific stuff to the mound. It's gotten to the point where he feels like it's old hat pitching and doesn't feel like it's the end of the 2011 season where he was getting on a mound for the first time and had no idea what he was doing (his words). With Chris Carpenter on the mend getting Wainwright back to his normal self is imperative. He's arguably the game's best pitcher. Now I'm sure there are fans in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Detroit who would disagree with that assessment. But ask any Cardinals player and they'll tell you the same thing. Put Adam Wainwright on the mound and they don't care who is opposing them (Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlannder) they like their chances to win. No one really doubts that Wainwright will be able to get outs when he's on the mound. The question will be how long will he be on that mound itself. Will it be 5-6 innings per start? Will it start that way and increase to 6-7? Will they let him loose at the end of the season? Those are questions no one has the answer to at the moment. It'll be smart to keep the reins on him for the first couple months simply because it's not worth anything more. But when the Cards are battling the Reds for the division title in September I find it very hard to believe they'll be cautious.
-- Jon Jay is 0-4 today with 2 strikeouts. He's hitting just .222 this spring. What's the contingency plan if he struggles? The best offensive lineup clearly features Beltran in CF and Craig (when healthy) in RF. But the team doesn't want Beltran playing center full-time. So what's the backup plan? Skip Schumaker could get time there. So could someone such as Erik Komatsu if he makes the team. But if he does it'd be more of a bench role. For my money...I'd love to see the Cards let Beltran loose in center and see how he handles it. I find it hard to believe he'd be any worse than average out there. And the offensive upgrade you'd get by fitting in Craig would be immense. The only issue with that? Health. Beltran's gotta stay healthy.
-- Chris Carpenter threw a live bullpen session today to 3 hitters (Allen Craig, Adron Chambers, Bryan Anderson) and felt strong doing so. He says he threw 40 pitches of mixing up all his pitches. Carpenter is not sure what the next step is but he said they'll discuss that tomorrow. They could determine in the next few days when his first start of spring training will be. Lance Lynn is starting tomorrow so his first start (assuming he'd just swap out for Lynn) would be 5 days from then which would be Saturday in Port St. Lucie. Either way, Mike Matheny didn't sound too optimistic about Carpenter being ready for Opening Day. They said they're not ruling anything out but sounded less than optimistic in the way he said it. Either way, if Carpenter misses one start that's not that big of a deal. As long as he's healthy for 30 more starts this season that's all that matters. In September and October no one will remember that he missed one start in April.