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Offensive-minded Cardinals look to slam Pirates

Sportsnaut
Apr 7, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Tyler O'Neill (27) hits a one run sacrifice fly against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the eighth inning of Opening Day at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After being known for their pitching and defense in recent years, the St. Louis Cardinals hope to flex more offensive muscle this season.

They opened their season with a 9-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday to start a six-game homestand at Busch Stadium, four of them against the Pirates. They will try to add to the win column when the series resumes Saturday.

“We talk about this ballpark and how it’s a pitcher’s park,” first-year Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “We talk about a lot of different areas of our game here, and l don’t think the offense is at the forefront of people’s thoughts.

“I think we’re going to have a very powerful offense.”

Tyler O’Neill hit a three-run homer, Nolan Arenado hit a two-run shot and Tommy Edman had a solo blast Thursday to back up their manager’s declaration.

“That was a perfect demonstration of what they’re capable of doing,” Marmol said.

Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller (5-11, 6.17 ERA in 2021) will try to stifle that attack Saturday with his revamped delivery.

He reworked his pitching mechanics during the offseason. He lengthened his arm action and reported to spring training with higher fastball velocity and more bite on his breaking pitches.

“I believe in myself wholeheartedly that I can be the best pitcher in this organization, in the league and the big leagues someday,” Keller said. “I know I have that in me. I just have to go out there and do it now.”

During his offseason work, his measurements for movement and spin rate reached levels recorded by New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.

“It’s cool to see the comps, but with comps like that, that’s exactly what it is: a comparison,” Keller said. “To line those up with (Cole), it’s really cool, but consistency is the key there. He brings consistency every single day with those types of numbers. That’s what I’m striving to get to.”

Keller was 1-0 with a 6.10 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals last season. He is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in four career starts against them.

The Cardinals will counter with Miles Mikolas (2-3, 4.23 ERA in 2021), who was healthy this spring after struggling with forearm issues last season.

He was 0-1, 2.89 in two starts against the Pirates last season. He is 4-5 with a 3.02 ERA in 17 career appearances against them, including 15 starts.

The Cardinals are aiming for a longer postseason run after settling for a one-game wild card playoff against the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, which they lost 3-1.

“On the heels of losing such a heartbreaker last year, I don’t think there’s a guy on this team that didn’t go into the offseason thinking we’re out for everything, we want payback, we want revenge,” Mikolas said. “Not necessarily against the Dodgers. We want to go out there and stomp people because we don’t want to end up in a playoff game trying to squeeze in. We need to win the division. We need to be healthy, to be there all year, and be a juggernaut. We need to be the freight train.”

The Pirates open the season with injury woes. With Greg Allen (hamstring) and Anthony Alford (hand) sidelined, the Pirates signed outfielder Jake Marisnick. Third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes (forearm cramping) and reliever Duane Underwood Jr. (hamstring strain) left the opener, although Hayes is expected back in the lineup Saturday.

–Field Level Media