To put it in boxing terms, Cardinals slugger Nolan Arenado, while searching for his knockout punch, was content to counter punch Saturday as he had three singles, including two which drove in the only two St. Louis runs. None of them was exactly smoked but Arenado said, “All hits are pretty. You take every single one of them.
“I want to be better but right now I’m in kind of a rut. Today, I was happy to help the team a little bit.”
Arenado, who had been one for his past 24, agreed that he had shortened his stroke against Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle, against whom Arenado singled in the first and fourth, both to his opposite field in right.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play,” said Arenado. “I was able to hit some tough pitches today
“I’m just trying to grind this thing out until I start feeling like me again.”
But despite Arenado’s contribution, the Cardinals lost for the fourth consecutive time and sixth time in the past seven games.
“You try not to put it all on your shoulders and sometimes you fall into the trap of doing that,” said Arenado of players trying to do too much to stop the skid. “You feel like it’s kind of your fault.”
To that end, Arenado had found himself taking strikes and swinging at balls.
“When you start to feel a little uncomfortable, you say, ‘I want to see a (certain) pitch) and then it’s right down the middle and then you say, ‘I want to be aggressive,’” said Arenado. “And you’re over-aggressive.
“You’ve just got to slow the game down.”
Liberatore excels, DeJong takes first step
Lefthander Matthew Liberatore, the Cardinals’ top pitching prospect, turned in his second strong performance for the United States, which qualified for the Tokyo Olympics next month. With the United States needing only to beat Venezuela to punch its ticket to Japan in a qualifying game at Port St. Lucie, Florida, Liberatore allowed one run, a homer by Hernan Perez, in his 4 2/3 innings as the starter in a 4-2 U.S. victory. Perez had three of Venezuela’s four hits off Liberatore, who struck out four and walked two.
The 21-year-old, who held Nicaragua to one run in five innings in his first qualifying-round start, will return to his Memphis team for a while before he would head to the Olympics if chosen to the final roster and not added to the Cardinals’ 40-man roster by that time. Former Cardinals Brandon Dickson and Edwin Jackson also pitched for the U.S. team Saturday.
At Memphis in a game delayed in starting by 90 minutes because of rain, Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, on a rehab option after recovering from a non-displaced rib fracture, grounded to shortstop in his first at-bat against Toledo but doubled to left in the fourth inning. He was called out on strikes in the fifth inning in his third at-bat and came out of game after that. He was slated to play again Sunday afternoon.
Angel Rondon becomes 21st Cards pitcher
Righthander Angel Rondon, the Cardinals’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2019 when he was a combined 11-7 with a 2.93 earned run average at High-A Palm Beach and Class AA Springfield, became the 21st Cardinals pitcher Saturday (not counting Matt Carpenter) when he replaced injured Kwang Hyun Kim on the Cardinals’ active roster.
The 23-year-old Rondon, a Dominican Republic product, was 0-3 with a 5.32 ERA at Class AAA Memphis, where he made four starts in five appearances. Kim went on the 10-day injured list and will miss at least one start and probably two with lower back tightness.
“He is moving better than the last time he had this issue,” said manager Mike Shildt, referring to Kim’s back troubles in spring training which delayed the start of his season. Shildt said he hoped that IL time wouldn’t be “too much greater than the 10 days required.”
Shildt said that Rondon would serve as a long man in the bullpen this weekend. “Reports have been favorable,” said Shildt. “He’s earned the opportunity to come to the big leagues.”
Kim would have started in Chicago next Friday, so a starter will have to be found for that game and perhaps for the succeeding Miami series also.
“Clearly, we’re going to have to do something,” said Shildt. “We’re in the process of figuring out what that ‘something’ looks like.”
Kim became the second Cardinals pitcher to leave a game this week after batting, having jammed his foot into the first-base bag as he tried to beat out a grounder on Friday. On Tuesday, staff ace Jack Flaherty took an uncomfortable swing shortly before coming out of the game with a torn oblique muscle, which might have happened before that but surely was exacerbated by the swing.
“Two pitchers in a week that have had injuries due to offensive responsibilities,” said Shildt, flatly.
The IL, already overflowing, took on another member when outfielder Justin Williams went on with a stiff neck, perhaps the result of a long flight back from Los Angeles early Thursday morning. Righthanded-hitting first baseman John Nogowski, who was one for 13 in previous trials with the Cardinals this season, was summoned from Memphis.
Pitchers’ plunking pace
When the Cardinals’ pitchers hit four batters on Friday, it marked the first time in their history they had hit three or more batters in successive games. One of their victims, Cincinnati infielder Alex Blandino, suffered a broken right hand Friday when hit by Jake Woodford and went on the 10-day injured list.Batting practice waved offFor the third game in succession, the Cardinals did not hit on the field before the game. Shildt attributed that decision to the arduous recent game and travel schedule, which called for 17 games in 17 days, with Saturday’s game the 16th in that span. Citing an observation made by former Cardinals big-league coach and minor league manager and coordinator Gaylen Pitts, Shildt said, “You’ve got to save your bullets for the game.“We’re getting in our work indoors,” Shildt said.
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