The bullpen failed miserably on Monday evening, surrendering 10 runs in two innings of work. Mitchell Boggs, the Cardinals interim closer, couldn't seem to locate and the Reds made him pay. Boggs gave up seven runs, six of which were earned, in just 0.1 innings pitched.
Ultimately, the Cardinals squandered Jaime Garcia's quality start and lost 13-4.
After washing the blood out of their mouths from the Reds uppercut on Monday, the Cardinals responded very nicely, taking the next two games in convincing fashion.
The bats came alive and the Cardinals won 5-1 and 10-0, respectively.
Here are my five takeaways from the first showdown in this intense rivalry.
During spring training, the Cardinals weren't sure what they were going to do with Matt Adams. He can really only play one position, first base.
The Cardinals knew Adams could hit, but with Allen Craig signing a five-year extension during spring training, Adams' chances of making the Opening Day roster were looking less and less likely.
Adams hit very well in spring training and did indeed make the Opening Day roster. His hot hitting has continued into the regular season, albeit in limited at-bats.
Given an opportunity to make an impact on a game, Adams crushed a two-run, pinch-hit home run to give the Cardinals the lead in the bottom of the sixth of game two against the Reds. The Cardinals bullpen was able to hold the lead and after tacking on three more runs and the Cardinals won 5-1.
Adams got the start on Wednesday against the Reds and delivered again. He went 2-for-3 with another two-run homer and a walk.
So far this very young season, Adams is batting .643 with two home runs and seven RBI.
Certainly he will cool down, but Adams deserves more regular at-bats until he proves otherwise.
With Allen Craig's ability to play both corner outfield spots as well as first base, it appears Mike Matheny is going to have to figure some sort of rotation to get Adams' bat into the lineup.
Jaime Garcia should be 2-0 this season. He has pitched well enough to have that record, but with the meltdown of the bullpen on Monday, Garcia lost his shot at his second win of 2013.
Garcia has looked extremely sharp to start the 2013 campaign. He appears to be healthy and is mixing up his stuff very well this season.
He struck out 10 Reds in 6.2 innings in his Monday start and has 14 strikeouts in 12.1 innings pitched in 2013. He looked very comfortable on the mound against Cincinnati and did an excellent job of keeping Reds hitters off-balance.
The Cardinals are going to need a big season out of Garcia for them to be in the playoff picture. Hopefully Garcia can pace himself throughout this season and avoid injuries, which have plagued him is past seasons.
If so, this could be a career year for the lefty.
The bullpen issues of 2012 were supposed to be in the rear-view mirror in 2013. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
Two of the four Cardinal losses are directly attributable to the bullpen. The bullpen lost four leads in a 10-9, 16-inning loss to the Diamondbacks last week.
With that loss behind them, the bullpen should have been ready to close out the Reds when given the opportunity.
Trevor Rosenthal blew the save on Monday night, but looked like a hero after only giving up one run. When the ninth inning rolled around and the game tied at four, Mitchell Boggs entered to keep the game tied.
What unfolded in the ninth with Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski was just sickening. When the damage was all completed, the Reds had scored nine times in ninth to take a 13-4 lead and win by the same score.
Can Mitchell Boggs be the closer while Jason Motte is still being evaluated? Hard to say.
Boggs is only 5-of-13 in save opportunities in his career. While it is a small sample size, history points to Boggs not being able to close the door in the ninth.
Rosenthal has already blown two saves himself this season. Granted, they were not in the ninth inning, but he must improve for the Cardinals to close out games. His stuff is electric and perhaps could be the answer to the closer issues facing the Cardinals.
Fernando Salas and Joe Kelly have not pitched well this season in their limited opportunities. Both Salas and Kelly must improve quickly to help the Cardinals finish out games where the starter only goes five to six innings.
Long story short, if the bullpen can find some consistency, the Cardinals will be on the right side of the box score more times than not.
Something the Cardinals wanted to improve upon in 2013 was consistency at the plate. They scored enough runs to sweep the series and would have, minus the Monday meltdown from the bullpen.
That said, the Cardinals bats came to life in San Francisco and have had staying power through the Cincinnati series. In the final two games of the series, the Cardinals outscored the Reds 15-1 and crushed four home runs in the series finale.
The bats came alive for spurts last season and the Cardinals scored a lot of runs during the season. The problem was they scored a lot in bunches and then would go silent for games at a time. The Cardinals were fairly consistent at the plate in this series.
One noticeable bright spot with the offense is the Cardinals are scoring runs with two outs. During this series, the Cards scored 10 runs with two outs. Those are the kinds of small intangibles that bring out the championship DNA in a team.
When a team takes a beatdown in the late innings as the Cardinals did in the first game of the series, they may not be able to bounce back right away.
Not the Cardinals.
They have a great mix of veterans and youth on this squad who all see the bigger picture.
They quickly put the Monday loss behind them and got down to business on Tuesday. The momentum Matt Adams created with his two-run homer in game two carried over to the game three shellacking of the Reds.
The Cardinals will take it on the chin again this season as every team does. But if they can rebound like they did in this series, the odds are good that the Cardinals will be playing deep into October.