Arenado points finger at self following rough opener

May 10th, 2024

MILWAUKEE -- Always hard on himself when he fails to meet the high level of play that he’s produced over his previous 11 MLB seasons, Cardinals superstar third baseman wore a look of anguish all over his face for a couple of negative reasons on Thursday night.

First, the usually sure-handed Arenado -- a winner of 10 Gold Gloves -- failed to make what could have been an inning-ending double play when he whiffed on the tag of Milwaukee’s William Contreras, allowing the first inning to go on. The opportunistic Brewers took advantage, scoring off a wild pitch and getting a home run from Rhys Hoskins to put the slumping Cardinals in an early three-run hole.

Then, four innings later, after the Cards loaded the bases and none out, Arenado missed an opportunity to make up for his earlier defensive gaffe by popping out in foul territory to stall the rally.

The Cards didn’t score there in the fifth and they never recovered from the awful start in the first inning, paving the way for a 7-1 loss that was their fifth straight defeat and sixth in the past seven games. The loss moved the Redbirds to a season-worst seven games below .500 and seven games back of the Brewers in the NL Central.

“I messed up there [on the play at third base] and that [first inning] inning is on me,” said Arenado, who later stressed that the Cardinals' season could be perilously on the line if they can’t recover over the next three days against the Brewers. “I’ve just got to be better and be a better player for the guys. I’ve got to get on base more and drive in more runs. I know when I say that it might be adding more pressure, but I expect myself to do a better job all the way around to help these guys out.”

On yet another frustration-filled night for the Cardinals, Arenado was hardly the only one to blame for a fourth straight loss this season to Milwaukee. Already at or near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories, the Cardinals went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base. Their lineup didn’t include superstar first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who has made a career out of punishing the Brewers, especially in Milwaukee. However, the slugger was given a second straight day off because of an 0-for-24 skid that has left him searching for answers.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol disputed the notion that Milwaukee’s three-run first inning broke the spirit of an offense that has struggled to score runs all season.

“At some point, you’ve got to score,” Marmol said. “Like, you get punched in the face, then punch back. At the same time, it’s the first inning, you’ve got eight more chances and you have to be able to battle back from that and we haven’t been able to -- not just tonight, but in general we haven’t been able to do that. It comes together stringing together quality. That’s what [the Brewers] did and it was one through nine of their lineup. That’s what makes it difficult to navigate a lineup, when every at-bat is competitive.”

Following a string of narrow defeats early in the season, the Cardinals have struggled to remain competitive of late because of their languishing offense. They aren’t consistently driving the ball into the gaps and over the wall, other than Nootbaar’s solo shot. The Cardinals’ 27 home runs are tied for 29th in MLB and their .635 OPS is still sitting at 27th.

No one is more surprised by that than Arenado, the middle-of-the-order anchor of an offense that had high expectations going into the season. The Cardinals signed three veteran starters, and fortified the bullpen. The lineup was largely untouched as the Cardinals felt they had the potential to be a Top 10 offense. However, Goldschmidt and Arenado have fallen off dramatically in terms of power production, Jordan Walker was demoted and Brendan Donovan, Nootbaar and Nolan Gorman have had prolonged droughts.

Arenado’s answer -- as it often is when he doesn’t play up to the standards he’s set throughout a career with eight All-Star Games, five Silver Slugger awards and the 10 Gold Gloves -- is that he needs to play better to alleviate the pressure off others.

“Slumps happen and struggles happen, and I’m not shocked by that, but the weird thing for us is that it’s one-through-nine and nobody really feels good,” Arenado said. “Usually there are a few guys not going, but others are picking them up. But it’s hard for me to speak on everyone else when I know that I’ve got to do a better job myself.”