Goldy's patience the key to Cards rallies

April 8th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- In describing a performance that he had just witnessed on Opening Day, Cardinals All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado used expressive adjectives such as “special,” “elite” and “amazing.”

One might have assumed Arenado was marveling at Tyler O’Neill -- the hitter just ahead of him in the order -- who had crushed a three-run home run and tied a 94-year-old record with five RBIs in a season opener. Or maybe Arenado was describing what 40-year-old pitcher Adam Wainwright did while tying the Pirates in knots over six scoreless innings with his pinpoint control and befuddling pace.

Instead, Arenado found himself in awe of Paul Goldschmidt for what the fellow All-Star did not do in Thursday’s 9-0 romp over Pittsburgh. Showing a patience uncommon among most sluggers, Goldschmidt refused to chase bad balls and walked four times -- three of them coming during rallies that produced runs. In his fifth at-bat, Goldschmidt singled to right-center field and came around to score his second run.

As for those aforementioned walks, Goldschmidt became the first MLB player with four walks in a season opener since Manny Ramirez was given that many passes in 2002. He became just the 14th player in AL/NL history and the first Cardinal to accomplish the feat on Opening Day.

“Goldy just got everybody going. That’s elite stuff right there,” Arenado said of his close friend. “You don’t see that a lot, and then he finds a way to get a knock in his last at-bat. That’s just special. ... Just the patience he showed was amazing. After you walk four times, you want to try and get a knock, but [Goldschmidt] just stays within himself, and he’s just really good. Watching him in the box, from Spring Training to now, it’s unbelievable because he has such control. He got us going, he really did.”

Following the off-day on Friday, the Cardinals will be back at it on Saturday at Busch Stadium and hoping to be as productive offensively as they were on Thursday. St. Louis got home runs from Tommy Edman, O’Neill and Arenado and hits from six players in pulling off its most lopsided Opening Day win since a 14-3 romp over Houston in 1982. While plenty of praise was heaped onto retiring stars Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, and Wainwright extending his scoreless innings streak against Pittsburgh to 32, it was Goldschmidt who was credited with setting the stage for the offensive onslaught with his plate patience.

“He’s an elite hitter for a reason, and he knows the strike zone very well, and we saw that with four walks, which is incredible,” O’Neill said of a Goldschmidt performance that might have otherwise flown under the radar to the untrained eye. “He’s a great hitter.”

As is often the case when the topic turns to one of his own exploits, a humble Goldschmidt downplayed his role in the rallies and refused to read too much into one performance, saying: “There are so many other stories you can tell.”

“You never know; it’s Opening Day and stuff kind of gets blown out of proportion,” Goldschmidt said of his second four-walk performance in his career. “We have 162 games to play, and stuff happens. I don’t put too much into one game. It’s just about having good at-bats and hitting the ball hard. There are going to be ups and downs, and it is what it is.”

What made Goldschmidt’s plate discipline even more impressive was the fact that he was coming off a torrid Spring Training where he had 11 hits in 22 at-bats with four home runs. The 34-year-old Goldschmidt was the first player to call rookie manager Oliver Marmol once the MLB lockout ended, and he set the bar incredibly high by saying that anything less than a World Series appearance would be a disappointment for the Cardinals. On Thursday, “Goldy” set the tone for what St. Louis believes will be a deep lineup that can give opposing pitchers nightmares.

“We have a lot of depth, one through nine, and everybody is dangerous,” said O’Neill, who has admittedly benefitted greatly from hitting between Goldschmidt and Arenado in the heart of the St. Louis lineup. “There is nowhere to go [for outs] in this lineup.”

Wainwright, who made his sixth Opening Day start and claimed his 100th win at Busch Stadium, perfectly summed up what Goldschmidt means to the Cardinals lineup with his calm and collected approach to hitting.

“I just told Goldy if he walks four times -- the rest of the season every single game -- Tyler [O’Neill] is going to have 300 RBIs,” Wainwright said. “That shows you the respect [foes] have for Paul, and rightfully so. He looks as good or better than I’ve ever seen him.”