Matz struggles vs. D-backs, but Marmol finds positives

April 24th, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- Hit hard by a D-backs lineup that regularly feasts on left-handed pitching, 's final line on Tuesday night read a lot like lotto numbers: 6, 7, 3, 4 and 1.

Somehow, even after the D-backs beat Matz and the Cardinals 14-1 on Tuesday at Busch Stadium to sap all the momentum out of a walk-off winner from a night earlier, Cards manager Oliver Marmol managed to find a few bright spots in his lefty starter's rocky performance.

Matz, who allowed an early lead against the D-backs to get away for a second time in 12 days, surrendered six hits, seven earned runs, three walks and one massive three-run home run that seemed to break the spirits of the Cardinals a night after their biggest win of the season.

"I actually thought it was one of his better outings, to be quite honest with you," Marmol said of Matz's second straight loss. "The line doesn't show that, but from a pitch standpoint, the [velocity] was there. Walking [Arizona's Jake McCarthy] in that [third] inning kind of led to some runs and that wasn't ideal. [Christian] Walker took a good swing off him, but I thought he actually did a pretty decent job, but it didn't go our way."

After opening the season with solid starts against the Dodgers and Marlins, Matz has surrendered 21 hits, 13 earned runs, six walks and two home runs over his last three outings. Those numbers belie just how crisp Matz's stuff was before the game ultimately went sideways in the third and fifth innings.

Matz hit 96 mph with four pitches in the early going, but walks to McCarthy and Ketel Marte followed by a single from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and a mammoth three-run home run by Walker sent Matz and the Cardinals reeling once again. Those results were baffling to the lefty after the way he commanded his stuff early in the game.

"I really made one bad pitch that inning and that was frustrating for me because I felt like I was in control there," Matz said. "And then I go out there in the fifth inning and kind of fizzle out a little bit. I threw a lot of pitches in those innings. I do feel like I was in a good spot today and it's just frustrating with the outcome."

The outcome came less than 24 hours after the Cardinals got a much-needed victory when Nolan Gorman hit the first walk-off homer of his career. On Tuesday, the Cardinals' struggling offense was outhit 15-6 by an Arizona offense that scored four times in the third, six times in the fifth and four more times in the sixth inning.

The biggest break of the night for the Cardinals came when Marmol revealed that star catcher Willson Contreras was removed from the lopsided game because of lingering pain in his left hand and not in the left side that he appeared to grab at as he ran down the first base line in the fifth inning.

A night after his 14-game hit streak and 26-game in-base streak ended, Contreras gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a 439-foot home run. Contreras' blast, which left the bat at 107.7 mph, is the Cardinals' longest home run of the season, barely topping the 438-foot homer that Lars Nootbaar hit in Arizona on April 12.

In the bottom of the fifth, Contreras clutched his left hand, which had bothered him since April 3, when a pitch hit him on the back of the hand. Marmol said the game's lopsided score led to Contreras's removal from the game.

"He's fine -- no different than some of the other swings that he's taken," Marmol said. "With the game being lopsided there's no reason to send him back out there. It's his catching hand and certain pitches just kind of shock his hand and it takes a minute for him to get the feeling back. He took a swing and … same thing. But it's no different than yesterday or the day before."

Matz thinks his night might have been dramatically different had he not left an 84.3 mph changeup in the middle of the plate to Walker, who deposited it for a three-run homer and his first long ball in 18 games.

"I just think I gave him a chance," Matz said of the changeup that was supposed to be more inside toward Walker's hands. "I'm kind of kicking myself for leaving it up in the zone. I could have done something different there. You can always locate better, but I think I could have had a different pitch selection there, too."