Oh, well. Matthew Liberatore’s start at Tampa Bay is just a fond memory now. It appears that his excellent work against the Rays was just a tease. A fluke. Unfortunately, a dominant performance that conquered an outstanding baseball team at The Trop on Aug. 10 did not lead to a career upturn for the enigmatic young lefty.

Instead, we’re more confused than ever with Liberatore after the sorriest team in the majors, the Oakland A’s, broke a nine-game road losing streak by breaking Liberatore early and often in a horrendous 8-0 smackdown of the flat Cardinals on Wednesday at Busch Stadium. The ballpark was filled with empty seats, empty promise and a run-the-bases promotion for the visiting A’s.

The A’s came into the appointment with the worst record (33-87) in the majors. They had scored the fewest runs in the majors. They had the lowest batting average and OPS in the majors. And even after stomping the Cardinals, Oakland’s winning percentage (.281) would be the third-worst by an MLB team in a season since MLB expanded in 1961.

Not that we expected Liberatore to match his start at Tampa Bay. Clearly pumped up to take on the Tampa Bay organization that traded him to St. Louis, Liberatore blistered the Rays for eight shutout innings, allowing only two hits without a walk and striking out seven.

In preparing for Liberatore’s declaration of war on Tampa Bay, the Rays took note of Liberatore’s disturbing futility against right-handed hitters and stacked their lineup accordingly. But a defiant Liberatore shredded the plan. He took on Tampa Bay’s RH batters 25 times and was scratched for two singles. He struck them out in 28 percent of their plate appearances. He locked in with purpose and intense focus and came at the Rays with wicked stuff.

Where was Liberatore’s motivation and ferocity in the follow-up? It’s great that Liberatore was fire against Tampa Bay, but that just makes only makes the hollow start against Oakland more damning.

Liberatore is receiving a full opportunity to win a job in the 2024 St. Louis rotation. And this was how he responded? With an “F” against the A’s?

“I feel like I reverted to some old habits after that first inning,” Liberatore told the media after the depressing game. “Obviously, that’s not what I want to do, but that’s what happened.”

Liberatore was faced 24 A’s batters, and 13 reached base on 10 hits and three walks. Oakland jumped on Liberatore in the first inning for five hits, a walk, a stolen base and four runs. They would go on to score six runs against him (five earned) in 4 and ⅓ innings.

Liberatore, 23, has made 18 career starts for the Cardinals. In a week’s time, he  ambushed the Rays for his career-best game score in a start and got ambushed by the A’s for his career-worst game score in a start.

Compared to what we witnessed in Tampa Bay, Liberatore’s fastball velocity dropped by two mph, and he had only one swinging strike on his four-seamer. His swing-and-miss rate against the As’s was about 50 percent lower than his swing-miss power vs. the Rays. What a letdown.

It was back to reality for Liberatore and the Cardinals. Oakland’s right-handed hitters unloaded on him for 10 hits in 21 at-bats (.476), got on base on 54 percent of their plate appearances, and bopped him for three doubles and a .619 slugging percentage.

During his early career, RH batters have cannonaded Liberatore for a .321 batting average, .536 slug and .926 OPS. Oakland’s barrage left Liberatore with a 6.06 ERA in 82 and ⅔ big-league innings.

Other than the unsightly canings endured by Adam Wainwright, Liberatore on Wednesday turned in the most disappointing presentation of the 2023 season by a St. Louis starting pitcher.

ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: The Cardinals went 4-3 this season against Oakland and Kansas City, the two worst teams in the majors. The Redbirds are 21-23 vs. losing teams this season … are the Cardinals underachievers in 2023? Yes, according to Clay Davenport’s projected third-order winning percentage, which is based on underlying statistics and adjusted for quality of opponents. Using the Davenport simulations, the Cardinals should have 58.4 wins this season instead of their actual total of 54 wins. According to Davenport’s third-order model the Cubs are the only team in the NL Central that has more projected wins than the Cardinals. The projected wins: Cubs 67, Cards 58.4, Brewers 57.3, Reds 55.2 and Pirates 51.6

THE 2023 CARDINALS ARE A BAD BET: The Cardinals are 19-25 this season when listed as the betting favorite in home games. Their overall record as the betting favorite is 30-40 for a .429 winning percentage that ranks 27th. They’ve been a more solid investment as an underdog, going 24-27 overall to cover 47.1 percent of the time. But 11 MLB teams have a higher winning percentage than St. Louis when listed as betting underdogs.

OFFENSE DISAPPEARS: After averaging 6.2 runs in their previous six games, the Cardinals were shutout for the 10th time this season in going blank against Oakland on Wednesday. The 10 shutouts are tied for the seventh most by an MLB offense this season.

KIZ, THERE HE IS: In his 40 plate appearances over his last 11 games, Cardinal catcher Andrew Knizner is batting .429 with a .500 OBP, .829 slug, 1.329 OPS, four homers and 10 RBI. Among 33 MLB catchers that have at least 50 plate appearances since the All-Star break, Knizner ranks 4th in batting average, 2nd in slugging, 2nd in OPS, 2nd in wRC+ and 6th in onbase percentage.

BASES-LOADED LETHARGY: The Cardinals had two chances to make a breakthrough Wednesday but squandered two different bases-loaded opportunities by going 0 for 3 with a strikeout. The scenes looked familiar. This season St. Louis is batting .184 with the bases loaded which is the worst in the NL and second-worst overall to the Twins (.181). Per wRC+, the Cardinals are 51 percent below league average offensively in bases-loaded situations. Two problems with their performance with the bases jammed: a 51 percent ground-ball rate and 25% strikeout rate. The Cardinals have hit into seven double plays with the bases full this season.

WORST HITTERS WITH BASES FULL: I’ll just use the at-bats and hits with the bases loaded. Dylan Carlson is 0 for 5, Alec Burleson is 0 for 4, Paul DeJong was 1 for 9, Jordan Walker is 1 for 7, Tyler O’Neill is 1 for 7, Wilson Contreras is 1 for 6, Tommy Edman is 2 for 11 and Nolan Gorman is 2 for 12. The Cardinals’ best hitters with the bases loaded are Lars Nootbaar (.333), Paul Goldschmidt (.300) and Nolan Arenado (.286.)

LOB UPDATE: The Cardinals have left 881 runners on base this season, most by a NL team and second overall to Toronto’s 888 LOB. Only 26 percent of the Cardinals’ runners on base have scored this season. Among the 30 MLB teams, only Oakland has a lower rate (29%) of plating baserunners. But I should also point out that six other teams – Tigers, Marlins, Yankees, Mets, Twins and Blue Jays – also have a baserunners-scored rate of 26 percent.

SITUATIONAL HITTING: The Cardinals have a problem in this area. They rank 23rd in MLB this season in their success (47.9%) at getting a runner from home with fewer than two outs. And they are 28th among the 30 teams with a productive-out rate of 23.3%.

1ST-INNING FLOPS: With the A’s going off on Liberatore early in Wednesday’s game, Cardinals pitchers are tied for the third-worst ERA in the majors (5.80) in the first inning this season. Opponents have a .324 batting average, .374 OBP and .489 slug against St. Louis starting pitchers in the first inning.

THOMAS SAGGESE: I’m monitoring the infield prospect that the Cardinals picked up in the deadline deals that sent starter Jordan Montgomery and reliever Chris Stratton to Texas. In 12 games for the STL’s Double A affiliate in Springfield, Saggese is batting .346 with a 1.138 OPS and has cranked five homers in 52 at-bats. The scouts weren’t kidding; this dude can hit.

GET WELL, LARS NOOTBAAR: Noot had to leave Wednesday’s game early after fouling a pitch that bounced straight up and struck him in the fruit basket. That’s a sensitive area of the male anatomy, and the word “pain” doesn’t begin to describe the feeling. Nootbaar is a valuable part of the STL offense and hopefully he can make a fast recovery.

Three Noot Notes:

1. Nootbaar is batting .330 since the All-Star break with a .431 OBP and .596 slug. In his last 22 games Noot has a .367 average, 1.159 OPS, 14 walks, 29 hits and has rocked six doubles, a triple and six homers in 79 at-bats.

2. Per wRC+, Noot is 80 percent above league average offensively during the season’s second half Among 60 MLB hitters that have at least 125 plate appearances since the All-Star break, the only guys with a higher wRC+ than Nootbaar are Matt Olson, Freddie Freeman, Shohei Ohtani, Cody Bellinger and Kyle Tucker.

3. Among hitters that have at least 65 plate appearances at the leadoff spot since the All-Star break, Nootbaar ranks first in slugging percentage (.746), OPS (1.181) and wRC+ (218.) He’s also second among leadoff guys in batting average (.381) and fifth in OBP (.435.) That wRC+ means he’s a monster-like 118 percent above league average offensively as a leadoff hitter during the second half.

FARM SYSTEM RANKINGS: If you believe the current state of player development is meaningful, the Cardinals will likely face a more difficult challenge over the next few years. In MLB Pipeline’s updated organizational rankings, the St. Louis farm system dropped to No. 22 among 30 teams. On top of that, their four NL Central rivals are loaded with prospects. The new rankings have the Pirates at No. 2, the Brewers at No. 3, the Cubs at No. 4, and the Reds at No. 5.

ADAM WAINWRIGHT GOES FOR NO. 199: Stuck on 198 career wins, Waino will face the Mets Thursday in the opener of a four-game series at Busch. The Mets could be a more workable matchup for Wainwright. His last victory came June 17 at Citi Field, with Waino limiting the Mets to three earned runs in 6 and ⅓ innings for his only quality start of the season. (Though they did crack two homers against him in that game.)

Since that fine start in Queens, Wainwright has fallen into the immense detritus of a 14.87 ERA in seven starts and 23 innings. In the seven starts opponents eviscerated him for a .461 batting average, .515 OBP, .765 slug and a 1.281 OPS. Wainwright skipped his usual between-starts bullpen session in an attempt to go into this start with more freshness, crackle and pop. It’s worth a try.

METS VS. CARDINALS: This series matches two of the most disappointing teams in the majors for 2023. The Mets are 55-66 for a .455 winning percentage that ranks 11th in the NL. The Cardinals (54-67) have a .446 winning percentage that’s tied for 12th in the NL.

Both of these also-rans offloaded players at the deadline. The Mets moved starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander and closer David Robertson. The Cardinals dealt rental starting pitchers Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty plus closer Jordan Hicks. (And shortstop Paul DeJong.)

The Mets went into the ‘23 season with the largest payroll in MLB history for a 26-man roster ($330.6 million) and a 40-man roster ($376.4 million.)

First pitch is scheduled for 6:15 STL time.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie hosts a weekday sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

The “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and B. Miklasz is available at, the 590 the fan app or your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible, Baseball Prospectus or Bill James Online.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.