Opening Comment: The 25-36 Cardinals are a Springsteen song: Downbound Train.
1. After Monday’s 4-3 loss to the Rangers in Arlington, the Cardinals are eight games out of first place in the NL Central. After winning 2-1 at Cleveland on May 27, the Redbirds trailed first-place Milwaukee by four games. Only nine days later, their deficit has doubled.
2. The Cardinals have lost four in a row, six of seven, seven out of nine and are 4-9 since their 11-3 mirage of winning. Other than that 11-3 uprising, the Cards are 14-33 this season. As many have noted the Cardinals have the worst winning percentage (.410) in the National League. Per FanGraphs, their chances of winning the division are down to 17 percent.
3. Eight of the Cardinals’ last 13 games have been determined by a single run. They’re 2-6 in those one-run margins. And four of their last five games were settled by one run, with the Cardinals going 1-4. That happens when you fail to deliver with runners in scoring position, play poor defense, run into outs on the bases, and endure bullpen blowups.
4. In their last 11 games, the Cardinals offense has averaged 3.2 runs, batted .195, slugged .331, posted a .606 OPS and have batted .145 with runners in scoring position. But the Cardinals are also terrible when hitting with any combination men on base, hitting .152 in their last 11. No surprise that their record is 3-8 over that time.
5. Remember when batting coach Jeff Albert was viewed by hostile and obsessive fans as the devil incarnate and the 100 percent reason to blame for any slowdown by the St. Louis offense? Yeah, I remember that too.
6. Don’t look now, but manager Skip Schumaker has the underdog Miami off to a 33-28 start. The Marlins have zoomed past the Mets for second place in the rugged NL East, and they trail the first-place Braves by only three games. It was a big deal for the Cardinals to lose Schumaker as Oli Marmol’s bench coach. And the current STL coaching staff – stocked with several new faces – doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Matt Holliday knew what he was doing when he changed his mind about becoming Marmol’s new bench coach.
7. Let’s update a positive note about the STL starting pitching: in the last 10 games the starters have a 2.62 ERA which ranks second to Atlanta in the majors over that time. The starters have allowed only one home run to 251 batters faced over 58 and ⅓ innings. Overall the Cards have a 3.35 ERA during this 10-game stretch – sixth-best in the majors – but are only 3-7, mostly because of a fading offense.
8. Adam Wainwright? Giving up three runs in the second inning – after the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead – was disappointing. And Wainwright said so himself. But all in all, Waino was able to maneuver around eight hits and two walks and stranded six runners to keep the Cardinals in the game. He allowed three runs in 5 and ⅓ innings; that’s tolerable considering that the Rangers came into the night averaging 7.1 runs per home game. That said, Wainwright’s ERA for the season is 5.97 and he’s struck out only 12.6 percent of batters faced. That strikeout rate is the lowest among 138 major-league starters that have pitched at least 30 innings this season.
9. The Cardinals are 6-14 on the road this season and have lost eight of their last 11 away from Busch Stadium. The Cardinals didn’t homer in Monday’s game, which got me thinking about something. Usually the Cardinals are better at hitting on the road than at home because Busch Stadium generally is favorable to pitchers. But this season the Cardinals have a .785 OPS at Busch and a .717 OPS on the road. Using park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) the Redbirds are 26 percent better at home than they are on the road.
10. Paul DeJong seems to be emerging from his deep slump. In his last four games Pauly is 5 for 13 with four walks. That’s good for a .385 batting average and .462 onbase percentage, and he gave the Cardinals an early lead Monday with an RBI single in the top of the first. Look, even with the slump the dude has a .338 OBP, .492 slug and .830 OPS this season. That’s impressive. None of us expected that.
11. In their last 10 games the Cardinals have hit a homer every 35.4 at-bats. That’s a primary factor in their feeble .320 slugging percentage over the last 10. When the Cardinals fail to homer in a game they’re 5-17. When they hit one homer in a game, they’re 6-10. That adds up to an 11-27 record when they hit two or fewer home runs in a game this year.
12. Willson Contreras went 0 for 4 Monday, but reached base on an error, stole second base and came around to score a run on DeJong’s single on the third. But he also grounded out with two outs in the eighth and a potential go-ahead runner at third base. Since May 19 Contreras is 1 for 10 with five strikeouts when runners are in scoring position and is 2 for 18 with runners on base. For the season Contreras is batting .211 with a .358 slug and .653 OPS. He’s generated only 0.5 WAR – barely above replacement level – in 56 games and 230 plate appearances.
13. It’s a big test for rookie lefty Matthew Liberatore tonight in Texas. This season, per wRC+), the Rangers are 33 percent above average offensively against left-handed pitching, which ranks third-best in MLB. Using more traditional stats, they’ve cudgeled lefties for a .295 average, .372 onbase percentage, .465 slug and .837 OPS. And those numbers are even better when facing a lefty at home.
14. The Cardinals are 1-31 this season when trailing after seven innings.
15. Jordan Walker, good work. He led off the eighth inning Monday and coaxed a walk after being down 0-2 in the count. He came around to score the team’s second run, and that walk set up the Cardinals’ rally that tied the game 3-3. It was a terrific at-bat.
Thanks for reading!
Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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Listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available on your preferred podcast platform. Or follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.
All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Bill James Online and Baseball Prospectus.
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.