Here’s a bonus column on a pleasant Saturday afternoon …

1. Welcome back, Lars Nootbaar. Please stay awhile. Let’s make this an injury-free experience over the final 148 games. Last season Noot missed 49 days while healing three different injuries. Two fractured ribs prevented him from playing in the band for the first 13 regular-season games. Nootbaar is an important player to the 2024 Cardinals. He can solidify the outfield, boost the offense with his onbase skill and power. He can raise the energy, and lighten the mood when necessary.

I don’t think Nolan Arenado will be as stressed out as often with Nootbaar around. They are LA pals, close friends. As John Denton ( pointed out, Arenado’s tendency to get overheated with intensity can be a problem. Nootbaar can get him to smile.

2. Nootbaar returned with aplomb and a bomb, pulverizing a 92 mph fastball served by righthander Brandon Pfaadt for a 438-foot home run in the third inning. Nootbaar pulled it and powdered it for a two-run discharge that left his bat at 110.3 mph. Nootbaar’s boomer put the Cardinals ahead 6-0.

3. Nootbaar’s MLB career has been tantalizing. He’s done fairly well, but we’ve always wanted to see what numbers he could generate if he stays healthy. He has always been at his best when he’s able to remain attached to the lineup without interruption. But even with the disruption, this is what Nootbaar has done in the majors since July 1 of 2022:

.369 onbase percentage
.452 slugging percentage
.821 OPS
15 percent walk rate
27 homers
37 doubles
4 triples
81 RBIs
14 steals in 16 attempts.

That’s an impressive all-around profile. Per wRC+, Nootbaar 29 percent above league average over that time – and only Paul Goldschmidt has done better than that among Cardinals.

4. Nootbaar’s refined ability to draw walks can inflate a St. Louis offense that went into the weekend ranked 24th in the majors in onbase percentage (.294) and 28th in walk rate (7.6%). Among MLB hitters that have at least 750 plate appearances since the beginning of the 2022 season, Nootbaar’s 14.5 percent walk rate ranks seventh among 267 batsmen. And Nootbaar doesn’t strike out much.


– After another big performance on Friday, Brendan Donovan is hitting .298 with a .414 onbase percentage and a .553 slug. Among MLB leadoff hitters that have at least 50 plate appearances batting first in the lineup, Donovan ranks fourth in OBP and his .967 OPS is third to Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve.

– Nolan Arenado’s three-run homer gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead, and it terminated a streak of 39 games and 154 at-bats without going deep. By the way it was the first three-run homer by St. Louis this season.

Paul Goldschmidt’s go-ahead RBI single in the seventh scored Donovan from third and put the Cardinals ahead (7-6) to stay. Goldy and Arenado each had an RBI in the same game for only the second time this season.

Steven Matz looked sharp in his first four innings but couldn’t pitch around his own one-out error in the fifth. After the miscue, Martz gave up three hits to the next four hitters and left the mound with a 6-2 lead and a runner on. Giovanny Gallegos walked Greg Walker and threw a pretty good pitch (down and away) that RH batter Eugenio Suarez lofted down the line in right field for a three-run homer. Gio’s two-out walk was more frustrating than the subsequent homer.

The Diamondbacks were credited with 10 line drives against Matz, and he struck out only two of 21 batters. I wasn’t surprised to see Arizona get to Matz; the D-backs have punished lefty pitchers for a .303 average and an .806 OPS this season. They’re the third-best team in the majors against left-handed pitching.

Even with Friday’s turbulence, Matz has a 1.80 ERA in three starts that covered 15 innings. The St. Louis rotation has a 4.01 ERA this season which ranks 13th in MLB. In their last 12 games, Cardinal starters have a 3.22 ERA that ranks 6th among the 30 teams.

Cards starting pitchers haven’t allowed a homer in five of their last six games. (Kyle Gibson was popped for two by Miami last Sunday.) STL starting pitchers had been smoked for 11 homers in the first eight games of the season. Gibson starts against the Diamondbacks on Saturday night and we’ll see how he rebounds after allowing seven early runs against the Marlins in his previous start.

The Cardinals’ defenders haven’t been getting to as many balls in recent games. Some of this is attributable to the batted-ball randomness that’s part of baseball, but it’s something to keep an eye on. But to his credit, manager Oli Marmol is diligent in his emphasis on defense, and that will pay off. This is just a phase.

Right fielder Jordan Walker made another stellar catch in Friday’s game, and he turned it into a double play after an Arizona runner strayed from second base. Walker is a plus 1 in Outs Above Average this season, which is tied for second among MLB right fielders. (He was one spot from the bottom in the right-fielder accounting in 2023.) Walker has a defensive success rate of 93% this season – tied for third at his position. Last season he was next to last among right fielders with an 82 percent success rate.

Nice bounce-back game Friday from rookie center fielder Victor Scott II. He had a tough day in Wednesday’s loss to Philadelphia, but he regrouped against the Diamondbacks. Double, run scored, and a sac fly that plated Masyn Winn to extend the STL lead to 8–6.

Winn and Donovan tripled Friday, giving the Cardinals four triples in their first 14 games. Last season they were tied for the fewest triples in the league  with only 12 over 162 games. It was the team’s first two-triple game since Aug. 25, 2022 at Wrigley Field.

Winn had two hits, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI against the Diamondbacks. It was another terrific game for the rookie shortstop who is batting .333 with a .341 OBP and .462 slug. Winn is 8 for 23 (.347) in his last seven games with a double, two triples and three RBIs.

Winn’s .333 batting average is the best among MLB rookies that have at least 40 plate appearances this season.

Closer Ryan Helsley leads the NL with five saves (second overall) and his 27.3 percent strikeout rate is fourth in the majors among relievers that have appeared in at least eight games.

Thanks for reading … enjoy the rest of your weekend.

– Bernie

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 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. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 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.