WELCOME TO THE REDBIRD REVIEW
SPLITTING HEADACHE: Well, not really. But the outcome of Wednesday’s doubleheader with the New York Mets was disappointing. After the Cardinals treated themselves to a dandy 4-1 victory in the opener to set up a wonderful chance for a sweep, they fizzled in the second game.
The 7-2 loss to the Mets was strange for a couple of reasons:
1.) Despite having 11 hits and striking out only twice in seven innings, the Cardinals managed to score only two runs against a conga line of six mostly anonymous Mets relievers, led by the splendidly bearded Miguel Castro and the mysterious Jordan Yamamoto. (Who needs Jacob deGrom?)
Short on starting pitchers because of deGrom’s side-muscle pain, Mets manager Luis Rojas dispatched a sequence of bullpen arms to subdue the Cardinals and salvage the day. Hmmm… the Cards bashed two homers to defeat the genuinely good Mets starter Marcus Stroman in Game 1, but couldn’t crack the cavalcade of relievers in the ol’ night capper.
2.) Rookie Cardinals starting pitcher Johan Oviedo was done in by a collection of less-expensive Mets hitters. The mega superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor was rested in favor of substitute Jonathan Villar. Top starting catcher James McCann got a breather, replaced by backup Tomas Nido. Villar and Nido combined for two homers and four RBIs.
Two substantial contracts — Lindor at $341 million, McCann at $40.6 million — were no threat to the Cardinals. The combined $4.1 million salaries of Villar and Nido were enough to handle the assignment and take care of business. Another NYM reserve, center fielder Kevin Pillar, chipped in with two runs batted in. He’s a $3.6 million performer. “We call ourselves The Bench Mob and we’re always ready to go,” Nido said.
The Mets needed the mob’s muscle.
Even if Tomas Nido has a hockey player’s name.
Lindor, who is making $43 million this season — which includes a $21 million bonus — has gone hitless in his last 24 at-bats. He has a faint batting average of .157 with three RBIs and an incomprehensibly weak .478 OPS. McCann is batting .206 with a .520 OPS.
And ya’ll get messed up in the head because of Matt Carpenter’s contract?
ON THE SUNNY SIDE: Forget my fussing over Wednesday’s Game 2 oddities. I’ll turn on the pleasantry now: the Cardinals have won six of the last seven and are a happy 10-3 since April 23. Even with the split, the Cardinals still had a more enjoyable day than the Milwaukee Brewers, who lost their fourth consecutive game — the last three coming by a margin of one run in the series at Philadelphia. The Cardinals lead the Brewers by 1 full game in the NL Central discotheque.
PAULY THE BULLY: Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong did it again: harassing the Mets, intimidating the Mets, shoving them around, menacing their pitchers with a large bat, causing extreme anxiety, and inflicting extensive damage. When Pauly DeJong has an assignment to rough up the Mets he becomes Hit Man. He’s Paulie Cicero. In Wednesday’s first game DeJong put away Stroman and the Mets with a two-run homer. But of course he did. Just because he can.
In 100 career plate appearances against unnerved Mets pitchers, Pauly has 11 doubles, 10 homers, 17 RBIs, a .362 average, .798 slugging percentage and 1.188 OPS. And just under 62 percent of DeJ’s hits against the Mets have resulted in extra bases. Smashing.
Among the 46 MLB hitters that have 100 plate appearances vs. the Mets since the start of the 2017 season, DeJong has the third-highest batting average, No. 1 slugging percentage and No. 1 OPS. He also has the top home-run ratio, clubbing a HR every 9.4 at-bats. He’s put up better numbers against the Mets than Ronald Acuna Jr., Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Freddie Freeman, Giancarlo Stanton, J.T. Realmuto, Christian Yelich and Trea Turner.
The home run came in DeJong’s 22nd career game against the Mets. As other medias have noted: the only two players with as many or more homers in their first 22 games versus the Mets were Mark McGwire (11) and Henry Aaron (10).
Pauly beats up the Reds, too. He’s cracked 16 career homers against Cincinnati, his most against any team. This is kind of nuts: DeJong has 84 career homers, and 31% have been bludgeoned against Reds and Mets.
PAULY FOOTNOTE: DeJong had two hits in the doubleheader. He’s now 8 for 51 (.157) at Busch Stadium this season. And DeJong didn’t have a home RBI this season until clobbering his fifth-inning homer.
If DeJong will get a few more whacks against the Mets on Thursday afternoon before they skip town. In his games at Busch Stadium this season DeJong is 4 for 11 against the Mets and 4 for 40 against all other teams. Go figure.
POWERING UP AT HOME: In their first 11 home games this season the Cardinals homered nine times and slugged .360. In their last five home games they’ve ripped seven homers and slugged .458. Small sample but a nice trend. Keep swinging the shillelagh, boys!
A GROWING CONCERN: LEFTY RELIEF. After experiencing more difficulties in Wednesday’s 7-2 loss, Tyler Webb now has an 11.00 in his nine innings of labor this season. Most glaring is his walk rate of 19.5%. And left-handed hitters have a .407 OBP and .500 slug vs. Webb this season. Before he went on the IL, lefty Andrew Miller was doing an effective job against LH batters, holding them to a .214 average with a 37.5% strikeout rate.
The third lefty, Genesis Cabrera, has allowed 44 percent of LH batters to reach base against him so far. If we combine the Webb and Cabrera performances against LH batters, here’s what we’re looking at: 52 hitters faced, 21% walk rate, and an opponent OBP of .423. And five of the nine hits against them have gone for extra bases.
GIOVANNY GALLEGOS: This RH is the Cardinals’ best reliever against LH batters this season. In 25 plate appearances they’re batting .091 with a .200 OBP and .227 slug against him. Nothing new. As a Cardinal Gallegos had taken on LH batters 146 times and allowed a .146 average with a 33.7% strikeout rate.
Gallegos is not only the Cardinals’ best overall reliever — he’s one of the finest in the majors. Among 27 relievers that have pitched at least 100 innings over the last two-plus seasons, Gallegos ranks third in ERA (2.45), fourth in strikeout rate (34.3%), fourth in strikeout-walk ratio, and 10th in WPA. And among the 27 heavy-duty relievers Gallegos has lured hitters into the highest chase rate. 37.6%.
BIRD BYTES: During the team’s 10-3 streak the Cardinals have allowed only 2.9 runs per game … Paul Goldschmidt is warming. He’s 7 for 14 with two walks, a double, and a homer in his last four games, with six runs scored … Cardinals’ RH relievers have combined for a 3.16 ERA this season which ranks 8th in the majors. Cards’ LH relievers have a 5.70 ERA (22nd) and an opponent OPS of .822 … In his last nine games Tommy Edman is batting .378 with a .966 OPS. But despite getting on base just under 43 percent of the time during this stretch, Edman has scored just four runs … since Yadier Molina went out with a foot injury, Cardinals’ No. 5 hitters have batted .176 with a .634 OPS … when batting 4th or 5th this season Molina is hitting .333 with a .689 slugging percentage.
NEXT ON THE SKED: John Gant (2-2, 2.16) starts for the Cardinals, facing RH Taijuan Walker. In five starts Walker has a 3.00 ERA and has struck out 27 in his 27 innings. Cards lineup: Edman, Carlson, Goldschmidt, Arenado, DeJong, Williams, Bader, Knizner, Gant. First pitch scheduled for 12:15 pm STL time. With a win the Cardinals take the series, 3-1.
Enjoy the day ball, and thanks for reading …
Please check out Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.