THE REDBIRD REVIEW
In rushing through a 3-0 shutout loss to the Nationals that required only 2 hours and 12 minutes to finalize, the Cardinals issued an important reminder: this team cannot be trusted.
When the Redbirds put together a brief stretch of winning baseball, they can’t make it last. They revert to being the team that hasn’t been above .500 since April 2 in their third game of the season.
They show us why they have a .413 winning percentage that ranks 26th overall and 13th in the National League and are loitering at the bottom of the NL Central with a 31-44 record that leaves them nine games behind the first-place Reds.
Just when you start to feel more encouraged about this team – as I did – the Cardinals will let you down and leave you discouraged again.
Instead of adding to their four-game winning streak and finishing a two-city trip with a 5-1 mark, the Cardinals pulled another no-show offensively Wednesday while getting shut out for the seventh time this season.
Hey, they won two series on the road from the Mets and the Nats. Isn’t that positive? Yes. But with a chance to sweep a Washington club that had a woeful .375 winning percentage before Wednesday’s first pitch, the Cardinals went flat.
The Redbirds declined to grind out at bats. Nationals starter Trevor Williams needed only 12.5 pitches per inning to render the Cardinals helpless and scoreless through six. Three Washington relievers took care of the rest.
Six of the Cardinals’ seven hits were singles. They went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring, 0 or 9 with men on, and left seven runners on base. They misused a seven-inning, two-run quality start by Miles Mikolas.
Where was the urgency for a team that can’t afford to give away games? Well, St. Louis hitters looked eager to get to the airport for the team’s transatlantic flight to London for a two-game series with the rival Cubs. There’s your urgency.
How can the Cardinals rip 11 homers and average 7.5 runs during four straight wins – only to be sedated Wednesday by an opponent that ranks 26th in runs allowed per game?
The automatic answer is, “That’s baseball. That’s just how it goes.” But here’s my answer: They’re the Cardinals. And that’s how they go.
After an extensive downswing, the Cardinals have won their last two series and that’s a plus. It’s better than losing two series, or splitting them. That’s why I praised them with some Happy Talk before Wednesday’s game. I assumed they’d come out with an intense determination to complete a three-game sweep and leave D.C. with a 5-1 record in their six-game visit to NY and Washington.
But that isn’t the point. If the Cards are serious about chasing down the four teams ahead of them in the division, they must gorge on wins and maximize opportunities. They must cash in on the chance to sweep a weaker team. This underachieving, terribly inconsistent team has no time – or room – for complacency.
The Cardinals could have carried a five-game winning streak to the UK but stalled out in the D.C. rain. Their little winning streak was washed away.
“I’m not sitting here going, man, I wish I could hit the restart button, because I feel like our guys are actually in a really good spot,” manager Oli Marmol told reporters after Wednesday’s loss. “It may be different for other people outside of this clubhouse, but to that group in there, success looks exactly the same: It starts by winning this division, and then playing deep into October and taking our shot at a World Series.
“We’ve been punched quite a bit. Where do you go from there? You say hell with it, let’s just roll. That’s where we are.”
Here’s where the Cardinals are: lallygagging along with their franchise’s poorest record in a season through the first 75 games since 1990 – and their second-worst mark through 75 games since 1913.
Isn’t it cute to talk about winning the division and playing deep into October when your team has spent 52 days in last place and only two days in first?
As for a deep postseason run …
1) You have to qualify for the playoffs to do that. Baseball Prospectus projects a 76-86 record for St. Louis and gives the team a 5% chance of making it to the postseason. The playoffs probability is little better (13.7%) at FanGraphs.
2) Your franchise has lost 14 of its last 19 postseason games. That includes a 1-9 record in the last 10 playoff games. From 2011 through 2013, the Cardinals won 27 postseason games, two NL pennants and a World Series. Marmol apparently believes he’s managing a Cardinals team from a recent and more successful era instead of the team he’s managing now.
WHAT’S UP WITH NOLAN GORMAN?
— In his last 15 games Gorman is 4 for 52 (.077) with a .135 slugging percentage and a 46.4 percent strikeout rate.
— In June, Gorman is 7 for 60 (.117) with a 44.6 percent strikeout rate. That’s MLB’s second-highest strikeout rate this month, with Philadelphia’s Brandon Marsh doing slightly worse at 45%. And among MLB hitters that have at least 50 plate appearances in June, Gorman ranks No. 213 out of 221 with a .217 slugging percentage.
— What’s the problem? First, Gorman is struggling against fastballs. High fastballs. Gorman had a 26% whiff rate on fastballs in May and it’s 35.3% in June. On two-strike fastballs, Gorman was putaway 23 percent of the time in May, and the putaway rate has jumped to 37% in June.
— Second, pitchers are throwing Gorman fewer fastballs in June and have increased their volume of breaking balls – especially on two-strike counts. In June, Gorman has a 43.2% whiff rate overall on breaking pitches and has been putaway on 37.0% of two-strike breaking balls. In May the putaway rate on two-strike breaking balls was only 18.4%.
* Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak on the state of the team: “I do feel like there’s still a lot of talent on this club,” he told Gabe Lacques of USA Today. “The injuries in the outfield certainly play a part, the inconsistency in the rotation certainly plays a part in this, the inconsistency in our bullpen has played a part in this.”
* “The reality is, there’s a lot of reasons we are where we are. There’s also a lot of reasons why we can get better,” Mozeliak said. “The real good news is we still have two-thirds of the season remaining. There is time to start getting this right.”
* Mozeliak added: “Eventually, at some point, we gotta figure out who we are.”
* Well, the standings say the Cardinals are 31-44. And they don’t have two-thirds of the regular season remaining. The Cards have played 75 games which means they have 46 percent of the schedule remaining. It’s later than Mozeliak thinks it is.
* After mailing one in against the great, peak-form Stephen Strasburg – sorry, that was Trevor Williams – Cardinal hitters can look forward to stepping in against Cubs starters Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman in their next two games. Steele has a 2.71 ERA this season. Stroman has an overall 2.28 ERA but is 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last seven starts.
* In London the Cardinals will face a hot Cubs team that has won 10 of their last 12 games to move within 3.5 games of the first-place Reds. The Cubs are two behind second-place Milwaukee.
* Mikolas pitched well enough to get his team a win over the Nationals. Any team would be pleased if their starter gives up just two runs in 7 innings. Mikolas had an above-average 55 Game Score in this one. But with the Cardinals that doesn’t always translate into wins. This season when a STL starter has a Game Score between 50 and 55, the Cardinals are only 7-10.
* This season Mikolas has received only 2.6 runs of support per nine innings, the fourth-lowest rate by a NL starter.
* Jim Bowden (The Athletic) on St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty: “The Cardinals are in last place and Flaherty will be a free agent after this season. They are not inclined to extend the 27-year-old because of his injury history, so trading him at the deadline is a real possibility.”
* The Cardinals are now 5-20 this season when they fail to homer in a game.
* Brendan Donovan has a 10-game hitting streak which has generated a .386 average, .438 onbase percentage and .523 slug.
* Brittany Ghiroli (The Athletic) offered her assessment of the Cardinals’ trade priority: “St. Louis has to add starting pitching now or this offseason for next year’s rotation. Shane Bieber (Guardians) Lucas Giolito (White Sox) could be available. There’s a lot of talent on this roster and in the farm system to get a deal done if they decide to be buyers.”
Here’s a baseball-in-UK scouting report from the BBC:
“There will be plenty of the ballpark cuisine on offer at London Stadium, with the menu reflecting Chicago and St Louis’ culinary heritage. It includes a cheese brisket sandwich and donut burger, which features two 4oz beef patties topped with a glazed donut bun. There will also be two-foot servings of chili nachos and a two-foot hot dog – packed with 2,500 calories and designed for four people. Ballpark food and drink will be available at Trafalgar Square as well, with the iconic London landmark transformed to host a free-to-attend baseball festival from Friday to Sunday.”
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, Sports Info Solutions, Fielding Bible 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.