THE REDBIRD REVIEW
It was another good and entertaining evening of baseball for your St. Louis Cardinals. Thursday at Busch Stadium, the home team turned the Dodgers blue – and purple because of all of the bruises – by going NASA with seven home runs discharged into the smoke-filled sky.
The final scorch and score: Cardinals 16, Dodgers 8.
So much going on. So much fun. So many fireworks , you may have thought it was a rehearsal for the annual July 4 show at the riverfront. And last but not least, the BFIB were treated to a ninth victory in the last 11 games for the rising Redbirds.
* Two home runs and six RBI by a deliriously happy Willson Contreras, who would have kissed every deliriously happy Cardinal fan in the ballpark if he had the time.
* Two home runs and three RBI from Nolan Gorman, who is going off to break seats – and opponents – with his prodigious power. He’s 23, and just wait until he grows up.
* There were solo home runs by Nolan Arenado, Paul DeJong and Juan Yepez. As far as taking LA pitchers deep, the only dude missing was Matt “Big City” Adams – the lovable brute who knocked Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers out of the 2014 NLDS with a three-run, world-of-hurt homer in the 7th inning of Game 4.
* There was a mad celebration of Contreras to show him the love after he’d been disgustingly sabotaged by his own pitchers, manager and front office. As I predicted, teammates would clear the fetid air, rally around him, unify the squad and get after the mission of fixing the season after a heinous 10-24 start.
* There was a win for Adam Wainwright, who dodged trouble to give his bat-wielding teammates a chance to make trouble, and he picked up career win No. 196.
* It was an extra-busy night for the home-run predicting, hamburger-phone hotline in the STL dugout.
* There was a very nice homecoming of sorts for outfielder Oscar Mercado, and revenge on the Dodgers, and a more positive outlook in the NL Central standings.
The only bad thing about it was an outfield collision with Lars Nootbaar and Tommy Edman banging into each other in a fly-ball pursuit. Edman had to leave the game, so let’s hope it’s just a minor scrape.
The Cardinals have three more games left with the Dodgers this weekend, and the Cards are hardly out of harm’s way. But they are now playing with a hard edge, and urgency, and a defiant determination that wasn’t there much during the 10-24 fiasco. The Cardinals know they have a lot more clawing and climbing to do just to level their 2023 record, so it’s no time to let up. They can see daylight through the dirt. Keep those shovels handy.
But this has been a swell time. A happy time.
Now all the Cardinals have to do is make it last.
“When you start winning, you have that energy, the right composure and the right mindset,” Contreras told reporters after Thursday’s game. “It’s really contagious.”
STANDINGS WATCH: Going into Friday the Cardinals trail first-place Brewers by six games and were five behind the second-place Pirates in the NL Central standings. And the Cardinals are now only one game behind both the Cubs and the Reds.
How much ground have the Cardinals made up within the division? After their loss to Detroit on May 6, the Cardinals were collectively 30 and ½ games behind every other team ahead of them in the NL Central. But after Thursday night the Cardinals are now collectively 13 games behind every team that’s in front of them in the NL Central.
And check out the upcoming Milwaukee schedule which starts Friday night: three at Tampa Bay, three at home against Houston, four at home vs. San Francisco, three at Toronto, four at Cincinnati, and three at home against Baltimore.
ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: The Cards’ seven-homer total against Los Angeles tied a franchise record for most home runs in a game. The last time it happened was on July 12, 1996 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The only other time the Cardinals blasted seven homers in a home game occurred May 7, 1940 against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Sportsman’s Park. In case you were wondering, the seven homers in the 18-2 win over Brooklyn were struck by Johnny Mize (2), Eddie Lake (2), Joe Medwick (1), Don Padgett (1), and Stu Martin (1). Dodgers starter Hugh Casey allowed five of the seven homers …The Dodgers and Cardinals combined for nine homers in Thursday’s game, the most home runs struck in a single game since the present Busch Stadium opened in 2006 … the only other time the Cardinals have hit four home runs in an inning at home was June 6, 1948. The homer runs were hit by Erv Dusak, Red Schoendienst, Enos Slaughter and Nippy Jones.
REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: When the Cardinals were swept by the Dodgers in a three-game series at the end of April, they scored only six runs, didn’t homer, and batted .198. The Redbirds made up for that by scoring 16 runs, bashing seven homers and batting .324 against Los Angeles in Thursday’s game at Busch Stadium.
STORMIN’ NORMAN GORMAN: He’s up to 12 homers now, cranking one every 11 at-bats. Among NL hitters, only Pete Alonso and Max Muncy have more home runs than Gorman, who leads the majors with a .629 slugging percentage. Gorman’s 36 RBI are tied for fifth overall, and second to Alonso in the NL. Gorman’s 1.014 OPS is third overall and second in the NL. And in park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) Gorman is 73 percent above league average offensively. That’s fourth-best in the majors and second only to Ronald Acuna Jr. in the NL. And I must repeat this again: the big fella turned 23 years old on May 10.
DYNAMITE BATS: In rolling to a 9-2 record in their last 11 games, the Cardinals have been extremely rude to opposing pitchers. During this remarkably powerful stretch the Cardinals are averaging 7.7 runs per game, slugging .547, and hitting a homer every 14.4 at-bats. They’ve hit .281, posted a .904 OPS, and struck out in only 18.3 percent of their plate appearances. To top it all off, the Cardinals have a .345 average, 1.131 OPS and 11 home runs with runners in scoring position over the last 11 games. Since May 7 the Cardinals and Yankees are tied for the MLB lead with 27 home runs.
REBORN TO RUN: The Cardinals have turned up their aggressiveness in stolen-base attempts. The Redbirds had only 24 attempts (and 19 steals) in their first 33 games but are finally starting to push it – going a perfect 15-for-15 in steal attempts over the last 12 games. The Redbirds swiped three bases against the Dodgers on Thursday – including a delayed steal of home by Oscar Mercado, who had two steals in the game.
Over the last 12 games the Cardinals have three steals by Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman and Lars Nootbaar; two by Mercado; and one steal apiece by Willson Contreras, Nolan Arenado, Paul DeJong and Nolan Gorman.
MAY DAYS: St. Louis hitters have generated the best offense in the majors so far this month. Via FanGraphs, the Cardinals rank first in runs, homers, slugging percentage, OPS, park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) and have the top batting average (.371) with runners in scoring position.
Their recent run-scoring splurge has raised the STL season average to 5.09 runs per game – which ranks 7th in the majors and 4th in the NL. And the team’s OPS+ for the season (115) is tied with Atlanta for the best in the NL and second overall to Tampa Bay (139.)
VIEW FROM LOS ANGELES: Was lefty starter Julio Urias tipping pitches? The Dodgers are wondering about that after Urias was powdered for six earned runs in three innings. The Cardinals clobbered four homers over a span of five at-bats in the second inning. The four-homer barrage tied a Dodger franchise record for most homers served up by a single pitcher in one inning. The last time it happened was to Ben Wade in 1954.
From the Los Angeles Times: “Neither Urías nor manager Dave Roberts were sure if the southpaw was tipping his pitches — though Roberts acknowledged that the Cardinals ‘seemed like they were on everything.’ ‘’
“Those guys are swinging the bats well,” Roberts said of the Cardinals. “When you come across a team like that, and you’re behind, and you’re making pitches out over the plate, they’re gonna make you pay. That’s what they did tonight.”
CARDS THRIVING AT DESIGNATED HITTER: Albert Pujols had the most plate appearances at DH for the 2022 Cardinals, but so far in 2023 the Redbirds are getting more production from their designated hitters.
2022: .254 avg, .328 OBP, .449 slug, .778 OPS
2023: .265 avg, .369 OBP, .471 slug, .839 OPS.
The 2022 DH crew averaged a homer every 20.1 at-bats. The 2023 DH group is averaging a homer every 18.8 at-bats.
Gorman has the most plate appearances at DH this season (73), followed by Contreras (62), Arenado (20), Paul Goldschmidt (17), Alec Burleson (14), Juan Yepez (12) and Dylan Carlson (1.)
PAULY POWER: It was another frustrating night for the hopelessly unhinged Paul DeJong haters. In the series-opener against the Dodgers, Pauly hit his sixth home run of the season. And he’s done that with only 71 at-bats, meaning that he’s homered every 11.8 at-bats. DeJong is part of the reason why the Cardinals are 9–2 in their last 11. He started 10 of the 11 games and launched four homers and a double, drew three walks, slugged .579 and put up an .888 OPS. For the season DeJong is 51 percent above league average offensively per OPS+. The Cardinals, 19-26 overall, have a 10-10 record when DeJong starts.
CONGRATS, ADAM WAINWRIGHT: He went 5 and ⅔ innings and gave up two earned runs to bag career win No. 196. Waino had a difficult first inning, allowing two hits (both doubles), two walks and two runs. He faced seven batters in the inning. But Waino lessened the blow by getting a groundout and a flyout to strand runners at second and third base. That was good work. And from the 2nd inning through the 5th he faced 15 Dodgers and gave up only one hit and a walk during four scoreless innings. By that time the Cardinals led 9-2. The Dodgers scored five runs in the sixth – but for his part Wainwright was charged with an unearned run because of a two-out error by Goldschmidt. Had Goldy made the play – heck, he isn’t perfect – Wainwright would have been back in the dugout with a scoreless sixth inning. All in all a positive start.
Through three starts Wainwright has a 5.74 ERA, and has struck out only eight of 72 batters for a strikeout rate of 11.1 percent. And in the three starts opponents have hit .303 against him with a .338 OBP and .530 slug. It hasn’t been easy for Waino, but his impressive survival skill was on full display in Thursday’s win over the Dodgers.
STARTING PITCHING UPDATE: During the team’s 9-2 streak Cardinal starters have a 3.66 ERA in 59 innings. But a poor strikeout rate (17.6%) a high walk rate (9.4%), a .474 slugging percentage and eight homers against them have resulted in a more pertinent 4.68 fielding independent ERA over the last 11 games.
HOT AND COLD SUMMARY: This is a fun little metric , devised by the great Bill James, that gives you an idea of a player’s consistency. This hot and cold summary gives you the hottest and coldest points of a hitter’s season and is updated daily based on his most recent game. Included in the report is a hitter’s current temperature for the entire season by combining hot and cold.
Let’s take a look at the “average daily temperature” of St. Louis hitters:
— Paul Goldschmidt, 75.5 degrees.
— Nolan Gorman, 73.3
— Paul DeJong, 73.1
— Tommy Edman, 72.9
— Lars Nootbaar, 72.5
— Juan Yepez, 71.2
— Alec Burleson, 69.0
— Brendan Donovan, 68.6
— Jordan Walker, 68.1
— Willson Contreras, 67.8
— Nolan Arenado, 67.6
— Andrew Knizner, 65.2
— Dylan Carlson, 64.7
— Tyler O’Neill, 59.2
Three comments: (1) Paul DeJong is more consistent than his hopelessly unhinged hatters say he is. (2) I’m not sure if the temperature gauge was working properly when applied to Burleson. (3) Tyler O’Neill, ugh.
NOLAN ARENADO, GO-GO: That’s six homers in his last seven games. In May, Arenado is batting .307 with a .694 slug, 1.056 OPS, seven homers and 20 RBI. Arenado checked off two milestones recently, producing at least 300 home runs and 1,000 RBI in a career.
Right now Arenado has 308 homers, 1,002 RBI, 342 doubles, a 123 OPS+ and a .288 average for his career. Among hitters that have played at least 75 percent of their career games at third base, only two have that formidable combination of statistics: Chipper Jones and Nolan Arenado. And if we lower the batting average to a minimum .270, the list would include Eddie Mathews and Ron Santo. (Reference: StatHead.)
GIVE HIM THE OSCAR: Mercado, promoted from Memphis on Wednesday,started in left field and went 3 for 4 with two stolen bases including the delayed steal of home. He also scored three runs, and had an impressive return to the majors. Drafted by the Cardinals in 2013, Mercado emerged as a high-level prospect but was traded to the Guardians in late July of 2018. He had 15 homers, 54 RBI and 15 steals for Cleveland in 2019. Mercado, 28, can run and play good defense. This was a smart call-up by the St. Louis front office.
Thanks for reading, pardon my typos and please have a wonderful weekend.
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.