The Cardinals hit two biggie home runs to rise up and knock off the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3 on Monday night at Busch Stadium. It’s about time. It was right on time. This was the slump-buster game the offense needed to jolt itself from a deep sleep. Are the Cardinals recharged? I have no answers. They’ll determine that by how they respond in Tuesday’s game, and in Wednesday’s game and a whole caboodle of games after that.

The comeback win was enjoyable. Let’s leave it at that for now. After Lars Nootbaar ignited the rally with a two-run single in the sixth to cut AZ’s lead to 3-2, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Gorman powered the Redbirds into a state of bliss. That hasn’t been easy as of late. Goldy tied the conflict with a no-suspense solo nuke in the seventh. Goldy opened the ninth with an infield single, and Gorman rocked an exhilarating two-run homer to walk it off.

After so many wasted moments, Goldschmidt and Gorman made these moments count in a spectacular way.

A few thoughts:

1. I don’t know if this golden-goldy return will get him going, but he sure looked happy late Monday night. A lot of stress left his body, replaced by power.

2. Gorman was switched into the game defensively (eighth inning) after working arduously to restore his swing in the cage. His thunderous discharge terminated a five-game rut in which he went 1 for 21 with 12 strikeouts. After watching all of this, I’m sure the Cardinals are hoping that Goldschmidt-Gorman exacta will lift the other groundward hitters that can’t get in the swing. Looking at you, Jordan Walker.

3. Let’s not forget about a hugely important part of this triumph: Lance Lynn labored through five innings, but fought off the Diamondbacks to freeze their lead at 3-0. The bullpen took it from there, silencing Arizona over four scoreless innings and striking out 28.6 percent of hitters faced. The run prevention was sturdy, and this has been the best part of the 2024 Cardinals. It’s become a team strength, and they aren’t receiving enough recognition or credit for it. So I must declare: home runs + run prevention? That’s a winner.

Summation: This win will mean nothing if the Cardinals come out Tuesday and get owned by the defending National League champs, and then get owned by old friend Jordan Montgomery who starts Wednesday’s day game for Arizona. But snapping a four-game losing streak will give the fellers a chance to exhale, and perhaps lead to a shift in the early-season trends. No predictions here. But no one is going to brag about a 10-13 team, and that’s how it should be. As Tony La Russa would say in this situation: get to .500. And then go from there.

WHERE THE BOYS ARE: The Cardinals (10-13) are five games out of first in the NL Central, and have a lot of work to do in trying to chase down first-place Milwaukee … the Cardinals had lost six of their previous seven home games before rallying past Arizona … the Cardinals are 6-4 vs. teams with a losing record, and 4-9 against teams that are over .500. Arizona was 11-12 coming into St. Louis … the Cardinals still rank tied for last in the National League with a scoring average of 3.52 runs per game. And they rank either 13th or 14th in the National League in batting average, onbase percentage, slugging percentage and OPS+. … it’s about the offense, dear people.

YES. HOME RUNS ARE A BIG DEAL: The Cardinals finally wiped out their homerless streak that had reached eight consecutive games and 85 innings. And this was important.

Here’s why:

* Since the start of the 2021 season the Cardinals have a record of 135-46 for a .746 winning percentage when walloping multiple home runs in a game.

* When the Cards have hit one homer (or none) in a game since the start of 2021, they are 129-199 for a .393 winning percentage.

* In 2023 the Cardinals had a .610 winning percentage when hitting at least two home runs in a game … and a .340 winning percentage when hitting fewer than two homers in a game.

Just keep this in mind when your cousin Russell or neighbor * Aberama start yapping about how the Cardinals need to forget about trying to hit homers and just play some Whiteyball. And please remind them that 1982, 1985 and 1987 ain’t coming back.

(* Aberama Gold was one of my favorite characters in “Peaky Blinders.” I’ve been looking for a way to use that name.)

TRIBUTE TO RUN PREVENTION: The 2023 Cardinals were raked for an average of 5.12 runs yielded per game last season. The last time that happened was 2007, when they were smashed for 5.12 runs per game. And before that, the 1999 Cardinals were axed for an average of 5.20 runs per game by opponents.

A common thread between the 2023, 2007 and 1999 teams: all three teams had a losing record. So: effective run prevention is a core necessity for playing winning baseball, and that part of the game should never be taken for granted.

Through their first 23 games, the Cardinals rank 10th in the majors with their yield of 4.26 runs given up per game. They are also 11th in the majors with a team 3.81 ERA. Last season the Redirds were hideous in both categories. If you don’t think this team’s pitching and defense are much improved in 2024, I’ll politely advise you to stop inhaling aerosols.

Will the Cardinals receive a more positive attention for their fine performance in prohibiting runs? No. Of course not. This would require three acknowledgements: (1) manager Oli Marmol backed up his pledge to clean up the team’s defense, (2) he’s doing a nice job of running the bullpen, and (3) the front office upgraded the pitching staff in a way that’s making a difference. At least through the first 23 games of a 162-game schedule. But those 23 games are all that we have to go on so far.

MORE ON RUN SUPPRESSION: The Cardinals have allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of 23 games; that’s a rate of 43.4 percent. And on top of that, their yield allowing two earned runs or less in a game 10 times is the most by a NL team so far. Last season the Cardinals gave up two or fewer earned runs in only 22.8 percent of their games.

Let’s expand this to three earned runs or less given up in a game. The Cardinals have done this in more than half their games (52.1%) this season after doing it in 34.5 percent of their games last season.

Since the start of last season, the Cardinals are 38-9 when giving up two earned runs or less in a game. And they’re 50-18 when allowing no more than three earned runs in a game. Run prevention is cool!

PITCHING AND DEFENSE: The Cardinals have the top MLB ranking in the FanGraphs’ defensive composite ratings, and they are tied for first in the majors in Outs Above Average. Sports Info Solutions has a metric that assesses the impact of defensive support on a pitching staff. (It’s known as RA9def.) This puts a pitcher’s performance in the context of the overall defensive numbers of his team. The Cardinals currently rank second in the NL and ninth overall in this metric.

ABOUT MONDAY NIGHT: In the first five innings St. Louis hitters were locked up by Arizona starting pitcher Brandon Pfaadt. The Cardinals went 1 for 16 against Pfaadt with no walks and four strikeouts and had only one (unsuccessful) plate appearance with a runner in scoring position. But from the start of the sixth inning through the end of the game, STL hitters went 6 for 13 and drew four walks for a .588 onbase percentage. They also cranked two homers and scored five times. Their OPS over the final four innings was 1.511. As I mentioned earlier, Lynn and the relievers kept the Cardinals alive in Monday’s game before the offense began to roar and score.


+ I see you, Masyn Winn. After showing that he can hit for a high average, Winn has added a high walk rate to his game. In his last seven games he’s walked seven times in 27 plate appearances for a 25.4 percent walk rate. This walking tour has increased his walk rate for the season to just under 11 percent. He’s pretty much refusing to chase pitches out of the strike zone and is happy to take a walk instead of getting himself out by swinging at junk out of the zone. Is Winn really a rookie? Is he really 22? In terms of his aptitude and ability to make mature and intelligent adjustments, he doesn’t play like a newbie. His baseball IQ is advanced. Winn had a single, a walk and scored a run Monday. He’s batting .323 this season with a .389 OBP and .435 slug. And he’s the top base-stealing threat on the team.

+ In his 10 games since returning from the IL, Lars Nootbaar has a .390 onbase percentage with eight hits, eight walks, two doubles, a homer, four runs scored and five RBIs. He’s performed 23 percent above league average offensively per OPS+. On Monday Nootbaar extended his hitting streak to five games.

+ Lance Lynn has a 2.81 ERA in his five starts with a decent 23 percent strikeout rate. The Cardinals are 4-1 in games started by Lynn.

+ Ivan Herrera: in his last six games he’s gone 1 for 18 with seven strikeouts.

+ Even with his streakiness and strikeout issues, Nolan Gorman has homered every 17 at-bats since his promotion to the big club in 2022. And Gorman has homered every 15.6 at-bats since the start of last season. He leads the Cardinals with four HRs this year. Another nugget on Gorman: since the start of the 2023 season, he’s put up a .346 OBP and .456 slug with five home runs in 90 at-bats against lefty pitchers. Using park-and-league adjusted runs created, Gorman is 21 percent above the league average vs. lefties since the start of ’23.

+ The Cardinals went 1 for 5 Monday with runners in scoring position. For the season they rank 28th among MLB teams with a .201 average with RISP. In their last 15 games they’ve batted .172 with runners in position to score.

+ In his last 11 games Nolan Arenado is batting .342 with a .404 onbase percentage, .488 slug, three doubles, a homer and seven RBIs. During the 11-game heat-up stretch Arenado is hitting .300 with a .600 slug and .985 OPS with runners in scoring position.

+ Ryan Fernandez, Andrew Kittredge, JoJo Romero and Ryan Helsley shut the D-backs down over the final four innings and lowered the St. Louis bullpen’s ERA to 3.33 for the season. That ranks 10th in the majors and fourth in the NL. Their fielding independent ERA is even better (3.19) which ranks third overall and second in the NL. Side note: Ryan Fernandez was a hella pickup.

+ This season relievers brought in from outside the organization by the St. Louis front office have collectively pitched to a 2.18 ERA with a 32.3 percent strikeout rate in 33 innings. I’m referring to Ryan Fernandez, Andrew Kittredge, Riley O’Brien, JoJo Romero and John King. Two more new relievers – Keynan Middleton and Daniel Robertson — will be going to work soon. Robertson is here after being promoted from Triple A Memphis. And Middleton (forearm) is close to going on an injury-rehab assignment.

+ Leadoff man Brendan Donovan went 0 for 3 with a walk in Monday’s game. In his last nine games Donny is 3 for 37 (.081) with four walks. For the season his batting average is down to .202. His onbase percentage — which was .414 on April 12 — has decreased to .317. And after peaking at .553 earlier this season, his slugging percentage has dropped to .345. This is a rather discouraging development. This is the part where I wonder if the Cardinals will give Winn a look at the leadoff spot.

+ Since April 9, Cardinals starting pitchers have a 3.71 fielding independent ERA that ranks 9th in the majors and 4th in the NL over that time. This covers the last 12 games and 65 and ⅓ innings pitched. The rotation mates have limited opponents to 0.8 homers per nine innings during this time period.

SMALL-BALL UPDATE: Because I’m nuts I like to browse comments sections in stories about the Cardinals. It’s always a fascinating experience. A lot of the commentary is insightful and spot on. The Cardinals have a lot of smart fans and I learn from them. That said, I don’t understand why a noisy percentage of fans continue to demand that the Cardinals to play small ball … or rip them for failing to play small ball … when in fact the Cardinals are perhaps the best team in the majors (as of now) at playing small ball.

Here are a couple comments I’ve spotted online:

Comment: “What I have seen in the Cards’ offense over the last couple years is an incredible reliance on the long ball and a complete dearth of situational hitting. They struggle to put the ball in play, they don’t make productive outs, and if we don’t hit a 3 run homer, we’re in trouble.”

My response: All teams rely on the long ball because it’s an important part of the game in 2024. Home runs have an tremendous influence in winning games, and earlier in this column I explained just how important HRs are to the Cardinals. (Sorry, but it ain’t 1982.) The Cards have done an outstanding job in the area of productive outs, so with all due respect I have no idea what games you’ve been  watching.

In other comments there are various cries for Whiteyball.

Well, good luck with that. The 2024 team is really good about advancing extra bases, and trying to make things happen. But the Cardinals are lacking in stolen-base capability. A big reason is Tommy Edman’s injury absence. He’s a terrific base stealer, having snatched 106 steals in 123 attempts as a Cardinal for an exceptional 86% success rate.

Victor Scott II could have stolen more bases, but that’s difficult to do when you can’t get on base. Scott made 65 plate appearances for the Cardinals before being sent to Memphis, and 56 of those plate appearances ended with him making an out. The dude hardly had any opportunities to steal. Masyn Winn has swiped four bases in five attempts (80%) and I’d like to see him go for it more often.

 Comment: “The entire team is garbage from top to bottom. The offense is epically bad. But to say the pitching isn’t the problem is as bad a whiff as the offense puts out nightly.”

Response: Huh? The Cardinals are one of the better run-prevention teams in the majors. This season they’ve allowed fewer runs per game than the Braves, Dodgers, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Rays, Padres, Giants, Orioles, Rangers, Mets, Astros, Pirates, Reds and several other teams of note. The St. Louis bullpen is among the finest in the majors and we’ll see if that holds up over time. The starting pitching is more solid than spectacular and could be better. But it ain’t garbage. Last season the starting pitching was spectacularly bad. That is no longer the case. Miles Mikolas stinks; there’s no denying that. But the rotation has improved by quite a bit since 2023, and now it’s a question of can this last. Or is it just a phase? Well, do not overlook the value of a quality defense and what it means to pitchers. And the starters are going deeper into games, which helps the bullpen stay reasonably fresh. And that makes the relievers more capable of entering games with their best stuff.

As for the small-ball touch by the 2024 Cardinals — which supposedly doesn’t exist according to some members of the fan base — well, let’s update …

* St. Louis is tied for the major-league lead with 33 productive outs, which is damn good considering the team’s low onbase percentage. They don’t have as many runners to move over because of the bad team OBP. But their percentage of making productive outs – 37.5% – is the best in MLB.

* The Cardinals lead the majors in sac bunts (6) and sac flies (12).

* The Cardinals lead the majors with 33 extra bases taken. They are No. 1 in the majors in the percentage (66.7%) of advancing a runner from second to third with no outs. And they are slightly above the major-league average of scoring a runner from third with less than two outs. This is the one part of the offense that’s working.

Thank you for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. Friday. Stream it live or access the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

Stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions, Spotrac and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.

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.