THE REDBIRD REVIEW

Andre Pallante gets an opportunity to emerge as the lucky winner in the “Choose A 5th Starter” contest being run by the Cardinals. He’ll start Wednesday’s 12:10 pm game against the Reds.

We’re not sure what to expect here, but after being dispatched to the minors to fine-tune his pitching, Pallante has a chance to become a pitcher of importance. He’s made it back to the big club after being relegated to Triple A Memphis with a charred 6.30 ERA in relief appearances for the Cardinals.

Pallante had a 3.98 ERA in 10 starts for the Cardinals in 2022, but will have to show he’s capable of getting more swings and misses from hitters. He’s not a strikeout guy, but he’ll induce a lot of ground balls, and the infielders will have to back him up with clean defense. And he’ll have to prevent the Reds from bombarding the Ohio River with baseballs. Pallante was still walking too many hitters during his time in the minors this season, and that’s a bad way to go about pitching in the Great American Ball Park. His control must be sharp against the Reds.

Except for the 5th spot, the Cardinals’ rotation is rolling along rather merrily in recent times. During the team’s 11-3 stretch that has put them back into postseason contention, here’s what the Cardinals have reaped from from Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn and Miles Mikolas:

* 12 starts
* 3.23 ERA
* 10-2 team record
* 5 quality starts
* 6+ innings seven times
* 3 earned runs or fewer allowed, nine times.

Matthew Liberatore had a chance to claim the 5th starter prize that’s been open since Steven Matz retreated to the IL after hurting his back on April 30.

Liberatore was punched for a 11.36 ERA in three starts. But at least the Cardinals avoided a total wreck by winning one of Liberatore’s three starts. It could have been worse. Even with the terrible audition the Cardinals rank 13th among the 30 teams with a 3.88 fielding independent ERA this month by starting pitchers.

The lefty averaged only 3.3 innings per start and the Cardinals had to use 12 relievers to cover the 17 innings after Liberatore got knocked out in those short starts.

Pallante enters his first first major-league start for the Cardinals since July 31, 2022. That day he pitched eight scoreless innings and struck out eight in a 5-0 victory at Washington.

In his final four starts in July that year, Pallante pitched to a 3.57 ERA in 22 and ⅔ innings. All in all he did a solid job. But he didn’t get another start in 2022 after the Cardinals acquired Jordan Montgomery from the Yankees on Aug. 1.

The Cardinals preferred using Pallante in relief, and that was a mistake. After pitching well as a rookie, Pallante fell apart for a 4.96 ERA in 71 relief appearances in 2023-204.

Perhaps Pallante will have a chance to make up for lost time and recover from being detoured by the organization’s chronic failure to guide young pitchers. But this first assignment in Cincinnati looms as a tough challenge, and I’m setting my expectations accordingly.

ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: The 2024 Cardinals are trying to separate themselves from the 2023 Cardinals and have made progress. Last season the team was 23-30 through 53 games, and are 26-27 through 53 games this year … with Tuesday’s win and Milwaukee losing to Chicago, the Cardinals picked up a game on the first-place Brewers and are 4 and ½ games out in the NL Central. The Redbirds are one game behind the second-place Cubs, and are 1 and ½ games ahead of third-place Pittsburgh and three above last-place Cincinnati … the Cardinals moved up to No. 12 overall in the new 30-team Power Rankings posted by FanGraphs … if the Cardinals can beat the Reds on Wednesday it would be the fifth consecutive series triumph for STL … the Cardinals are 11-3 since May 12 and have won six of their last seven games … their 11-3 mark and .786 winning percentage is tops in the National League since May 12, ahead of San Francisco (11-4) and Philadelphia (10-6).

ANOTHER SWING AT .500: At 26-27, the Cardinals are trying to land on .500 for the first time since April 16 and can get there with a win today. This will be the Cards’ sixth opportunity to climb to .500 since falling to 9-10 on April 17 at Oakland. The Cardinals have gone 0-5 in their first five cracks at .500, losing to Oakland on April 17, Milwaukee on April 19, the NY Mets on April 28, Detroit on April 30, and Cincinnati on May 27.

KYLE GIBSON. DO YOU LIKE HIM NOW? Gibson pitched a gem of a start on Tuesday, bewildering the Reds over six innings. He allowed only two hits, two walks and a run – and struck out 27 percent of his batters faced.

I don’t hear much mewling over Gibson these days. When the Cardinals signed Gibson to serve as their fifth starter last winter – a logical and sensible move, as I wrote many times – the decision was assailed on the social-media stage by the usual outraged actors who all but demanded imprisonment for team officials who gave Gibson a contract.

Gibson has a 3.60 ERA in 11 starts for the Cardinals. He had an awful early start against the Marlins, but has pitched to a 2.89 ERA in his other 11 starts. Gibson has pitched at least six innings in nine of his 11 starts, but one of the starts was cut short because of a rain delay.

Gibson has given up two earned runs or less in eight of his 11 starts. Those eight such starts match Corbin Burnes, Tyler Glasnow, Chris Sale, Aaron Nola, Tanner Houck and Hunter Greene. And Gibson’s eight starts of holding opponents to no more than two earned runs gives him a higher total than Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Freddy Peralta, Max Fried, Logan Gilbert, Marcus Stroman, and George Kirby. (Among others.)

When the Cardinals signed Gibson, I wrote about his significant leadership value and how the young Baltimore pitchers revered him last season during the team’s  101-win season. Gibson’s outstanding personal qualities are making a difference here.

“Top-five best teammate I’ve ever been around,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said of Gibson last week during Baltimore’s visit to Busch Stadium. “What he was like in the dugout, in the clubhouse, as a leader to speak up and make sure people are acting appropriately, acting professional, all of that stuff mattered to him. Guys are very fond of him, myself included.”

STATE OF THE OFFENSE: The Cardinals are averaging 5.4 runs per game during their 11-3 streak. Since May 12, St. Louis leads the National League in batting average (.280), onbase percentage (.350), slugging (.442), OPS (.792) and wRC+ (131.) That wRC+ translates to 31 percent above league average offensively.

For all games in May, the Cardinals rank 2nd in the NL in OPS and wRC+, are third in slugging percentage, and fourth in batting average and onbase percentage. Their outlook is looking better because the offense is looking better.

NOLAN ARENADO: His two-run homer off lefty Andrew Abbott in the top of the fourth gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead, and was the most important at-bat in the game based on win probability added. The homer was notable for other reasons:

* Arenado has seen 257 four-seam fastballs this season. That was his first home run of the season against that specific pitch.

* Before Tuesday night, Arenado had connected for 43 non-foul batted balls on four-seam fastballs without homering and was hitting only .211 against the pitch.

* It it was Arenado’s first pull-side home run on a four-seam fastball since Aug. 4 of 2023.

* It was his first HR on a four-seam fastball thrown by a lefty since July 18, 2023. And only the second HR on a four-seamer from a lefty since May 16, 2023.

The Cardinals are hoping  Arenado’s big home run – which left the bat at his season-high 107.5 mph – will lead to more of the same going forward.

KUDOS TO IVAN HERRERA: When starting catcher Willson Contreras suffered a broken forearm on May 7, Ivan Hererra entered the game as a replacement and went 2 for 4. In his 59 plate appearances since the Contreras injury, Herrera is batting an outstanding .353 with a .441 onbase percentage.

Herrera doesn’t have an extra-base hit during that time, but no one is complaining. He gets plenty of hits, draws a good share of walks, delivers RBIs and scores runs. The rookie catcher is part of the engine for an improved offense. Since taking over for Contreras, Herrera has six multi-hit games and is 5 for 13 (.385) with five RBIs when batting with runners in scoring position. In Tuesday’s 7-1 win at Cincinnati, Herrera went 3 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored.

Since Contreras officially went to the IL on May 8, the Cardinals are 11-6 while averaging 4.8 runs per game. They’ve batted .270 with a .421 slug and .759 OPS during Contreras’ time on the IL.

A TIP OF THE OL’ BALLCAP TO LEFTY RELIEVER JOHN KING: In his last 10 appearances King has been nicked for one earned run in 11 and ⅔ innings (0.77 ERA) while walking only two batters. He gave the Cardinals two clean innings of relief to help put the Reds away Tuesday.

King has quietly emerged as one of the better lefty relievers in the majors this season. Among the 57 MLB left-handed relievers that have handled at least 15 innings this season, King ranks 11th with a 1.72 ERA, has the highest ground-ball rate (68.8%), and ranks sixth in strikeout-walk ratio at 5.5 strikeouts per walk.

JUST THE FACTS

— Special-request information for a reader: Steve M. wanted to know about Arenado’s opposite-field hitting. His question came after I’d pointed out that Arenado has never hit an opposite-field home run as a Cardinal. Steve wanted to know about other types of opposite-field hits. In his three-plus seasons as a Cardinal, Arenado is 75 for 334 when hitting to the opposite field. That’s a .225 average. The 75 hits consist of 54 singles, 19 doubles and two triples. This season Arenado is 8 for 37 (.216) when going “oppo.” The eight hits were six singles and two doubles. Thanks for reading, Steve!

— The Cardinals got a pair of two-run homers from Arenado and Gorman in Tuesday’s win and are 7-4 this season when hitting at least two HRs in a game.

Since May 10, Gorman has five homers and 11 RBIs in 43 at-bats. Over the 14 games (12 starts) he has a 15 percent walk rate, and of course the slugging is there. Gorman’s slash line since May 10 is outstanding: .326 /.431/ .721 with a 1.152 OPS.

Paul Goldschmidt had two hits Tuesday. During the team’s 11-3 stretch Goldschmidt is 19 for 60 (.317) with a .369 onbase percentage and .633 slugging percentage for a 1.022 OPS. His 13-game heat-up includes four doubles, five homers, 11 RBIs and 11 runs scored. Goldy is doing Goldy stuff again.

Masyn Winn extended his hitting streak with an RBI double that gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in Tuesday’s tilt. In his last 17 starts Winn has fired up for a .344 average, .368 onbase percentage and .568 slug. His power is coming. Since May 5, Winn has nine extra-base hits and 10 RBIs in 64 at-bats and only Nolan Gorman and Lars Nootbaar have a higher slugging percentage over that time.

Brendan Donovan has 16 hits and six walks in his last 13 starts, giving him a .308 average, .400 onbase percentage and 11 runs scored since May 12. He has a .360 OBP in his 17 games.

Thanks for reading …

And enjoy the day baseball.

–Bernie

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