THE REDBIRD REVIEW
Greetings. I hope you’re getting the grills ready for some action during this long Memorial Day Weekend. We’re keeping it simple in our backyard. Nothing fancy. Cheeseburger sliders, hot dogs, Italian sausage, bratwurst, and boneless, skinless chicken breasts. No, I’m not gonna eat all of that myself. We’re having family over. My best wishes to you for a happy weekend, and please remember to think about a family member, friend or someone in your life that made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.
You know this already, but the Cardinals clung to a brilliant start by Miles Mikolas to outlast the Reds 2-1 Thursday to gain a series split in the four-game visit to the Great American Ball Park. It was a meaningful day for two reasons: (A) you don’t want to go into Cincinnati and lose three out of four games to flatten your momentum; and (B) Milwaukee lost at home to San Francisco, and the Cards picked up a game in the NL Central standings. The Cards trail the division-leading Brewers by five games and are 3 and ½ behind the second-place Pirates. The Cardinals are 10-4 in a stretch that has them playing 19 games in 19 days.
DETAILING THE HOT STREAK
+ The Cardinals are 13-5 since May 7 for a .722 winning percentage that’s the best in the majors over that time – ahead of Texas (.706), Houston (.688) and the NY Yankees (.667.)
+ During this season turnaround the Cardinals have outscored opponents 119-80, and have a booming 34-17 edge in homers. And they’ve averaged 6.6 runs per game.
+ Over the last 18 games the Cardinals have had the most electric offense in the majors when hitting with runners in scoring position. Check out this hitting line with RISP: 200 plate appearances, .333 batting average, .397 onbase percentage, .667 slug, 1.064 OPS, and a home run every 12.4 at-bats. Simply outstanding.
+ If you like power and speed, this 13-5 stretch should be making you happy. Over this time the Cardinals are second in the majors in homers (34) and stolen bases (22.) They’ve been successful on 84.6 percent of their steal attempts.
+ The overall pitching was better, with the Redbirds posting a 4.04 ERA during the 13-5 uprising.
HOW THE CARDINALS WON THURSDAY’S GAME
1. Miles Mikolas. Seven shutout innings, five hits, five strikeouts, no walks. More on Miles later.
2. Nolan Gorman. In the eighth he doubled in the team’s first run, swiped third base, and scored on a wild pitch.
3. Giovanny Gallegos allowed a run in the ninth but didn’t panic. He fended the Reds off to secure the victory. During the team’s 13-5 run Gallegos has made seven relief appearances, and allowed one run in 8 innings for a 1.13 ERA. In the seven appearances he’s held opponents to a .179 average and .440 OPS while harvesting four saves.
STAR OF THE GAME
Miles Mikolas. I’ve already given you the information on Thursday’s sharp performance. Let’s widen the view to show just how important Mikolas has been since getting knocked around in his first three starts of the season.
* Over his last eight starts, beginning on April 16, Mikolas has a 2.47 ERA and the Cardinals are 6-2 in those games. That 2.47 ERA ranks ninth among NL starters since April 16. Meanwhile, with Mikolas doing such excellent work, the other Cardinals’ starting pitchers collectively have a 5.76 ERA over that time. Mikolas is vastly superior to his rotation mates.
* During this eight-start block, Mikolas has four quality starts, has allowed no more than three runs in an outing, has given up two or fewer runs five times, and has worked 6+ innings four times.
* Mikolas has really raised the quality-pitching level over his last four starts, getting scratched for five runs and a 1.85 ERA. The Cardinals won all four of his starts. Meanwhile, over the same time frame, the other St. Louis starters collectively have a 5.29 ERA.
Mikolas is this team’s most consistent and reliable starting pitcher. I haven’t forgotten about lefty Jordan Montgomery, who leads the Cardinals with five quality starts. In fact, Monty and Mikolas have nine of the team’s QS this season. But Montgomery has 8.16 ERA in his last three assignments after compiling a 3.29 ERA in his first seven starts. Assuming that Montgomery returns to form soon, he’ll be standing with Mikolas as STL’s only dependable starters.
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME
Hey, this offense can’t pump a bunch of runs in every game – no team does – but the fellers came close to wasting Mikolas’ start. Thursday the Cardinals went 6 for 32 (.188) against Luke Weaver and Reds relievers and were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
NOLAN GORMAN, SULTAN OF CRUNCH TIME
My favorite thing to do here in The Review is point out all of the positives with the second-year, age-23 batsman. Accordingly:
— He’s the best late-game hitter in the majors. In 34 at-bats in eighth and ninth innings this season Gorman has five doubles, six homers, 18 RBI, a .412 average, .524 onbase percentage, 1.088 slug, and a 1.612 OPS. Among MLB hitters that have at least 42 plate appearances in the eighth-ninth innings, Gorman ranks 1st in homers, RBI, slugging and onbase percentage.
— Five of Gorman’s 13 home runs this season have given the Cardinals the lead in a game; all five came with the score tied.
— In high-leverage situations, Gorman is 7-18 (.389). All seven hits have gone for extra-bases, with four homers and three doubles. His slugging percentage in these situations is 1.222.
— He also comes up big in two-out situations, batting .288 with a .763 slug and 1.106 OPS – plus eight homers, four doubles and 20 RBI.
— With runners in scoring position Gorman is batting .318 with a .795 slug and 1.118 OPS. And he has three doubles, five homers and 27 RBI. Among big-league hitters that have at least 50 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Gorman is second in slugging and fourth in OPS.
— For the season, Gorman ranks 1st among National League hitters in slugging (.613), OPS (1.002), and a .157 wRC+ – which is 57% above league average offensively. He’s 2nd in the NL with 40 RBI, 3rd in OPS+, tied for 5th in homers (13) and is 6th with 2.0 WAR.
— Among regular MLB hitters age 23 or younger, Gorman ranks 1st in OPS+, OPS, homers, RBI, onbase percentage, slugging and walks.
I think the lad has a future in this game.
STAT OF THE DAY
In 99 plate appearances in May, Willson Contreras has a .348 slugging percentage.
In 40 plate appearances in May, Andrew Knizner is slugging .563.
THE PREDICTABLE LINEUP ANGER
Manager Oli Marmol’s getaway-day lineup had some fans going bananas with the usual forced outrage – all because the skipper rested Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Willson Contreras. Every time a Cards manager goes this way, the reaction is predictably nuts on Twitter. I’ve never had a problem with it. It’s a 162-game season. This ain’t the NFL. The team is in a stretch of playing 19 games in 19 days.
Before Thursday, Goldy had only one full day off on a game-day this season, and that was back on April 17. Arenado has had only two days off since April 24, and none since May 8. Contreras hadn’t had a rest day since April 20, and he’s in a terrible slump.
What did Tony LaRussa always say? Men, not machines. As I mentioned, this team has MLB’s best record since May 7. A loss at Cincy would have stung, yes – but it’s only one game. If guys are dog-tired I’d rather see them get a one-day break instead of going down with an injury. That would be a lot worse than losing another game in Cincinnati.
FANGRAPHS ON NO. 1 CARDS PROSPECT JORDAN WALKER
“His hot 2023 spring training led to Walker breaking camp with the big league team, and he kicked off his major league career with a record-tying 12-game hit streak. A subsequent slump on both sides of the ball led to his demotion to Memphis for adjustments and refinement, and he continued to struggle there before finding his footing in mid-May. We see this more as a developmental speed bump than a harbinger of doom and still think that if you’re looking for the prospect most likely to hit 40 home runs in a season down the line, this is your player.”
Walker update: He had another good game on Thursday and is batting .349 with a .417 OBP, .581 slug and a .998 OPS in his last 10 contests. And his strikeout rate is 18.7% over that time.
NEXT ON THE SKED
The Cardinals will spend the weekend in Cleveland and play three games against the Guardians, who are 21-28 this season. They trail first-place Minnesota by 4 and ½ games in the AL Central.
Cleveland is laboring with the worst offense in the majors, ranking last in runs per game (3.45), homers (30), slugging percentage (.340) and OPS (.637). They’re above average in run prevention, allowing 4.24 runs per game which is tied for 10th best in the majors.
We’re in for an intriguing pitching matchup Friday night, with Guardians ace Shane Bieber facing Matthew Liberatore.
Thanks for reading …
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.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
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.