THE REDBIRD REVIEW 

Scoreboard: Cardinals 4, Miami 1 in the first of three games at the Art Deco ballpark. The Cards are 2-2 in the 2021 kickoff week. Well, considering their .205 team batting average, 29% strikeout rate and team 7.41 ERA, a 2-2 record will do. Could be worse. That said, the STL pitching was fantastic Monday in Miami. 

The Formula: Monday’s victory gave us a look at how the Cardinals must win in 2021. Not in every game, of course. But in a lot of games. This is how they’ll do it: A well-pitched game, led by a really good start from Daniel Ponce de Leon.  Jumping out to an early lead and protecting it with a procession of superb relievers. The Cardinal lineup struck out 14 times Monday and had only five hits. But they made their 4 runs stand up, with stout pitching taking care of the rest. 

A Timely Performance By Ponce de Leon: Outperforming Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez — the Cardinals’ starting pitchers in the opening three-game series at Cincinnati — Ponce controlled the Marlins with a terrific job of limiting walks and hard contact. He went 5 innings, allowed 3 hits and an earned run, with 1 walk and 2 hit batters. After Flaherty, Waino and Martinez provided only 12 innings combined in their three starts, the Cardinals needed the stability of quality innings. Ponce did that. 

The Marlins couldn’t do much with Ponce de Leon’s barrage of four-seam fastballs. They lofted nine fly balls into the air. They slapped four grounders. They hit one line drive, and didn’t barrel a single pitch. 

Ponce faced five batters with runners in scoring position; the Marlins mustered one sacrifice fly. That’s it; no further damage. When the Marlins had men on base in this game, they could not break Ponce de Leon’s composure — going 1 for 10. To be greedy, we’d like to see six innings instead of five. But really, considering the terrible job by the Cards starters in Cincinnati, Ponce was money on Monday. 

Bulls On Parade: Well, actually the bullpen on parade … but I like Rage Against The Machine, so I had to get that song title in there. Anyway: There was one inning from Jordan Hicks, two innings from Giovanny Gallegos, and one closing inning by Alex Reyes. They put the Marlins away without incident over  the final four innings. Miami hitters went 2 for 14 against the Cards bullpen with three strikeouts and no walks. 

Respect For Giovanny Gallegos: He is quiet on the mound. He shows no emotion. He is not a flamboyant reliever. He is a cold-blooded and fearless reliever. His body language is that of a confident man, unfazed by your team’s hitters, their threats, and the pressure of the moment.  He continues to liquidate opposing hitters with sinister efficiency. 

Since the righthanded Gallegos was assigned to regular duty in the St. Louis bullpen in 2019, this is what he’s done: 

  • 84 appearances, 92 innings, 0.80 WHIP, 2.45 ERA
  • A strikeout rate of 34 percent
  • Has permitted a .168 batting average, .223 OBP, and .301 slugging percentage. 
  • In 200 plate appearances, RH batters have hit .182 against him, with a strikeout rate of 33 percent. 
  • In 146 plate appearances vs. Gallegos, LH batters vs. have squeaked for a .148 average and struck out 35.6% of the time. 

Platoon split? This does not exist with the G Man. He has a job to do. It doesn’t matter if you hit from the right side, or hit from the left side. Either way, you will be neutralized. Nothing personal. It’s business.

A Doff Of The Ol’ Ball Cap To Yadier Molina: His two-run double gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead in the first inning. It was hit No. 2,004 of Molina’s career — appropriate considering that he made his Cardinals debut in 2004. As noted by many last night, Molina moved past Johnny Bench and into 7th place all-time in career doubles by a catcher (382.) Molina ranks 10th all-time among catchers in career hits; with 89 more hits this season, he would move up into 7th place. 

Molina currently ranks 14th all-time among catchers with his 936 career RBIs. He has a chance this season to become only the 13th catcher in MLB history with 1,000 + runs batted in. 

Here’s another thing I discovered while exploring the Stathead database: only four catchers in MLB history have generated this combination: at least 2,000 hits, 382 doubles and 936 RBIs. The names? Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, Ted Simmons and Yadier Molina. 

Baseball Hero In Monday’s Win: My pick is second baseman Tommy Edman, the leadoff man who went 1 for 3 with a walk, solo homer, the RBI that came with that solo homer, plus two runs scored. When Edman homered to open the fifth inning, he increased the Cardinals’ lead to 4-0 and lowered the Marlins’ win expectancy to 9 percent. 

Tracking The Cardinals Outfield: Whew. This was a grim evening offensively for starting outfielders Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson and Austin Dean. The trio combined for six strikeouts in 12 plate appearances. Three by Dean, two by O’Neill, one by Carlson. They got on base one time — a walk by Carlson. The fellows went hitless in 12 at-bats. 

Making contact is a challenge. When O’Neill swung at a pitch Monday, he chased balls out of the zone on 50% of those swings. He had an 18% swinging-strike rate. Dean had a 20% swinging strike rate. 

In 46 plate appearances through the first four games, Cardinals outfielders O’Neill, Carlson, Justin Williams and Dean collectively are 4 for 41, a batting average of .098. As a group their strikeout rate is an alarming 43.4 percent. 

On Opening Day in Cincinnati, Carlson and O’Neill made an instant impact by hitting two homers (one apiece) and driving in five runs. And it was great to see. 

But in the three games played since the opener the STL outfielders have gone 2 for 30 with one RBI. They’ve struck out 17 times in 33 plate appearances, a K-rate of 51.% 

At least we can fall back — rightfully so — on the “Hey, it’s only four games.”  disclaimer. 

Hit By Pitch. No Brawls.  Marlins outfielder Starling Marte was hit by a Ponce de Leon pitch twice in Monday’s game. Marte wasn’t happy about having his uniform grazed by Ponce de Leon. It’s too bad Nicholas Castellanos wasn’t there to show Ponce de Leon the baseball in a taunting fashion.

The Reds Are Still Steaming: Castellanos was suspended two games by MLB for his instigator role in Saturday’s fracas between the Cards and Reds. It began with Jake Woodford hitting Castellanos with a pitch. It continued with Castellanos taunting Woodford by showing him the baseball. It ended with Castellanos standing over the prone Woodford, yelling and flexing, after a slide and tag at home plate. As usual, the Reds are pointing at Molina and wondering why he avoided suspension. And they apparently believe that another suspect — Cards pitching coach Mike Maddux — got away with, well, something.

From C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic:

“The Cardinals denied hitting Castellanos on purpose, and there are certainly reasons to believe them. On the other hand, if they did want to go after him, it would be the perfect situation to do so. The video also shows Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux was the first person out of the dugout — and he was on the field before Castellanos was on his feet from his slide — raising the question of why he was so ready to go out to protect his young pitcher. Maddux, despite being the first person on the field, wasn’t suspended or fined, according to Monday’s press release …

 

At no point did Castellanos touch anyone, as (manager) David Bell pointed out. Yet, his suspension was still twice what Molina received in 2018 for pushing an umpire out of the way to go after an opposing manager.

 

According to MLB, players or managers who come within six feet of an umpire or opposing player or manager for the purpose of argument, or engage in altercations on the field could face immediate ejection, or fines and suspension. That actually does explain Castellanos’ suspension and fine, but doesn’t explain Molina’s lack of suspension, nor Maddux’s.”

(Bernie comment: I regularly quote from The Athletic, a paid-subscriber site. I wrote for The Athletic, was happy to be a part of it, and I still subscribe. If you haven’t subscribed to The Athletic, you’re missing out on the most comprehensive, in-depth sportswriting in the business. Jump on this special offer. No hard sell from me; this is just my way of thanking The Athletic for the great work … and for being cool with me running an excerpt from their site on occasion.)

Bird Bytes: Paul DeJong has a strikeout rate of 28.7% through four games and is batting .200. Two of his three hits are homers … Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado combined for three hits and a walk Monday to reach base on four of their eight plate appearances. Through four games Goldy is batting .375 with a .444 OBP. Arenado is hitting .412 with (which is also his OBP) … through four games the Cardinals rank ninth in the NL in OPS (.647) … NL teams are off to a slow start offensively; hitters have a .231 average, .391 slugging percentage and .705 OPS with a 26% strikeout rate. 

Next Up: John Gant starts for the Cardinals at 5:40 p.m. (STL time) Tuesday. In his first start for the Cardinals since Sept. 26, 2018, Gant will face former Cardinal Sandy Alcantara. After going to Miami before the 2018 season as part of the Marcell Ozuna trade, Alcantara has a 3.61 ERA in 46 games (40 starts.) He struggles with command, walking 10 percent of batters faced in his 279 innings as a Marlin. Alcantara throws hard, but his strikeout rate as a Marlin is on the low side (19%.) … Gant had a 3.61 ERA in 19 starts for the Cardinals in ‘18. Efficiency is the key for Gant; he can’t run up a high pitch count in the early innings. 

Thanks for reading… 

–Bernie 

Please check out Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com  … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.