Welcome To The Redbird Review
Good morning, friends.
I woke up this morning in response to a distress signal from the kitchen. Mrs. Bernie was quite disturbed by the site of a fallen bird, resting in peace — if you know what I mean — outside on our back deck. The poor creature apparently lost communication with the flight tower and failed to see our backdoor window. Geezus. Too late. Down goes Frazier. Just terrible.
But as I told this compassionate and sensitive woman who puts up with me: “Well, yes, this is truly awful. But at the risk of sounding heartless, this ain’t as bad as Mike Shildt ordering up a sac bunt in the eighth inning of a tie game with runners in first and second and no outs. AND WHEN HE ALREADY HAD THE POTENTIAL WINNING RUN AT SECOND BASE. Why give up an out? As Earl Weaver always said, ‘you only get 27 of ’em. Treat ’em like they’re precious.’
I continued, telling her how the sacrifice bunt attempt turned into a double-play disaster and an inning-killer. Now, that’s really sad. I thought the Cardinals were up Shildt’s Creek. But they overcame the managerial gaffe to win. So, hey, at least she can be happy about that.
Oddly, this did not comfort her.
Let’s begin …
WHAT HAPPENED: The Cardinals defeated the Miami Marlins for the second consecutive evening, winning Tuesday’s game 2-1 on a walk-away home run by Paul Goldschmidt in the bottom of the ninth. Happiness at Busch Stadium. The Goldy goner put the Cardinals above street level with a 34-33 record. With the Cubs and Brewers losing, the Cardinals picked up a game on the co-leaders for the second consecutive day. The Cardinals are four games out of first place, and a game behind the third-place Reds.
WINNERS AND LOSERS: After taking a whupping at Wrigley Field, the Cardinals have closed some of the cuts and applied ice to their welts. Yep, they’ve jumped on another losing team. Tuesday’s win gave St. Louis a 5-0 record against the Miami Mattinglys this season. The Cardinals are 21-9 vs. losing teams this season. And not quite as resolute (13-24) against teams with winning records. And with Tuesday’s win, the Cardinals have taken both of their series played against the Marlins this year. It fits the pattern. In 12 series vs. winning teams, the Cardinals are 2-8-2. But in 10 series vs. losing teams, the Cards are 6-3-1.
PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT IS A CLASS ACT: In his previous 26 games (25 starts) before the Marlins came to town, Goldy batted .237 with two homers and only eight RBI in 107 plate appearances. And his slugging percentage was a mediocre (for him) .387 over that time.
But Goldschmidt was a vital presence in the first two games of the series, going 4 for 8 with a homer, three RBI and two runs scored. His RBI single in the fifth tied Monday’s game at 2-2. He later singled and scored the go-ahead run on Tyler O’Neill’s double. Tuesday, Goldy had an RBI single to tie the game 1-1 in the sixth. And he led off the ninth by ending the ninth — and the game — with the winning home run.
The Cards’ first baseman is a proud man, a relentless worker, and honest to the core. In an admirable break from the usual postgame Happy Talk in which bad losses are covered with sugar and syrup and sprinkles and whipped cream, Goldy spoke the truth Tuesday night.
On his team’s recent play: “It’s no secret that we haven’t played well the last two or three weeks. There’s definitely no panic but you’ve got sometimes to make adjustments and play better. It’s not like we were just unlucky. We just weren’t playing well. We’ve played better the last few days but there’s still a lot of games to go, so it’s not like this changes everything.”
On his own performance: “I haven’t been getting the job done. Whether it’s guys on base, driving in them or getting on base for Nolan [Arenado] and the guys behind him. There have been a lot of games where if I got a couple of hits like I did tonight, we might have won one, two or maybe more wins.”
On his strenuous Monday batting-cage session: “I feel like, personally, I’ve cost us a few games. I can’t go back and change that. We have a good team and a lot of guys have been doing their job but I haven’t done my best. I just try to keep working … it doesn’t guarantee results but I’m definitely not going to just show up and say, ‘Oh, well,’ and hope for the best.”
Thanks for refusing to insult our intelligence. You offered a straightforward, candid assessment of your play, and the team’s play, instead of glossing over everything and making it sound like you’re all being picked on when things don’t go well. Shildt and the Cardinals should do this on a consistent basis. Their fans would respect them more for it. And their fans would have at least a little more tolerance for failure. Not all of the time, of course. And no one expects any Cardinal to blast a teammate or a manager or coach with disrespectful comments. But the plain and honest talk without the cotton-candy spin shows respect for your customers. Trying to play dodge ball sweet-talk them may work for a while … but that doesn’t work anymore. When a team isn’t playing or pitching well, fans know what they’re seeing. You can’t fool them.
IT’S THE STARTING PITCHING. SAME AS IT EVER WAS: For the second straight evening the Cards enhanced their chances for success by getting quality work from their starting pitcher.
In Monday’s 4-2 victory over the Marlins, Adam Wainwright gave up two runs in six innings. Kwang Hyun Kim followed Tuesday with a six-inning, one-run start. In the first two games of the three-game set with the Marlins, Wainwright and Kim limited the visitors to three runs in 13 innings.
TURN AROUND? Carlos Martinez served up a quality start in Sunday’s 2-0 lost-cause loss to the Cubs. It means the Cardinals have pitched a quality start for three consecutive for the first time since churning four in a row April 24-27.
Before Martinez, Wainwright and Kim put the streak together, the Cardinals had only four quality starts in their last 18 games. The starting-pitcher ERA over the 18 games was 6.86. The team’s record was 6-12.
MAY I EXPAND ON THIS? THANK YOU. Starting pitching matters. It really, really matters. We already knew that, sure. But it’s important to remember this eternal baseball truth when we begin fussing and crabbing over lesser issues with this peculiar team.
When the starting pitching is ablaze, why reach for your Sphygmomanometer to check the blood pressure because Shildty has chosen to bat Matt Carpenter sixth in the lineup?
If you want to jeopardize your health over the ways of the Cardinals, I recommend raising the stress level over something important. A rickety rotation, for example.
In our head-scratching attempt to understand the peaks and troughs of the 2021 Cardinals, let’s keep it simple.
1) When the Cardinals are the beneficiaries of a quality start this season, their record is 16-7. When the Cardinals go without a quality start in a game, their record is 18-26.
And the 16-7 mark should be better; several quality starts were wasted by a sputtering St. Louis offense.
Problem is, the Cardinals don’t get enough of these win-setting outings from the starters. Their quality-start percentage so far this season is 34 percent, 9th among NL teams and slightly below the NL average of 36%.
2) In the Bill James-devised “Game Score” method for assessing a start, 50 is average. When a Cardinal starter renders a Game Score of 50 or better, the team’s record is 27-11. And in pitcher starts that come in under 50, the record is 7-22.
This info explains a lot about why the Cardinals win games, and why they lose games. The starting pitching is the prime factor.
K.K. KIM’S TRIBUTE TO JOHN GANT: In the first three innings, seven of 16 Miami batters reached base on Kim but couldn’t make him crack. During the first three innings Marlins had 11 at-bats with runners on base and got two hits, and went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
This hardball contest could have blown up early on the Cardinals, but Kim defused the danger, allowing only one run. Adam Duvall’s RBI single in the third inning, the Marlins left runners at second and third to watch while Kim notched three quick outs to end the threat.
After Duvall’s RBI single, only one Marlin reached base over Kim’s final 3+ innings, and that was on a walk. Otherwise the Marlins went 0 for 12 with five strikeouts against Kim after taking their 1-0 lead. And K.K. struck out five of his final 10 batters faced. Bravo. The Cardinals need more of that from Kim.
BULLS ON PARADE: The troika of Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes have put away the first two wins of the series by combining to work six innings, face 19 batters, allow one hit and a walk, and striking out seven Marlins. And to update a stat I presented a day ago: when Cabrera, Gallegos and Reyes pitch to secure a game won by the Cardinals, they’ve given up seven earned runs in 76.2 innings for an ERA of 0.82.
PROPS TO JOSE RONDON: The Cardinals had only one hit and one walk through the first 5 innings. Young Marlins LH Trevor Rogers was dealing. He’s so good. It was looking bleak for the Cardinals.
Rondon led off the sixth, pinch-hitting for Kim. Rogers threw a changeup and fastball to put Rondon down 0-2 on the count. Then another changeup, another fastball — but Rondon didn’t chase the bait, evening the count at 2-2. On the fifth pitch, Rondon delivered a sharp single to left. Then he swiped second. And then he moved to third on a throwing error by Rogers on an attempted pickoff. Then he scored on a single by Goldschmidt to tie the game at 1-1.
That’s exactly what a desperate team needs from a bench player. Just be ready, check in, do a good job, and make a huge contribution to the team’s win.
NEXT ON THE SKED: Johan Oviedo vs. former Cardinal Sandy Alcantara, first pitch at 12:15 p.m. Hey, that game time is nearing. I must stop typing words.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the day ball.
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.
The weekly “Seeing Red” podcast with Bernie and Will Leitch is also available at 590thefan.com.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
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.