THE REDBIRD REVIEW

The Cardinals won a game that was close to becoming an unbearable loss. After taking a 3-0 lead over the roadkill Rockies, you can’t give the game away. You just can’t. And especially not to this particular opponent, which came into Busch Stadium with a hideous 18-36 record away from the preposterous golf-ball driving range known as Coors Field.

But after the top of the seventh inning, the scoreboard delivered a warning: Rockies 4, Cardinals 3. Gulp. The Cardinals weren’t going to flop against the NL’s worst road team, right? The threat was real.

The response was what we hoped to see. The Cardinals reattached their brains, recovered, and proceeded to claim a 5-4 victory. It wouldn’t have happened without considerable assistance from the Rockies, but don’t worry about that. Good teams find a way, and the Cardinals (64-51) are building a good record.

The Cards tied it in the bottom of the seventh on two singles and a hit-by-pitch (Tyler O’Neill that set up a bases-loaded sac fly by Paul Goldschmidt.

The Cardinals won it in the bottom of the ninth in a most unusual way, courtesy of wild-child reliever Dinelson Lamet.

Walk. Walk. A sacrifice-bunt attempt that became a single. Bases loaded. Opportunity. O’Neill getting hit by a pitch for the second time. A walk-off HBP? Does that count? Yes.

Sometimes you win by shutting out the other team. Sometimes you win by blasting three home runs and putting up 10 runs. Sometimes you dig in and rally to win. Sometimes you win because the other team finds a way to lose. Sometimes you win when it makes no sense. Sometimes you win and just walk to the clubhouse in a happy mood, without sweating the details.

Aug 16, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Tyler O’Neill (27) is congratulated by second baseman Tommy Edman (19) and designated hitter Albert Pujols (5) after a walk-off hit by pitch with the bases loaded against the Colorado Rockies during the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

 

This was an important win by the Cardinals for multiple reasons:

1) Tyler O’Neill may be regenerating. Coming into Sunday’s game against the Brewers, he was in a 4 for 32 crash in August. And now? Bro’Neill is 4 for 7 in his last two games. He had two hits, two runs scored and a tying home run in Sunday’s 6-3 victory over Milwaukee. Last night against the Rox, O’Neill had two hits – and the two hit-by-pitches – and scored a run. This could be nothing. This could be the start of something big.

2) Dylan Carlson is 4 for 9 in his last two games. He lifted the go-ahead solo home run in the eighth inning Sunday, then set up the winning run that beat the Rockies with a perfectly placed bunt in the ninth. We’ve wasted many words on Carlson and O’Neill and how they’re stifling the offense with their irregularities.

We’ve waited and waited … not so patiently … knowing that Carlson and O’Neill are highly capable of igniting this offense to make it truly scary for opponents. And if they get hot at the same time? To join Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado on stage? Mercy.

Before the two previous games, O’Neill and Carlson were a combined 9 for 71 with 20 strikeouts in August. Now they’re starting to flex, combining for eight hits, two hits, four runs and three RBI in the last two games. A two-game file of evidence is nothing conclusive. But there is some hope. We’ll see if this leads to anything.

3) Another fine start by Jose Quintana. More on him, and the starting pitching, later in the review.

4) Milwaukee came back to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in 11 innings last night. By elbowing their way past the Rockies, the first-place Cardinals maintained their two-game lead over the Brewers.

5) Tommy Edman appears to be heating up. Or maybe warming is the more accurate term. He homered Tuesday, a solo job that gave the Cards a 1-0 lead in the fourth. In his last 12 games Edman is batting .275 with a .710 OPS and has two doubles, the homer, and three stolen bases. Now if he could only draw more walks to raise his onbase percentage.

Homebodies: As the ancient Roman statesman, scholar and philosopher Cicero observed, “There is no place more delightful than one’s own fireside.” You got it, pal. Tuesday’s victory improved the Cardinals’ home record to 38-21 for the season, and that includes an excellent 25-10 mark since May 30. If it holds up, their 2022 home winning percentage of .644 would be the best by the franchise since the 2015 Cardinals had the top home record in the majors (55-26) for a .679 win percentage. Since then the 2019 Cardinals were the only team to finish the season with a home winning percentage above .600. The ‘19 Cardinals were 50-31 for a .617 winning percentage at Busch.

Accounting Department: The Redbirds have swooped for wins in 10 of their last 11 home games, outscoring visiting-team opponents 50-28 in the process. The St. Louis pitchers have allowed only 2.5 runs per game in this 10-1 streak at Busch Stadium … the Cardinals are 19-9 since July 10 and 14-7 since the All-Star break. They’re 13-4 since July 27, and have won 11 of their last 14 … after a lousy 11-13 record in July, the Cardinals are 10-3 in August … among NL teams only the Dodgers (12-2) have done better than St. Louis so far this month.

St. Louis Crime Statistics: Someone call the local law-enforcement agencies to report another mugging. It happened at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night, when the Cardinals swiped yet another victory over the hapless visitors from Colorado. The Rockies have lost 10 in a row at Busch Stadium, and are 1-14 in The Lou since 2018. Since the start of the 2010 season the Cardinals have a 33-6 record against the Rockies at Busch, outscoring the visitors 199-108 in the 39 games. Colorado hasn’t won a series in St. Louis since sweeping the Cardinals in a four-game set in early June, 2009.

Goldschmidt Still Absolutely Golden: The Cardinal first baseman had a two-run homer and three RBI in Tuesday’s win and continues to build a special season that could become the best of his career. At age 34, Goldschmidt is topping his own high standards. His current 192 OPS+ would be the highest of his career, and the same applies to his batting average (.328), slugging percentage (.618) and OPS (1.030.) Goldy’s onbase percentage (.412) would be his third-highest in a season. His production also includes 31 doubles, 29 homers and 92 RBI.

As the Cardinals enter Wednesday’s game against the Rockies, Goldschmidt leads the National League in batting average, slugging, OPS, OPS+ and park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+.) Goldy is second in onbase percentage, RBI, and total bases. He’s third in the NL in extra-base hits and tied for third with 29 homers.

And how about his consistency? Since the All-Star break Goldschmidt leads the NL with a 1.156 OPS and is very high on the leaderboard in most meaningful categories.

Using the Baseball Reference version of WAR, Goldschmidt and Arenado are tied for the NL lead with 6.1 WAR. In the FanGraphs version of WAR, Arenado (6.0) is just ahead of Goldschmidt (5.7).

Random Albert Pujols Stat For Dan McLaughlin: In 37 at-bats against right-handed pitching since June 28, Pujols is batting .270 with a .486 slugging percentage and .794 OPS. He’s 23 percent above league average vs. RH over that time, based on park-and-league adjusted runs created. Before that, in his first 71 at–bats of the season against righthanders, Pujols batted .127 with a .225 slug and .496 OPS. Danny Mac is correct. When he says that Pujols has been doing a better job against RH pitching, he is speaking the truth. Now, I’ll sit back and wait for McLaughlin to give me a nice bonus. Thanks in advance, Dan.

As The Rotation Turns: Cards starting pitchers have posted a 3.51 ERA during the team’s current 11-3 stretch of winning baseball. That’s solid but doesn’t reflect the more accurate picture of how good the starters have pitched.

That 3.51 ERA was inflated by the events of Aug. 9, when Miles Mikolas got cannonaded for 10 earned runs in 2 and ⅔ innings at Coors Field. If we exclude the Mikolas outlier, Cardinal starters have a 2.49 ERA and a 11-2 record in the other 13 games.

Over the last six games STL starting pitchers have been pitapatted for only nine earned runs in 39 innings for a 2.08 ERA. They haven’t been grazed for more than two earned runs in any of the starts, have a husky 24.7 percent strikeout rate, and have yielded only two home runs to 150 batters faced. Outstanding work, gentlemen.

John Mozeliak’s Trade: Left-handed starting pitchers Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery continue to pay immediate and impactful dividends since being acquired before the Aug. 2 trade deadline.

Quintana pitched well again Tuesday, touched for two earned runs in five innings. But he was better than the pitching line indicates. Quintana held the Rockies hitless through the first five innings. And they got to him in the sixth with four consecutive hits that would have been outs with better luck: a batted ball off Quintana’s leg, two routine ground-ball singles that found a hole, and a bloop single to shallow right field. Quintana faced 21 batters, and, according to Statcast, allowed only two hard-hit balls. And the Rockies didn’t barrel up a single Quintana pitch in this game.

In three starts for the Cardinals Quintana has a 2.65 ERA and an average Bill James Game Score of 59.3. That’s strong; the average Game Score is 50.

In five combined starts since coming to St. Louis Quintana and Montgomery have combined for a 1.61 ERA. Opponents have stepped into the batter’s box 108 times against them and have an onbase percentage of .250 – with only three extra-base hits. Most important of all, the Cardinals are 5-0 in games started by their two new friends.

Comparing The Trades: The Cardinals were actually branded “losers” in the usual “Winners, Losers” trade-deadline recap done by national pundits at the content farms.

The pundits were not impressed by Mozeliak’s shrewd, low-cost moves for two reliable, above-average starting pitchers to strengthen STL’s collapsing rotation. Yeah, it’s really stupid to improve a team that was so desperate for starting pitching. How idiotic it was for the Cardinals to be the only MLB team to add two quality starters at the deadline. What the hell was Mozeliak thinking?

The pundits, however, were aroused by two other starting-pitcher acquisitions involving bigger names: Luis Castillo from the Reds to the Mariners, and Frankie Montas from the A’s to the Yankees.

How’s it looking so far?

– In five combined starts for their new team, Quintana and Montgomery collectively have a 1.61 ERA.

– In five combined starts for their new teams, Castillo and Montas collectively have a 4.08 ERA.

Castillo and Montas are outstanding starters that should pay off for their new clubs. I’m not trying to suggest that Quintana and Montgomery have more talent than Castillo or Montas. But that isn’t the point.

This is really about several things: (1) What did your team really need? What was the desperation factor? (2) did you address the present problem in a meaningful way? (3) how much did you sacrifice in the trade? How expensive was the price in the trade market? (4) If the moves were made to enhance your division-title or postseason hopes for 2022, how are the acquisitions doing for your team? What’s the short-term impact?

The Cardinals didn’t give up the farm for Washington outfielder Juan Soto, who went to the Padres for pretty much everything the Nationals demanded. The ruling from the pundits came quickly: the Cardinals were losers for not paying an extravagant ransom for Soto. That Mozeliak went out and upgraded a tattered rotation in a substantial manner instead of seeing his team falling off the cliff for 2022 … well, who cares. Yawn. DIDN’T GET A BIG NAME.

Too many of these “Winners, Losers” pieces are ridiculous because the authors don’t take the time to look past hype to conduct a more conscientious look at teams that filled huge needs in a high-value, inexpensive way. The Cardinals held onto all of their major prospects – 12 of the top 13, and 23 of the top 24 – and plugged in Quintana and Montgomery.

And Quintana-Montgomery have won all five of their starts, which is a significant factor in the St. Louis climb to first place in the NL Central … with a two-game lead over the Brewers after trailing the Crew by four games as recently as July 30.

The Bullpen: Is It A Concern? Jordan Hicks actually did a terrific job after inheriting a no-out, bases-loaded mess in the sixth. Only one run scored, and Hicks earns a tip of the cap for limiting the damage. It could have been much worse for the Cardinals. But of course, Hicks doesn’t seem to like to get the job done with ease, so he came out in the seventh and pitched into trouble. After getting two outs without incident Hicks allowed an infield single (not much of a problem) and a walk (a more serious problem.) Manager Oli Marmol called for lefty Packy Naughton to face Colorado’s LH-swinging Charlie Blackmon. That didn’t work so well, with Blackmon lashing a two-run double to put the Rockies up 4-3.

Cardinals relievers have allowed 35 percent of their inherited runners to score this season; that’s tied for the fourth-worst rate among MLB bullpens. Here are some of the most ineffective Cardinal relievers when faced with the challenge of freezing inherited runners: Junior Fernandez has allowed 70% to score, followed by Zack Thompson (67%), Genesis Cabrera (54%), Andre Pallante (44%), and Hicks (33%.)

The Cardinal bullpen ranks 22nd in the majors with a 4.05 ERA since the beginning of July. And they’re 24th in August with a 4.93 ERA.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated 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 by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.

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Please email your “Ask Bernie” questions to BernScoops@gmail.com

All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.

 

 

 

 

 

Bernie Miklasz
Bernie 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.