THE REDBIRD REVIEW
Give the Cardinals credit for pulling themselves out of a pit to salvage some respect at the end of a savage 11-game stretch against the Phillies and Braves.
After getting kicked around to go 1-5 in the first six encounters, the Cardinals showed tenacity by winning three of the final five games. After getting shut out in the first two games of a four-game set with the Phils, the Cardinals scrapped for two straight victories to earn a series split. And while the fellers won only four of the 11 games against two strong teams from the NL East, that’s preferable to going face down in the muck and losing, say, 10 of 11.
And now that the Cardinals (47-42) made their way back to slightly higher ground, they’ll have to catch their breath in time for the start of a three-game series against a bulldozer of a baseball team from Los Angeles.
The Dodgers come to St. Louis at a particularly dominant time in their schedule, having won 11 of their last 12 games to open a canyon-sized 7.5-game lead in the NL West. The Cardinals, 21-27 vs. winning teams, will try to avoid getting tangled up in blue during 72 hours of baseball against the National League’s most formidable team.
The Dodgers walk onto the Busch Stadium grounds with a seven-game winning streak, a 56-29 record, the NL’s top winning percentage (.659), the NL’s best road record (26-16) and a 15-5 mark against the NL Central.
The Dodgers inexplicably lost five of six games to the Pirates this season, but they’ve played the Reds and Cubs 14 times … and won all 14 games.
The Dodgers lead the NL in runs per game (5.05) and have allowed the fewest runs (3.27) per game.
Los Angeles hitters have the highest OPS (.764) in the NL, and the LA pitchers have allowed the lowest OPS (.635) in the NL.
The Dodgers have the NL’s best overall ERA (2.96) and the No. 1 starting-pitching ERA (2.72.)
The Dodgers have the No. 1 run differential in the NL (+151) with the Mets (+73) hanging back as a distant second.
The Dodgers are doing all of this flattening of opponents despite competing with an injury-torn roster. This season 19 injured Los Angeles players have missed a combined 952 days while healing on the IL.
The list includes starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Mitch White and Andrew Heaney; relievers Blake Treinen, David Price, Daniel Hudson and Tommy Kahnle; and position players Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, Edwin Rijos and Kevin Pillar.
Sure, the Dodgers spend more than any team – $302 million on the 40-man competitive tax payroll this season – but they brilliantly supplement the roster with MLB’s No. 1 farm system going into 2022.
As Keith Law of The Athletic wrote in giving the No. 1 ranking: “The Dodgers’ system is just ridiculous. They are hitting on every cylinder right now. They have depth and ceiling, pitching and position players, near-in prospects and long-term players. I don’t think any other organization can rival their consistent success in drafting, international scouting, player development and pro scouting right now.”
So should the Dodgers need help, they can promote it, trade for it, or buy it. That pretty much covers everything. This organization is so deep, it can trade away a dynamic but raw shortstop prospect named Oneil Cruz to the Pirates for aging reliever Tony Watson in 2017 … and not feel any pain or consequences.
If the Cardinals are in the mood to measure themselves against the league’s most elite team, well, here’s their chance.
I LOVE DODGERS-CARDINALS GAMES
Though the Dodgers clearly have the superior team right now, this series matches the two most consistently successful National League teams since 2000:
– Highest regular-season winning percentage since the start of the 2000 season. The Dodgers are No. 1 (.560) and the Cardinals (.558) are No. 2.
– Most times making the playoffs since 2000: St. Louis No. 1 with 15, and Los Angeles No. 2 with 13 postseason appearances.
– Most postseason victories since 2000: Dodgers No. 1 with 56; Cardinals No. 2 with 46.
– Most postseason games competed in since 2000: STL No. 1 with 138; Los Angeles No. 2 with 119.
– NL Pennants since 2000: Cardinals 4, Dodgers 3.
– World Series titles since 2000: Cardinals 2, Dodgers 1.
NOTES ON MY SCORECARD
The Accounting Department: After two consecutive wins over the Phillies the Cardinals moved to within two games of the first-place Brewers in the NL Central standings … after a day off on Monday, the Brewers hit the road for two games at Minnesota and four at San Francisco … after their two straight wins the Cardinals are now 26-18 at home this season, and 21-27 overall against winning teams … there is still much work to do. The Cardinals are 10-15 after moving up to 10 games over .500 (37-27) and opening a lead of 2.5 games over the Brewers on June 14 … after their horrendous stretch of scoring seven total runs against the Braves-Phillies in seven games, the Cardinals scored 10 total runs in their two consecutive wins over Philly.
How About That Albert Pujols? In his last six games he’s gone 6 for 12 (.500) with two doubles, a homer, a sac fly, two runs and two RBI. Since June 12 Pujols is 6 for 25 (.240) against RHP. And as we mentioned yesterday, this season he’s batting .302 with a .547 slug and .875 OPS vs. lefties.
A Closer Look At The Pujols OPS: His overall onbase+slugging for the season is .674. I acknowledge that this isn’t an imposing number – but on a relative basis it’s better than I thought. And you will feel the same way after I explain why …
Among hitters with a minimum 155 plate appearances this season Pujols has a higher OPS than Nick Castellanos, Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joey Gallo, Whit Merrifield, Javy Baez, Adam Frazier, Yoan Moncada, Brandon Crawford, Mike Moustakas, Avisail Garcia, Randal Grichuk, Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, Adam Duvall, A.J. Pollock, Tucker Barnhart, Yan Gomes, Eduardo Escobar, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jacob Stallings … and many others.
Appreciation For The Pitching: In their last six starts the Cardinal rotation has a 2.13 ERA. That includes a 1.69 in the latest five-game turn of the rotation; Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson, Matthew Liberatore and Andre Pallante all pitched well. Maybe the best part was the starters’ 5 percent walk rate over the five games.
And during the 11-game stretch against Philadelphia and Atlanta, the St. Louis bullpen gave up four earned runs while facing 142 batters and pitching 36.2 innings. That’s a 0.98 ERA. The Braves and Philly batters hit .219 against the STL relievers.
The Bottom Line On The Pitching: We can say what we want about the state of the St. Louis pitching staff. The Cardinals have been hit by injuries, and they’ve dealt with plenty of chaos and personnel shuffling. But as the Cardinals open their series against Los Angeles, they rank second in the NL this season with their average of 3.85 runs allowed per game. Among the other 14 NL teams, only the Dodgers (3.25) have done a more effective job of preventing runs so far in 2022.
The Depth Comes Through: The Cards offense woke up on Sunday and stayed alert through Monday. And they won two games with the help of the final three spots of the lineup. In the two series-saving wins over the Phillies the Cardinals’ 7-8-9 hitters went 5 for 6 with runners in scoring position and batted .368 overall with a .429 OBP, .579 slug and 1.008 OPS. Nice work by Edmundo Sosa, Lars Nootbaar, Corey Dickerson, Austin Romine and Andrew Knizner.
Supportive Words On Miles Mikolas: He pitched an outstanding game Monday, registering an impressive 67 Game Score by limiting the Phillies to one run, six hits, no walks and striking out five in his 7.1 innings. If the NL needs a pitcher to fill a spot on the NL roster, Mikolas is certainly worthy. He’s third in the league with 113.1 innings, seventh with a 2.62 ERA and seventh with a 4.0 strikeout-walk ratio.
T.J. McFarland Up, Zack Thompson Down. Yeah. The Cardinals did that. After finally getting their shaky bullpen settled in to pitch extremely well, the Cardinals demoted Thompson to Triple A Memphis even though he’d allowed one earned run in relief in 15 innings. And they added McFarland to the roster after he missed time on the Covid IL. McFarland has been smashed for 22 earned runs in 26.2 innings this season for a 7.34 ERA. How bad is that 7.43 ERA? Well, it’s the worst in the majors among the 175 relievers that have pitched at least 26 innings this season.
Thanks for reading …
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.
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.