The Cardinals are still pushing to get to .500. They’re not there yet, and on Sunday missed an opportunity to even their record at 14-14 by losing to the Mets in 11 innings.

It was an enjoyable game to watch. Left fielder Brendan Donovan made three outstanding defensive plays. Shortstop Masyn Winn flashed his range and high velocity arm that would make John Elway envious.

St. Louis pitching held the Mets to one run in the first 10 innings, but got to lefty reliever Matthew Liberatore to win in the 11th. The Cardinals couldn’t get a big hit, missing on several shots to put up runs on New York’s crafty starter Jose Quintana. He was very good, and denied the Cardinals repeatedly on chances in the first, second and fifth innings. The Redbirds were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position through the first five innings.

The Cardinals small-balled their way to a 1-0 lead on a successful squeeze bunt by Michael Siani in the fifth. Siani proceeded to steal second, but Donovan and Willson Contreras couldn’t get him in. The Cardinals offense was once again the No. 1 factor in a close loss in an up-for-grabs game. More on that in a bit.

It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise good weekend. The Cardinals won the series, which continued a trend; they’ve now won three of their last four series including the last two in a row.

Their 13-15 record isn’t where you want them to be. But the 2023 Cardinals were eight games under .500 after playing 28 games. And their 10-18 start would spiral to a 10-24 start after 34 games.

The Cardinals have won five of their nine series, and that’s a positive improvement from their 2-6-1 ledger in their first nine series in 2023. I’m not going bananas here. This team has a lot of work to do and things to fix, but much of that is centered around an offense that can’t be counted on. Just about every other phase of this team is effective: pitching, defense, baserunning, and small-ball skills.

I don’t believe there’s a reason to portray the Cardinals as an early-season failure – when factually speaking the only part of the 2024 team that’s failing is the offense. The Cardinals would have a much better record with merely league-average production. This isn’t a good team … because the record isn’t good. But if the St. Louis offense can do a respectable job, we’d have a more favorable view of this  team as a whole. But the offense remains quiet (for the most part) and that makes the Cardinals look worse than they really are.

WHERE THE BOYS ARE: The Cardinals begin a three-game series at Detroit on Monday night … the Cardinals had a good week, winning four of six games from the Diamondbacks and Mets. But they couldn’t get that one strike, that one out, they needed to finish the sweep at Citi Field …. That’s why it’s important for the Cardinals to have a strong week against the Tigers and the White Sox … Detroit, the next opponent, is 16-12 and three games out of first in the AL Central. The Tigers have won three straight series, taking six of nine games from the Twins, Rays and Royals … the Tigers aren’t a high-scoring team, ranking 23rd in runs per game. But they do a nice job of limiting runs, and their bullpen ranks fifth in the majors with a 2.71 ERA. Detroit is 6-8 at home so far … despite the wobbly offense, the Cardinals are within 4 and ½ games of first place and situated only two games out in the wild-card jockeying.

In the NL Central the Brewers, Cubs, Pirates and Reds have all leveled off to some degree after starting fast. Injuries to Seiya Suzuki and Cody Bellinger have impacted the Cubs’ lineup. The Brewers’ injury-torn rotation is showing signs of fraying. The Pirates have blown eight saves this season, and the offense has averaged 2.2 runs while losing 10 of their last 13 games. The Reds have lost three out of their last four games, and are minus five in defensive runs saved. Division rivals are giving the Cardinals a chance to catch up. The Redbirds must start hitting. We all keep saying that – because it’s the truth. And we should be making a big deal of it.

Which brings me to this …

A HISTORICALLY BAD EARLY-SEASON OFFENSE: The Cardinals are averaging 3.57 runs per game which is 26th overall and 14th in the National League. They also have the worst batting average among NL teams (.200) with runners in scoring position. The Cards offense perked up in several games played during the current 4-2 stretch, but couldn’t sustain it. And that’s the problem.

How disappointing is this 2024 offense?

Let’s add some historical context to sharpen our perspective.

This is the 29th season of Cardinals baseball since Bill DeWitt Jr. became the franchise owner-chairman.

Here’s where the 2024 Cards rank among the 29 DeWitt Era teams in key offensive categories through the first 28 games of a season:

* 100 runs scored, 26th out of 29.
* .217 batting average, 29th. Last.
* .300 onbase percentage, 29th. Last.
* .336 slugging percentage, 29th. Last.
* .636 OPS, 29th. Last.
* 306 total bases, 29th. Last.
* 18 home runs 27th of 29 and 28th in extra-base hits.

The 2024 team also has the worst batting average with runners in scoring position through the first 28 games of a season.

Since 1996, the Cardinals’ total of 100 runs through the first 28 games puts them in pretty exclusive company. And not for a good reason. I used StatHead to do a search. There have been 960 individual-team seasons since the start of 1996, and only 18 teams have scored fewer runs than the 2024 Cardinals through the first 28 games of the campaign. I don’t think StatHead is lying to me.

Yep. I double checked it. So again: In scoring runs, this is the 18th worst showing among 960 teams during a 28-game opening stretch of a brand new season since 1996.

This weak productivity on offense is even more alarming when we zoom out and inspect the 64 single-season Cardinals teams that have competed in MLB’s expansion era, which began in 1961.

On that list of 64 St. Louis teams, through the first 28 games of a season, here are the rankings for the 2024 Cardinals:

* 56th in runs
* tied for 60th in slugging percentage
* 61st in onbase percentage
* 61st in OPS
* 63rd in total bases
* 64th in batting average.
* tied for 40th in home runs.

Whoa. Good grief. Just horrible.

The 2024 Cardinals have scored three runs or less in a game in 17 of their first 28 games. These 17 low-scoring outputs are the second most by a STL team during the DeWitt Era in the first 28 games of a season.

Surely this will improve. Right? (I’ll get back to you on that in a couple of weeks.) But when we consider the historical futility and awfulness of this STL offense, I have more appreciation for their 12-14 record.

These run-starved games by the offense have made a difference in the team’s record over the first 28 games. For example the Cardinals are 1-8 this season in the final game of a series, and in the eight losses they averaged only 2.25 runs. They lost three of the eight games by one run, and two others by two runs.

With just a reasonable amount of run production in tight games, the Cardinals would be over .500 right now. If the Cards were scoring runs at an above-average rate, the record would have us all praising this team’s start to 2024.

I say that because the Cardinals are 9-2 this season when scoring at least four runs in a game. The problem: they’ve done that only 11 times this season. Only the A’s, Rockies and White Sox have fewer games of scoring 4+ runs than the Cardinals.

This isn’t a bad team.

It is a team with a really, really, really bad offense. And this lame offense is the only thing holding the Cardinals back and squirming to get out of last place in the NL Central.

STARTING PITCHING: With the Mets series in the books, let’s update something I’ve been tracking this season. Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson have collectively pitched to a 2.85 ERA in their 14 starts. In the team’s other 14 games, the starting pitchers have been popped for a 5.93 ERA. Pardon my redundancy but the Cardinals need more from Miles Mikolas and Steven Matz.  Mikolas had a decent bounce-back start against the Mets on Saturday.

WEEKEND AT CIT FIELD: Cardinals pitchers (starters and bullpen) had a 1.88 ERA against the Mets in 28 and ⅔ innings. They allowed only six earned runs. The STL pitching staff was especially strict with runners in scoring position, facing 37 batters and allowing four hits and a .118 batting average. The Cardinal bullpen gave up one hit and a .071 batting average while working to 17 hitters with runners in scoring position.

THE NEW ARMS: I’m keeping a running tabulation on the impact delivered by pitchers who came from outside the organization and are new to the Cardinals this season. So far the three new starters and four new relievers have combined for a 2.58 ERA on the season. Two of the relievers (Nick Robertson and Riley O’Brien) haven’t pitched much. Another new reliever, Keynan Middleton, is still sidelined by a forearm strain but making progress.

So let’s focus on the five new pitchers that have done most of the work: Gray, Lynn, Gibson, Andrew Kittredge and Ryan Fernandez have collectively worked 108 innings and have yielded 31 runs for a 2.58 ERA. The two relievers, Kittredge and Fernandez, have allowed four earned runs (combined) in 23 innings for a 1.56 ERA.

The new arrivals are a huge factor in the team’s 3.86 ERA through the first 28 games. Last season the Cardinals had a 4.38 in the first 28 contests.

Nice job by the front office and consultant Chaim Bloom.

NOLAN ARENADO ON MASYN WINN: This quote came from Ken Rosenthal (The Athletic). As you can imagine, Arenado really likes the rookie shortstop.

“To be honest, playing with him makes me want to step up my fielding,” Arenado told Rosenthal on Friday. “He goes hard for everything. Not that I don’t, but after last year the way I fielded, I see him getting after it. And I’m like, yeah, man, I need to get back to that.

“He brings energy. Watch him. He’s constantly talking to the pitcher: ‘Let’s go. You got this guy. Nasty pitch!’ I’m like, man, I used to do that when I was a young player with the Rockies. I kind of slowly got away from it. Now I’m like super quiet.

“He’s constant energy. You feed off it. Some teams might think he’s talking trash. But he’s really just talking to the pitcher all the time. It’s pretty cool.”

Winn, 22, is fifth among major-league shortstops in batting average (.301), fourth in onbase percentage (.376) and has a respectable .412 slug. Wynn ranks ninth among big-league shortstops in OPS (.787) and is 10th at the position with a 127 wRC+. That means Winn is 27 percent above league average offensively. (The rankings are based on a minimum of 80 plate appearances.)

Winn is tied for fourth among shortstops in defensive runs saved (4) and is fifth in assists.

SPEAKING OF DOUBLE PLAYS: The Cardinals pitchers and defense have produced the most double plays, 35, in the majors. Winn and Gorman have developed into a good double-play tandem. Winn leads all MLB shortstops in double plays started (14) and Gorman is second among big-league second basemen with 16 double plays turned. Both Gorman and Winn have above-average metrics in double play performance.

Overall the Cardinals are tied for 10th in the majors (and 4th in the NL) in defensive runs saved.


The Cardinals need more from Lars Nootbaar. He’s driven in seven runs since returning from the IL on April 12, but has hit only .189 with a .321 slugging percentage in 15 games. And his onbase percentage has fallen to .306 after being at .405 on April 21st. Nootbaar went 1 for 12 against the Mets. Good news? Nootbaar is covered in red — which means very good — in all the key Statcast metrics. His quality of contact — and plate discipline — are excellent.

— The St. Louis outfielders continue to sputter and flop as a group. This season — and these stats do not include at-bats as a designated hitter — Cardinal outfielders are last in MLB with a .186 batting average, last with a .295 slugging percentage, last in home runs (3), last in RBIs (25) and 28tth among 30 in onbase percentage (.273.) This extreme failure is absurd.

Cardinals relievers have a 1.82 ERA from the start of the seventh inning through the end of the game this season. That ranks No. 1 in the majors.

The Cardinals have an overall staff ERA of 3.86 this season which ranks 12th in the majors. Last season the team ERA (4.79) ranked 24th overall.

Rookie catcher Ivan Herrera is 0 for 15 with seven strikeouts in his last seven games and his batting average for the season is down to .200. For some reason Herrera’s downturn continues to get overlooked.

Cards starters Mikolas, Gray and Lance Lynn allowed four earned runs in 16 and ⅔ inninhs for a 2.16 ERA in the three games at Citi Field.

Brendan Donovan is emerging from a bad slump, going 7 for 21 (.333) in his last four games. But the leadoff man has walked only once in his last 36 plate appearances, and the Cardinals really need him to get on base more frequently.

Paul Goldschmidt: despite going 0 for 3 Sunday Goldy is batting .300 with a .467 slugging percentage in his last eight games and has scored six runs and driven in four. That said he has a 32.4 strikeout rate in his last 17 games. That’s been a big problem for him in 2024.

Steven Matz: After two demoralizing starts, it’s time for the lefty to reset and get back on track. Monday night’s start at Detroit is a good spot for him; the Tigers have a .640 OPS vs. left-handed pitchers this season. That ranks 22nd in the majors. In his last two outings – vs. Oakland and Arizona – Matz allowed 13 hits, 12 earned runs and six walks in 9 and ⅓ innings for a 11.57 ERA.

Lefty Quinn Mathews is commanding attention for his start to the season at Class A Palm Beach. A third-round pick (out of Stanford) in the 2023 MLB draft, Mathews has an 0.50 ERA in four starts and has struck out 38 in 18 innings. He’s struck out 53.2 percent of hitters faced so far and has shown significantly increased velocity. The Cardinals have an increasing number of promising pitching prospects in the minors.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. Friday. Stream it live or access the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

Stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions, Spotrac and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 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. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 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.