Good day, y’all.

It’s Friday, May 28. Happy 39th birthday to Jhonny Peralta, the starting shortstop for two Cardinal postseason teams (2014-2015) and an All-Star in ‘15.

Welcome To The Redbird Review 

Let’s go …

THE BIRDS-EYE OVERVIEW: The Cardinals blew a 4-0 lead against a horrendous Arizona team but recovered to put away the Diamondbacks 5-4 in 10 innings. The Cardinals, 28-22, have been in first place since May 3.

With the dubya in the first of four games at Arizona the Cardinals maintained their svelte half-game lead over the annoyingly persistent Chicago Cubs. After a lurching to a12-16 start that had their fans and media grousing about a teardown, the Cubs have muffled the noise by going 15-6 record since May 4. They’ve won six of seven series over that time.

The Cardinals are 21-10 against teams (including Arizona) that have losing records. The Cards are 7-12 against teams over .500. By defeating Arizona the Cardinals evened their record to 15-15 against teams that reside outside the NL Central.

BULLPEN SMOKE-ALARM CHECK: Genesis Cabrera struggled after replacing starter Carlos Martinez during the 7th inning, failing to retire any of his three batters (two hits and a walk.) And Cabrera allowed two inherited runners to score; that’s 8 of 17 IRS this season, or 47 percent. And by his impeccable standards Giovanny Gallegos was off a bit in his one inning Thursday, allowing an earned run on two hits in the 8th including the game-tying double. Closer Alex Reyes was fine in the 9th inning: three outs, a walk and a strikeout.

The Big Three relievers combined to work four innings in Wednesday’s 4-0 win over the White Sox, then immediately returned for another three combined innings Thursday. So in back-to-back wins The Big Three handled eight of the 10 innings covered by the bullpen.

This is nothing new. Considering the current trend we shouldn’t be surprised to see Cabrera, Gallegos or Reyes push through a difficult appearance.

As I mentioned in this space before Thursday’s game, they’re among the busiest relievers on the majors.

As of Friday morning here’s the update for most innings by MLB relievers in 2021: Gallegos is tied for first (30.1), Reyes is 5th  (27 IP) and Cabrera is 18th overall (24.2 IP). But “Cabby” — as manager Mike Shildt calls him — is second in IP among left-handed relievers.

In April, the Big Three accounted for 42% of the total innings handled by the St. Louis bullpen.

In May, the Big Three has accounted for 51.4% of the total innings worked by the St. Louis bullpen.

Yikes.

That’s how relievers get tired.

HELSLEY & PONCE TO THE RESCUE: Fortunately for The Big Three and the Cardinals, relievers Ryan Helsley and Daniel Ponce de Leon rushed to the scene of the emergency to provide timely, game-saving backup.

Helsley’s relief stint was basically perfect. Bases loaded, no one out, and the Cardinals leading by a run? A potential disaster. But Helsley swiftly struck out two and got a ground-ball threat to lift the Cardinals from harm. And he got it done with 10 pitches. It can’t be done any better than that. And after Yadier Molina’s double for a 5-4 lead, Ponce threw 14 pitches to dispose of three straight hitters in a clean 10th inning. Excellent.

The Cardinals can’t rely on the Big Three to lock away every late-inning lead, or keep a tie-game in place, or to prevent a one-run or two-run deficit from growing.

The Big Three needs help, and the assistance arrived on Thursday. But what about consistency? If the Cardinals hold off on making a trade or two to acquire relievers, can Helsley, Ponce, Andrew Miller and others be counted on?

I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. But in looking at Thursday’s game, it comes down to this: unless the Cardinals want more of the same with Gallegos, Cabrera and Reyes (weariness), they’ll need a lot more of the same from Helsley, Ponce and the others (effectiveness.)

THE GOOD & THE BAD, OFFENSIVELY: The Cardinals took control with three second-inning runs and added another in the 5th for a 4-0 lead. That’s how to do it; pound a team that’s down and out. And the D-backs are most definitely down and out — having lost 11 straight and 20 of the last 23.

But from the time that Nolan Arenado doubled home Paul Goldschmidt for the 4-0 advantage in the fifth, the Cardinals went 2 for 16 with seven strikeouts until breaking through for a run in the 10th.

STL’s 3-4-5-6 HITTERS CARRIED THE LOAD: Goldschmidt, Arenado, Yadier Molina and Tyler O’Neill combined for 7 hits in 19 at-bats (.368), drove in all five runs, and scored four. O’Neill returned from the IL to orbit a two-run homer for a 2-0 lead. Goldschmidt had a bases-loaded walk for an RBI. Goldy, Arenado and Molina each cranked out a double. The Yadi double delivered Goldy for the winning run. The boys kept moving the chains, driving the St. Louis offense.

YOUR STAR OF THE GAME: YADIER MOLINA. In 47 days, Mr. Molina will mark his 39th birthday. As always he’s refusing to act his age. What a fantastic all-around performance Thursday night.

— Went 3 for 5.

— Singled to set the stage for O’Neill’s two-run disco volante.

— Came through in that Molina way with the 10th-inning double that helped the Cards dodge an embarrassing defeat.

— Got down in the dirt to block so many pitches, he could have planted a garden over 10 innings of work.

— Taking advantage of the sleeping D-backs, Molina had a steal of third base in the bag at one point, but O’Neill unintentionally ruined it by swinging.

— Navigated starting pitcher Carlos Martinez through six hitless shutout innings. Navigated relievers Genesis Cabrera, Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes through various degrees of difficulty and danger.

— No situation was more dangerous than Helsley entering with the bases loaded in the seventh and no outs — but 10 pitches later, the threat was over, the inning was over, and Helsley and his catcher protected a 4-3 lead. The D-backs would tie it during a rare slip by Gallegos, but no worries. Molina had the game-winning double. He had Gio’s back.

“He’s Ironman back there,” O’Neill said via postgame video conference. “You know he’s a walking legend.”

Nearly 39 years old.

But not old.

The Catcher in the Spry.

TRACKING CARLOS MARTINEZ: After buzzing through six innings, his start against the Diamondbacks came to an abrupt end in the seventh inning. Martinez still had an effective start, allowing three hits, three runs and a walk with strikeouts. Two of the runs charged against him scored after Cabrera came in to relieve.

Carlos has found a positive direction. In his six starts since April 21 he has a 2.82 ERA in 38.1 innings and held opponents to a .182 batting average and .557 OPS. Five of the six were quality starts. And he’s averaged 6.38 innings per start since April 21.

And now this …

IT’S TIME FOR BIRD BYTES, PEOPLE! 

Byte: Among MLB left fielders that have at least 100 plate appearances this season, Tyler O’Neill ranks third with a .532 slugging percentage, fifth in OPS (.829) and fifth in wRC+ at 27% above league average.

Byte: In 83 plate appearances since April 23, O’Neill has eight homers, three doubles, 17 RBIs and is slugging .636.

Byte: Helsley has done a fabulous job, consistently, in one area: the fate of his inherited runners. Only 1 of 13 have scored; that’s a mere 8 percent. And keep in mind that the Cardinals bullpen has a 45% rate for allowing inherited runners to score. That’s second worst in the majors to Minnesota’s 65 percent. Among 33 major-league relievers with at least 10 appearances this season, Helsley’s 8 percent is the second best.

Byte: The D-backs have a .468 winning percentage since trading Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis. The Cardinals have a .552 winning percentage since acquiring Goldy.

Byte: Since Goldschmidt joined the Cardinals, their first base position is 13 percent above league average in adjusted runs created. That ranks 13th in the majors. Arizona’s first base position is 7 percent below league average offensively over that time, ranking 26th.

Byte: Pardon my nerdiness, but I like to use the Game Score for starting pitchers. It’s the metric developed by the legendary Bill James. An average Game Score is 50. When a Cardinals starter registers a Game Score of 50 or higher, the team is 23-7. But when the Game Score comes in below 50, the Cards record is 5-15. So yeah, Game Score is a reliable gauge. It isn’t just some nutty thing dreamed up by geeksters.

NEXT ON THE SKED: Cards rookie Johan Oviedo will be opposed by Arizona’s Mad Bum at 8:40 tonight, STL time. Many are confident that Oviedo, 23, will develop into a good starting pitcher. He’s still working on that. In his eight starts over the last two seasons Ovie has a 6.31 ERA and is averaging only 4.4 innings per start.

After 11 seasons with San Francisco, the famous lefty Madison Bumgarner has a 5.38 ERA over the last two seasons (19 starts) with Arizona. He’s been all over the palace this season: an ERA of 11.00 in his first three starts; an ERA of 0.90 in his next five starts; and a 6.30 ERA in his last two starts. Bumgarner, who turns 32 later this season, signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the Diamondbacks before the 2020 season. It runs through 2024.

FINAL WORDS: The Diamondbacks are just awful these days; during their 3-20 skid they’ve been outscored 125 to 68. It would be terribly disappointing for the Cards to do anything less than win three of the four games in this series. And that means taking two of the next three. Get after it!

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.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

 

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.