THE REDBIRD REVIEW

What a wonderful evening of baseball at Rickwood Field in Birmingham. It was all we hoped it would be, from the pregame music, to the gathering of esteemed retired Negro Leagues players, to a warm celebration of Black baseball history, to the poignant tribute to the late Willie Mays – the greatest of them all. Old memories created new memories and a deeper appreciation of what we love about baseball.

The Giants and Cardinals added to the gala by playing a good, close ballgame that wasn’t resolved until the final pitch of the night. The Cardinals won a tight one, 6-5.

As Tom Verducci pointed out on FOX, Mays was born on the sixth day of the fifth month in 1931.

That’s right. 6-5, just like the final score.

Say hey.

Beautiful. The baseball gods were watching over Rickwood Field, the oldest professional baseball cathedral in the nation. This is hallowed ground, the place where young Willie Mays began his pro baseball career as a 17-year old outfielder for the Birmingham Black Barons.

The star of this classic was Bill Greason, the 99-year old pitcher-turned-preacher who fought for America in World II in the famous Battle of Iwo Jima before becoming a beloved pastor for generations of churchgoers in Birmingham. As an athlete, Greason pitched for the Black Barons, mentored the teenage Mays, and threw four innings for the 1954 St. Louis Cardinals.

What a magnificent, valuable life. Cardinals coach and team Hall of Famer Willie McGee held Greason steady as this treasure of a human being tossed the ceremonial first pitch. Unforgettable.

Everyone who played a role in conceiving, arranging and presenting this event should feel proud about their gift to baseball fans in America and around the world.

“The buzz was different, the aura was different,” Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski told reporters that cover the team. ” It felt like we went back in time and were playing 70 years ago. It was so fun.

“it was just a feeling of constant humility being here,” Yastrzemski said. “It was being grateful. There was no one moment that made me feel that more than others, it was just the entire day, the ceremony, getting to meet all the old players, getting to meet Reverend Greason, getting to step out on that field. All of it was special. Hopefully we’ll be able to do more games here and really kind of make this a fun thing and a fun tradition.”

THE ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: With the 6-5 win, the Cardinals took the small step up to .500. They are 37-37 in a regular-season schedule that will officially reach the halfway checkpoint a week from today with a game against the Reds at Busch Stadium. That Friday-night game will be the 81st in a slate of 162 games for the 2024 Cardinals … the Cardinals trail first-place Milwaukee by 6 and ½ games in the NL Central division … The Redbirds are perched in the NL’s second wild-card spot, 5 and ½ games behind No. 1 Atlanta and a half-game ahead of San Diego and Arizona, who are tied for the third wild card. After that, four other NL teams are within 1 and ½ games of the third wild-card slot … the Cardinals have won six of their last nine … despite their inconsistencies, the Cards have the NL’s best record (22-13) since May 11, which is a half-game better than the Phillies (21–13) over that time … since April 26, the Cardinals’ 26-23 record is fourth best in the NL behind the Phillies (33-15), Dodgers (31-19) and Brewers (28-23).

TOP HALF, BOTTOM HALF: The first five spots in the St. Louis lineup led the offense by going 7 for 16 (.438). No. 3 hitter Paul Goldschmidt had a quiet night, but Masyn Winn (leadoff) Alec Burleson (2nd), Nolan Gorman (4th) and Brendan Donovan (5th) combined for six hits in 12 at-bats (.500) with five RBIs and six runs scored … they collectively were 2 for 5 with three RBIs and four runs scored with runners in scoring position … Donovan went 3 for 4 with a three-run homer and a double … Winn had a double, a walk, and scored two runs … Burleson was 2 for 3, reached on a hit by pitch, and scored three of the team’s six runs … Gorman went 0 for two but brought home two runs on a pair of sacrifice flies.

The bottom four lineup spots had a tough time. Matt Carpenter, Brandon Crawford, Pedro Pages, Michael Siani and pinch hitters Jose Fermin and Dylan Carlson combined to go 0 for 12 with six strikeouts and a walk and were 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position. Crawford also got picked off second base with two outs in the third inning, which ended the potential opportunity for the Cardinals to expand on their 5-3 lead.

ANDRE PALLANTE’S PROBLEMS: The San Francisco hitters got to Pallante for seven hits, three walks and five earned runs in his 5 and ⅓ innings. Two of the runs charged to Pallante scored after he was pulled, with reliever Andre Kittredge giving up an RBI single and another run on a sac fly. Ten of the 24 Giants that faced Pallante reached base (.417) and he was popped for three extra-base hits including a tying three-run homer by Heliot Ramos in the top of the third.

This was Pallante’s fifth start in the Cardinals’ attempt to fill the void created when fifth starter Steven Matz was stricken with a back injury on April 30. Pallante has a 4.76 ERA in his five starts, but at least the Cardinals had a winning record (3-2) in those games.

Pallante’s problem is the same problem he’s had since the Cardinals first brought him up to the majors in 2022. Though Pallante is a right-handed pitcher, he continues to get punished by right-handed batters.

In Thursday’s game San Francisco’s RH batters had two hits in three-at bats against Pallante with two doubles, a walk and the three-run homer by Ramos. RH batters were responsible for all five of the RBIs plated against Pallante.

In Pallante’s five starts this season, right-side hitters have pummeled him for 11 earned runs in 10 innings worth of at-bats – and hit .333 with a .417 onbase percentage and .548 slug. The RH bats have rolled up a 10.4 percent walk rate against Pallante.

In his five starts this season Pallante has limited left-handed batters to a .227 average with a .306 onbase percentage and has not allowed an extra-base hit.

In his MLB career with the Cardinals – as a starter or reliever – Pallante has a massively different splits when going against LH bats and RH bats.

* Left-handed hitters vs. Pallante: .238/.290/.342 for a .632 OPS
* Right-handed hitters vs. Pallante: .323/.408/.453 for an .861 OPS.

PALLANTE: NO PITCH TO SUBDUE RH BATTERS: Diagnosing the problem is simple. To this point, solving the problem has been impossible.

Pallante doesn’t have a pitch that can neutralize right-handed batters. Here’s his career breakdown showing what RH batters have done to each of Pallante’s four pitches:

* Four-seam fastball: .346 average, .431 slug, two homers.
* Sinking fastball: .283 average, .453 slug, two homers.
* Slider: .322 average, .435 slug, two homers.
* Curve: .255 average, .471 slug, three homers.

Frankly, this is ridiculous. Can anyone fix it?

BULLPEN HOLDS OFF THE GIANTS: It wasn’t dominant, but the dominant, but relievers Andrew Kittredge, John King, Adam Kloffenstein and Ryan Helsley prevented San Francisco from tying the game and/or taking the lead. The four relievers handled the final 3 and ⅔ innings, faced 16 batters, and gave up four hits and a walk.

After subbing in for Pallante with one out in the sixth, Kittredge promptly gave up two consecutive singles. One drove in a run, and the second set up a sac fly that cut STL’s lead to 6-5. But with two runners on base, Kittredge got the final out of the inning on a fly ball.

Kittredge retired the leadoff man in the seventh, and handed off to lefty King. The first hitter singled to put the potential tying run on base, but King escaped without further incident.

Kloffenstein made an impressive big-league debut with a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth: groundout, deep fly to center, and pop up to second base. The team sent him back down to Triple A Memphis Friday to open a roster spot for Giovanny Gallegos as he’s activated from the IL.

Helsley came on to do his thing but walked the leadoff man and gave up a two-out single. With the potential tying run at second base and a possible go-ahead run on first, Helsley froze Matt Chapman on a strikeout looking.

That shooed away the Giants and completed Helsley’s team-record 25th consecutive save. Helsley failed on his first save opportunity of the season on March 30 at Dodger Stadium but is 25-for-25 since then. The Cardinals lead the majors with 28 saves. Helsley’s 25 saves lead all MLB relievers.

The Cardinals are now 33-0 when leading a game through the eighth inning. Even though Helsley blew a 5-4 lead to the Dodgers in the ninth inning back on March 30, the Cardinals rallied to win the game 6-4 in 10 innings.

The Cardinals are also 30-2 when leading after seven innings. Their 3.13 bullpen ERA over the seventh, eighth and ninth innings ranks fourth overall and second to the Dodgers in the National League.

JUST THE FACTS

– Kittredge isn’t the same pitcher. Since May 26, Kittredge has been hit for a .275 batting average and .529 slug. The damage includes two doubles, a triple and three home runs. And his ERA

– Since May 26, opponents have batted .333 with a .524 slug and one homer against the Kittredge sinker … and have a .250 average, .625 and two homers against his slider.

– Kittredge has an alarmingly low 16 percent strikeout rate since May 26, and his ERA over that time is 4.85.

– Before May 26, Kittredge had a 2.14 ERA and a 27.7% strikeout rate.

– The Cardinals have a 2.66 bullpen ERA in June, which ranks sixth in the majors for the month.

– Donovan has a five-game hitting streak in which he’s batted .409 with two homers, seven RBIs and a .727 slugging percentage.

– Donovan and Gorman are tied for the team lead with 11 RBIs in June. This month Donovan is hitting .299 with a .329 OBP and .463 slug for a .791 OPS. Per wRC+, Donovan has performed 27 percent above league average offensively in June.

– Paul Goldschmidt has a .652 OPS in June, which is down 30 points from his .682 OPS in May.

– With his single Thursday at Rickwood Field, Goldschmidt has gotten at least one hit in 35 different venues used for regular-season baseball games. He’s had hits in both stadiums that have housed the Atlanta Braves, and the two parks occupied by the Texas Rangers during his career. Playing for the Diamondbacks, Goldy had four hits in a two-game series played in Mexico (Monterrey), and three hits in a two-game set played in Australia (Sydney.) And now he can add Rickwood Park to the list.

– Gorman didn’t have a sacrifice fly all season until delivering two sac flies against the Giants on Thursday.

Thanks for reading …

Have a great weekend…

-Bernie

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

Please follow Bernie on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via 590thefan.com or wherever you get your podcasts. Follow @seeingredpod on X for a direct link.

Stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions, 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.