THE REDBIRD REVIEW
Wasting Waino’s Most Excellent Start: What a shame for the Cardinals to go down 3-2 at Washington on Tuesday night, ruining a virtuoso start by the timeless Adam Wainwright. With the St. Louis rotation flapping through early-season turbulence, the leader of the flock brought his very best to the mound to show the nestlings how it’s done. Wainwright is 39 going on 2009.
Here are the essentials of a sparkling performance: 7 innings, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk and 10 strikeouts. Wainwright induced 10 ground balls. He used his mix of pitches and ruses to lure the Nats into chasing pitches out of the strike zone on 33.3 percent of their swings. After setting them up, Waino struck out 37 percent of his batters faced. The only smudge was the solo homer by Josh Bell in the sixth inning.
How Grand Was This Wainwright Start? The combination of 7+ innings with 1 earned run or fewer, 1 walk or fewer and 10 or more 10 strikeouts hadn’t been turned in by a Cards starter since Jack Flaherty on Sept. 8, 2019. Even better? This was Waino’s first such start since May 25, 2014 when he mastered the Reds with 8 shutout innings, a walk and 12 strikeouts. Wainwright was a 32 when he made that start. The Cardinals prevailed that day, beating the Reds 5-1. Tuesday in D.C. the Cards failed to turn the Waino gemstone into a victory. All because of a scanty offense and a blown save.
About The Blown Save That Almost Blew Up Cardinal Twitter: Sorry, no second guesses here. Yep, I know it’s trendy to call for the manager’s immediate incarceration when a reliever bungles a save. I’ll pass. Giovanny Gallegos has been a force out of the STL bullpen for three years, and he’s regularly demonstrated the ability to pitch out of jams.
No, Gallegos wasn’t sharp in this one. For those demanding a call to Alex Reyes to enter the Gallegos burning house and save the night … well, a couple of things here. First of all, who doesn’t love Alex Reyes? Manager Mike Shildt can pretty much bring in Reyes for any late-inning emergency, and I’m good with it. But: y’all do realize that Reyes has a 17.2% walk rate this season, and a 15% walk rate for his career. That’s very, very high. Absolutely, strikeouts are helpful in these dicey situations. This season one reliever has a 17% strikeout rate; another reliever has a 36% K rate. That 17% belongs to Reyes. The 36% is Gallegos.
The No. 1 Reason Why The Cardinals Lost: The offense. Of course. In 33 plate appearances the visitors had six hits and a walk. They went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. They were handled with ease by Washington starter Patrick Corbin, who came into the contest with a 6.13 ERA in his last 13 starts, getting pounded for a .370 average and 14 homers in 72 innings. But Corbin had the Cardinals eating out of his left hand Tuesday. He shut them out for six innings, allowing only one hit, with no walks and five strikeouts. Two keys: (1) Corbin made extensive use of his slider, which deviated from his previous pattern. The Cardinals couldn’t adjust to Corbin’s revised game plan. And (2) the Cardinals hacked and hacked, chasing non-strikes on 37% of their swings.
The Last 10 Games: The Cardinals are 3-7. They’ve scored 3 runs or fewer in six of their seven losses. The 12-run explosion in Monday’s win was followed by a two-run output in Tuesday’s loss. Typical.
When scoring 9+ runs in a game this season (four times) the Cardinals have followed up by scoring eight total runs in the four next-day games. In the last week the Cards have scored 9+ runs three times, and followed up the next day by scoring (in order) no runs, no runs, and two runs. Awesome.
Quickie Note on Dylan Carlson: Among MLB rookies who are 22 years old or younger, Carlson leads in hits, extra-base hits, runs, walks, onbase percentage (.369.) and is tied for first with 11 RBIs. Carlson (.925) is second to Detroit’s Akil Baddoo (.959) in OPS.
Tracking The Outfield: I’ll issue the obligatory small-sample warning. OK. That’s done. But in the eight games since Tyler O’Neill left the lineup with a minor groin strain, Cards outfielders have generated a gust of offense.
The reasons are pretty simple.
1–Tommy Edman has been playing a lot in right field, and he’s a good hitter. Edman is batting .323 with a .848 OPS when he’s in the lineup in right.
2–Justin Williams is making strides, batting .320 with a .974 OPS and two homers in his last nine games.
3–In his last 50 plate appearances Carlson is batting .302 with a .400 OBP, .605 slug and 1.005 OPS. The damage includes three doubles, two triples, two homers, 11 walks, 11 runs, and six RBI.
4–Austin Dean doesn’t get many swings. But when the opportunity comes he’s been productive, batting .357 with three extra-base hits and seven RBI in his last 14 at-bats. Driving in seven runs in 14 at-bats? Nice.
5–O’Neill hasn’t been playing. Look, I’m not trying to cheap-shot the guy; it’s not my plan or desire. But here are the facts: at the time of his injury O’Neill was batting .143 with a massive 48.3 percent strikeout rate. Just before heading to the IL, O’Neill was tumbling in a terrible slump, going 1 for 16 with nine strikeouts. For the season O’Neill has 14 strikeouts and no walks in his 29 plate appearances.
Since April 11, St. Louis outfielders are hitting .292 as a group, with a .378 OBP and .490 slug. Their .868 OPS ranks 4th among MLB outfields over that time. And here’s a telling statistic: the outfielders have a much lower strikeout rate (19.8%) and an improved walk rate (11.7%) during this brief but encouraging stretch. Gee. Any guesses to why there’s been a decrease in strikeouts and an increase in walks?
Next On The Sked: The Cards and Nats will get back at it this afternoon (3:05 pm STL time.) The winner takes the three-game series.
The pitching matchup is intriguing. It appears to be a mismatch. Carlos Martinez vs. St. Louisan Max Scherzer. In eight starts since the beginning of 2020, Martinez has a 9.00 ERA in 35 innings and has been strafed for a .320 average and .936 OPS. The Cardinals have gone 1-7 in the eight starts.
As for Scherzer, he turns 37 on July 27 but age isn’t an issue. In his first three starts of 2021, Max has a 2.37 ERA and has struck out 24 and walked three in 19 innings. Scherzer is in the final season of his seven-year, $210 million contract with Washington.
It’s been a remarkably successful run in D.C., highlighted by two Cy Young awards and the 2019 World Series title. Since becoming a National in 2015, Scherzer leads the majors in games started, innings, quality starts, strikeouts and Wins Above Replacement. And he is second in wins (84) and third with a 2.73 ERA.
Thanks for reading …
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