THE LEDE: In ransacking Arizona on Wednesday the Cardinals scored 14 runs, chunked 13 hits, drew four walks, and triggered seven extra–base hits including two hitters. Stat of the day: The Redbirds won 14-5 on a day when Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado were a combined 0 for 7 – which means that the other Cardinals had 13 hits (.448) with four doubles, a triple, the two homers and 13 RBI in ONLY 29 at–bats. That’s pretty good, eh?

WHAT DID WE LEARN? It’s a familiar subject: Hitting performance with runners in scoring position. For the most part the Cardinals have what every offense needs to be successful. Through Wednesday, the Cardinals were fourth in MLB in batting average (.274), second in onbase percentage (.354), 7th in slugging (.441), second in OPS (.795) and are 20 percent above league average offensively per OPS+. Their home-run count could be higher; the Cardinals have gone deep with a homer every 28.7 at-bats, which is 11th-best in the majors.

But as we all know, the Cardinals have been lagging in runs scored this season because of their problems at the plate when set up with runners in scoring position. That’s why, at one point this week, the Redbirds were down to 19th in the majors in average runs per game.

Wednesday the Cardinals went 7 for 15 with runners in scoring position and scored two touchdowns worth of runs. And that was enough to put them at 12th in the majors with an average of 4.79 runs per game.

Two quickie stats:

In their 11 losses this season the Cardinals have batted .183 with runners in scoring position and averaged 3.1 runs per game.

In their eight victories the Cardinals have hit .354 with runners in scoring position and averaged 7.1 runs per game.

These types of splits are generally predictable and true of all teams. But I’m writing about the Cardinals, and I wanted to just point out the obvious impact of RISP performance – good or bad.

The Cardinals do many things right on offense. This team hits for average and has MLB’s sixth-highest walk rate. Except for their inconsistency in driving in runs – reflected by their MLB-worst 154 men left on base – the Cardinals have the necessary components for an elite offense.

In the meaningful wRC+ metric – runs created after adjusting for park-and-league effects – St. Louis is No. 3 in the majors at 18 percent above average. That’s the best by a National League team, and the only offenses that have done better overall are American Leaguers Tampa Bay and Baltimore.

When the Cardinals do an above-average job of hitting with runners in scoring position, their offense comes together and is more complete. The RISP stuff fluctuates during the long season, cycling up and down for every team. Hitting with runners in scoring isn’t a science, or even a specific skill. But a team can help itself by taking higher-quality plate appearances and showing poise under pressure. The Cardinals can be one of those teams.

“I feel like we’ve talked about it every day and haven’t been able to do what we did today,” manager Oli Marmol told reporters after the game, referring to the RISP challenge. “We like our approach, we like our swings, we like how we’re handling the bat, and we haven’t been able to cash in the amount of runs that we like. But today that was not the case. That is what our offense is capable of doing on any given day.”

ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: The Cardinals went 3-4 on their homestand, and are 5-4 in their last nine games … Wednesday’s win improved the Cards home record to 5-8 this season … the Cardinals are 8-11 on the season for a .421 winning percentage that ranks 23rd overall and 11th in the National League … the Brewers, Pirates and Cubs all won on Wednesday, leaving the Cardinals six games behind Milwaukee and four games behind Chicago and Pittsburgh … The Cardinals lost ground during their homestand. When they ended the series at Colorado with two straight wins, the Cardinals trailed the Brewers by three games, the Pirates by two games, and the Cubs by 1 and ½.

STAR OF THE GAME: The obvious choice is shortstop Tommy Edman, who assaulted the Diamondbacks for a double, triple, homer and five RBI. The switch-hitting Edman – who struggles against right-handed pitching – went 1 for 2 with a triple against an Arizona RH pitcher Wednesday.

Unfortunately for switch-hitters Edman and Dylan Carlson – who are outstanding against left-handed pitching – the Cardinals don’t face many lefties. This may surprise you, but only 19 percent of STL’s plate appearances so far this season have been taken against lefties. Edman has only 13 plate appearances this season against LHP and is 9 for 12 (.750) with two doubles, two homers, and four RBI. Carlson has just 11 PA vs. lefties this year and is 3 for 10 with a double, a walk and an RBI.

YOUNG AT HEART: Cardinals age 25 or younger are carrying a big share of the team’s load offensively this season. The youngbloods are batting .272 with a .352 OBP, .473 slug and an .825 OPS. They’ve combined for 11 homers and 41 RBI. That’s 46 percent of the team’s RBI, and 47.8% of the home runs. Here are the six St. Louis hitters in their age-25 seasons or younger: Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker, Alec Burleson, Lars Nootbar, Dylan Carlson and Juan Yepez. That’s more impressive when we consider that the six young dudes have accounted for 36 percent of the STL’s plate appearances.

GA-GA OVER GORMAN: The 22-year-old slugger walloped a grand-slam homer against Arizona in Wednesday’s wins. To say that his early-season success is impressive qualifies as a massive understatement.

+ The second-year DH and second baseman leads the Cardinals in 12 categories: bWAR, batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, RBI, extra-base hits, total bases, OPS, OPS+, wRC+, Isolated Power, and wOBA. And Gorman is second on the team in onbase percentage and walk rate.

+ Gorman is 87 percent above league average offensively per OPS+. And 76% above league average in adjusted runs created (wRC+).

+ His 18 RBI are five more than any other Cardinal.

+ Gorman has homered every 11.4 at-bats.

+ Gorman’s .649 slugging percentage is 56 percent higher than that of Paul Goldschmidt, who ranks second on the team.

+ Gorman’s Isolated Power rate, .333, is 154 points above Goldschmidt, and 213 points above Nolan Arenado.

+ Gorman’s 18 RBI rank second in the National League. He’s third in the NL in slugging, fourth in OPS (1.052), fourth in OPS+, fourth in wRC+, and tied for fifth in homers. (Minimum 50 plate appearances.)

+ Among MLB hitters that are age 23 or younger, Gorman ranks first in homers, RBIs, batting average, onbase percentage, slugging, OPS, OPS+, bWAR, and wOBA. (Minimum 50 plate appearances.)

+ Since making his MLB debut for the Cardinals on May 20 last season, Gorman has homered every 17.8 at-bats, is slugging .459, has raised his OPS to .777 and has performed 20 percent above league average offensively per OPS+. After collapsing offensively late last season, Gorman’s intense offseason changes are paying off.

+ As a rookie last season, Gorman batted .180 with a .542 OPS against pitchers that had a 3.50 ERA or better. This season — small sample and all of that — he’s batting .286 with an .839 OPS against the same caliber of pitchers.

“He’s been very good, but I’m more impressed with his routine and overall demeanor,” Marmol said postgame, after the Gorman slam. “Regardless of how the at-bat looks, there are certain at-bats that haven’t gone his way, and you look in the dugout and you can’t tell the difference. He’s just even keel, taking it as it goes. He’s having a very productive season.”

FUN MATCHUP IN SEATTLE: When the Cardinals play three games against the Mariners this weekend, the series will feature the two best hitters in the majors who are age 23 or younger this season. And it isn’t Jordan Walker vs. Julio Rodriguez.

It’s Gorman vs. Seattle outfielder Jarred Kelenic.

In the 23-or-younger class, Gorman and Kelenic rank 1st and 2nd in the majors (respectively) in batting average, onbase percentage, slugging, OPS and OPS+. Gorman leads the group with five homers and Kelenic is tied for second with four bombs.

It’s astonishing to me, the way Gorman’s early-season attack is largely being overlooked by locals that are busy obsessing over Jordan Walker. Sure, Gorman must show that he can keep this up; I’m well aware of that. But as of RIGHT NOW, Gorman’s numbers tell a helluva story that’s been missed or ignored by too many folks that should know better. Again: Gorman leads St. Louis hitters in 12 categories and is outperforming the other major-league hitters that are 23 years old or younger.

WILLSON CONTRERAS, QUICK-FIRE OFFENSE: A week ago, after a 5-0 loss to the Pirates, Contreras had no home runs, one double and just two RBI in 12 games. (Whoa.) He was batting .195 with a .283 onbase percentage. (Really bad.) His slugging percentage was down to .220. (Shockingly bad.) And among big-league hitters that had at least 45 plate appearances, Contreras had an OPS (.502) that ranked 149th on a list of 155 players.

Six games later, Contreras has a .274 average, .357 OBP, .452 slug, and a .805 OPS with two homers, five doubles and nine RBIs. That didn’t take long, eh? Contreras regenerated his offense over six games by hitting .429, smashing two homers and four doubles, and driving in seven runs.He did all of that in only 24 plate appearances.

With the blast of offense, Contreras now has moved into the top six among MLB catchers in WAR, batting average, onbase percentage, slugging and OPS. It didn’t take long for Contreras to go from being one of the worst-hitting catchers to one of the top-hitting catchers. That’s no surprise. Not to me. Two reasons (1) this isn’t the NFL, with a 17-game regular season. In big-league baseball, every team plays 162 regular-season games. And (2) since 2016, Contreras has amassed the best OPS among catchers that have at least 1,500 plate appearances over that time.

CONTRERAS VS. MADISON BUMGARNER: Arizona’s cranky old lefthander took exception to the way Contreras reacted – with instant frustration – after fouling off a pitch he should have launched into the ozone. Contreras was mad at himself, and this wasn’t anyone else’s business. But that didn’t matter. Bumgarner glared and barked at Contreras. Mad Bum went into his tiresome act as the self-appointed enforcer who confronts opponents that Aren’t Playing The Game The Right Way.

This fake tough-guy routine used to be kind of funny; now it’s pathetic. Bumgarner used to be a great pitcher, especially for the Giants in the postseason. But he’s a caricature now. Since signing a deal with Arizona before the 2020 season, Bumgarner has a 5.23 ERA and an ERA+ that’s 20 percent below the MLB average. In his last 18 starts, going back to last season, Bumgarner has a 6.84 ERA and has gotten pounded by right-handed hitters for a .319 batting average, a .567 slug, and just under two home runs per nine innings pitched.

Bumgarner should be more concerned about embarrassing himself by pitching so poorly after signing a five-year, $85 million contract with the D-backs. Instead, he still goes nuts over opponents that bug him by competing with emotion and flaie. He thinks it’s 1958 or something. Bumgarner isn’t in charge of anything. He’s 36 years old and nearing the end. After the Cardinals pummeled Bumgarner on Wednesday for seven hits, four walks and seven earned runs in four innings, his ERA ballooned to 10.26 on the season.

I enjoyed it when Contreras ended the at-bat against Bumgarner by drawing a walk then pimping it by flipping his bat. I don’t think Bumgarner really wants to mess with Contreras. The physical confrontation would leave Bumgarner looking a lot worse than his ERA.

“I think he didn’t like the way I swung at the fastball,” Contreras said of Bumgarner when speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s game. “I never looked back at him or anything like that. I think he didn’t appreciate that. When I turned around I knew he was saying something to me. If he’s getting mad about that, what can I say? It’s part of the game. If he says something to me, I will say something back. For me, it’s like a mind game right there. But thankfully I got on his mind. He blew up in that inning.”

OBLIGATORY ROTATION UPDATE: After a brief upturn, three St. Louis starters got roughed up by Arizona during the three-game series. Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery and Jake Woodford collectively allowed 21 hits, four homers and 17 earned runs in 15 innings for an ERA of 10.20.

Nineteen games into the 2023 campaign, the St. Louis rotation ranks 25th among 30 teams with a 5.60 ERA, and 23rd with a 5.08 fielding-independent ERA.

I’m fascinated by the hard-sell media narrative that wants us to believe Cardinal starters are the poor, unlucky victims of soft-contact crime. The truth: Opponents have battered St. Louis starters for a .508 slugging percentage, the fifth highest in the majors against a starting rotation. The .311 batting average against STL starters can partially be explained by a high .352 average on balls in play. I’ll give you that. But in assessing the rotation we can’t overlook the .508 slugging percentage against them. Or the home-run rate of 1.4 homers yielded per nine innings. Or the 28 combined doubles and triples given up by the starters.

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE REAL PROBLEM: Including relievers, St. Louis pitchers have been struck for a 45 percent hard-hit rate that’s the highest against any pitching staff in the majors. And the 90.3 mph average exit velocity against Cardinal pitchers is the fourth-highest against an MLB pitching staff.

Now, what about the starters-only breakdown? Here you go: the hard-hit percentage against St. Louis starters is 46.3%, the second-highest (as in worst) rate in the majors. And opponents have an average exit velocity of 90.8 mph against STL starters – the fourth highest against a major-league rotation so far this season.

So far, the overall MLB hard-hit rate against starting pitchers is 39.3 percent. Among Cardinal starters, Jack Flaherty, has been hit with a hard-hit rate (34.6%) that’s under the MLB average. Here are hard-hit percentages against the other four starters: Jake Woodford (60.3%), Steven Matz (49%), Jordan Montgomery (45.2%) and Miles Mikolas (42.7%).

POSITIVE STEPS FOR JORDAN WALKER: Before Wednesday’s game, the rookie outfielder had batted .156 since April 9th, a slump that included one hit and six strikeouts in 16 at-bats during the homestand. In the final game of the series against Arizona, Walker stabilized his hitting performance by going 2 for 4 with a walk, RBI and three runs scored.

The Cardinals and their fans hope this will lead to a positive restart for the 20-year-old. Slumps are inevitable. All that matters is how fast you get through them. As a hitter, Walker is growing up in the majors, facing mostly experienced big-league pitchers. So his challenge is more difficult than the usual standards.

With a healthy day at the plate Wednesday, Walker raised his batting average to .269, but he’s slugging only .194 with a 29% strikeout rate since hitting his second home run of the season on April 8, Walker has a poor 40.4 percent chase rate on pitches out of the strike zone, is swinging at too many pitches overall (56%), has a swing–miss rate of 16.5% – and 60 percent of his batted balls in play have been ground balls.


* After defeating the Cardinals in two of three games at Milwaukee, the Brewers went west for a nine-game road trip and went 7-2 against Arizona, San Diego and Seattle. The Crew (14-5) won four of five against the Padres and Mariners including a three-game sweep at Seattle. Milwaukee starters had a 3.34 ERA in the nine games.

* The Cubs (11-6) went 5-1 on their road trip to LA (Dodgers) and Oakland. In their three-game sweep at Oakland the Cubs outscored the woeful A’s by a 26-3 margin. That lifted the Cubs run-scoring average to 5.82 per game, third in MLB and No. 1 in the NL During the 5-1 trip Cubs pitching allowed eight total earned runs in 53.2 innings for a 1.34 ERA.

* After splitting their four-game series in St. Louis, the Pirates headed to Coors Field and swept their three-game set against the Rockies. The Pirates (12-7) outscored Colorado 33-9 in the three straight wins. This hitting spree elevated the Bucs to a tie with the Dodgers for second place in the NL in runs scored per game, 5.21. The Pirates have moved up to No. 2 in the NL in slugging (,449) and they have a .299 average and .856 OPS with runners in scoring positions.

* After winning three of four to open the season, the Reds have gone 4-10 to fall to an overall 7-11 record … This week the Reds upset Tampa Bay 8-1 in the first of three games – then were hammered in two consecutive losses to the Rays by a combined 18-0 score. Cincinnati pitching has a 5.96 ERA during their 4-10 slump.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

Listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available on your preferred podcast platform. Or follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Bill James Online and Baseball Prospectus.