THE REDBIRD REVIEW
After an exhilarating and successful 5-2 homestand, the Cardinals hit the road to begin another adventure.
First stop: Cincinnati and a frustrating 6-5 loss to the Reds in 10 innings. Monday’s defeat was a disappointing way to launch a challenging stretch that puts the Redbirds on the road for 13 of 15 games.
The Cardinals were 11-3 in their last 14 games before going into the first of four games at Great American Ball Park. The Redbirds were probably due for a loss, and their hot hitting with runners in scoring position would inevitably cool down. And that’s OK. No need for outrage.
That said, this is a game they should have won, and that’s a bit disheartening. The fellas competed hard, rallying to erase an early 2-0 lead to go ahead 3-2 lead. Trailing 5-4, the Cards scored in the eighth to tie the game 5-5. But it wasn’t enough. Manager Oli Marmol had to call on his bullpen to handle the final 5+ innings, and that looms a factor with Adam Wainwright starting Tuesday’s game. The Cardinals may need to lean heavily on their bullpen for the second straight night.
WHY THE CARDINALS LOST
1. A lousy start by lefty Jordan Montgomery. He was infiltrated for seven hits, three walks, a homer and four earned in only four innings. He needed 88 pitches to get 12 outs. Monty hasn’t pitched well in his last three starts and we’ll get to that later. But because of the short start, manager Oli Marmol had to get into his bullpen early, using four relievers, and that’s never a good thing.
From a pitching standpoint, the game ended up in the hands of closer Ryan Helsley. He struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth, and Marmol sent him back out there in the 10th – with Helsley yielded the winning run on a walk, wild pitch, and sac fly. Helsley threw 26 pitches and that likely makes him a scratch for Tuesday’s game. This is the price you pay when a starting pitcher supplies the team with only four innings.
2. The offense left too much money on the table. The Cardinals went 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position, striking out seven times. With men on base, they were 3 for 20 (.150) with eight strikeouts. The Redbirds walked nine times, but that was largely nullified by their 14 strikeouts. Example: with the game tied 5-5, the Cardinals drew three walks in the ninth – but also struck out three times in the ninth. The Birds had nine walks Monday but only two were pushed home to score. Too many missed opportunities. The Cardinals left 12 men on base.
3. Top of the lineup malfunction: The first four spots in the St. Louis lineup – Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Willson Contreras and Nolan Arenado – collectively went 0 for 17 Monday. That includes a combined 0 for 7 and four strikeouts with runners in scoring position. He reached base one time (on a walk) in 21 plate appearances.
ST. LOUIS STAR OF THE GAME
Paul DeJong had a three-run homer and added an RBI double for a productive four-RBI work shift. In his last six games, DeJong has four homers and 11 RBI with a .300 average, .391 onbase percentage and .950 slugging percentage. DeJong has driven home eight runs in the last two games.
DeJong’s section of the lineup had a fantastic game Monday, with the 5-6-7 spots delivering five hits in 12 at-bats with three doubles, a homer, five RBI, four runs scored and three walks. Juan Yepez and Lars Nootbaar worked the No. 5 spot, Nolan Gorman hit 6th, and DeJong batted 7th.
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME
In 10 combined plate appearances Monday, Goldschmidt and Arenado went 0 for 8 with four strikeouts. With runners in scoring position, they were 0-4 with three strikeouts.
— In his last three starts Jordan Montgomery has a 8.16 ERA and has averaged fewer than five innings. For the season has a 4.55 ERA in 10 starts. If we go back to Montgomery’s struggles late last season, he has a 4.72 ERA in his last 17 starts. Another concern: too many home runs and doubles. This season opponents have .463 slugging percentage against the lefty, and 43% of their hits have gone for extra bases. Right-handed hitters have burned Montgomery for a .563 slug, and 52% of their hits have gone for extra bases. This is … not good.
— Despite taking the loss on Monday, the Cardinals remained five games out of first place in the NL Central. The Brewers and Pirates are tied for the division lead; each have 25-22 records. The Cardinals are 7-7 in this season in their first 14 games against NL Central foes.
— When facing left-handed pitching Monday, Nolan Gorman went 1 for 2 with a walk and scored two runs. In his last four games Gorman has gone 4 for 6 with a double and two homers vs. lefties. Before that, Gorman was 0 for 9 with two walks against LH through May 17.
— With a double last night, Gorman extended his hitting streak to an impressive 12 games. Over the 12 games he’s batted .415 with a .500 OBP and .951 slug – and with six homers, four doubles and 16 RBI.
— Among the 40 MLB shortstops that have a minimum of 80 plate appearances this season, DeJong ranks No. 1 in slugging, No. 1 in OPS+, No. 1 in Isolated Power, and is tied for No. 2 with eight home runs. DeJong’s 170 OPS+ puts him 70 percent above the league average offensively.
— The Cardinals are 3-9 in one-run games this season.
— After a very slow start at Triple A Memphis, No. 1 MLB prospect Jordan Walker is starting to roll. In his last seven games he’s batting .324 with a .364 OBP and .516 slug. Hopefully that means he’s made progress in his attempt to get more elevation on batted balls, a modification that will enhance his power and make him a much better all-around hitter.
— Marmol is concentrating on getting more platoon-split advantages for his offense this season. Last season the Cardinals had the platoon-split advantage in 53.1 percent of their plate appearances. That’s up slightly this season at 54.2%, which is 12th in the majors. And for the most part the focus on the platoon-split advantage is getting the desired results. The Cardinals rank sixth in the majors with a .804 OPS vs. left-handed pitching and are seventh in MLB with a .762 OPS against right-handers. (Hat tip to the great Derrick Goold.)
— In 63 plate appearances in the No. 7 slot this season, DeJong has a .304 average, .381 onbase percentage, .643 slug, 1.024 OPS, six homers, and 13 RBI. Is that good?
— Next up: It’s Adam Wainwright (5.74 ERA) against Cincinnati righty Graham Ashcraft (4.84 ERA.) The Great American Ball Park hasn’t been so great for Wainwright. Since the beginning of 2017 he’s made seven starts and has a 11.83 ERA in 29 and ⅔ innings. And the Reds have attacked Waino for a .362 average, .432 OBP and .600 slugging percentage in the seven starts. Ashcraft has a 4.73 ERA at home in his two seasons as a Red.
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.
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All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Bill James Online and Baseball Prospectus.
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.