THE REDBIRD REVIEW
THE UPSHOT: The Cardinals won their fifth consecutive game on Monday night and did so with bombast, powering up for a 6-5 victory over the New York Mets. On the wind of a 9-2 record in their last 11 games, the Cards (17-12) have hovered into a first-place tie with the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central district. The Cardinals, Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers are tied for the second-best winning percentage (.586.) The curiously effective San Francisco Giants (.607) are No. 1.
THE COMEBACK: The Cardinals won for the fourth time this season when allowing 5+ runs in a game. But this triumph was different; this deal was a comeback. The others were not. The Cardinals scored six runs in the first inning and beat the Reds 11-6 on opening day. A 12-5 win at Washington was formed by an early 6-0 lead. Saturday in Pittsburgh the Cards went up 4-0 and seized the Jolly Roger with a 12-5 invasion.
But this time around, the Cardinals found themselves mucked up in a 5-2 hole and made their move with a vicious third-inning sequence that chased Mets starter Joey Lucchesi from the game: single by Dylan Carlson, single by Paul Goldschmidt, a three-run bomba by Nolan Arenado, double by Pauly DeJong, RBI double by Tyler O’Neill. Five punches. Knockout. Done. Get Lucchesi outta here. Get him stitched up.
TOMMY EDMAN IS NOT A “THREE TRUE OUTCOMES” HITTER: The three true outcomes are walk, strikeout or homer. And this is a problem for baseball. Through Monday, 36.3% of the MLB plate appearances this season have ended on a walk, strikeout or homer. Not enough action. Not enough runners on base. Not enough doubles, triples, hit-and-runs, stolen bases. Many, many scenes of guys standing around.
Tommy Edman is having none of that boring stuff, OK? Sure, he’ll hit a home run on occasion. But he doesn’t draw many walks, and has one of the lowest strikeout rates in the majors this season. Of Edman’s 130 plate appearances, only 17% have resulted in a walk, strikeout or homer.
In April MLB teams gave us 1,100 more strikeouts than hits. Amazing. In a bad way. A really bad way. Edman? Not him. He’s given Cardinal fans nearly three times as many hits as strikeouts.
Edman is a man of energy and action. He will put the ball in play and he will run. He will run fast. He has not forsaken the single at a time when MLB batters are singling at a near-record low rate.
Going into Tuesday, Edman led the majors in hits (35) and singles (26.) Only nine walks, only 12 strikeouts. Edman likes to swing, and he makes frequent contact. This season in MLB, only 13% of plate appearances produce a single. Edman has singled on 20% of his plate appearances.
Edman does not give away at-bats. Of his 35 hits, 15 have come on two-strike counts. Ten of his 35 hits have come when he’s ahead in the count, 13 came on even counts, 12 have fallen when he’s behind in the count. The Cards leadoff hitter doesn’t lose confidence when the pitcher is ahead of him in the count; he’s batting a healthy .293 in those instances.
Edman provides entertainment and excitement with his baserunning and playmaking on defense. He’s the seventh-best baserunner in the majors according to the FanGraphs rating. He leads MLB second basemen with four defensive runs saved, and has saved one run as a rightfielder. Combine his fielding at the two positions, and only six MLB defenders have saved more runs in 2021.
Edman is batting .294 with a .354 OBP and .420 slug. He’s fourth in the NL for most times reaching base. He has nine multi-hit games. He’s scored 15 runs. And how’s this for a leadoff man: When Edman leads off the game, he has a .333 average and .448 OBP. When he leads off an inning, he’s hitting .300 with a .364 OBP. He bats .324 when the game is tied. He bats .333 in late and close situations. Pressure, tension, action, results.
And if we put it all together — offense, defense, baserunning — Edman is tied for first among NL position players with 1.6 WAR. (That’s based on the Baseball Reference version of WAR.)
How about that?
Go Tommy go!
QUICKIE POSITIVE NOTE: The Cardinals had 14 doubles and slugged .374 in their first 15 games. They have 27 doubles and are slugging .432 in their last 14 games. Progress!
FUN WITH SLIVER-SIZE SAMPLES: Since Harrison Bader rejoined the band four games ago to form the preferred outfield of Tyler O’Neill, Bader, and Dylan Carlson, the boys have made some noise. In 52 plate appearances STL outfielders have combined for a .292 average, .563 slugging percentage, .889 OPS. Seven of their 14 hits have gone for extra bases (three homers, four doubles.) They’ve knocked in 10 runs and driven in four.
The new beginning is off to a positive start. Bader has two homers and five RBIs in his first 14 at-bats of the season. Since coming off the IL on April 23, O’Neill is 14 for 39 (.357) with four homers, two doubles, eight RBIs and nine runs. Carlson has cooled, batting .182 with 11 strikeouts in his last eight games. But even then the rookie finds ways to help his team win; he had an RBI sacrifice fly last night to tie the game 1-1 and it got the Cardinals moving.
ADAM WAINWRIGHT: By his own postgame testimony, the 39-year-old potentate of pitching tilted his way through 5.2 innings of storms, lacking the usual sharpness while gamely working in and out of trouble. It happens. Especially when you’ve spent several distressful days taking care of your ailing wife and kids during the family’s unfortunate Covid-19 difficulties.
Wainwright’s pitching line includes 5.2 innings, seven hits, three walks, a hit batter, a home run and five earned runs. Your basic mess. One run came in on a bases-loaded walk. Another Met walked home on the HBP. A walk, double and groundout combo yielded another New York run. Mets outfielder Kevin Pillar piled on with a two-run homer that made it 5-2 Mets.
Here’s the thing about Wainwright, and it’s a quality we’ve all come to know and admire: he doesn’t cave in. He holds himself together. He digs in and preserves his team’s opportunity to win. He fights on to give his Cardinals a fighting chance. So after the Mets jumped on Waino for a 5-2 lead, he didn’t allow a runner to reach scoring position for the remainder of his start. He got 10 outs, with eight coming after the Cardinals rallied to go ahead 6-5. Wainwright halted the Mets, keeping their lead at three.
This is what a great and fierce competitor looks like.
Wainwright was credited with the win. And he deserved it. On a night when the Cardinals were ever so close to losing the ballgame, Waino’s resistance made the victory a realistic and attainable goal.
ADDITIONAL NOTE ON WAINWRIGHT: This was Wainwright’s 91st credited win in the ballpark that opened in 2006 — and his 90th as a starting pitcher. No other Cardinal has more than 34 individual-pitcher wins at Busch Stadium III. Waino’s winning percentage is .643 when he starts a game at Busch III.
BULLY FOR THE BULLPEN: The rescue team took over for Wainwright and kept the scoreless string going, pitching 3.1 innings without harm. The line went from Genesis Cabrera to Ryan Helsley, to Giovanny Gallegos to Alex Reyes. The only problem was four walks, two each by Cabrera and Reyes. But there were no hits allowed to the 14 batters faced by the STL relievers Monday.
During the Cardinals’ 9-2 streak the bullpen has a 3.56 ERA. That doesn’t sound all that hot, but it’s better than it appears. Excluding Jordan Hicks — who hasn’t been right, and is now injured — the key relievers have done a swell job of handling the pressure-time innings. Ryan Helsley, Cabrera, Gallegos and Reyes have been scratched for only two runs in 21.2 IP over the last 11 games.
For the season the entire St. Louis bullpen ranks 11th in the majors with a 3.83 ERA. In medium and high leverage situations, the relievers are 11th in ERA (4.04.) But that doesn’t tell the complete story. In the medium and high leverage the Cards relievers have allowed a .123 average (ranked first), .257 OBP (ranked second) and .193 slugging percentage (ranked first.)
But this needs to be said: for the season the St. Louis bullpen has walked 14 percent of batters faced, tied with Cincinnati for the worst in the majors. All of those walks will lead to burns. It’s inevitable.
NEXT ON THE SKED: The esteemed Jacob de Grom pitches for the Mets (11-12) on Tuesday night at 6:45 St. Louis time. (LATE UPDATE: deGrom has been scratched from the start due “tightness” on his right side. Miguel Castro will start for the Mets.) Rookie Johan Oviedo draws the assignment for the Cardinals. Oviedo will face a Mets team that ranks 29th in runs per game and 26th in slugging. In a related note, the Mets fired batting coaches Chili Davis and Tom Slater on Monday night.
THE JACOB deGROM FILE: OK, he won’t be able to pitch tonight, but deGrom is still worthy of discussion. The masterful two-time Cy Young award winner is off to a preposterously dominant start in 2021. In 35 innings covering five starts, deGrom has an 0.51 ERA, struck out 48 percent of his batters faced and has permitted only four walks. Opponents are batting .136 against him. Only 27 percent of the hitters have reached base.
And he’s still having strange, persistent bad luck. Despite the incredible pitching performance deGrom’s record is only 2-2. The Mets don’t score many runs for him, and the pathetically skimpy support defiles his individual W-L record.
Since the start of the 2018 season deGrom has won two Cy Youngs and finished third in another Cy Young vote. In 81 starts and 524 innings over that time, deGrom has a 1.99 ERA and leads the majors with a quality-start percentage of 80%. But his individual record is a rather ordinary 27-21.
We saw an example of the betrayal in motion during deGrom’s most recent start. Last week he allowed Boston one run in six innings and struck out nine to increase his season total to 59, which equaled Nolan Ryan’s 1978 mark for most strikeouts through the first five starts of the season. Bah humbug to all of that; the Boston won the game, 1-0 with Red Sox pitchers yielding only two hits and striking out 15 Mets.
This season deGrom has three hard-luck starts that would make weaker-minded pitchers go crazy. In the three outings deGrom allowed two total runs in 20 innings. The result? Two losses and a no-decision.
The deGrom defeat to the Red Sox was his third 1-0 “loss” in three seasons. According to David Schoenfield of ESPN, deGrom has been denied an individual-pitcher win 33 times when he’s allowed one run or no runs. The Mets are 38-43 in games started by deGrom since 2018. And he was dinged for no more than two earned runs in 65 of the 81 starts. Ridiculous.
In his 27 official losses and 33 no-decisions since 2018, deGrom has a 3.34 ERA. In his four losses and 11 no-decisions since the start of last season, deGrom has been touched for 14 runs in 64 innings for a 1.96 ERA … and doesn’t have a single individual win to show for it.
That’s a lot of very good pitching — and not much to show for it.
Thanks for reading …
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