THE REDBIRD REVIEW
After weeks of getting knocked around by hitters and punishing himself mentally, Adam Wainwright had a solid showing against the Mets on Thursday night. As these things go, this was certainly an improvement on his recent work.
That’s intended as a compliment, but some of you will note that he’d been blitzed for 15 runs in his previous two starts and had a 14.82 since June 24. Yes, the bar for an acceptable performance was set extremely low, but Wainwright pitched well enough to give the Cardinals a chance to win. The offense failed to do its part, and the home team went down in a 4-2 loss to the Mets.
Wainwright operated for six innings, faced 25 batters, and limited the Mets to four hits, three walks and three runs. In one stretch he retired 10 Mets in a row. Yeah, Pete Alonso hit a long homer off Wainwright, but this went into the books as a quality start – only his second QS in 16 assignments this season and first since prevailing over the Mets at Citi Field on June 17.
Wainwright calmed the recent trauma. He wasn’t as hittable or vulnerable. He quieted the howling over his continued presence as a starter. At least for now, anyway. But please let me make this clear again: even before he went into Thursday’s turn, I didn’t believe there was much (if any) chance of Wainwright being expelled from the rotation.
President of baseball operations John Mozeliak and manager Oli Marmol had tried to message-massage frustrated fans in a way that made a demotion seem possible. According to the predictable narrative, Wainwright’s spot was on the line Thursday … but truth is Mo and Marmol don’t want to offend Waino in the latter stages of his final season.
With nothing at stake for the Cardinals as a team, what’s the point of dumping more humiliation on the franchise legend as enters the final stretch that leads him to his retirement? Mozeliak and Marmol They have been looking the other way for two-plus months.
And the Cardinals don’t exactly have a surplus of starters these days. In that context, Wainwright did enough to help out. He did his bosses a favor by cooling the heat. He gave himself a boost in confidence. The fans at the ballpark were behind him, seeing the possibility of career win No. 199 take shape.
The Cardinals don’t have to scrounge for another starter. Mozeliak and Marmol and pitching coach Dusty Blake can ride on with Wainwright in his expedition for career win No. 200.
Even though Wainwright failed to get a single swing-and-miss while throwing 91 pitches to 25 batters, he was worthy of a triumph on Thursday. But his bat-wielding teammates managed only five hits in 38 plate appearances against four Mets’ arms.
The Mets tried to contribute to the Save Waino cause by walking five Cardinals, but the Redbirds went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and were a malodorous 1 for 9 in high-leverage at-bats. This defeat couldn’t be blamed on a starter who will take on 42 birthday candles a week from now (Aug. 25.)
1. Waino got 23 called strikes on the Mets. This was his second consecutive start without drawing a swinging strike. And over his last four starts his swinging-strike rate is a miniscule 2.4 percent. His ERA for the season is 8.42. The Cardinals are 5-11 in his starts this season. That includes a 1-7 team mark in his last eight starts and a 2-10 team record in his last 12 outings.
2. The Cardinals left nine men on base Thursday, and now have stranded more runners (890) this season than any offense in the majors.
3. The Cards have scored three runs or fewer in 13 of their last 25 games and are averaging 3.8 runs in their last 19 games. It won’t get any easier for the Cardinals’ offense now that outfielder Lars Nootbaar and second baseman Nolan Gorman are healing on the IL.
4. The Cardinals flunked in their one bases-loaded setup Thursday. In August they’re 2 for 15 with the bases loaded. They’re 4 for 25 (.160) since the All Star break. And among the 30 MLB teams only the Twins (.178) have a poorer average than the Cardinals (.181) with the bases full in 2023.
5. The two straight losses to the A’s and Mets dropped the Cardinals to a 7-8 record in August.
6. Tyler O’Neill: blasted a solo home run to open the 7th Thursday, cutting the NYM lead to 3-1. Five of O’Neill’s last eight hits have gone for home runs. After failing to homer in his first 34 games back from the Injured List, O’Neill has lofted five homers in his 44 at-bats in August.
7. Andrew Knizner continued his assault on pitching Thursday. After Knizner went 2 for 4 against the Mets, here are his updated numbers since the start of July: 64 plate appearances, .373 batting average, .422 OBP, .627 slug and 1.049 OPS. That haul includes three doubles, four homers and 15 RBI.
8. The two Cardinal catchers are leading the team in slugging since the beginning of July. Willson Contrerhas is slugging .667 over that time; Knizner is at .627. But 24 of the 105 plate appearances taken by Contreras over that time came in the DHG role.
9. The St. Louis catchers are generating the most offense in the majors by a catching contingent since the start of July. The numbers I’m about to deliver include only the plate appearances taken as a catcher – with no DH stuff included. Check this out: since July 1, STL catchers lead the majors with a 206 wRC+ which means they are collectively 106 percent above league average offensively. Goodness. Over that time the Contreras-Knizner attack also leads MLB catching groups in batting average (.390), onbase percentage (.467), slugging (.651), OPS (1.118) and RBI (34). The potent mix includes 11 doubles and nine homers in 146 at-bats since the calendar flipped to July.
10. Good luck to lefty Zack Thompson Friday night as he goes against the Mets in a start that’s part of the audition for a rotation spot in 2024. Thompson has a chance to make a case that puts him above the disappointing young left-hander Matthew Liberatore.
11. Baseball America ranked the Cardinals 21st in the organizational talent rankings of the 30 farm systems. The other NL Central teams rank second (Brewers), fourth (Pirates), sixth (Cubs) and 12th (Reds.)
“With the recent graduations of Jordan Walker, Matthew Liberatore and Alec Burleson the Cardinals lost a little bit of their top 10 depth,” Baseball America wrote before the heralded shortstop Masyn Winn was promoted to the big club Friday. “With a string of injuries and poor performances by recent draftees the Cardinals Top 30 was backfilled by their recent draft and a flurry of trade activity at the deadline, but the Cardinals still lack potential above-average regulars outside Winn and pitcher Tink Hence. They have done well to shore up their depth over the last month, but lack the sort of impact players throughout their top 10 they’ve had in years past.”
Thanks for reading and I’ll be back in this space on Monday …
Bernie hosts a weekday sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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The “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and B. Miklasz is available at 590thefan.com, the 590 the fan app or your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.
All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible, Baseball Prospectus or Bill James Online.
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.