The Cardinals won the series opener at Pittsburgh, 7-4, and gave us a few things to talk about.


+ Tuesday’s 7-4 win at Pittsburgh moved the Cardinals up to 44-40 on the season. St. Louis hasn’t been four games over. 500 since the final day of the 2022 season. That ‘22 win was 93-69.

+ After beating the Pirates the Cardinals are 12-5 in their last 17 games against NL Central adversaries.

+ There ya go, Nolan Gorman. A grand-slam homer. And on a 1-2 count, no less. Before this game, Gorman had been 7 for 55 (.127) with one homer and 39 strikeouts when swinging at 1-2 pitches. So launching a grand-slam rocket on a 1-2 pitch was definitely a longshot, but Gorman came through.

+ The St. Louis bullpen: Excellent again. Four relievers covered the final four innings without incident. They pitched to 13 Pirates, and only two reached base. No runs were permitted. A tip of the ol’ ballcap goes to John King, Ryan Fernandez, JoJo Romero and Ryan Helsley.

+ Ryan Fernandez is the unexpected pitching star of the Cardinals’ season. He provided 1 and ⅓ innings of relief last night and In his last 15 appearances, Fernandez has been scratched for one earned run in 17 and ⅓ innings. An 0.52 ERA right there.

+ The Pirates might want to connect a fire hose and spray Brendan Donovan. Right now it’s probably the only way to cool him down. Three more hits and an RBI for Donovan in this one.

+ Another home run by Alec Burleson, a two-run shot that charged the Cardinals into a 2-0 lead in the third inning. That makes 13 homers for Burleson this season. How good is that? Well. Burleson had nine homers in his first 414 big-league at-bats. That’s a HR every 46 at-bats. But he’s banged out 13 home runs in his last 217 at-bats – hitting one every 19 at-bats.

+ The Cardinals scored 7 runs (or more) for the 14th time this season and are 13-1 in those games. Problem is, only three MLB teams have scored 7+ runs in a game fewer times than the Cardinals in 2024. First-place Milwaukee has plated 7+ runs 22 times and is 20-2.

ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: The Cardinals are 8-3 in their last 11 games, 13-6 in their last 19, and 14-7 since June 9. Their 29-16 run (.644) over the last 45 games is the best in the National League and third overall … along the same lines, the Cardinals are 34-26 (.567) since April 24. The only three NL teams that have won more frequently than the Cardinals over that time are the three division leaders – Phillies, Dodgers and Braves.

PROGRESS REPORT: The Cardinals continue to make headway in the NL Central. On May 11 the Cardinals trailed the first-place Brewers by nine games and were 7 and ½ games behind the Cubs, 2 and ½ games in back of the Pirates, and two games lower than the Reds.

But since May 12 the Cardinals have been three games better than the Brewers, four games better than the Pirates, 4 and ½ games better than the Reds, and six games above the Cubs.

HELS BELLS! THE RYAN HENSLEY FILE: He put away the Pirates with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 31st save of the season. The 31 saves lead the majors and are six more than the next closer on the list, Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase, who has 25. Helsley’s incredible 96.8 save percentage is tops in the majors for among the 15 closers that have bagged at least 14 saves this season.

Helsley’s 31 saves are a new franchise record for most saves before the All-Star break.

And of course, the righthanded liquidator is 31-for-31 since fumbling his first save opportunity of the season. That’s ridiculous.

— The Cardinals have won 44 games this season. Helsley has saved 70.4 percent of their victories.

— The Cardinals are 35-3 when Helsley appears in a game in 2024. In the 35 wins, he has 31 saves, a 2.06 ERA and 32.6 strikeout rate.

— Can you imagine where this team would be with a shaky, unreliable closer? It’s really scary to think about.

Since the start of the 2022 season ranks fourth among innings-qualified MLB relievers with a 1.92 ERA. And his 35.4 strikeout rate ranks sixth over that time. Over the last three seasons Helsley has more WAR (4.6) than any reliever except Emmanuel Clase.

Here are the top-five best save percentages in a season among Cardinal closers that have stapled at least 20 saves. Obviously, the Helsley save percentage is a work in progress. But so far … amazing.

1. Ryan Helsley, 96.8% on 31 saves in 2024
2. Tom Henke, 94.7% on 36 saves in 1995.
3. Trevor Rosenthal, 91.4% on 48 saves in 2015.
4. Jason Isringhausen, 94.1% on 32 saves in 2007.
5. Ryan Franklin, 93.1% on 27 saves in 2010.

Helsley needs only nine more saves this season to join the 40-Save Club in franchise history. Here are the others:

* Rosenthal, 48 in 2015
* Lee Smith, 47 in 1991
* J. Isringhausen, 47 in 2004
* Bruce Sutter, 45 in 1984
* T. Rosenthal, 45 in 2014
* Lee Smith, 43 in 1993
* Lee Smith, 43 in 1992
* Jason Motte, 42 in 2012

How about that Lee Smith? The Hall of Famer had 478 career saves, and 160 were notched as a Cardinal. Smith had more saves as a Cub (180) but it took him eight seasons to get them. Smith’s 160 saves as a Cardinal were compiled in just four seasons.

BRENDAN DONOVAN: He’s been STL’s best hitter during the current 29-16 stretch. Over the 45 games he’s batted .327, generated a .392 onbase percentage, slugged .466 and posted an .845 OPS.

Since May 12 Donovan leads the team in five categories – batting average, OBP, OPS, WAR and wRC+ – and is second to Burleson in slugging. Donny’s wRC+ puts him 49 percent above league average offensively since May 12; that’s 10th best among NL hitters during that time.

Perhaps even more impressive is Donovan’s .386 batting average and .983 OPS with runners in scoring position over the team’s last 45 games.

BULLPEN GUARD DOGS: For the season the St. Louis relievers rank 10th overall with a 3.57 ERA, lead the majors in saves (34), and are second in holds and fourth in shutdowns. But since the team’s May 12 season turning point, Redbird relievers rank eighth in the majors with a 3.08 ERA, and third overall in Win Probability Added.

This season Cardinal relievers rank 3rd in the majors with a 3.19 ERA from the sixth inning through the ninth. That includes a 2.96 ERA in those innings since May 12.

The Cardinals rank 3rd in the majors with a 3.01 ERA in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. And that includes a 2.98 ERA in those innings since May 12.

Cardinal relievers have a 1.90 ERA in the team’s 44 wins this season.

With Tuesday’s win the Cardinals are 30-4 when leading through six innings, 37-2 when ahead after the seventh inning, and 40-0 when taking the lead into the ninth.


* Paul Goldschmidt had two doubles Tuesday. And that was his first multi-double game of the season. He had six of those last season, and seven in 2022.

* Good to see Masyn Winn go 4 for 9 with two doubles in his last two games. Before that Winn was 3 for 25 with right strikeouts in his previous six games.

* We figured it would take a little time for Willson Contreras to shake the rust after missing so many games with that fractured forearm. But the big man is starting to growl. In his last four games Contreras is 4 for 16 with four walks and two hit-by-pitches. That’s a .422 onbase percentage. The power hasn’t resurfaced, but it will.

* St. Louis starting pitchers have a 4.22 ERA overall this season which ranks 19th in the majors. But the starting-pitching ERA is 3.98 during the team’s 29-16 streak, and 3.55 while the Cardinals were going 14-7 in their last 21 games.

* Nolan Arenado has a .278 onbase percentage, .342 slug and a .627 OPS in his last 45 games.

I’ll be back with another offering — coming very soon. It’s a deeper dive on Nolan Gorman and how he performs based on the count during an at-bat.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has provided informed opinions and perspective on St. Louis sports through his columns, radio shows and podcasts since 1985.

Please follow Bernie on Threads @miklaszb

Stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Brooks Baseball Net, and Sports Info Solutions unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 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. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 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.