WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S

The Cardinals kept their Redbird Express moving forward Friday at Wrigley Field, leaving the home team and their fans feeling emoji-faced sad after a 3-0 victory on a blustery day in the Windy City.

This triumph by the Cardinals had plenty of highlights. Stellar pitching. There was the ace-model performance from starter Kyle Gibson and the latest bulls on parade procession by the rugged St. Louis relievers. This was a day to remember forever by rookie catcher Pedro Pages. The Cardinal outfielders successfully tracked tricky, gust-driven fly balls that fell from the sky like spiraling kites.

The Cubs had two potential home runs – by Cody Bellinger and Patrick Wisdom – get hung up in the unforgiving Wrigley currents. This will likely be cast as a sad-luck, bad-luck day for the home team. But it’s difficult to feel empathy for the Cubs when they scraped their way to three hits, all singles, in 2 hours and 28 minutes of ball. There are other ways to score runs than casting a ball into the air and crossing your fingers.

The Cardinals came out of the mighty wind with a mighty win.

The Cardinals got level at 33-33 on the season.

The St. Louis delegation needed this win for many reasons including today’s pitching matchup that puts them against dazzling Cubs lefty Shota Imanaga. It was good for the Cardinals to put a win in the bank as the first move in what they hope will be a winning weekend. But the Redbirds have so much to prove, and they’ll need to do a lot more than beat on the Cubs to establish credibility.

With their satisfying victory in the opener the Cardinals moved into second place in the NL Central, and now lurk 5 and ½ games behind the first-place Brewers. After Friday’s fun in the sun, the Cardinals are 3-0 against the freefalling Cubs this season.

The Cardinals are moving up as the Cubs move down.

The Cardinals are 4-1 in their last five games and 5-2 in their last seven. Their 19-10 record since is tied with Philadelphia for the top mark in the National League over that time. Not long ago the Cardinals were a sickly 15-24 and had drifted to a nine-game deficit in the NL Central standings.

Another fact related to May 12: the Cubs have the worst record (10-20) in the National League. At least they’ve done better than the White Sox and A’s since then.

DO YOU FEEL BAD FOR THE CUBS? I’m going to take a guess, Cardinals fans. I don’t think you’re feeling bummed out over the Cubs current crisis.

Team Wrigleyville is 16-28 since April 27 for a .364 winning percentage that ranks last in the NL and 28th overall. During this 44-game swoon the Cubs have averaged just 3.45 runs per game and rank last in the majors in batting average (.212), slugging percentage (.340), OPS (.635) and batting average with runners in scoring position (.173).

“When you’re losing, it looks like you’re doing nothing right,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re doing more right than you think. That’s why you continue to stay positive.”

OK, but here’s an interesting note: last season the Cubs had a 33-37 record through 70 games under manager David Ross. This season the Cubs have the same 33-37 record in Counsell’s first 70 games.

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer dumped Ross and baited Counsell to leave the Brewers with a five-year, $40 million contract. It was the largest managerial contract in major-league history. Cubs fans are grumbling about their wealthy manager.

Wrote Patrick Mooney of The Athletic: “As Jed Hoyer’s front office prepares for the trade deadline, and the Ricketts family ownership group oversees its generational investment, the lack of progress is glaring.”

Over the last few days the Cubs have lost two of their promising young starters to injuries. Ben Brown (neck) and Jordan Wicks (oblique) will likely miss considerable time. And injuries have weakened the Chicago bullpen. It’s an uneasy time for the team up north.

KYLE GIBSON, BETTER AND BETTER: The 36-year old righthander is turning out to be one of the best free-agent signings of last offseason. Gibson gave the Cardinals a precious gem of a start Friday, suppressing the Cubs for two hits and a walk in seven shutout innings. Gibson struck out six to continue a positive trend that features a higher strikeout rate.

Let’s update the Gibson File:

* The Mizzou baseball alum has a 3.44 ERA in 14 starts this season.

* In his last five starts Gibson has pitched to a 2.20 ERA and held opponents to a .208 average and .584 OPS.

* This season 16 of the 32 earned runs allowed by Gibson were scored in three subpar starts. But Gibson has a 2.12 ERA and eight quality starts in his other 11 outings.

* In his last four starts Gibson has struck out 27 of 97 batters faced for an excellent strikeout rate of 27.8 percent. And his strikeout rate is 24.2 percent over his last 10 starts. This is a significant gain considering Gibson’s career 18.7 percent strikeout rate through 2023.

* Gibson’s awesome sweeper pitch is behind his rise in strikeouts. He’s thrown the sweeper at an increased rate this season and hitters can’t do much against it. Gibson has a 38.7 percent strikeout rate with the sweeper and has limited opponents to a .205 average and .301 slugging percentage.

* Gibson’s eight quality starts match Chris Sale, Dylan Cease, Jared Jones, Max Fried and Mitch Keller. And Gibson has more quality starts than Freddy Peralta, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Luis Gil, Hunter Greene, George Kirby, Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman, Sonny Gray and Jordan Hicks. Among others.

* Gibson is tied for sixth in the majors with 11 starts of 6+ innings.

The Gibson signing was underrated at the time. But it isn’t underrated now. The Cardinals signed Gibson to a one-year deal for $12 million that contains a $12 million team option for next season.

PEDRO PAGES POWER: What a wonderful day for the rookie catcher. Pages was masterful behind the plate, working in harmony with Gibson and using his smooth pitch-framing to finesse 19 called strikes for the starting pitcher. The Cardinals touted Pages’ advanced defensive skills during his development time in the minors. And this was no hype. He’s very good. This season Pages ranks 9th in called-strike percentage among MLB catchers that have received at least 300 non-swing pitches. He’s exceptional at framing strikes at the edge of the strike zone. His strongest areas are at the bottom of the strike zone and in the shadow areas on both sides of the plate.

And how about his first major-league home runs? Pages drove a 2-2 sweeper pitch into the basket in left field to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning. It was pretty much the perfect way to launch a first career homer in the show. Rivalry game against the Cubs. Wrigley Field. A scoreless tie in a taught, nerve-jangling game. A home run that produced the winning run. And his family in the stands. Perfect.

Pages found his father, Edgar. According to the account written by MLB.com’s John Denton, father and son shared this powerful moment by hugging in a teary-eyed embrace.

“I couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” Pedro Pages told reporters at Wrigley. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of since being a little kid — hitting my first homer in a big moment. Doing it in front of my dad and family here, there are a lot of emotions still going through me. I’m just sitting here smiling and not even knowing what to do with myself.”

Pages has batted .125 in limited action this season. But he has shown an ability to come through at important times. His first big-league hit was a three-run double at Anaheim on May 14. It was the biggest blow of the game in the Cardinals’ narrow 7-6 victory. In 10 plate appearances with runners in scoring position this season, Pages has delivered two hits, a walk, two sac flies, a .286 batting average and six RBIs. He’s 2 for 4 with runners in scoring position and two outs. He’s 1 for 3 in Close & Late situations.

DYLAN CARLSON: His bounce-back hitting continued at Wrigley Field on Friday. Carlson led the Cardinals with two hits, and his RBI single gave the Redbirds a 3-0 lead in the ninth. In his last five games Carlson is 7 for 19 (.368) with five RBIs.

FACTS AND OPINIONS

1. The Cardinals played their best defensive game of the season in Friday’s win. And they needed every tough play they made in the field.

2. The Cubs went 3 for 30 against Gibson and relievers Ryan Fernandez, JoJo Romero and Ryan Helsley.

3. Helsley added to his MLB-leading save count, notching save No. 23 to seal Friday’s win. He’s 23 for 24 (96%) in save opportunities this season. The Cardinals lead the majors in saves (26) and are second with an 88 percent success rate in save opps.

4. In his last seven relief appearances Fernandez has allowed five hits and struck out eight batters in 7 and ⅓ scoreless innings.

5. Nolan Arenado doubled and scored the team’s second run on Ivan Herrera’s double for a 2-0 lead. In his last six games Arenado has gone 9 for 24 (.375) with three doubles and a .500 slugging percentage.

6. With Friday’s win the Cardinals are now 31-0 when leading a game through eight innings. That’s the best such record in the majors.

7. Andre Pallante vs. Imanaga. Hmm. When just about everyone out there expects the Cardinals to come up short in Saturday’s matchup, Pallante should enjoy the assignment and have a blast. Imanaga has a 5.87 ERA in his last three starts. Pallante has a 3.68 ERA in his last three starts.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. Friday. Stream live or access the podcast on 590thefan.com or the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via 590thefan.com or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

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.