WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S 

The Cardinals are discovering different ways to lose games. Usually the problem is the offense, and that was a factor in Saturday’s 5-3 defeat at Milwaukee.

This time the bullpen deserved criticism because Andrew Kittredge was birched for a three-run homer that wiped out a precarious 3-2 lead for the visitors. Kittredge had a terrific first month for the Cardinals, but May has been different. This month he has a 9.82 ERA and has blown two saves in three appearances.

As usual, manager Oli Marmol was the convenient clay pigeon for the team’s frustrated followers.

The list of accusations:

A) He should have pulled starter Kyle Gibson after five innings even after Gibson cruised through the 5th by retiring the Brewers in order with two strikeouts. Gibson got himself into trouble in the bottom of the sixth, with the first three hitters reaching base. To some this was absolute proof of managerial malfeasance. OK. I have faith in Gibson to fight out of trouble, but this was pushing it. The criticism has merit. I was more bothered by the decision to have Gibson to stay in the game – which led to the righty loading the bases in the sixth. An earlier intervention may have helped. We’ll never know. I also think Rhys Hoskins had a fantastic at-bat, dueling with Gibson in a nine-pitch showdown that ended in a walk to fill the bases with no outs. I know it’s hard to believe, but the other side has players who are paid good money to do an effective job.

B) Marmol shouldn’t have substituted outfielder Michael Siani into the game for defensive reasons to replace Alec Burleson. Siani is the team’s best outfield defender. Burleson is not. There was a one-run lead to protect. Siani is an excellent guardian. But according to the yelpers, Marmol HAD to keep Burleson in the game in case the Cardinals fell behind. They needed Burly’s bat, just in case. But of course, Marmol should have known in advance that the savage Hoskins would bomb a three-run homer off reliever Andrew Kittredge in the seventh to give Milwaukee a 5-3 lead. So the manager was supposed to see into the future, knowing with absolute certainty that a three-run HR shot by the Brewers was guaranteed. And what if Burleson had stayed in the game to make a defensive gaffe to give the Brewers the tying run? RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE! And never mind the fact that Siani is 9 for 19 (.474) since April 30.

C) Marmol’s biggest felony to irate observers? Well, he should have quit his job and walked away in shame and never been in the dugout to manage Saturday’s loss. I’m trying to have a little fun here, just to keep myself entertained, but this is a bad situation. Marmol is the living symbol of Cardinals failure that fans can see each and every game day. He’s in full view, so punch away. The Committee To Fire Oli can nitpick every decision that doesn’t work. Which is fine. This is baseball and losing managers face intense scrutiny. For many, being fair to him is not an option. Marmol is an especially accessible target during games, and after the nightly post-game media sessions on TV. Marmol isn’t the president of baseball operations, the general manager. He isn’t the team president or the franchise owner. He’s the designated chump, the patsy, the easy mark.

Nothing unusual about thus. When a team is historically inept and impotent on offense as the 2024 Cardinals are, everything else gets magnified to an extreme level. The bullpen can’t mess up. No excuses! If a very good group of late-inning relievers let a lead get away, there’s hell to pay. The manager can’t make a questionable decision in a debatable, two-sides-to-it scenario. This St. Louis offense rarely provides a cushion that can create space for the human element. A lousy night by a good reliever. A starter who can’t go six strong innings. A manager who will be jumped on for the inevitable beatdown no matter how the Cardinals lose the game.

The Cardinals have scored three runs or fewer in 25 of their 39 games this season, a rate of 64 percent! That’s ridiculous. They’re 6-19 in the 25 low-output games by the hitters.

When the Cardinals trail by one or more runs during the first inning this season they’re 1-11. I’d ask “where is this team’s fight” but it’s still about “where is this team’s offense?”

It’s an extra burden to fall behind early because of an offense that averages — check this out — only 1.21 runs over the first four innings of a game. That ranks 30th. And the STL average of 1.79 runs over the first five innings is the worst in the majors. The Cardinal pitchers don’t have much wiggle room in too many games. The fellas have to pitch like a Cy Young winner every single time out.

Trying to protect the slimmest of leads can turn into a mini-crisis, because St. Louis pitchers know the scoreboard deficits are tough to erase and reset.

Cardinal pitchers receive the skimpiest run support in the NL (and 29th overall) at a mere 3.45 runs per nine innings. By starving to score runs, the Cardinals usually abandon their pitchers and put extra pressure on the manager to be perfect.

How about winning a high-scoring shootout? Not this team, bubba. Good luck. When Cardinal pitchers allow exactly four runs the record is 2-5. When they give up exactly five runs the record is 2-5. And when the Cards are popped for six or more runs in a game … forget about it. They’re 1-11.

ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: The Cardinals (15-24) enter Sunday at nine games under .500, their low point of the season to date. The Redbirds have lost eight games in a row and are 1-9 in their last 10, and 2-10 in their last 12, and 6-15 since April 17. The team is 1-8 in May after going 14-16 in the opening month.

2023 vs. 2024: the Cardinals trail first-place Milwaukee by 9 games in the NL Central. Last season through their first 39 contests the Cards were 14-25 and 7 and ½ games out of first place.

STATS THAT PRETTY MUCH TELL US EVERYTHING: The 2024 Cardinals have scored 132 runs in their first 39 games. During the MLB expansion era, which began in 1961, the only St. Louis team with fewer runs scored through 39 games were the 1969 Cardinals with 132.

Let’s take a quick look at where the 2024 Cardinals rank offensively compared to the other St. Louis teams after the first 39 games of a season during the expansion era.

Over the span of 64 seasons:

60th in slugging percentage, .338
63rd in runs, averaging 3.38 per game
63rd in OPS, .633
64th in batting average, .218
64th in onbase percentage, .295

GOLDSCHMIDT AND ARENADO: In the first three games of the series at Milwaukee, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado combined for 2 hits in 21 at-bats (.095) and struck out seven times. They were also 0 for 5 with three strikeouts when batting with runners in scoring position. At least Goldy got a hit Saturday to break a long 0-for skid. But he also struck out four times in Saturday’s loss.

ON KYLE GIBSON: He pushed through the first five innings with only one run allowed, giving his teammates a chance to beat Brewers starter Freddy Peralta. But Gibson had a trouble-inviting sequence to open the sixth, loading the bases with a single and two walks. There were no outs. Lefty reliever JoJo Romero entered and did an impressive job by allowing just one run to score, and the Cardinals clung to a 3-2 lead after six. Cards reliever Andrew Kittredge couldn’t hold the lead, giving up a three-run homer to Rhys Hoskins in the seventh. Ballgame. Another win for the Crew.

Gibson’s pitching line: 5 innings 2 earned runs, 3 hits, 4 walks, and 7 strikeouts. Gibson didn’t go six or more innings for the first time this season. Gibson has a 3.67 ERA in eight starts but has pitched to a 2.10 ERA and 3.26 FIP in 30 innings over his last five assignments. Gibson had a poor early start against Miami, but his ERA is 2.65 in his seven other starts. He’s 11th in the majors for innings pitched, and tied for 12th with five quality starts.

CARDINALS vs. BREWERS: With one game to play in the current series, here’s the nutshell-note breakdown of the head-to-head matchups since the start of 2023:

* Since start of 2023: Milwaukee, 14-5

* This season: Milwaukee, 6-0

* Current streak: Milwaukee, eight consecutive wins.

* Last 12 games between them: Milwaukee, 11-1

JUST SOME STUFF

Brendan Donovan’s disappointing season continued with an 0 for 5 game Saturday. He’s batting .168 with a .218 onbase percentage in his last 24 games. He must be better than this.

The Cardinals had 12 hits Saturday and hadn’t done that in a game since April 14.

Matt Carpenter returned from the IL and deposited a double and single in four at-bats as the DH. He’s 5 for 14 (.357) this season.

Nolan Gorman is making a fuss, going 3 for 4 in the Friday and Saturday games this series with a home run, double and three RBIs.

Ivan Herrea is 6 for 13 (.462) in his last four games.

In their last six games the Cardinals are 5 for 38 (.136) with runners in scoring position.

Thanks for reading …

Happy Mother’s Day!

–Bernie

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.