Listed in no special order, here’s what I liked about the Cardinals’ 4-2 win over the Mets on Friday night at Citi Field. The victory gave St. Louis a 3-1 record since getting swept by Milwaukee last weekend. Your favorite team is 12-14 on the season. Through 26 games in 2023, the Cardinals were six games under .500

1. JoJo Romero, Andrew Kittredge and Ryan Helsley are ruthless. When the Cardinals have a lead to protect, it must be demoralizing for opponents to know they’ll have to face these three toughies late in the game. The Cardinals were up by two runs when Miles Mikolas finished his start with 5 and ⅔ innings pitched, leaving the Mets to tangle with the top relievers in the St. Louis bullpen.

Romero inherited a runner on second base. JoJo struck out Jeff McNeil looking for the third out, then handled the Mets without incident in the seventh. Kittredge was nicked for a leadoff single in the eighth, then told the Mets to scram. Closer Helsley struck out two in a clean ninth for his eighth save of the campaign.

The three birds worked 3 and ⅓ innings, retired 10 of 11 Mets, got 10 swinging strikes, seven called strikes, and struck out four. Shut the place down. Goodnight.

This season St. Louis relievers have a 1.99 ERA in the final three-plus innings of a game, and that’s third best in the majors. For their part, Romero, Kittredge and Helsley collectively have a 1.22 ERA with a 31.3 percent strikeout when pitching in the sixth inning or later.

This is primarily why the Cardinals lead the National League in save percentage (82%), are 8-1 when leading through six innings, and 11-1 when leading after the seventh.

2. Miles Mikolas was resilient: His bottom line was two earned runs in 5 and ⅔ innings which computes to a 3.18 ERA. Mikolas could have unraveled; the Mets batted .304 with a .609 slugging percentage against him. But he fought them off. Mikolas didn’t do the Mets any favors by walking anyone. And the Mets were 2 for 10 (three strikeouts) against Mikolas with runners in scoring position.

One negative note: the Mets had four of their seven hits – including two doubles and a homer – on two-strike counts. That continues a troubling pattern for the righthander. But after being staked to a 4-0 lead, Mikolas held it together for the most part. That was a pleasant change from his previous starts (9.1 innings, 10 earned runs.) The Cardinals are 2-4 in games started by Mikolas this season.

3. Home Run Derby! The Cardinals jumped on Mets starter Jose Butto for two early home runs Friday. Alec Burleson set off a booming three-run cannonade shot in the second, and Willson Contreras detonated a 432-foot solo blast to lead off the third.

The three-run homer was notable for this reason: MLB teams have collectively cranked 88 three-run homers this season. And before Friday, the Cardinals had only one of the 88 three-run jobs. Now it’s two. Until Burleson went deep for three, the team’s only three-run homer was propelled by Nolan Arenado in the 9-6 win at Arizona on April 12.

The Cardinals are 4-2 this season when homering at least twice in a game. When hitting fewer than two home runs, they’re 8-12.

4. I like Willson Contreras: it was his fourth homer of the season. He’s having an outstanding year at the plate, batting .296 with a .425 onbase percentage and .563 slug. His 177 OPS+ makes him 77 percent above the MLB average offensively.

After Friday’s game, among MLB hitters with at least 85 plate appearances, Contreras ranks fifth in onbase percentage, 10th in OPS (.989), 11th in OPS+, and 16th in slugging percentage. His younger brother, Milwaukee’s William Contreras, has a .564 to .563 lead over Willson in slugging.

The St. Louis Contreras has put up some outrageous numbers since last July 1, batting .326 with a .436 OBP and .603 slug.

Over that time only one major-league hitter that has 285+  plate appearances has a higher wRC+ than Contreras. Here are the top three, and keep in mind that a 100 wRC+ means you’re an average hitter.

  • Mookie Betts  194 wRC+
  • Willson Contreras  184 wRC+
  • Shohei Ohtani  182 wRC+

Contreras — sadly — continues to be overlooked nationally because the Cardinals have a losing record since the start of last season. But it isn’t his fault. It’s a joy to watch Contreras play. He leads NL catchers with a 185 wRC+ this season, but don’t expect to hear or read a lot about that.

5. I liked the Cardinals defense last night. I’ve liked their defense all season. It’s an important reason why the Cardinals have allowed four or fewer earned runs in 16 of their 26 games, three earned runs or fewer in 14 games, and two earned runs or less in 12 games. Related note for the second time this week: Michael Siani is a helluva center fielder.

Thanks for reading …


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.