Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: The Cardinals Have The NL’s Best Record And Top Offense

Good morning, and thanks for checking out The Review.

That’s my weekday-morning review of each Cardinals’ game.

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals moved into first place in the NL Central by winning their fourth in a row, outlasting the Brewers 4-3 on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals are rolling now, going into Wednesday’s 12:15 p.m. game with the best winning percentage (.609) in the National League. They’ve won 11 of their last 15, and are averaging 6.3 runs per game through this stretch. Moreover, the Cardinals are leading the NL in runs per game (5.74) which ranks second in MLB to Seattle.

BREWING A NEW TREND: After going 1-5 in their first six games against Milwaukee this season, the Cardinals have beaten the Brewers three consecutive times and are 4-5 against the Crew can level the season series 5-5 with a win today.  After a torrid 7-1 start to the season, the Brewers have lost 11 of 17 overall, and that includes a 2-6 record in their last eight road games.

CARDS KILLER: Christian Yelich is quiet. In the first two games of the series he’s gone 0 for 6 with three strikeouts and two walks. Away from Miller Park this season, Yelich is batting .233 with no homers, two RBIs and an anemic .279 slugging percentage. Right now the most menacing Brewer for the Cardinals is third baseman Travis Shaw. He’s homered three times in two games including two home runs last night.

BASEBALL HERO: How about that Daniel Ponce de Leon? Tip of the cap to “Ponce” for a terrific start. The Cardinals need more quality performances from their starters, and Ponce de Leon was up to the challenge, working five innings and giving up only three hits and one run. And he was aggressive with the Brewers, pounding that fastball at the top of the zone on the way to seven strikeouts. Sure, you’d like to see six innings rather than five. Sure, you’d like to see Ponce walk fewer batters. But enough with the nitpicking. He was really good. And he looked very confident. In five starts for the Cardinals over the last two seasons, Ponce de Leon has a 2.59 ERA, has struck out an outstanding 29 percent of batters faced, and has limited opponents to a .191 average and .540 OPS. Is that good?

TURNING POINT: It’s gotta be Pauly DeJong’s solo home run in the 8th to break a 2-2 tie. The Cards were fortunate to add a second run in the eighth on a double by Yadier Molina to go up 4-2. They needed that extra run because Shaw launched a solo homer for Milwaukee in the 9th.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Jose Martinez is going as wild as his hair, having cranked 18 hits in his last 35 at-bats over 11 games. That’s a .514 batting average. And Martinez was at it again Tuesday with two hits, a walk and a run scored … Yadier Molina is having a swell stretch of hitting, going 21 for 58 over his last 14 games for a .362 average, eight extra-base hits and 14 runs batted in. Molina had three hits, including two doubles, plus two RBIs and a stolen base in Tuesday’s win … it was good to see lefty Andrew Miller come out of the bullpen for a 1-2-3 eighth inning that featured two punchouts of Brewers hitters … Dexter Fowler made an excellent throw from center field to cut down Yelich at home plate to end the first inning when Yelich tried to score on Ryan Braun’s single.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: The Cardinals left a runner on third base four times in this game –in the second, fourth, fifth and eighth innings. Fowler went 0 for 2 in those situations and Kolten Wong, Marcell Ozuna and Yairo Munoz were each 0 for 1. The inability to cash in runners from third was a prime reason for this game being close. This offense is doing great overall but this is one area

SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: I think he needs to go full TLR and start wearing dark shades during night games. ‘

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Have to give him credit for deciding to bat DeJong third in the lineup. Going into today’s game, DeJong is fifth in the National League with a .337 batting average, ranks ninth with a .632 slugging percentage, is 15th with a .394 onbase percentage, and stands at No. 8 with a 1.026 OPS. As far as all-around play, Wong is third among all NL players with 1.7 WAR. The only two guys ahead of him are the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger (2.3) and Yelich (2.0.) DeJong has a 162 wRC+ as a No. 3 hitter this season, which means he’s performing 62 percent above league average offensively. Among hitters with at least 50 plate appearances at No. 3, DeJong ranks third in wRC+.

BREATHLESS: I just love watching the Cardinals run the bases. They’re instinctive, aggressive — and for the most part, smart. According to Bill James Online, the Cardinals lead the majors with a net base-running gain of +30.

NL CENTRAL: Cardinals 14-9 … Pirates 12-9 … Cubs 11-10 … Brewers 13-12 … Reds 9-13.  …

NL CENTRAL NOTES: Cubs have won six of their last seven and are over .500 for the first time since their victory on opening day… the Cubs’ starting rotation is 7-2 with a 1.39 ERA over the last 10 games … the Pirates’ starting rotation has the best ERA (2.26) in the NL; that ranks second overall to Tampa Bay (2.04) … and the Pirates have the best overall ERA (2.97) in the league…the Brewers have scored 71 percent of their runs on homers this season; no other MLB team is higher than 59 percent … as a group the Cards’ position players (aka non-pitchers) rank second and fifth in the majors with 5.6 WAR …. in a flip of the usual script in Cincinnati the Reds are pitching well; their overall staff ERA (3.31) ranks No. 2 in the NL. But the Reds aren’t hitting — they rank 13th in the NL in OPS (.651) and their non-pitchers are 26 percent below league average offensively in wRC+ (park-adjusted runs created) … the Cardinals have the league’s best home record (9-3.)

ON DECK: The Cardinals go for the three-game sweep today at Busch Stadium, with a first pitch at 12:15. Adam Wainwright is looking to rebound from his bad Friday-night start against the Mets last week. He’s also looking to become the fifth pitcher in franchise history to win 150 games; the first four are Bob Gibson, Jesse “Pop” Haines, Bob Forsch and Bill Werdel … Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin starts for Milwaukee; he has a 5.92 ERA this season and has been vulnerable to LH batters.

Thanks for reading…

–Bernie