Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: Improved Starting Pitching, Outfield Thunder, and The Return of Homefield Advantage

Good day to you all…

After a slight delay, here’s your late-morning Redbird Review…

My daily weekday recap of Cardinals baseball.

In this edition: we look at the Cards’ three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals completed their three-game sweep of the Brewers, winning 5-2 on a gray but happy day at Busch Stadium. We’ll get to the particulars in a minute. For now let’s give you this: the Cardinals evened the series with the Brewers at 5-5 … the Cards have won five in a row, and are 4-0 in their last four games against Milwaukee… the on their off day the Cardinals rest with the National League’s best record at 15-9, which is tied with Houston for second-best in the majors behind Tampa Bay … the Cardinals have the NL’s best home record at 10-3 … and have won 10 of their last 11 games at Busch including sweeps of the Dodgers and Brewers …

CARDS KILLER: The Cards really did a fabulous job against Christian Yelich, who went 0 for 7 with four strikeouts in the series. Jordan Hicks struck Yelich out yesterday, snuffing a two-out, bases-loaded threat to lock in the win.

BASEBALL HERO: It was a big day for Adam Wainwright who became the fifth pitcher in franchise history to achieve 150 career wins for the Cardinals, joining Bob Gibson, Pop Haines, Bob Forsch and Bill Sherdel. Congratulations. Wainwright was a little off in the first inning but quickly adjusted and sharpened up and held the Brewers scoreless over his final five innings of very fine work. In all the Brewers managed only four hits, a walk and one run on a solo homer during Waino’s six innings. With the win, Wainwright is 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA on the season.

TURNING POINT: Marcell Ozuna rearranged this game on one swing, driving a three-run homer in the fourth inning. The Cardinals trailed 1-0 at the time, and Ozuna’s jolt put them ahead 3-1. And with the fireworks smoke still wafting in the stadium after Ozuna’s blast, Yadier Molina followed with a solo homer that put the Cards up 4-1 and set off another round of fireworks.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: During the three-game sweep Cardinals pitchers held the Brewers to 10 runs and a .160 batting average. And Cards pitchers struck out 33 percent of the Milwaukee hitters they faced in the series. Outstanding … Cardinals hitters ripped into Milwaukee’s pitchers for an average of 7.3 runs in the three games, batting .375 with a .577 slugging percentage and 1.013 OPS … the offensive standouts in this series included Molina, Paul Goldschmidt, Pauly DeJong, Ozuna, Jose Martinez, Dexter Fowler, Matt Carpenter and Lane Thomas. Those eight players combined for 35 hits, 12 walks, 21 runs scored, five homers, six doubles and 20 runs batted in.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Another poor and baffling appearance from lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who needed to be rescued by Jordan Hicks in the top of the ninth. Miller did get two outs, but this was a mess…. He walked two, hit a batter, gave up a single and left the bases loaded for Hicks. Miller had a 6.75 ERA and a 9.44 Fielding Independent ERA this season, with an alarming walk rate of 16 percent and a WHIP of 2.04.

SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: Nothing. He’s putting me out of business.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Let’s just say the man has the pulse of his team. Get slapped around by the Brewers in Milwaukee? No problem. Stay calm and confident, get it fixed, and we’ll be fine. Look at how bold and confident the Cardinals were in this series… look at how the Cards pitchers adjusted and began pitching Yelich inside and coming at him at the top of the strike zone, to take him out of his peaceful state of mind.

RESTORING ORDER AT BUSCH STADIUM: When Cardinals’ management fired Mike Matheny last season following an ugly home loss to the Reds on July 14, the team was struggling with a 23-24 record at Busch Stadium  After the change the Cards improved at home the rest of the way, going 20-14.  And add in the 10-3 start at home this season, and the Cardinals have a 30-17 record at Busch under Shildt.

NOTING THE ROTATION: The Cardinals have played 11 road games so far, and have a 5-6 record (mostly because of the difficulties at Miller Park in Milwaukee.) The Cards’ starting pitchers have combined for a 6.58 road ERA which ranks 14th in the NL and 27th in the majors. At home, the numbers are significantly different. Not only are the Cards 10-3 at Busch Stadium early into the schedule, but their rotation ERA at home is 3.47. That ranks eighth in the NL and 16th overall. And it’s not as if the Cardinals have pitched against a sequence of mannequins at home this season. The visiting opponents — Padres, Dodgers, Mets and Brewers — are all above average offensively based on park-adjusted runs created (wRC+). The Dodgers are 53 percent above league average offensively so far, which leads the NL. The Mets are fourth at 21 percent above average. The Brewers are sixth at 16 percent above average. And the improving Padres are eighth in the NL at three percent above average.

OUTFIELD JAM: With Harrison Bader back from the injured list (sore hamstring) and ready to resume playing center field, we wonder if Shildt will keep things as they are. Because the Cardinals’ starting outfield (and backup Lane Thomas, a rookie) have done considerable damage over the last eight games. The alignment of Ozuna in left, Fowler in center and Martinez in right — with an assist from Thomas — has batted .360 with a .448 OBP and .573 slug over that time… good for a 1.021 OPS … with five homers, 19 RBIs, 21 runs scored, 15 walks, and 18 strikeouts in 105 plate appearances. The Cardinals have 6.5 runs per game over their last eight contests, winning six times. Bader’s defense is valuable, and that can’t be ignored, but …  final note: the STL outfield (all members) has collectively put up a 123 wRC+ … that means the outfield has performed offensively at a level that’s 23 percent above average.

BREATHLESS: Take a look at the NL standings…

Cardinals 15-9
Cubs 12-10
Pirates 12-10
Brewers 13-13
Reds 9-14

Next weekend at Wrigley Field: Cardinals at Cubs, three games. Pardon me for looking ahead, but this should be good. And I’m looking ahead simply because the Cubs are rolling now, after a halting start to the season. The Cardinals are playing great. So a little peek ahead is no big deal … The Cubs have won seven of their last eight. The Brewers have drifted into fourth place in the NLC after losing seven of eight. It’s a crazy division.

ON DECK: The Cards and Reds open a three-game series at Busch Stadium on Friday night. Here are the pitching matchups; all of the scheduled starting pitchers in this series are right-handers.

Friday at 7:15:     Anthony DeSclafani (0-1, 5.59 ERA) vs. Miles Mikolas (2-1, 4.97.)

Saturday at 1:15:     Tyler Mahle (0-2, 3.52) vs. Dakota Hudson (1-1, 5.89.)

Sunday at 1:15:     Sonny Gray (0-3, 3.65) vs. Jack Flaherty (2-1, 5.25.)

Thanks for reading …