Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: A Gem From Miles Mikolas, Cards Play Home-Run Derby, Normalcy Returns

Good morning. I present a happy-talk Redbird Review for your perusal…

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals recovered from the beatdown in Chicago with a clean and clinical 6-0 win over the Philadelphia on Monday night at Busch Stadium. And just like that, the 21-14 Cardinals jumped back into first place in the NL Central with an assist from the visiting Marlins, who beat the Cubs 6-5 on Monday night with a ninth-inning rally made possible by Cubs reliever Pedro Strop who blew a save opportunity by walking three hitters and allowing a single. At 13-4, the Cards are tied with the Dodgers for the best home record in the National League.

BASEBALL HERO: After three Cardinals starting pitchers got clobbered for 13 earned runs in 15 and ⅔ innings at a horrible weekend inside Wrigley Field, the rotation really needed a quality start. And Miles Mikolas delivered. Monday night Mikolas pitched an outstanding game against a Phillies offense that had averaged 6.3 runs per game in the previous seven games coming into St. Louis.

Mikolas had his best curveball of the season and put it to use early and often, shutting out the Phillies and allowing only three singles over seven innings. No walks, either. Perhaps Mikolas is establishing traction. In his last four starts he’s crafted a 2.42 ERA over 26 innings with a 50 percent ground ball rate and a low four percent walk rate.

“He was just doing a good job of mixing,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said of the Cardinals’ right-hander. “He was able to mix his fastball, slider, curveball — all three pitches –and threw strikes with all three of them when he needed to. Just keeping us off balance, getting ahead, and once he got a lead, he really started attacking.”

“Mix” is the right term here. According to Brooks Baseball, here’s the menu of pitches that Mikolas threw at the Phillies: 28 four-seam fastballs, 26 curves, 25 sinkers, 19 sliders and two changeups.

TURNING POINT: After a one-out walk by Jose Martinez in the fourth, with no score in the game, Yadier Molina cranked a two-run homer off Phils starter Vince Velasquez for a 2-0 lead. The Cardinals cruised after that. It was a superb at-bat by Molina, who dug in after being down 0-2 in the count. On his seventh pitch Velasquez threw a fastball that Yadi deposited over the wall in left-center for a homer that traveled 402 feet. In his last 26 games, dating back to April 6, Molina is hitting .337 with a .510 slugging percentage and has three homers, eight doubles and 24 runs batted in. Note: those 24 RBIs are the most by a MLB catcher since April 6.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: We have a positive development, in progress, with Matt Carpenter. Call it a warming trend. But after a quiet start to the season, Carpenter is 6-for-14 in his last three games with a double, a homer and three runs batted in. His solo home run in the 5th gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.

And then there’s Pauly DeJong, who rocks on with his excellent season. DeJong’s two-run homer in the 5th extended the Cards’ lead to 5-0.

I just hope that everyone who cares about the Cardinals realizes just how great DeJong is performing so far in 2019. He’s batting .336, had an onbase percentage of .405, is slugging .606, and is tied for second in the majors with 22 extra-base hits. He’s fourth among all shortstops with five Defensive Runs Saved and is a plus base-runner.

Add all of this up, and Paul DeJong has 2.6 WAR, second in the majors to the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger.

Jose Martinez reached base three times, scored twice, and is batting .358 on the season with an onbase percentage of .405. He’s just a tall building filled with offense.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: To quote a Springsteen lyric from the song Rosalita: someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny. But Paul Goldschmidt is scuffling at the plate. He did single and score a run last night. But Goldy hasn’t homered since April 22nd. And in the 13 games since his last home run he’s batting .220 with a .504 OPS, one extra-base hit and one RBI in 53 plate appearances. And with a strikeout rate of 26.4 percent.

SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: Some would second-guess his friendship with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who attended last night’s game. But I can’t do it. Shildt perhaps could befriend Mizzou football coach Barry Odom, but that would be hard to do — simply because no one at Mizzou returns phone calls made from St. Louis.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Thanks for getting closer Jordan Hicks into a game. Hicks hadn’t pitched since April 29 in Washington and was itching for some work. It wasn’t a save situation … but by  bringing Hicks into the game in the ninth to put the Phillies down, Shildt gave us some late-game entertainment, which we’ll get to next.

BREATHLESS: This game was in the sack for the Cardinals. But in the top of the ninth we were treated to a wonderful matchup pitting Hicks against Philadelphia’s wealthy outfielder Bryce Harper. A seven-pitch battle that Hicks won by getting Harper to swing and miss on a killer slider.

Hicks is so freaking wicked with his stuff that home-plate umpires can’t even identify balls and strikes with any consistency. Two of Hicks pitches that were straight-up, no-doubt-about-it strikes were called balls by home-plate umpire Laz Diaz. In other words, Harper received an extra advantage provided by Diaz … but still got owned by Hicks.

ON DECK: The rookie Dakota Hudson looks to build on his recent improvement in tonight’s start against Philadelphia ace Aaron Nola. First pitch at 6:45 p.m. on Fox Sports Midwest. Hudson has a 3.78 ERA in his last three starts.

Thanks for reading…

–Bernie