Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: Quiet Bats, Lousy Starting Pitching, And A Bad Stretch Of Baseball

Here’s your Daily Redbird Review…

I wish we had more positive things to talk about here, but as I frequently say: I can only work with the content I’m given. And it’s been a rough stretch…

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals presented another dull performance on Wednesday afternoon, losing 5-0 to the Phillies. The Cardinals are dragging through their first real slump of the season, having lost six of their last seven and getting outscored 41-18 in those games. After shutting out the Phillies 6-0 in Monday’s series opener, the Cardinals got pummeled in the next two games, losing two by a combined 16-1 score. At 21-16, the Cardinals have tumbled into third place in the NL Central, 1 and ½ games behind the first-place Cubs. The Brewers have moved into second place. Just a quick note on Milwaukee: after getting swept three games in St. Louis the Brewers have responded by winning 10 of 13 games including their last six.

CARDS KILLER: The Cardinals’ biggest problem is the Cardinals. As manager Mike Shildt said after Tuesday’s terrible 11-1 loss, and I quote, “We lost to ourselves.” Bad starting pitching, mishaps on defense, and an offense that’s gone dormant.

BASEBALL HERO: Nada.

BLAME GAME: The acceptable answer here would be Everybody. But the Cardinals needed a deep, in-command start by Jack Flaherty and didn’t get it from him. He lasted only five innings and yielded three runs. The rotation is this team’s weakest area and that can’t be covered up by the incessant and irritating Happy Talk. Having said that, the Cardinals offense is slumbering, and the hitters are also responsible for the recent downturn.

TURNING POINT: Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty opened the fifth inning by walking J.T. Realmuto. The next hitter, Odubel Herrera, tagged Flaherty for an RBI double and the Phillies would score three more times to take a 4-0 lead. Those walks are bad for a pitcher’s earned-run average. I know Flaherty wasn’t supported by his defense, and his fifth inning was prolonged by an error on third baseman Matt Carpenter. But Flaherty walked three and allowed three hits in a 43-pitch inning. He could have limited the damage by making tough pitches to prevent the Phillies from adding runs — and simply didn’t get it done. The Phillies sent 10 runners to the plate in the fifth and left the bases loaded.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: The Cardinals had three hits, two by Yairo Munoz. The Cards had only seven hits in their two straight losses to the Phillies, and Munoz had three of the seven. Munoz has only 22 plate appearances this season. That’s a shame. In his limited opportunities Munoz is batting .381. … and lefty reliever Tyler Webb pitched a scoreless sixth. Webb has done some solid work as of late, with a 2.25 ERA in his last 10 games. And Webb has held left-handed hitters to two hits in 22 at-bats. But he’s still walking too many hitters.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: In losing two consecutive games to Philadelphia, Cardinals’ hitters went 7-for-58 for a .121 batting average and struck out in 27 percent of their plate appearances. This sleepy offense put so few men on base, the Cardinals had only four total plate appearances with runners in scoring position in the last two games. During this 1-6 stretch Jose Martinez, Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna, Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong, Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader have combined for 23 hits in 144 at-bats (a batting average of .160) with only seven RBIs.

Using wRC+ as a measure (park-adjusted runs created), here’s another way to look at the struggles over the last seven games…

  • J. Martinez, one percent below league average offensively.
  • Fowler, 10 percent below average.
  • Carpenter,  83 percent below average.
  • Bader, 95 percent below average.
  • Wong, 100 percent below average.
  • Ozuna, 106 percent below average.
  • Goldschmidt, 126 percent below average.

These are ridiculously small samples, yes. They mean nothing in the big picture. But I typed these out just in case you were wondering why the offense has slowed in last week of ball.

SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: A 43-pitch inning for Jack Flaherty? Wow. And this team has eight relievers in the bullpen.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: He finally gave a start to Munoz, a fresh presence for a tired lineup.

BREATHLESS: This NL Central division is nuts, and will continue to be nuts, all season. The Cubs were awful in the first two weeks, now they’re great. The Brewers were unstoppable, went into a free-fall, and have rebounded to look like their bash-happy selves … the Cardinals were the best team in baseball about 20 minutes ago, but have scored one run or no runs in four of the last seven games to fall into third place.

ON DECK: The Pirates and Cardinals open a four-game series tonight at Busch. Michael Wacha vs. Joe Musgrove, first pitch at 6:45 pm. The Pirates (17-16) come to town with a short-handed pitching staff. No. 1 starter Jameson Taillon is on the IL with a strained right elbow flexor and he could miss several weeks. Another starter, Chris Archer, is on the IL with a strained right thumb. And a key piece of the bullpen, Keone Kela, was placed on the IL earlier this week with shoulder discomfort.

NL CENTRAL: Cubs 21-13 … Brewers 23-16 … Cardinals 21-16 … Pirates 17-16 … Reds 15-22.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie