Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: Bad Homestand, Bad Stretch of Baseball, Better Days Ahead?

Here’s your Monday edition of the Daily Redbird Review …

Rough weekend…

Lost weekend…

Team in a slide…

Can’t let a game get away on Mother’s Day …

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals completed a dreadful home stand by allowing a late three-run lead evaporate in a 10-6 loss to the Pirates on Mother’s Day at Busch Stadium. After getting blown out of Wrigley Field, the Cardinals came home and lost five of seven games to the Phillies and Pirates at Busch. The failure to take care of business at home was part an overall slide of nine losses in 11 games.

TRENDING POORLY: After winning in Washington on the first day of May, the Cardinals were 20-10, had the best record in the majors, and led the second-place Cubs by three games in the NL Central. Now here they are, on the morning of May 13, with a 22-19 record, 3 and ½ games out of first and sitting in fourth place. That’s right, the Cardinals are percentage points behind the third-place Pirates. That tells you everything you need to know about the state of the Cardinals these days. On May 1, St. Louis was five games ahead of Pittsburgh. And less than two weeks later the Pirates are ahead of the Cardinals.

CARDS KILLER: It was certainly a happy mom’s day for Myrtle Bell, who was in the house at Busch Stadium to see her son Josh Bell deliver a third consecutive victory for the underrated Pirates with a critical three-run homer and a career-high five RBIs overall. Bell’s big blow tied the game at 6-6 and set off a feeling of gloom in the ballpark …  indeed the Pirates’ five-run seventh inning that doomed the home team. Bell had four hits and a walk in the game.

BASEBALL HERO: Nothing heroic about coughing up a three-run lead by getting clobbered for 10 runs overall — seven of which were scored in the seventh and eighth innings. Nothing heroic about the Cardinals scoring six runs on seven hits in the first two innings, only to get shut out on five hits over the next seven innings.

BLAME GAME: Cardinals relievers took over the game for starter Dakota Hudson in the top of the seventh. And over a span of 15 batters lefty Tyler Webb and righthanders John Brebbia and Giovanny Gallegos combined to give up five hits, three walks and seven earned runs to give the game and the series to the Pirates.

TURNING POINT: Bell’s three-run homer off Brebbia in the seventh made thousands of Moms unhappy at Busch Stadium. The Moms who are Cardinals’ fans, anyway. But Webb shouldn’t be overlooked as a culprit. You cannot come into a game with a three-run lead and immediately walk a batter and hit another to give the Pirates two runners on base and a big dose of hope. And let’s not overlook the front office led by John Mozeliak. This organization has the tools for building a better bullpen. But the Cardinals of course don’t want to do anything crazy like improving the roster … even from within. Bizarre.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: I give Dakota Hudson credit for pulling himself together after the Pirates scored three runs in the first. I’d prefer that Hudson not give up three in the first, but that’s what happened, and so then you judge him on the next question: how will he respond? Will he dig in, hold the line, or show weakness and let the Pirates go wild for more runs? So after that laborious 31-pitch first inning Hudson locked in and shut out the Pirates over the next five innings. That’s commendable. That said, Hudson needs to become more consistent.

Paul Goldschmidt is cranking up. He had a two-run homer as part of a two-hit day. Goldy is 9 for 17 with three walks in his last three games … He can’t play defense, but Jose Martinez went 3 for 5 including a two-run homer, and scored two runs Sunday … Yairo Munoz was a late replacement in center field for Harrison Bader, who had a stiff neck. No surprise here, but Munoz came through with a very good game. He batted leadoff and opened the bottom of the first with a single as a prelude to Goldschmidt’s two-run homer. The Munoz jump start set the pace for a four-run first inning after the Cards had fallen down 3-0.

It’s bewildering to me, with many guys going through hitting funks, how the Cardinals fail to recognize Munoz’s talent and ability to generate instant offense. He’s started only three games this season. And when he’s started Munoz has seven hits in 12 at-bats. In his 75 starts for the Cardinals since the beginning of 2018, he’s batting .291 with a .366 OBP and .425 slug for a .792 OPS. And in 94 plate appearances with runners in scoring position as a Cardinal, Munoz is batting .303 with a .415 OBP and .461 slug for an .875 OPS. When a team is slumping and leaving runners on base, Munoz can help … because he takes great at-bats. And don’t talk to me about his defense. Compared to Jose Martinez, Munoz is a platinum-glove winner.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Let’s not duck this issue, OK? Jose Martinez is simply awful defensively in right field. We saw more visual confirmation of the growing problem  during the home stand, and especially Sunday. Martinez is a brutal minus 8 in Defensive Runs Saved in right field, which ranks 35th at the position this season.

SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: You don’t bring in a righthander (Brebbia) to turn the switch-hitting Josh Bell around and let him from his power side, the left side … and with the game on the line — seventh inning, runners on first and second, no out, dangerous hitter at the plate — wasn’t this a swell time to go with your best reliever?

Once upon a time, Shildt suggested that he wouldn’t limit himself in how he deployed relievers. He suggested that if a lead was at stake before the ninth inning — in a tipping-point situation that could easily determine the outcome — then it makes sense to have your most formidable reliever shut down the threat. So much for that. The game was lost in the seventh inning and there was no sign of Jordan Hicks.

One more thing: with a three-run lead, Martinez has to be removed and replaced by a more adept defensive player. This is pretty basic stuff, yes?

Also: what’s up with this sudden infatuation with bunts?

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Resting Carpenter, for sure. And starting Munoz … even if he didn’t originally intend to start Munoz.

BREATHLESS: The Cardinals are 11-13 in division games this season.  Then again, they have a losing record within the division since the start of the 2017 season, so this is nothing new.

ON DECK: Off day Monday. Followed by a six-game roadie, with three at Atlanta and three at Texas. Challenging trip for the STL pitching staff.  Texas leads MLB in runs per game (5.61) and Atlanta is seventh in the majors in OPS.

It’s been a bad stretch of baseball.

I still believe this is a good team.

Perhaps the Cardinals will find some answers on the road.

Thanks for reading …

-Bernie