Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: Cardinals Get the Bats Booming In Atlanta. End of Slump?

Good morning. Here’s your Daily Redbird Review.

Hot times in Atlanta …

Booming bats …

The Cards bashed three, three-run homers …

The late, great Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver would have loved this display of offensive might by the Cardinals. When asked about the most important keys to success for his Baltimore Orioles, Weaver said (many times), “pitching and three-run homers.” He elaborated: “Pitching keeps you in the games. Home runs win the game.”  Earl loved walks … and his Orioles drew a lot of walks to set up those three-run homers. And the Cardinals walked early and often in Monday’s win. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt is an Earl Weaver guy from way back.

FIRST PITCH: After slip-sliding during a 2-5 home stand, and losing nine of their previous 11 games, the Cardinals must have gotten lots of rest on Monday’s day off. They used their bats to punish the Atlanta Braves, beating the home team 14-3 on the strength of 14 hits including four homers. And the Cardinals walked seven times. The win gave the Cards a 23-19 record on the season. But they didn’t gain any ground on the Cubs and Brewers; both rivals won on Tuesday night. The first-place Cubs have won 13 of their last 15 and are 23-7 in their last 30.

BASEBALL HERO: Several fine options here but I’m going with Yadier Molina, who powered up for a double and a three-run homer. Molina has 30 RBIs and a .441 slugging percentage this season. Oh, and he’s a pretty good catcher too. As Rick Hummel noted in the Post-Dispatch and STLtoday, Molina’s double was his No. 367 in his career, which ties him with Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby for fifth on the Cardinals’ all-time list. Molina has 12 doubles this season, which is tied for ninth in the National League.

TURNING POINT: The Big Bear, Marcell Ozuna, left big tracks on this game in the first inning with a three-run homer that blasted the game open. The blowout was on.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: We’ve covered Molina and Ozuna and their big nights, and every Cardinals’ position-player starter had at least one hit during the 14-run breakout.  Kolten Wong also hit a three-run homer late in the game to add to the fun. But Dexter Fowler had a splendid game: 2-for-3, two walks, solo homer, three runs, on base four times. And Pauly DeJong just keeps going, contributing two walks, a hit and a run scored. In his last 15 games DeJong has walked in 25 percent of his plate appearances and continues to reduce his strikeout rate.

ABOUT DEXTER FOWLER: He’s having a wonderful start to the season, batting .305 with a .421 onbase percentage and .429 slugging pct. Among Cardinals that have at least 125 plate appearances this season only Pauly DeJong has outperformed Fowler offensively park-adjusted runs created. (Formally known as wRC+.) DeJong is 62 percent above league average offensively; Fowler is next at 38 percent above the league average offensively.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: After being handed a three-run lead early, an advantage that expanded to 11-0 through the top of the fifth, Jack Flaherty could only go six innings because he threw 109 pitches. And he threw too many pitches because he walked five Braves. Flaherty allowed three runs in six innings, which is OK. But that’s not the point. This team will thrive only if the rotation improves. And I really don’t know why so many Cardinals pitchers have a problem throwing strikes. This isn’t just me being grumpy or picking on Flaherty. Anyone who pays attention to my work knows that I think highly of Flaherty and have been bragging on him long before he reached the big leagues. Hell, I compared him to Jim Palmer a few years ago.

But walks are a problem for this rotation. Cardinals’ starters have the third-highest walk rate in the National League. They also have the worst strikeout rate. So when you’re walking guys instead of striking them out, and the ratio is so imbalanced, it leads to problems including home runs. Only five major-league rotations have surrendered more home runs per nine innings than the Cardinals.This flaw with walks, which has led to too many short starts, also stresses the bullpen. So by extension, the Cardinals’ rotation inefficiency makes it harder for the relievers to do their jobs.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: I’m good. Easy game for the Cardinals and the skipper. But get those bats going again, Shildty. The last time the Cardinals had a cake win, scoring 17 times against the Pirates, they followed up with one run in each of the next two games… both 2-1 losses that ruined the homestand.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Easy game for the Cardinals but at least this time he used the right relievers in a blowout game, getting an inning each from Giovanny Gallegos, Dominic Leone and Luke Gregerson. When the Cardinals whomped the Pirates 17-4 last week, Shildt used John Gant and John Brebbia in relief — a waste of two valuable bullpen assets.

BREATHLESS: From the Cardinals’ standpoint, it was just nice to get a win. And to launch the six-game road trip to Atlanta and Texas with four homers and a payload of offense. Even with the win the Cardinals are 3-9 in their last 12 and have the league’s second-worst record since May 2. Small stretch of games, yes. But my point is, the Cardinals need to resume their winning ways.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie