Here’s your Daily Redbird Review…
OPENING COMMENT: The Cardinals are fortunate to have cover these days as the Blues make a spirited run through the Western Conference playoffs, needing one win to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Can you imagine the volume of the noise, and the intensity of anger, that would be directed at the Cardinals without the Blues distracting and delighting the STL fan base?
But the Cardinals need to dig out of this avalanche of losing.
FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals staggered home for Monday’s scheduled off day after going 2-4 on a six-game swing through Atlanta and Texas. The Cardinals had a chance to come home with a 3-3 record on the trip — but tripped on Sunday and lost 5-4 to the Rangers in 10 innings.
The losing has turned extreme. The Cardinals have lost 13 of their last 17 games. They’ve lost five consecutive series (Cubs, Phillies, Pirates, Braves, Rangers.) Your favorite baseball team is now 24-23 on the season, sitting in fourth place in the NL Central division. Here’s a sad but true fact: the Cardinals are actually closer to being in last place than first place. They lead the last-place Reds by 3 games and trail the first-place Cubs by 4 and ½ games.
CARDS KILLER: Based on what I’ve seen in May, the Cardinals do a pretty good job of killing their own chances of winning, with alternating breakdowns in starting pitching, offensive production, and bullpen. All areas of the team are taking turns in messing up games.
BASEBALL HERO: I usually decline to go the hero route after a loss, or a series defeat. But Harrison Bader started all three games in center field over the weekend and was the team’s best player in Texas, going 7 for 12 with two doubles and a homer and some great pieces of defense. Bader’s positive attitude when he hasn’t started sets a terrific example for being an unselfish, team-first pro.
BLAME GAME: During their 4-13 slide into fourth place, the Cards offense has averaged only 2.3 runs in the 13 losses. These hitters have to do better. The talent is there. Related note: the Cards went 4-for-25 with runners in scoring position during the three-game series at Texas. And they were 4-for-35 with runners in scoring position over their final five games of the trip.
TURNING POINT: I’ve heard people say manager Mike Shildt made a mistake by resting several lineup regulars in a 2-1 loss at Washington on May 1. I disagree. The Cardinals had plenty of chances to win that game but some of their big guns failed to deliver with the outcome on the line. Besides, the Cardinals took three out of four games in D.C. No, the turning point was this team’s embarrassing performance in getting swept by the Cubs in three games at Wrigley Field on the first weekend of May.
HEY, YOU DID GOOD: In addition to Bader, we saw a couple of other hitters step it up during the road trip. Pauly DeJong batted .318, had four walks, two doubles, a homer, four runs scored and seven RBIs. Dexter Fowler walked seven times, hit two homers, scored four runs, and posted a .385 onbase percentage and .474 slug. The highlight: Fowler fouled off four pitches before tying the game with a solo homer in the ninth Sunday. On the pitching side, solid work by starting pitcher Dakota Hudson on Saturday. And welcome back Carlos Martinez, who looked strong and ready to help this team during his two relief appearances at Texas.
LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: On the six-game roadie, Cardinals’ starting pitchers averaged 4.7 innings per start and got blasted for a 6.35 ERA … for the season the Cardinals rotation ranks 28th in the majors and 14th in the NL with a road ERA of 5.88 … Paul Goldschmidt hit .111 in the six games, with eight strikeouts … Jose Martinez batted .231 on the trip and struck out 31 percent of the time … For the month of May, cleanup hitter Marcell Ozuna is batting .194 with a lousy .375 slugging percentage. In addition: this month Ozuna is 4 for 22 with runners in scoring position with eight strikeouts.
SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: I know what he was trying to do Sunday in Texas, maximize Andrew Miller and Jordan Hicks by pushing them for more than an inning. In theory that’s the bright thing, and the right thing, to do. But Miller isn’t the Miller that we saw at his peak in Cleveland. And in the bottom of the eighth Miller surrendered a go-ahead homer to Rangers’ switch-hitter Danny Santana, who has a .137 batting average against lefthanded pitchers over the last three seasons. That can’t happen. And though I don’t blame Shildt for going back to Hicks again in the 10th, I do think the manager was too slow to make a move after Hicks began to labor. Rested or not, a 39-pitch outing by Hicks seems excessive to me. The root of this happened Saturday, when Shildt needlessly used John Gant for two innings in relief of Hudson with the Cardinals leading 7-2. That apparently rendered Gant unavailable for Sunday. I know Shildt had to get to his bullpen early Friday night after Miles Mikolas had a freak-out start in his return to Texas … but the Cardinals were carrying eight relievers in the bullpen.
GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Well, I liked seeing him get ejected for the first time of his career for arguing ball-strike calls Sunday.
BREATHLESS: At 5-13, the Cardinals have the NL’s worst winning percentage this month. That’s right — even the Miami Marlins, at 5-10, have had more success than the The Cardinals in May.
ON DECK: Off day. Then two against Kansas City (16-31 record) at Busch Stadium beginning Tuesday night.
Thanks for reading …