Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: Rookie Dakota Hudson Is the Cardinals’ Best Starting Pitcher, Period.

Here’s your Daily Redbird Review, presented with love and mercy, as the Cardinals go for the sweep in Miami on Wednesday night …

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals smacked the Marlins around for the second consecutive night, this time by a score of 7-1. The win lifted the Cardinals back over .500 at 33-32. Dakota Hudson was superb again, allowing one run in seven innings. The Cardinals had 13 hits, their most in a game since collecting 14 hits in a win in Atlanta on May 14.

With two straight wins the Cardinals have picked up some ground in the NL Central standings. They trail first-place Milwaukee by 4 games and are 3 and ½ behind the second-place Cubs.

With two dubs in a row in Miami, the Cardinals have won consecutive road games for the first time since April 30 and May 1 at Washington. They’ve also clinched their first road-series win since late-April, early-May in Washington. But hold off on the champagne, right?

BASEBALL HERO: After an unsteady April, rookie Dakota Hudson, 24, has evolved into the Cardinals’ best starting pitcher. Over his last eight starts, going back to May 2, Hudson has the eighth-best ERA among National League starters at 2.40. He has the league’s best overall ground-ball rate at 62 percent, but it’s been even better over the last eight starts at 65.6 percent.

That explains why Hudson has yielded only one homer in his last 206 batters faced. Hudson got 12 ground-ball outs in last night’s game and turned in his sixth consecutive quality start. His sinker already was excellent, and Hudson is even more of a challenge for hitters now that he’s developed a nasty slider that he uses more often.

The Cardinals have won Hudson’s last five starts. He’s effective on the road, which has been a real issue for Cards starters this season. Enough said. He’s their best.

BLAME GAME: Nothing.

TURNING POINT: It was still a 1-1 game in the sixth when Paul Goldschmidt doubled, went to third on Marcell Ozuna’s infield hit, and scored on a heads-up dash to home when Miami’s shortstop caught Yadier Molina’s line drive and made an errant throw in a bid to double-up Ozuna at first. It was a smart and aggressive play by Goldy, and the Cardinals added another run in the sixth for a 3-1 lead. Ballgame.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: The Cardinals’ defense behind Hudson was exceptional. Yairo Munoz started for the second straight game, this time a third base, and made two excellent plays in the sixth.
Goldschmidt made some nifty scoops on low throws to first base, and turned a smooth double play to end the third inning. Ozuna showed good range to chase down a line drive with two runners on in the fourth … Ozuna had two hits, two runs, and his 18th homer … Jose Martinez delivered a two-run pinch single, breaking a streak of 35 at-bats without an RBI … and how about Molina? He bounces off the IL and cranks out a double and single…Goldschmidt’s strikeout rate is 11 percent in June, a sign that he’s close to a breakout.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Shortstop Pauly DeJong is one of my personal favorites. He’s a terrific all-around talent. But the Cardinals need more impact from DeJong’s bat. He went 1 for 5 last night with a strikeout and is hitting .198 with a .347 slugging percentage since the end of April. Since May 22 DeJong is 7-for-60, a .117 batting average, and has a .217 slug and three RBIs. I expected a downturn after DeJ’s hot start … but this has gone on longer than expected.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: The manager was on top of it last night.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Munoz had a good game at shortstop on Monday, and Shildt did the right thing in recognizing the effort by giving Munoz a second consecutive start. Shildty rewarded Munoz for his Monday performance, and Munoz rewarded the manager with another fine performance on Tuesday.

BREATHLESS: Right-handed reliever Giovanny Gallegos pitched a scoreless eighth on Tuesday and punched out another strikeout.

Did you know that Gallegos ranks fourth among MLB relievers (minimum 28 IP) in strikeout rate? If not, don’t feel bad. Gallegos is having one of the more overlooked seasons by a big-league reliever in 2019.

Here’s the list of top strikeout rates by MLB relievers through Tuesday:

* LH Josh Hader, Brewers, 55%

* RH Kirby Yates, Padres, 45.3%

* LH Brad Hand, Indians, 40%

* RH Giovanny Gallegos, Cardinals, 38.9%

* RH Brandon Workman, Red Sox, 36.9%

Also: Gallegos is tied for fifth among MLB relievers with a strikeout-walk ratio of 7.0, and his 0.84 WHIP ranks eighth.

As I noted many months ago, Gallegos was effective against LH batters in the minors and I wasn’t sure why the Cardinals seemed unaware of that.

That success has continued in the majors. In 45 plate appearances vs. Gallegos this season, LH bats are hitting .171 with a 38% strikeout rate.

Gallegos came over from the Yankees in the Luke Voit deal. As it turns out, the Cardinals did receive value in the Voit trade… even if relatively few have taken note if it.

ON DECK: Miles Mikolas should be able to take advantage of light-hitting Marlins and improve on his horrendous road pitching performance so far in 2019. It’s a 6:10 p.m. game, STL time, on Fox Sports Midwest.

Take a look at the Mikolas road work in 2018 compared to 2019:

ERA: 3.53 last year … 7.52 in ‘19
Batting average allowed:   .261 … .342
Slugging pct. allowed:   .378 … .667
OPS allowed:   .675 … 1.052 in ‘19
HR/9 IP:    0.9 … 2.7

The Mikolas 7.52 road ERA is the worst among MLB starters that have at least 25 road innings this so far this season. The .667 road slugging percentage is the highest allowed by a big-league starter with 25+ road innings.

The Marlins have scored 10 runs in their last six games (all losses) and are averaging fewer runs per game for the season than any team in the bigs.

The Marlins have called up RHP Jordan Yamamoto to make Wednesday’s start. It will be the MLB debut for Yamamoto, who came to Miami as part of the trade that sent outfielder Christian Yelich to Milwaukee. One more more note on Yamamoto: he’s a graduate of Honolulu Saint Louis School, the prep school that’s produced a long line of outstanding athletes including quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Tua Tagovailoa.

Thanks for reading …

-Bernie