The Stanley Cup … and the proud owners of the Cup, your St. Louis Blues … will be at Busch Stadium tonight.
Things to do:
1. Play Gloria.
2. Have Pat Maroon bonk each Cardinal on the head with the Stanley Cup and wake them up.
3. Have Blues coach Craig Berube speak to Cardinals players … and challenge them, confront them, hold them accountable and push them to set a much higher standard for competing.
4. If Berube can demote Alex Steen to the fourth line and make it work for the betterment of the Blues, maybe he can intervene and pull Matt Carpenter from the leadoff spot.
5. Have Doug Armstrong talk to John Mozeliak about roster construction and aggressively filling needs to address weaknesses and make your team a more viable contender.
Perhaps it will get the Cardinals fired up.
FIRST PITCH: Jack Flaherty couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead on Tuesday night, getting blasted by visiting Oakland for three homers and seven earned runs in 4 and ⅔ innings. And the Cardinals went down 7-3 in losing their second straight game. But despite going only 4-4 on the current homestand the third-place Cardinals remain only 2.5 games out of first place in the NL Central. That’s because the Cubs are 6-9 in their last 15 games, and the Brewers are 3-8 in their last 11.
CARDS LOSING THE POWER STRUGGLE IN 2019: The Cardinals rank 23rd in the majors with an average of 1.22 home runs per game … and rank 25th with a slugging percentage of .402. The disparity in power shows up when we’re talking about how the Cardinals do against opposing starting pitchers — compared to how the other team’s hitters do against the Cards’ starting pitchers.
Cards hitters vs. opponent starting pitchers: .389 slugging percentage, 1.2 homers per nine innings.
Opposing hitters vs. St. Louis starting pitchers: .415 slugging percentage, 1.5 HR per nine innings.
BASEBALL HERO: Welcome back to the former Cardinal Stephen Piscotty, the A’s right fielder, who received a standing ovation in his first plate appearance at Busch Stadium since being traded to Oakland at the end of the 2017 season.
BLAME GAME: I’ve been pointing out Jack Flaherty’s home-run problem for quite some time, and the chronic flaw flared up to burn him again Tuesday. With the A’s slamming three homers, Flaherty has been for 18 longballs in 85 and ⅓ innings this season after yielding 20 in 150 innings last season. Flaherty’s home-run rate this season — he’s giving up 1.9 per nine innings — is the worst by a National League statrting pitcher and the fourth worst among big-league starters.
And just to give you an idea of how bad this is, the home-run rate vs. Flaherty would be the third-worst against a St. Louis starter (minimum 85 innings) since MLB lowered the pitching mound in 1969. Andy Benes gave up 2.12 homers per nine innings in 2001, and Jason Simontacchi was struck for 2.0 HR/9 in 2000.
In five June starts, Flaherty had a 7.01 ERA, was hammered for a .596 slugging percentage and 3.2 homers per nine innings. His ERA for the season is up to 4.75.
TURNING POINT: The Cardinals scored three runs in the second to take a 3-1 lead but failed to tack on and put the A’s in a deep ditch. Paul Goldschmidt lined out to end the second inning and stranded a runner in scoring position. In the fourth, with the Cards still up 3-1, they had runners on first and second with one out but couldn’t grow their lead, stalling on a Matt Carpenter strikeout and a Paul DeJong pop up. After that miss by the home team the A’s jumped Flaherty for six runs in the top of the fifth.
This went on all night. The Cardinals had runners at first and third with one out in the fifth but Yadier Molina and Dexter Fowler struck out. In the eighth, the Cards had runners at first and third with two out … and Carpenter flied to left.
The Cardinals tried to rally in the ninth, putting runners on first and third. But the threat fizzled on strikeouts by Jose Martinez and Molina.
HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Marcell Ozuna reached base four times on two hits (including a double) and two walks … Tommy Edman had a pinch-hit single and is now 6 for 15 this season (.400 BA) with a double, triple, homer and two runs batted in … after being promoted from Triple A Memphis to restock the Cards’ bullpen, Dominic Leone looked sharp in his two innings of relief, striking out three without allowing a base runner … Kolten Wong had a hit, scored a run and swiped a base. He’s 14-for-14 in steals this season. More on this in a minute) …
I realize that technically Matt Carpenter tripled and drove in two runs. Polite applause. But let’s be honest here: the so-called triple was a misplay by Oakland center fielder Ramon Laureno …
LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: The Cardinals went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position and left 12 runners on base … this offense has scored five or more runs in a game only 34 times this season; that’s 11th most in the National League. I use five runs as a standard for two reasons: (1) anything below five is also below the MLB team average for runs per game; and (2) the Cardinals are 28-6 this season when they score five or more runs.
Reliever John Brebbia inherited two runners put on base by Flaherty and allowed both runners to score. That extended Oakland’s lead from 5-3 to 7-3. Look, we respect Brebbia … but he’s been worked hard and could be burning out. In 10 and ⅓ innings this month Brebbia has been torched for an 8.71 ERA, .318 batting average, and booming .933 OPS.
SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: (1) Stayed with Flaherty too long. And (2) at some point doesn’t he have to get a bit radical by trying to shake up a stagnant, ineffective lineup? Continuity is fine … when it’s working and clicking. But continuity combined with mediocrity is a negative, and makes no sense. The Cardinals, with 78 games played, are nearly halfway through their scheduled.
GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: He’s done a fine job of spotting Edman in for pinch-hitting turns. But now the manager has to give Edman a chance to start more games.
BREATHLESS: The Cardinals lead the National League in steals with 55. But the real story here is the team’s outstanding success rate. The Cardinals 55 steals in 66 attempts, a made-it-safe percentage of 83.3 percent. But it gets better: going back to May 2 the Cardinals have made it 38 times out of 43, a success rate of 88.3 percent.
When Wong stole another base on Tuesday night, it gave the Cardinals their 31st steal in the last 33 attempts. That’s a make-it rate of 94%, which is absolutely ridiculous. A success rate of 70 to 75 percent is considered great. The Cardinals are way above that.
Shildt and his coaches have done a superb job of turning the Cardinals into a smart and effective base-running machine.
ON DECK: Adam Wainwright starts against Oakland’s Daniel Mengden tonight at 6:15 p.m. The Cardinals should win this game; Waino has a 2.68 ERA at home this season. And Mengden has a 5.09 ERA in 23 innings.
Thanks for reading …