Presenting your Daily Redbird Review.
Yo: The Cardinals can’t lose this series to the Pirates.
TOP O’ THE MORNING THOUGHT: Shake Up The Lineup … Especially at the top.
FIRST PITCH: Someone forgot to disable the hibernation mode for the Cardinals offense, which shut down on Tuesday night during a frustrating 3-1 loss to the Pirates at Busch Stadium. You know it’s bad night for the St. Louis hitters when starting pitcher Jack Flaherty throws a great game AND drives in the team’s only run. With this sorry defeat, and a victory by Milwaukee over Atlanta, the Cardinals slid back into third place in the NL Central. The Cubs beat Cincinnati so the the 47-46 Cardinals trail the first-place Cubs by 3 games.
CARDS KILLER: Pirates starter Dario Agrazal is 24, isn’t imposing, was way down on his team’s depth chart before the season and has made only a few big-league starts. So we could have predicted this, right? Despite getting five hits and drawing three walks overall and making the Pirates starter throw 39 pitches in the first two innings, the Cardinals scored only one run in his six-inning start. This lineup, once again, had no clue as to what to do with an inexperienced starting pitcher — and made no adjustments along the way.
BASEBALL HERO: Jack Flaherty, of course. He gave the Cardinals a superb start — and an RBI double — that should have resulted in a victory for the home team. Flaherty pitched seven innings, struck out eight, and allowed only three hits and a run. In his last two starts Flaherty has been touched for only two earned runs in 14 innings but the Cardinals scored only one run in the two games … and Flaherty drove that one in by himself.
BLAME GAME & TURNING POINT: If you want to slap at Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez for giving up the decisive two runs in his sloppy ninth inning, the go ahead. But the Cardinals essentially lost this game in the bottom of the seventh by failing to score after having runners on first and third and no outs. With the game tied 1-1, Matt Wieters hit into a fielder’s choice, Harrison Bader fouled out, and Jose Martinez grounded out. The Pirates escaped. Just awful. The Cardinals went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
“Clearly frustrating,” manager Mike Shildt said after the game. “We’ve got to execute there. We couldn’t get the ball out of the infield.”
HEY, YOU DID GOOD: I’m not in a charitable mood. Flaherty was great. Tyler O’Neill had two hits. Dexter Fowler gave the Cards a chance to win by opening the seventh with a double that put him on third when the Pirates fumbled on picking the ball up. Giovanny Gallegos pitched a scoreless eighth. And that’s it.
THE ROTATION: Over the last six games Cards starting pitchers have been nicked for five earned runs in 42 and ⅔ innings for a 1.05 ERA. Keep it up, boys.
LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Tommy Edman was back in the leadoff spot and went 0-for-4. It was a terrible night for the top three hitters in the lineup, with Edman, Paul DeJong and Paul Goldschmidt combining to go 0-of-12 with no walks. And the top three hit only one ball out of the infield. Embarrassing. The first two lineup spots, in particular, are horrendous at creating run-scoring opportunities.
SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: Let’s go to the list:
1. Dexter Fowler should bat leadoff. Highest OBP on the team among regulars.
2. Paul DeJong should be moved down in the lineup. In 263 plate appearances since April flipped to May, Pauly is batting .205 with a .300 OBP and .336 slugging percentage. In park-adjusted runs created (wRC+) he’s been 29 percent below league average offensively.
3. Harrison Bader has a .111 batting average with runners in scoring position this season, going 4 for 36 with 17 strikeouts. Yeah, he draws a lot of walks with RISP, but that’s because he usually bats eighth and the pitcher is up next. He’s batting .206 in high-leverage situations this year. Bader has the third-worst batting average in the majors (.143) with men on base. And with a runner on third base and less than two outs, Bader is for 14 with eight strikeouts. He was in that situation in the seventh inning Tuesday night. No pinch hitter? Goodness, I don’t know what to say.
GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: He stayed with Flaherty in the seventh, good call.
BRO’NEILL: In 47 plate appearances since the Cardinals summoned him from Triple A Memphis, Tyler O’Neill is batting .341 with a .383 OBP, .614 slug. With three homers, three doubles, seven runs and nine RBIs. In limited opportunities (228 PA) as a big-league hitter since the start of last season, O’Neill has slugged .505 with a .316 OBP (I’ve seen worse) and performed 18 percent above league average in park-adjusted runs created. And the Cardinals are said to be making Bro’Neill available in a trade? Really? Oh, that must be because this teams is LOADED with offense. OVERSTOCKED with outstanding hitters.
(Pardon my sarcasm.)
RELATED NOTE: In 136 PA at Memphis, outfielder Randy Arozarena is batting .358 wuth a .426 OBP and .558 slug for a .988 OPS. No room in St. Louis, eh? Nope, not with all of these future Hall of Fame outfielders on the Cards’ 25-man roster.
(Pardon my snark.)
BREATHLESS: When the STL offense is gasping, this team is exasperating.
RANDOM CRY FOR HELP: Free Yairo Munoz.
ON DECK: Midweek day ball at Busch Stadium! Yes! Daniel Ponce de Leon will square off against the Pirates’ Chris Archer at 12:15 p.m.
Thanks for reading …