Your Daily Redbird Review:
FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals closed their first home stand of the second half with a 6-5 comeback victory over the Pirates at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals returned from the All-Star break by winning both series at Busch Stadium, taking two of three from the Diamondbacks and Pirates to go 4-2 at home.
Winning two straight series at Busch Stadium may not seem like much to fuss about, and it shouldn’t be. But the Cardinals hadn’t won consecutive home series since going 7-2 while disposing the Mets, Brewers and Reds from April 19 through April 28.
The Cubs and Brewers each won on Wednesday, so the Cardinals remained three games behind the first-place Cubs and a half-game in back of the second-place Brewers.
But there’s been some separation on the back end because the Pirates and Reds have stumbled out of the gate in second half. The Cardinals lead the Pirates by 3 and ½ and the Reds by 4 and ½.
The Cardinals are in Cincinnati and open a four-game series tonight at Great American Ball Park.
BASEBALL HERO: If we’re talking Wednesday’s win, and the comeback that turned a potential 3-3 home stand into a 4-2 success, then the gold medal goes to Paul Goldschmidt, who wrecked the Pirates with a three-run homer in the seventh inning. The boom shot came wih the Cardinals down 4-3 and gave the home team a 6-4 a lead. Big homer, right there. Saved the game. And it will be even bigger if this triggers an extended blast of offense from Goldschmidt.
TURNING POINT: In my view, it occurred in the fifth inning when Cards reliever Dominic Leone came in to replace struggling starter Daniel Ponce DeLeon in the fourth. The Pirates had already scored three runs in the inning to open a 4-2 lead and were threatening to do more damage. But Leone got Starling Marte on a grounder to end the inning, and the threat was defused.
HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Let’s go to the list:
1. The procession of Leone, Chasen Shreve, John Brebbia and Andrew Miller combined to get 13 outs without allowing a hit or a walk or a run, doing a wonderful job of carrying the game through the eighth inning and giving the Cards’ hitters an opportunity to erase a 4-2 deficit. That was 4 and ⅓ innings of day-saving relief work. Brebbia was particularly nasty, striking out four of the six Pirates faced over his two innings.
2. Tyler O’Neill had an RBI single in the first inning and slammed his fifth homer of the season in the fifth inning to get the Cardinals to within 4-3 … in 13 games since being recalled from Memphis, O’Neill is batting .354 and slugging .667 with three doubles, four homers, eight runs and 11 RBIs … all 11 RBIs by O’Neill came in the cleanup spot.
2a. O’Neill didn’t play in the Cards’ first game back from the All-Star break (writer pauses to scratch head) but was able to chip in over the last five games of the home stand. “Chip in” as in 10 hits in 20 at-bats with four homers, two doubles and 11 RBIs.
3. In the six-game homestand Goldschmidt and O’Neill combined to wallop six of the Cards’ seven home runs, and they combined for 17 of the team’s 24 RBIs. Goldschmidt batting third, O’Neill fourth. Damn, that looks good.
4. Goldy has a .375 OBP and .643 slugging percentage over his last 12 games — with four homers, three doubles and 12 RBIs.
5. Tommy Edman batted leadoff Wednesday and went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs.
LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Closer Carlos Martinez was ineffective for the second consecutive appearance, but did survive the ninth inning after giving up a run. With the tying run on third Martinez escaped by getting the game’s final out by retiring Starling Marte on a fielder’s choice grounder. Nine of the 13 batters faced by Martinez in the final two games of the Pittsburgh series reached base. He gave up three runs over two innings and wasn’t sharp. … Paul DeJong has a .165 average, two extra-base hits and only four walks over 98 plate appearances in his last 23 games.
SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: Nothing here to holler about.
GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: The skipper belatedly moved Paul DeJong down in the lineup, to the sixth spot. DeJong was hitless in four at-bats and struck out twice.
ON DECK: Dakota Hudson (8-4, 3.48 ERA) opens the series in Cincinnati against Reds starter Tanner Roark (5-6, 3.99 ERA.) First pitch 6:10 p.m. STL time.
LET’S TAKE A TOUR OF THE NL CENTRAL….
CUBS: They’re 5-1 record with three games remaining (vs. Padres) on the nine-game stand at Wrigley … the Cubs averaged 5.6 runs in the six games with 12 homers including three apiece from Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber … watch out for Yu Darvish; in his first two starts coming out of the break he didn’t allow a run in 12 innings, gave up only four hits, and struck out 35 percent of batters faced … Cubs starting pitchers combined for a 2.70 ERA in the team’s first six games of the second half … catcher Willson Contreras is on the IL with a sprained foot, and the Cubs secured protection at the position by flipping LH pitcher Mike Montgomery to Kansas City for catcher Martin Moldonado.
CARDS: They have the NL’s best overall ERA (2.67) since play resumed … Tyler O’Neill is launching rockets… Paul Goldschmidt is revving up… but the STL bullpen had a 4.91 ERA during the home stand, mostly because closer Carlos Martinez had two consecutive wobbly outings against the Pirates.
BREWERS: 3-3 record since the break … a frayed Milwaukee bullpen has a 7.84 over the first six games … the Crew just took two of three from the visiting Braves for their first series win over a team other than the Pirates since mid-May … Christian Yelich hit three homers in the six games and has 34 for the season … but the story is rookie second baseman Keston Hiura. He jumped into the second half by going 14 for 23 (.609) in Milwaukee’s first six games, cranking five doubles, a triple, two homers, six runs and seven RBIs … in his first 33 MLB games Hiura has slugged .605 and performed 57 percent above league average offensively in park-adjusted runs created… LH starter Gio Gonzalez is scheduled to reenter the Brewers rotation on Saturday at Arzona. He was off to a positive start (3.19 ERA in six starts) but hasn’t pitched since May 27 because of a sore shoulder … Gonzalez will replace rookie Adrian Houser in the Brewer rotation. Houser, ineffective as a starter, goes back to the bullpen where he’d posted a 1.05 ERA in 25 and ⅔ innings.
PIRATES: 2-4 record since the break with only 18 runs scored a .635 OPS in the first six games… the pitching staff was battered for a 6.43 ERA in the six, and that includes an 8.16 earned-run average by the starters. As we saw during the series at Busch Stadium, the Pirates were terribly sloppy on defense … outfielder Starling Marte drew criticism for his failure to hustle down the line after hitting into his third double play of his team’s 7-0 loss to the Cardinals on Monday … Pirates were outscored 36-18 while losing four of six to the Cubs and Cardinals … with ace starter Jameson Taillon (strained flexor) still out for an indefinite amount of time — he may not pitch again this season — the Pirates’ rotation is reeling. While Chris Archer’s first two starts of the second half were encouraging, he still has a 5.36 ERA on the season (17 starts) and has been smashed for 22 homers in 91 innings … Jordan Lyles has a 1-5 record and 10.13 ERA in his last seven starts … in four starts since returning from the IL, Trevor Williams has a 9.53 ERA and has been axed for eight homers in only 22.2 innings … and Big Joe Musgrove has a 5.01 ERA in his last 10 starts.
REDS: It’s been a rough stretch. The Reds lost their final two games heading into the break, and are 2-4 since returning. That adds up to a 2-6 record in the last eight, and the roster has taken some hits with injuries, especially at catcher. Center fielder Nick Stenzel left Wednesday’s game at Wrigley Field with a tight hamstring (status unknown.) On the other hand, the surprisingly Reds pitching staff soon should benefit from the imminent return of LH relief weapon Amir Garrett and LH starter Alex Wood. The biggest problem — all season — for the Reds is a lethargic offense that ranks 14th in the NL in runs per game (4.38), 12th in slugging (.415), and 12th in OBP (.309.) The Reds are 13th in the league in park adjusted runs created; they’ve performed 16 percent below league average … Reds first baseman Joey Votto has a slash line of .242 / .299 / .306 in his last 16 games.
Thanks for reading…