The Redbird Review: Goldschmidt Sinks The Jolly Roger! But Cards Starting Pitchers Are Sinking Their Own Bullpen

Here’s the latest Daily Redbird Review…

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals won a crazy one, a real thriller, last night in Pittsburgh, holding on for a 6-5 win in 10 innings to extend their recent run of success. The win gave the Cards an 8-3 record since the All-Star break;  they’re 11-5 in their last 16.

At 52-47, the Cardinals are five games over .500 for the first time since May 10.

As a bonus, the Cubs lost at San Francisco and the Brewers lost to the Reds. The Cardinals moved up into second place, a game and a half behind the Cubs. Milwaukee is in third place, two games out of first.

BASEBALL HERO: Paul Goldschmidt looked like the happiest man on the planet after he hammered an opposite-field grand slam in the top of the 10th to give the Cardinals a 6-2 lead. Those extensive Fox Sports Midwest camera shots of Goldschmidt smiling in the dugout gave us a great look at a man who was relieved, overjoyed and just thrilled to lift his team.

Goldy’s 19th homer of the season was a biggie. Even with his frustrating series at Cincinnati baked in, Goldschmidt is slugging .569 in 67 plate appearances this month. And he has five homers and three doubles in 58 at-bats.

A prominent honorable mention goes to right fielder Jose Martinez, who threw out Kevin Newman at the plate in the bottom of the 10th to protect the Cards’ one-run lead. For the Cardinals the game was spinning out of control, and seemingly getting away, but Martinez saved the night.

Usually J-Mart is switched out of the game for defensive purposes but … in this one, he actually entered the game in the 10th as part of a double switch … in other words: baseball, right? A game that constantly surprises.

TURNING POINT: Two things:

1. The Pirates had runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth but Cards lefty Chasen Shreve eliminated the danger by striking out Bryan Reynolds for the the out.

2. Matt Wieters led off the 10th with a walk … normally we wouldn’t pay tribute to a walk, but the Cardinals desperately needed to get something going. After taking a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, this is what STL hitters did from innings five through nine: 1 for 16 with eight strikeouts. Ugh. In that context the Wieters walk was a much needed jump start for the Cardinals.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Applause for Wieters who was terrific in Monday’s win. He hit a solo homer to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. He hit a sac fly to give them a 2-1 lead. He walked to get something going in the 10th.

In 49 plate appearances since June 29, Wieters is batting .293 with a .388 OBP and .659 slugging percentage and five homers. For the season Wieters is slugging .495 and has eight homers in only 103 at-bats.

Kudos to Michael Wacha, Tyler Webb and John Brebbia for supplying 5 and ⅔ of one-run relief to steady the game after starting pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon’s short, three-inning start.

(Side note: is there any doubt that the Cardinals are aching to plug Wacha back into the rotation? Sure, the Cardinals will do that. Because they are really nice people who really believe in their veteran guys.)

Leadoff man Tommy Edman went 2-for-5 … and his single in the 10th helped set the table for Goldy’s bombaroo.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Relievers Shreve and Carlos Martinez nearly squandered the 6-2 lead in the 10th but at least Martinez pulled it together in time to get that final out after Jose Martinez preserved the lead with that pinpoint throw from right field.

This bullpen is absolutely fried right now, and Martinez was overdue for a night off. But with multiple weary relievers off-limits for Monday’s game, manager Mike Shildt had no choice but to go to Martinez.

My point is, I know Martinez is tired and I do cut him some slack. Monday’s appearance was his fifth in seven days … and he’d thrown between 19 and 27 pitches — 88 overall — in the four appearances in leading into last night.

Remember, Martinez threw 27 pitches on Friday night at Cincinnati, and came back Sunday for a 19-pitch save against the Reds. And it was back to the mound on Monday. So if we add last night into the mix (15 pitches), that’s three appearances and 61 pitches in four days.

(Sidebar: And the Cardinals told us Martinez couldn’t be a starting pitcher because it would be too hard on his right shoulder? All together now … HUH? )

In his last five appearances Martinez has been raked for six runs, 10 hits and four walks in only five innings for a 10.80 ERA. After getting some rest, he’ll have to sharpen up.

Elsewhere:

The Cardinals struck out 14 times. And until Goldy powered the grand-slam homer, the team’s RH batters had gone 0 for 20 with a dozen strikeouts. (Hell, I think it was 12 strikeouts. I lost count. So forgive me.)

THE REAL PROBLEM … is the rotation…

Ponce de Leon came up short for the second consecutive start, both against the Pirates. After lasting only 3.2 innings on 73 pitches against the Bucs last week, “Ponce” used 86 pitches to get through three innings last night. And his walk rate over the last two starts is a whopping — as in bad — 17.4 percent.

The bullpen was forced to cover seven innings in Monday’s win. And the current trend will lead to terrible trouble; in the last six games the starters have thrown 25 and ⅓ innings, with the relievers lugging a load of 28 and ⅔ innings over the six games.

Amazingly the Cardinals have won five of the six.

The STL rotation is golden, ranking 12th in the NL with a 4.76 fielding independent ERA.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: Nothing here. Tough night with the STL hitters striking out all over the place. Tough night with Ponce de Leon lasting only three innings.

GOOD MOVE, SHILDTY: The manager did about as well as could be expected, given the burned-out bullpen. He was able to squeeze seven innings out of a short-handed bullpen, and the 10th inning scare doesn’t change the fact that Shildt worked the ‘pen beautifully to get his team into extra innings.

ON DECK: Tuesday night it’s Dakota Hudson vs. the Pirates’ Chris Archer. First pitch 6:05 p.m. STL time.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie