Here’s your Daily Redbird Review with facts, stats, sass. I offer ‘hot takes,” but please know that other options are available in this shop of opinions. My takes can be served mild, salty, peppery or molten.
The way the Cardinals are performing these days, they’re definitely a lava-hot team…
FIRST PITCH: At this point the Pirates must be contemplating drastic measures. I don’t know; maybe use real cannon balls and aim them at the Cardinals’ dugout? Perhaps challenge the Cardinals to a sword fight? Demand that Cards’ hitters take their at-bats with buccaneer-style eye patches? Sign the notorious Blackbeard — master of the dark arts — as a free agent? On second thought, Blackbeard died in 1718. And besides, Pirates’ owner Bob Nutting is too much of a cheapskate to give Blackbeard a big contract. And hell … I don’t want to see a real pirate go after, say, Yairo Munoz.
On Wednesday night the Cardinals set the Jolly Roger on fire before sinking it again, hitting the home team with a nine-run bundle shot in the second inning on the way to a 14-8 victory. With the Cubs and Brewers also winning on Wednesday, the division race stayed the same. The Cubs lead the Cardinals by a half-game and the Cards lead the third-place Brewers by a game-and-a-half.
Since the All-Star break the Pirates are 1-5 vs. the Cardinals and are 2-10 in the second half.
After sitting a half-game behind the Cardinals at the All-Star break, the last-place Bucs trail the second-place Cards by eight games. And all of this has happened in less than two weeks.
STREAKY DETAILS: Let’s slap some on the Cardinals’ recent trends:
— They’re 7-1 in their last eight games.
— They’ve won 10 of their last 12.
— And are 10-3 since the All-Star break.
— The record since June 30 is 14-6.
— By taking the first three games in this four-game set at PNC Park, the Cardinals have won four consecutive series and five of the last six.
— They’re 6-1 on the current road trip to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and can make it 7-1 with a win today.
— The Cards’ second-half run differential is + 22.
THE COMEBACK CARDS: With the Cardinals cranking out 14 runs, 15 hits, six doubles and five homers on Wednesday, it’s easy to forget that they actually trailed 2-0 going into the second inning. So yeah, you can call it a comeback. It was their fifth comeback win since the All-Star break … and during the 14-6 stretch, eight of STL’s 14 wins were comeback specials. Impressive.
BASEBALL HERO: Pauly DeJong, of course. He became the first shortstop in franchise history to hit three homers in a game. This stuns me; I would have put my money on Pete Kozma, Julio Gotay or Cesar Izturis. In addition to the three bombs, DeJong’s haul included four hits, a double, five runs batted in and four runs scored.
It’s been a rousing road trip for DeJong, who has emerged from an extended slump. In 26 at-bats he’s pummeled Reds and Pirates pitching for nine extra-base hits — including five homers — and driven in 12 runs with 10 runs scored. Nine of DeJong’s 10 hits on this roadie have gone for extra bases.
TURNING POINT: Here’s the smart-aleck … but true … answer: the top of the second inning. The Cardinals went wilding for nine runs on nine hits, a walk, and a Pirates error that got the craziness swirling.
The Cardinals tied an MLB record with eight extra-base hits in the inning. The breakdown: three homers, each coming on two-run shots from DeJong, rookie catcher Andrew Knizner, and Paul Goldschmidt. And there were five doubles: two by Kolten Wong, and one apiece from Munoz, Dexter Fowler and DeJong.
HEY, YOU DID GOOD: DeJong’s bat crackled with the loudest thunder but he had plenty of battering mates on this night …
1. Goldschmidt went 2-for-5 with the two-run homer and three runs scored. In 12 games against the Pirates this season Goldy has been a wrecking ball with five homers, 17 RBIs, and a 1.119 OPS. In a separate note, Goldy is having himself a fireball July. In 76 plate appearances this month he’s volleyed 7 homers with 21 RBIs, 15 runs, and a .627 slugging percentage.
2. Knizner crushed his first major-league home run as part of a hitting fest that included two walks, the two RBIs, and two runs.
(Sidebar: in July Cardinals catchers Matt Wieters and Knizner have combined for five homers, 10 RBIs and a .482 slugging percentage.)
3. Yairo Muniz had three hits, including a pair of doubles. He also scored two runs, drove in a run and stole two bases.
4. Kolten Wong was 2-for-4 (both doubles) with a walk, one RBI and a run scored. Wong is having monster month, batting .360 with a .431 OBP and .891 OPS in 59 plate appearances in July. His July work includes five doubles, five RBIs, and six runs scored.
5. Leadoff man Tommy Edman reached base three times (including two walks), scored a run, and knocked in a run.
Adam Wainwright gave up four runs in five innings so it wasn’t a good start. But he did a fine and commendable job of helping preserve the bullpen by pitching three consecutive scoreless innings (third, fourth and fifth.) Waino retired 10 of his 11 final batters faced with four strikeouts.
LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Nothing, unless you want to nitpick Cards relievers Mike Mayers and John Brebbia. And I have absolutely no motivation to do that.
SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: Sound of silence right here.
GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Since Shildt moved DeJong down in the lineup, Pauly has responded with a .333 average and 1.361 OPS in eight games.
BREATHLESS: A 10-run inning and a nine-run inning on the same road trip? Keep pounding that Red Bull, boys.
ON DECK: It’s an early start in Pittsburgh today (11:35 a.m. STL time.) Miles Mikolas — 1-6 with a 7.04 ERA on the road this season — starts against Pirates righthander Joe Musgrove. And Musgrove could be a challenge; he has a 2.20 in his last six starts.
TRACKING THE BREWERS: Milwaukee’s starting rotation, already a weakness, is thinning out. First, Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff, who is having outstanding season, went on the IL with an oblique strain and is expected to be out for at least four-to-five weeks. He’s 11-3 with a 3.75 ERA and an average of 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings. The latest: a strained oblique has put Jhoulys Chacin is on the IL. A strained back muscle sidelined Chacin earlier this season and he hasn’t been sound — as evidenced by his 5.79 ERA. That said, Chacin was filling a role and the Brewers are shorthanded. The healthy starters (Zach Davies, Gio Gonzalez and Chase Anderson) are doing what they can, but the Brewers are 13th in the NL with a rotation ERA of 5.02. With the July 31 trade deadline approaching, Brewers president of baseball ops David Stearns is downplaying the need for starting pitching . “I have found that potential acquisition costs generally dictate what is reasonable and what is not,” Stearns told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The Brewers — 15-21 in their last 36 games — have an overall staff ERA of 4.96 ERA over that time.
Thanks for reading …