Bernie’s Redbird Review: Cards’ 8-0 Win Over Cubs Was Their Best Performance Of The Season.

Here’s your Daily Redbird Review.

All the Happy Talk you can handle!

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals played one of their best all-around games of the season, thrashing the Cubs 8-0 on Thursday night at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals excelled in all areas: pitching, hitting, situational hitting, defense and running the bases.

The victory put the 58-50 Cardinals back atop the NL Central, one game ahead of the Cubs and two above the Brewers.

The Cubs haven’t won a road series since May 17-19 at Washington. They’re 0-9-1 in their last 10 series away from Wrigley Field, and their 21-33 road record is the worst in the National League.

Since the All-Star break the Cardinals are 14-6 and have won five of six series.

BASEBALL HERO: Cards starter Jack Flaherty was magnificent, dominating the Cubs for seven shutout innings, allowing only one hit and two walks with nine strikeouts.

In his last five starts, going back to July 7 at San Francisco, Jack has been touched for only four earned runs in 31 and ⅓ innings for a 1.15 ERA. During this five-start stretch he’s cut down on his walks, struck out 33 percent of batters faced, has an 0.77 WHIP, and has yielded only 0.57 home runs per nine innings.

In his first 17 starts off the season Flaherty had a 4.90 ERA, a 26.4% strikeout rate, a 1.29 WHIP, and was allowing 1.9 homers per nine IP.

Jack’s strikeout-walk ratio over the last five starts is a healthy 4.33. In his first 17 starts his K-BB ratio was 3.26.

Flaherty’s fastball has been much better over the last five outings. And as he said after conquering the Cubs, a sharp fastball makes his slider more effective. As a result, he’s missing bats more frequently.  In his first 17 starts Flaherty had a swinging-strike rate of 12% … in his last five starts that swinging-strike rate is 15 percent. And there’s been a big difference in the strike-zone contact rate against Flaherty: 83 percent in his first 17 starts; 77% in his last five.

TURNING POINT: In their previous four games going into the series finale against the Cubs, the Cardinals left a lot of runs on base by going 3-for-39 with runners in scoring position. And after being owned by Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks in Wednesday’s 2-0 shutout loss, the Cardinals needed to reverse the trend and get an early jump to win the series.

So when Jose Martinez singled with one out to score Tommy Edman, the Cardinals had their timely hit and a 1-0 lead on the visitors. It may not seem like much, but frequent failures with runners in scoring position can be awfully frustrating. The Cardinals needed to break through, and get out of the rut. And Martinez delivered.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Matt Wieters struck again, booming a three-run homer in the sixth to double the Cardinals 3-0 lead. After Wieters dropped that bomb the Cards were up 6-0 and the rout was on.

Wieters has been outstanding for the Cardinals in a No. 2 role that became a starting-catcher role after Yadier Molina suffered a thumb injury that diminished his offense.

Wieters has 10 homers in only 130 at-bats this season. That’s one every 13 at-bats. In his previous two seasons with Washington Wieters homered every 36.5 at-bats.

And the switch-hitting Wieters is supplying power from both sides. He has four homers and a .556 slugging percentage vs. lefties and six homers and a .479 slug against righthanders.

Among catchers with at least 50 plate appearances since July 1, Wieters is second in the majors with six homers and ranks third with a .581 slugging percentage and .899 OPS.

By the way: Flaherty has a 2.62 ERA this season in six starts with Wieters as his catcher.

Also:

1. Kolten Wong went 3-for-4 with an RBI and is batting .323 with a .384 OBP and .424 slug since the beginning of June 1. Over that time only Marcell Ozuna (.829) and Paul Goldschmidt (.818) have a better OPS than Wong (.808) among Cards hitters with a minimum of 75 PA.

2. Pauly DeJong made his slump go away with three hits and two runs scored against the Cubs last night. Having said that: in 77 games and 324 plate appearances since the start of May, DeJong is batting .216 with a .306 OBP and .396 slug. And he’s been 15 percent below league average offensively over this time in park adjusted runs created (wRC+.)

3. Yairo Munoz, who hadn’t done much for a few games, went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored.

4. Jose Martinez was 1-for-3 with that crucial early RBI.

5. Goldy made a helluva backhand play at first base in the third inning to steal a hit and keep the Cubs quiet.

CATCHING HOMERS: During the Bill DeWitt Jr. Era, which began in 1996, only three St. Louis catchers have popped 10+ homers in a season.

Through 2018, Molina had done it five times.

Tom Pagnozzi hit 13 home runs in 1996.

And now, Wieters has 10 with a chance for more.

But what about Eli Marrero? Didn’t he hit 22 homers back in 2002? Yes, but according to the database at FanGraphs, Marrero had only one homer as a catcher that season. You may recall that Marrero mostly played in the outfield in 2002, logging 106 games out there.

It’s hard to envision seeing Wieters riding the bench and being wasted for days at a time after Molina returns.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Need to draw more walks, fellows. As mentioned during the telecast on Fox Sports Midwest last night, the Cardinals had a franchise-record of 31 innings without a walk when When J. Martinez ended the streak with a leadoff walk to lead off the seventh. The last such streak was 30 innings without a walk by the hitters on the 2003 Cardinals.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDT: Zero.

GOOD MOVE SHILDT: Nothing specific; just a compliment on a beautifully played game by the Cardinals. Shildt’s team has reaffirmed a few things this season: (A) Good defense matters; (B) good base running matters; and (C) adept bullpen management matters.

BREATHLESS: At the moment the Cards have the third-best winning percentage in the National League behind the Dodgers and Braves. Not bad for a team that has an erratic offense, a shaky rotation (*on the road*) and injury issues. Being No. 1 is the goal. But the decline under the previous managerial regime has been reversed.

HOME SWEET HOME: Cardinals starting pitchers 3.12 ERA at home this season. In MLB, only the Dodgers’ starters have a better home ERA at 2.36 … the Cardinals have five shutouts this season and Busch has been the scene for all five.

ON DECK: Cards are off today. Then it’s a two-game stop at Oakland.

  • Saturday at 8:07 p.m. STL time: Dakota Hudson for the Cardinals against Oakland’s Mike Fiers.
  • Sunday at 3:07 p.m. STL time: it’s Adam Wainwright vs. Tanner Roark who will be making his first start for the A’s after being acquired from the Reds.

THE VIEW FROM CHICAGO: Here’s an observation from the excellent Patrick Mooney, who covers the Cubs for The Athletic:

“It’s still hard to fathom how the Cardinals could look at this Cubs team, a wide-open division, an August without waiver deals and three consecutive years out of the playoffs and make no meaningful July 31 additions.”

When asked to comment on that, Cubs manager Joe Maddon had this to offer:

“Honestly, I don’t know what anybody else is thinking. I don’t even worry about stuff like that. They know what they got. I have no idea what they have. I’ve always said this, though: It’s about what the Cubs do right now that matters only. And then we got to put ourselves in the position that we’re good enough that everybody has to react to us. And we’ve gotten better.”

PEEKING AT THE NL CENTRAL SCHEDULE:

The Cardinals and Cubs each have 54 games remaining — and both teams have a 27-27 split on their home/road schedule the rest of the way … as mentioned earlier this week, the Cardinals will play seven of their final 10 regular-season games against the Cubs …

Starting Saturday the Cardinals will play 11 of their next 14 on the road. They’ll visit Oakland (two games), Dodger Stadium (three games), Kansas City (two games) and Cincinnati (four games) … the only break comes after the Cardinals finish their road set against the Dodgers; they’ll face the Pirates for three at Busch before heading on out to KC and Cincinnati.

The Cubs are 36-18 at home, 21-33 on the road… the Brewers have 52 games remaining: 24 home, 28 road. And that could be a factor given the Crew’s 24-29 road mark compared to their 33-24 ledger at Miller Park … the Brewers will be at Wrigley Field for a three-game series this weekend (starting Friday at 1:20 p.m. CST) … and for Milwaukee the visit to Wrigley behind a stretch of playing 12 of 17 on the road…

After hosting Milwaukee and then Oakland during a six-game homestand, the Cubs will play 13 of 19 on the road, a stretch that begins with a 10-game trip with stops at Cincinnati (four games), Philadelphia (three games) and Pittsburgh (three games.)

Have a great weekend!

-Bernie