Bernie’s Redbird Review: With The Cards Reeking Offensively, It Makes No Sense To Have Kolten Wong On the Bench

Here’s your Daily Redbird Review…

After stomping the Reds and Pirates on the road, winning seven of eight games, the Cardinals returned home to begin an intriguing 11 game-stretch of their schedule against upper-tier opponents.

Reality would come into sharper focus beginning July 26. Six games at home against the Astros and Cubs. Five games on the road at Oakland and Los Angeles.

The Cardinals were tied with the Cubs for first place in the NL Central at 55-47. The Cards had a plus 27 run differential.

Things were looking better for the Redbirds as MLB teams moved closer to the 3 p.m. trade deadline on July 31. And surely the St. Louis front office would make a move to upgrade a vulnerable starting rotation. And maybe add some bullpen depth. And who knows? Maybe come up with a surprise by finding a bat for an inconsistent offense.

Ten games into the 11-game block that we circled on the schedule, the Cardinals are 3-7. And with one game to go, Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, the Cardinals will try to avoid a sweep and an 0-5 trip to Oakland and LA.

The Cardinals already have lost this series, so one scorecard is in: in the four series against the Astros, Cubs, A’s and Dodgers, the Cardinals are 1-3. Their only triumph was winning two of three from the Cubs at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals remain close in two races, trailing the Cubs by 2.5 games, and sitting a half-game out of the NL’s second wild-card spot. But for now, at least, the momentum has stalled.

The front office didn’t make a move to secure help for the 25-man roster.

The Cardinals are 1-5 since the deadline passed.

Over the last 10 games, their rotation has a 4.89 ERA and has averaged fewer than five innings per start.

The offense is evaporating, with the Cardinals averaging only 2.5 runs in the current 3-7 crash. Over the last 10-game fizzle Cards’ batters have slogged their way to a .228 average, .281 onbase percentage and .344 slugging pct. They’ve struck out in 27 percent of their plate appearances.

This mess includes a .163 average and 31.4 percent strikeout rate with runners in scoring position.

In this unsightly 3-7 clump of games, the Cardinals have been outscored 43-25 by the Astros, Cubs, A’s and Dodgers.

An upcoming softer run of schedule should provide the Cardinals with an opportunity to get a break from the beatdowns. They’ll have a chance to recover.

But if this 11-game tract was a testing ground, the Cardinals have failed. They’ll close this segment with today’s game in LA and return home with a record of 3-8 or 4-7.

It isn’t that anyone of sound mind thought the Cardinals were equals to the Astros, A’s and Dodgers — but the gap is glaring. Going into Wednesday the Cardinals have been outscored 40-15 in dropping six of seven to those three teams.

Yes, the Cardinals won their recent series against the Cubs. But the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry for 2019 has mostly turned into a competition dominated by the home team. Overall the Cardinals are 5-7 against the Cubs this year. The rivals will settle their business by playing each other seven times in the final 10 days of the regular season.

There’s no telling what the standings will look like by then. But as we pause on this morning, let’s state the obvious: the Cardinals are wounded and shorthanded and must find a way to rebound … and do it as soon as possible.

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals made it 0-for-4 in California since Saturday with a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday night. The Cards have been outscored 23-6 in the four consecutive losses to the A’s and Dodgers.

In 18 innings against Dodger pitching, the dormant STL offense has scored one run and gone 9-for-62 for a .145 batting average. The Cards’ strikeout rate in the first two games is an appalling 30 percent.

BASEBALL HERO: I offer a reading from Bonnie Tyler, the curiously successful 1980s songstress:

I need a hero.

I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night …

OK. That said, Miles Mikolas had a nice start for the Cardinals; more on that in a bit.

BLAME GAME: The offense is awful. Last night the Cardinals struck out 11 times and went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. After Matt Carpenter gave the Cardinals a brief 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the top of the second, the Cardinals went 1-for-20 with nine strikeouts and one walk against Clayton Kershaw. The future Hall of Fame lefty held the Cardinals to four hits, a walk and a lone run in his seven innings.

Can we please retire the outdated narrative about how the Cardinals own Kershaw? It’s beyond stupid. In his last five starts against St. Louis, Kershaw has a 1.50 ERA with a strikeout rate of 34.2 percent.

We ain’t in 2013 and 2014 anymore, Toto.

TURNING POINT: The Cardinals had their early chances against Kershaw but stranded Dexter Fowler after he led the game off with a double. And the Cards could have scored more than a run in the second, but Tommy Edman screwed up an opportunity with a silly bunt attempt that resulted in a forceout of Matt Carpenter at second.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD:  Miles Mikolas gave the Cardinals a quality start, limiting the Dodgers to six hits and two earned runs in his 6 and ⅓ innings. Mikolas walked just one batter and struck out seven. In five starts since the All-Star break, Mikolas has crafted a dandy 2.18 ERA.

1. Matt Carpenter’s RBI single presented a moment of encouragement. But he still has a lot of work to do.

2. Dexter Fowler went 2-for-4 in the leadoff spot. Imagine that! Actually using Fowler in the role that defined his career before coming to St. Louis.

3. Kolten Wong entered the game as a sub and went 1-for-2. His leadoff single in the eighth set up a run-scoring opportunity but his teammates failed to come through.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: This acute slump has Cardinals offense sinking in the National League rankings for 2019.

Through Tuesday’s loss the Cards are 12th in the league in OBP (.314), 13th in slugging (.404) and 13th in OPS (.718.)

Their average of 4.44 runs per game ranks 13th.

With runners in scoring position the Cardinals are 12th in batting average (.248) and 14th in OPS (.735.)

Also:

1. Let’s return to the eighth inning. After singles by Wong and Jose Martinez plus a walk to Marcell Ozuna, the Cardinals had the bases loaded with two out in the eighth. If the visitors from St. Louis had any shot to steal this game, it was time to strike. But Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez struck out Paul DeJong. With that whiff, DeJong is batting .205 with runners in scoring position this season — including a .189 average with RISP and two out.

2. Paul Goldschmidt is 2-for-14 with five strikeouts on the current trip.

3. Jose Martinez is 24 percent below league average offensively since the All-Star break with a 76 wRC+.

4. Since the end of April, Jose Martinez is batting .237 with a .321 OBP and poor .384 slug. And he’s 12 percent below league average offensively with an 88 wRC+.

5. Tommy Edman is 57 percent below league average offensively with a 43 wRC+ since the All-Star break. That’s the worst offensive performance of the second half among Cardinals with at least 50 PA since the break.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: The manager’s infatuation with Tommy Edman is incomprehensible. In his last 85 plate appearances Edman is batting .214 with a .250 OBP and .298 slug …

And as I just mentioned Edman has been the team’s worst offensive player since the All-Star break.

And since that All-Star break Edman has the third-most plate appearances by a Cardinal.

The situation went full Cuckoo-Bird on Tuesday night when Schildt started Edman at second base over Kolten Wong.

The same K. Wong who, since June 1, leads the Cardinals in batting average (.318), onbase percentage  (.379) and OPS (.797.)

The same K. Wong who has the best wRC+ on the team — at 42 percent above league average offensively — since the All-Star break.

Sure, Wong bats lefthanded and Edman switch hits. Makes sense to go with the switch-hitter over the LH bat when facing Kershaw, right? Well, not in this instance. Not even close.

Wong is batting .321 with an excellent .834 OPS vs. lefthanded pitching this season. When facing LHP, Edman is batting .250 with a .693 OPS. That’s even worse since the All-Star break, with Edman hitting .211 with a .474 OPS vs. lefties.

According to Baseball Reference, Wong has only three plate appearances vs. Kershaw during his career. Wong is 0-for-3 vs. Kershaw, but that speck of a sample is utterly meaningless and no reason to exclude Wong from the lineup in a Kershaw start.

I give up.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Well, at least he got Wong into the damn game.

BREATHLESS: In losing their last four games, the Cardinals have not owned the lead after any of the 36 innings played. They’ve scored six total runs in four games.

ON DECK: Jack Flaherty, who has been superb as of late, opposes Dodgers rookie Dustin May, age 21. This will be May’s second big-league start. He gave up three earned runs in 5 and ⅔ innings vs. San Diego on Aug. 2. First pitch at 2:10 p.m. STL time on YouTube.

And …

FOOTNOTE:  Shildt has Tommy Edman back in the lineup for Wednesday, this time starting in right field. And batting second.

Thanks for reading…

–Bernie