It’s the start of a new week, and I hope your Monday is off to a good start.
Presenting the Daily Redbird Review:
FIRST PITCH: After losing five straight games and eight out of 11, the Cardinals came home for the weekend in need of wins, confidence and a quick mental turnaround. To accomplish this mission, the Cardinals couldn’t have ordered up a more desirable opponent than the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cards swept the three-game series, energizing themselves and getting well against a hopelessly hideous Pirates team that’s 4-24 since the All-Star break. (The worst second-half record in the majors.) The Pirates have a minus 64 run differential over the last 28 games and have been out-homered 50-28.
This sweep wasn’t necessarily a breeze for the Cards; the Pirates actually had a lead in all three games. But the Pirates are just really, really bad. Not just the pitching and the hitting — but the defense and fundamentals as well.
The Cardinals probably salivate in anticipation of playing the Pirates, having won 12 of the 16 games played between the teams including the last eight.
Since the All-Star break the Cardinals are 7-0 against the Pirates and 10-11 against other opponents.
Beat up on the bad teams. That’s one way to recover from a stinky stretch of games, and move back up in the standings. The Cardinals got the necessary project underway over the weekend, with Pirates entering Busch at just the right time.
With the Cardinals winning all three and the Cubs splitting four games in Cincinnati, the Redbirds trail the Cubs by two games in the NL Central. The third-place Brewers, who won two of three at Texas, are a half-game behind the Cardinals.
As for the wild card race the Cardinals pulled themselves into the second spot, a half-game behind the Nationals. The Brewers, Mets, and Phillies are all within two games of the Cardinals for the second wild card.
BASEBALL HERO: Rookie outfielder Lane Thomas finally got a chance to start a game, and he made his manager look good by coming through — though some might say that Thomas made his manager look bad by coming through.
Making only his second start in the majors and first since April 24, Thomas won the day with a seventh-inning grand slam that the Cardinals a 9-8 lead, and the home team took the rest from there, winning 11-9. Thomas also had an RBI triple Sunday and finished with five RBIs. He also made a swell defensive play in Sunday’s win, making a strong throw to nail a Pirates runner at the plate.
In 22 at-bats for the Cardinals this season Thomas has three homers, a triple and 10 runs batted in. He plays outstanding defense and runs well.
With the Cardinals gasping for offense during their 0-5 trip to California, why didn’t Thomas start any games? He was promoted from Triple a Memphis on July 30 and made cameo appearances as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement.
TURNING POINT: The Pirates, who clearly have packed it in, have turned on themselves. They carried an 8-4 lead into the seventh but gave the Cardinals a great chance to rally at the start of the inning by failing to apprehend a routine pop up that dropped between a mystified shortstop and befuddled left fielder. And then with two runners on, reliever Kyle Crick hit two consecutive Cardinals batters. The first loaded the bases. The second brought in a run to make it 8-5.
And that set up the Lane Thomas slammer.
This is an awful team.
The Pirates have quit on manager Clint Hurdle.
HEY, YOU DID GOOD:
1. Tommy Edman went 7 for 13 in the series with a double, triple, stolen base and three runs scored.
2. Paul Goldschmidt went 7 for 12 in the three games with a homer, four RBIs and four runs.
3. Dexter Fowler was 4 for 10, including a two-run homer in the eighth inning Sunday that finished the Pirates off.
4. Marcell Ozuna was also 4 for 10 against the Pirates with a double, homer, two runs batted in, two runs scored.
5. Adam Wainwright gave the Cardinals a legitimate quality start Saturday to form the foundation for a 3-1 victory. Waino pitched six innings, allowed a run and six hits, walked two, and struck out eight. The performance lowered Wainwright’s ERA to 2.19 in 65.2 innings at home this season.
5. The Cardinals bullpen worked 12 innings during the series, pitching to a 2.25 ERA and holding Pittsburgh to a .171 average, .227 onbase percentage and .244 slug. The bullpen did a great job in Friday night’s 6-2 win, coming to the rescue after another short start by Dakota Hudson. The ‘pen was especially brilliant in the first two wins of the series, giving up one hit and no runs in eight innings.
LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: As he’d be the first to tell you, Miles Mikolas wasn’t on top of it Sunday, with the Pirates scoring six earned runs in five innings. Five of the runs against Mikolas were driven in by Josh Bell who cranked dos two-run homers and an RBI single.
Matt Wieters was 1 for 6 with four strikeouts against the Pirates.
Paul DeJong went 1 for 11 with three strikeouts in the three games.
Lefty Tyler Webb allowed two inherited runners to score Sunday in relief of rookie Junior Fernandez.
Jose Martinez is batting .200 with a .628 OPS since the All-Star break.
SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: You mean, other than keeping Lane Thomas on the bench despite having an unproductive outfield that ranks 25th in the majors in OPS (.742) since the All-Star break?
For the second time in five games, Shildt seated Kolten Wong on the bench against a lefthanded starting pitcher. (Scratching my head.) In 94 plate appearances vs. lefties this season Wong is batting .318 with an .831 OPS.
GOOD MOVE, SHILDTY: Shildt was excellent with his aggressiveness in utilizing his bullpen against the Pirates.
ON DECK: The Cardinals are off today; their next scheduled off day is Aug. 29 — or 16 games from now. For starters, the Cards will hop over to Kansas City for a two-game series that begins Tuesday. The Royals are 43-76 this season; only the Orioles and Tigers are worse. And KC is t 79 games under .500 — record: 101-180 — since the start of last season.
Thanks for reading…