Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: Restored to Batting Leadoff, Dexter Fowler Is Delivering In A Big Way

Your Daily Redbird Review:

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals posted a very good win on Thursday night at Busch Stadium, overcoming another bad start by Miles Mikolas and a 5-2 deficit to defeat the Rockies 6-5.

The Cards weren’t able to gain any ground on the first-place Cubs, who completed a three-game sweep of the Giants on Thursday with a 1-0 win a at Wrigley Field.

In the NL Central the Cubs lead the Cardinals by a half-game and are four ahead of third-place Milwaukee.

The Cardinals, 68-58 overall, have the division’s best record since the All-Star break at 24 and 14. And the Cards have summoned an impressive response to their 0-5 trip to Oakland and Los Angeles by winning 10 of their last 13 games.

BASEBALL HERO: The pick is outfielder Dexter Fowler, who pulled a two-run homer over the wall in right to give the Cardinals a 6-5 lead. It turned out to be the game-winning blow. Fowler’s revival continues, and it’s one of the best stories of the Cardinals’ season. MORE ON FOWLER NEXT SEGMNT.

Since returning to the leadoff spot on Aug. 6, Fowler has a .410 onbase percentage and .558 slug for a .998 OPS. His run of elite offense includes five doubles, three homers and a team-leading 15 RBIs this month. Fowler has also walked at a rate of 15 percent over this time.

To sum it up, Fowler has performed 56 percent the league average in park adjusted runs created sine manager Mike Shildt reinstalled Dex at leadoff earlier this month.

“I think it’s just me back in the leadoff spot,” Fowler told reporters after Thursday’s win. “That’s where I’ve been my whole career, so there’s familiarity there.”

It’s incomprehensible how Shildt waited so long to make such an obvious move, considering the team’s hideous performance from the leadoff spot before Fowler was plugged in there.

In 3,441 MLB plate appearances at No. 1 in the lineup, Fowler has a .360 OBP and .424 slug. This is what he does. Fowler had only 26 plate appearances at leadoff this season, and none since the first days of June, before Shildt restored him to the place where he belonged.

Let me read something from MLB.com, and I quote: “After searching all season, the Cardinals have found the consistency they’ve been looking for in that leadoff spot with Fowler.”

True. But there was no reason for the Cardinals to be searching for a leadoff hitter for much of the season.

Fowler was there all along.

For the season Fowler has a .348 OBP, .433 slug, a .781 OPS, 15 homers and 52 RBIs.

TURNING POINT: Paul DeJong’s two-run homer in the sixth cut the Colorado lead to 5-4, and put the Cards in position to grab this game and complete the comeback.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Here’s a few to put on the list in addition to Fowler:

1. Marcell Ozuna hit the first of three, two-run homers struck by the Cardinals in this game. His shot in the fourth tied the game at 2-2. In addition to the homer, Ozuna walked and scored two runs.

The two RBIs from Ozuna put him ahead of Paul Goldschmidt and back in the lead for most RBIs on the team with 69.

Ozuna has a career-best 10.3 percent walk rate this season. And since returning from the IL on the third of August, Ozuna has an outstanding walk rate of 14 percent.

Dude is getting on base … a lot.

2. Matt Carpenter, pinch-hitting in the seventh, gave the Cardinals an outstanding eight-pitch at-bat that resulted in a walk. That was a key moment in this game. Carpenter’s leadoff walk was immediately followed by Fowler’s game-winning homer.

3. The bullpen played a major role in keeping the Cardinals close and having a chance to strike back. After Mikolas departed, relievers Dominic Leone, Giovanny Gallegos, Andrew Miller and Carlos Martinez combined for three scoreless innings without allowing a hit — though Martinez did have to work around two walks in the ninth inning before securing his 15th save.

4. Related: The St. Louis bullpen continues to distinguish itself in so many ways:

+ Best fielding independent earned-run average (FIP) in the majors at 3.88.

+ No. 2 in MLB with a 3.72 ERA that ranks No. 1 in the National League.

+ A 26.3 percent strikeout rate that’s No. 2 overall, and best in the NL.

+ An opponent batting average of .213, No. 1 (as in lowest against any bullpen) in the majors.

+ Opponent onbase percentage of .298 … No. 2 overall, No. 1 in the NL.

+ The relievers have allowed a slugging percentage of .356, the lowest against any bullpen in the majors.

5.  I speak for many when I say this: it’s a pleasure to watch the Cardinals’ double-play combination of second baseman Kolten Wong and shortstop DeJong do their thing defensively. They’re not only exceptional; they’re also entertaining.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Miles Mikolas had another disappointing start, giving up eight hits and five earned runs in six innings.

In his last three starts Mikolas has been jacked for five homers and an 8.44 ERA in 16 innings.

For the season his ERA has blown up to 4.43, a substantial increase over his 2.83 earned-run average in 2018. And after giving up 16 homers in 202 innings last season, Mikolas already has been blasted for 22 homers in 148 and ⅓ innings this year.

And it isn’t just the soaring HR rate. Mikolas gave up 27 doubles last season and is up to 24 doubles allowed this season. So hitters are powering up against him this season. Last season opponents had a .350 slugging percentage vs. Mikolas. That’s way up, to .458, in 2019.

In ERA+, last season Mikolas was 37 percent above the league average …

This season he’s four percent below average.

The Cardinals need Mikolas to get back on track; he’ll be a pivotal figure over the final weeks.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: Nothing but unconditional support today.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: The skipper batted Kolten Wong second again; nice surprise. But the real development here was Shildt’s decision to bench Carpenter and start Tommy Edman at third base. Don’t know how long this will last, but the Cardinals have to maximize their offensive potential. And Shildt may be feeling a greater sense of urgency.

ON DECK: Jack Flaherty goes against rookie Rockies starter Peter Lambert (6.55 ERA.)

Have a wonderful weekend…

–Bernie