Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: The Cardinals Drive Home A Point — They’re Good And Getting Better.

The Daily Redbird Review…

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals had one helluva homestand, winning six of seven games from Milwaukee and Colorado, capped by a four-game sweep of the Rockies. The Cardinals outscored the Rox 31-12 in the four games including Sunday’s 11-4 win at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals got big help over the weekend from Washington, which went into Wrigley Field to sweep a three-game series against the Cubs.

The first place Cardinals, who are 13-3 in their last 16 games, now lead the Cubs by 2 and ½ games in the NL Central. The third-place Brewers are 4 and ½ behind St. Louis.

HOME SWEET HOME: The Cardinals have restored their homefield advantage. They’re 40-24 at Busch Stadium this season and that includes a 16-6 home record since the All-Star break. The Cardinals have won 10 of 11 home games in August.

BASEBALL HERO: If we were going to go with Sunday’s win only, the pick would be third baseman Matt Carpenter, who had three hits, a walk, a homer, three runs scored and two RBIs. Excellent game.

But the star of the seven-game homestand was left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who batted .400, reached base in 48 percent of his plate appearances, and slugged .760. Ozuna had a double, triple, two homers, seven RBIs, and seven runs scored. And in the seven games he walked as many times as he struck out.

TURNING POINT:  The big game of this stay at Busch came on Thursday night in the series opener vs. the Rockies. After losing to the visiting Brewers on Wednesday, the Cardinals were down 5-2 to Colorado through 4 and ½ innings Thursday but charged back for a 6-5 win to regenerate momentum that lasted through the weekend. The Cardinals outscored the Rockies 25-7 over the final three wins of the Busch Bash.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Long list …

1. Cardinals’ hitters averaged 6.57 runs during the home stand.

2. Harrison Bader returned from his Memphis exile and showed substantial improvement at the plate, drawing seven walks and slamming a triple and a homer. He reached base on nearly half of his 23 plate appearances during the home stand.

3. In 29 plate appearances vs. the Brewers and Rockies, Yadier Molina batted .375 and had a .483 onbase percentage and an .899 OPS.

4. Over the seven games Cardinals pitchers (starters+relievers) allowed only 19 earned runs for a 2.76 ERA. The Brewers and Rockies combined for only four homers in the seven games and batted .197 with a .283 OBP and .294 slugging percentage.

5. Starting pitchers Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty combined for 18 and ⅔ shutout innings in their three starts on the homestand.

6. In 21 games (19 starts) this month, Tommy Edman is batting .305 with a .345 OBP and .439 slug.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER:  I have mixed feelings aboutMichael Wacha. He made two short starts on the homestand, and pitched to a 3.12 ERA. Nothing wrong with that earned-run average But the first start, while effective, lasted only four innings (manager’s decision.) In the second start — Sunday’s victory over the Rockies — Wacha burned through 112 pitches in getting 13 outs before being pulled after 4 and ⅔. He gave up three earned runs, walked two and struck out seven.

The Cardinals have a stout bullpen, and it’s OK to turn the game over to the relievers in the early stages — as manager Mike Shildt has done in each of Wacha’s last two starts. And the Cards will be better equipped to handle that once MLB rosters expand Sept. 1.

However: there was a price in going with Ryan Helsley to replace Wacha Sunday. While terrific in his 2 and ⅓ innings — no runs, one hit, one walk, four strikeouts — Helsley won’t be available for Monday’s game, and probably Tuesday’s contest, at Milwaukee. And he’s an asset.

The rotation has done a good job. But’s it’s still vulnerable. One way or another Daniel Ponce de Leon will be back in the mix soon.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY:  All clear.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: His bullpen management continues to be among his top strengths. And now that Shildt finally has slotted his hitters properly, I think it’s helped the offense.

BREATHLESS: Only 33 games remaining on the Cardinals’ regular-season schedule.

TRENDING: Since July 21 only the NY Mets (22-10) have a better record than the Cardinals (21-11) among NL teams. The Brewers are 15-15, and the Cubs are 15-17.)  The Cards also have the league’s second-best record (27-14) since the All-Star break. Only the Mets (27-13) have done better,

TRACKING THE CUBS: After winning on Aug. 8 the Cubs were 11 games over .500 and had a lead of 3.5 games in the NL Central. But in the 15 games since that date, the Cubs have gone 6-9. Over the 15-game stretch they had an overall ERA of 5.25 and have averaged only 3.7 runs per game. In the 15 games Chicago hitters have batted .207 with a .298 OBP and .382 slug.

Before losing all three home games to the Nationals over the weekend, the Cubs were 44-19 at Wrigley Field. Now that record is 44-22.

Before the start of the Washington series, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein had this to say about the NL Central race when speaking to a group of reporters that cover the team:

“Teams have sort of taken turns getting hot and building up little leads and having them evaporate,”  Epstein said. “In our case, it’s usually during the homestands where we tend to develop a little bit of a cushion and then give it away on the road.

“I think the best way to approach it is — especially with last year as a guide, especially when we have two other (contending) teams in the division  — to assume that at least one of them is just going to get hot and stay hot the rest of the year. It’s not good enough to just play sort of slightly above-average ball the rest of the way. You have to assume that you’re going to have to beat a team that puts it all together.”

The Cubs, off Monday, play a three-game series at the NY Mets beginning Tuesday. The Cubs, 25-39 on the road, will face three tough starting pitchers — in order: Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom.

ON DECK: Monday night, it’s Adam Wainwright vs. Milwaukee lefty Gio Gonzalez at 6:05 p.m. CST.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie