Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: The Cardinals Continue To Thrive On Exceptional Pitching

Good morning … here’s your Daily Redbird Review:

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals made it look easy-breezy on Thursday afternoon, whacking the Giants 10-0 to put a fine finishing touch on a 6-2 homestand.

In the NL Central race the first-place Cardinals stayed 2 and ½ games up on the Cubs, who walloped the Brewers 10-5 Thursday in the first of four games at Miller Park.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: After winning six of eight games from the Reds and Giants in six days at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals improved to 22-8 at home since the All-Star break. That includes a stretch of winning 15 of 18 at home since July 30.

A few other other notes on the Cardinals’ success in establishing a true home-field edge:

* They’ve won eight of nine series at Busch since the All-Star break, with the only home-series loss coming to the Astros on the weekend of July 26-28. Since then, the Cardinals have won eight consecutive series in their yard.

* The Cardinals are 46-26 overall at Busch Stadium this season. Their home winning percentage of .639 is tied for the fifth best in the majors and ranks third in the National League.

* With nine regular-season home games to go the Cardinals already have surprassed their win total at Busch Stadum in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

* The 2016 Cardinals were 38-43 at home … the 2017 Cardinals went 44-37 at Busch…and the 2018 Cardinals were 43-38 there.

* Here’s another way to look at it: over the previous three seasons combined the Cardinals were only seven games over .500 at Busch Stadium, and had a .514 winning percentage that ranked 16th in the majors and seventh in the NL. So this year’s .639 winning percentage at Busch represents a dramatic level of improvement.

* The Cardinals are 65-40 at home since Mike Shildt replaced Mike Matheny last July 15. That’s a .619 winning percentage for Shildty at Busch.

Wrote Laura Ingalls Wilder​: “Home is the nicest word there is.”

BASEBALL HERO: Easy call here. How about that Dakota Hudson? You know a starting pitcher is having an outstanding day when his RBI total as a hitter is higher than his number of hits allowed. And that’s what happened Thursday. Hudson had a two-run single with the bases loaded in the third inning. And this was kind of a big deal in that Hudson had never driven in a run in the majors until yesterday. Before his single to right, Hudson had gone 2 for 44 as a major-league hitter.

As for his true speciality, pitching, Hudson polished another little gem, giving up only one hit, a second-inning single, in six shutout innings.

The win gave Hudson a 15-6 record on the season. He’s now the fourth Cardinals’ rookie starting pitcher since the 1962 National League expansion year to rack 15 wins in a season. The others were Dick Hughes (16 wins in 1967), Lance Lynn (18 in 2012), and Shelby Miller (15 in 2013.) One more note on this: Hudson’s 15 victories are tied for third most by a National League starter.

THE ‘JACK AND DAK’ SHOW: Since Aug.13, Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson have each made five starts. And they’ve also made opposing hitters very unhappy. In their combined 10 starts Flaherty and Hudson yielded only seven earned runs in 64 and ⅓ innings, which calculates to an 0.98 ERA. The Cardinals won nine of the 10 starts.

Flaherty is 23 years old.

Hudson is 24.

Goodness…

TURNING POINT: I’m going with Pauly DeJong’s two-run homer in the bottom of the first that shoved the Giants into a 3-0 ravine. After blowing a late lead and losing to the visitors on Wednesday night, it was important for the Cardinals to smack the Giants early in this one.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: I have have to commend the Cardinals on their terrific pitching during the 6-2 homestand. I realize that the Reds and Giants are lacking offensively, but I can’t think of a logical or fair reason to ding the Cardinals’ pitchers for doing well during a hectic phase of the schedule.

* In 72 innings over the eight games they came through with a 2.75 ERA and held the Reds and Giants to a .183 average, .247 onbase percentage and .335 slugging percentage.

* Cards starting pitchers had a 2.27 ERA in 47 and ⅔ innings of work vs. the Reds and Giants. The STL starters limited those teams to a .145 average, .196 OBP, and .271 slug. In the four-game series against the Giants, the Cardinals’ starters didn’t allow a single earned run in 23 innings of work.

* The Cardinals have gone 21-6 over their last 27 games. During that time their overall ERA of 2.82 ranks No. 1 in the majors. Their 2.91 rotation ERA is No. 2 in MLB. And their 2.67 bullpen ERA is No. 1 overall.

* The Cards’ overall 3.35 ERA is the best in the majors since the All-Star break. That includes a 3.39 rotation ERA (third in MLB), and 3.27 bullpen ERA (No. 1 in the bigs.)

* The Cardinals have 11 shutouts this season which ranks fourth in the majors.

Let’s cite a few other notable positives:

1. Yadier Molina remains on fire. His  RBI single in the third inning stretched his hitting streak to 12 games. In 22 games since returning from the IL, Molina is batting .333 with a .402 OBP and .551 slug for a .954 OPS. This feast includes five doubles, four homers, 13 RBIs and 15 runs scored.

Molina worked his 1,927th game Thursday as a major-league catcher, placing him a tie for ninth place in MLB history with Jim Sundberg. And with 1,944 career hits, Molina is tied for with Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith for seventh in franchise history.

2. DeJong’s homer, which soared over the CF  wall, was his 26th home run of the season. That’s a career high and the most in a single by a full-time Cardinals’ shortstop. DeJong has 70 home runs in his three MLB seasons with St. Louis and has averaged a homer every 19.4 at-bats. That’s very good.

3. Paul Goldschmidt went 2 for 3 with two runs and RBI. On the homestand Goldy led the Cardinals with eight RBIs and batted .292 with a .414 OBP and .458 slug.

4. Matt Carpenter is stirring a bit; he had two hits an RBI and a run scored Thursday. During the eight-game homestand he batted .333 with a .444 OBP.

5. Rookie report: Rangel Ravelo hit his first career homer, a two-run clout in the eighth inning … lefty Genesis Cabrera came in to finish what Hudson started and blanked the Giants over the final three innings, permitting three hits and striking out three … rookie Randy Arozarena walked twice, stole a base and scored a run. That makes 19 different Cardinals with a stolen base this season.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Going back to Aug. 28 in Milwaukee, Marcell Ozuna is 2 for his last 31 with 10 strikeouts.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: All good.

GOOD MOVE, SHILDTY: His performance in organizing his pitching staff and making specific plans to give the Cardinals their best chance to successfully navigate through eight games and 72 innings in six days — well, just brilliantly done. And four of the eight games were decided by one run; the Cardinals went 3-1 in those contests. So yeah, managing matters.

NUMBERS GAME: During the eight-game residency at Busch Stadium, 14 different Cardinals scored at least one run, 13 drove in at least one run, and 15 produced at least one hit.

ON DECK: The Cardinals are at PNC Park in Pittsburgh for a three-game weekend series against the Pirates, who are 17-34 since the All-Star break. The Cardinals will start (in order) Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty in Pittsburgh.

At the break the Cardinals were only game ahead of the Pirates in the NL Central standings. But during the second half only — amazingly — the Cardinals have been 17 and ½ games better than the Pirates. Pittsburgh’s second-half winning percentage (.333) is tied with Miami for 13th in the NL. After leaving Pittsburgh the Cardinals have three games at Colorado against a Rockies team that enters the weekend with the NL’s poorest record (15-37, .288) since the All-Star break.

The Cardinals (79-61) start their six-game roadie with the MLB’s best record (35-17) since the break.

QUOTABLE: “That was a heck of a homestand,” manager Mike Shildt said. “That was a lot of well-played, really good baseball. We’re looking to build on it. We’re just keeping the gas down.”

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie