Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: The Cardinals Can’t Afford To Stall On Offense

The Daily Redbird Review:

FIRST PITCH: Going into Tuesday the Cardinals had 19 games remaining on their schedule. Their final stretch got off to a troubling start in the first of three games at Coors Field, with the Cardinals inexplicably slumbering on offense during a 2-1 loss to the Rockies.

The Rockies have played 70 home games this season and have limited the visiting team to one or no runs only six times.

So despite allowing just two runs, and none after the first inning, the Cardinals barely managed a squeak against a Colorado staff that has the worst home ERA in the majors this season, 6.33. Sad.

The Cardinals were fortunate to receive some assistance from the Padres, who outlasted the visiting Cubs to win 9-8 in 10 innings.

The Cardinals lead the NL Central by four games over Chicago and five over Milwaukee.

In the biggest news Tuesday, the Brewers lost their best player, reigning league MVP Christian Yelich, for the rest of the season to a fractured kneecap. Yelich suffered the injury in Tuesday’s 4-3 win at Miami.

The Brewers have won five in a row but were understandably distraught after learning the seriousness of the Yelich injury. They’ll have to try and make the playoffs without Yelich.

BASEBALL HERO: No heroes on the St. Louis side. Said Plato: “A hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, but an accomplished one might not be found even among a hundred thousand men.”

I think Ol’ Plato was talking about the Cardinals’ search for a hitter than get a double or homer with runners in scoring position.

BLAME GAME: The Cardinals went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. And competing in a ballpark where you thrive by launching struck baseballs into the air, Cards hitters had a 55 percent ground-ball rate in Tuesday’s snoozer. That according to FanGraphs.

TURNING POINT: There were two that mattered most:

1. Trailing 2-1 with the bases loaded in the fifth, Matt Carpenter pinch hit for starting pitcher Michael Wacha and popped out. Dexter Fowler followed with a ground out. Inning over. Before Carpenter and Fowler sputtered, the Cardinals had a win expectancy of 51.4 percent. After leaving the bases loaded, their win expectancy fell to 30.4 percent.

2. The Cards had runners on first and third with one out in the seventh, but Harrison Bader and Jose Martinez each struck out. After that big miss, the Cards’ win expectancy went from 44.2 percent to 22.6 percent.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Wacha and relievers Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos held the Rockies to two runs, seven hits and walk. Yeah, Wacha gave up a two-run homer to Nolan Arenado … but so what? You go into Coors Field where the home team averages 6.2 runs per game, and give up only two runs in eight innings, your pitchers have done an outstanding job.

By the way: here are a few of Colorado’s home-road splits for the season:

Home: .302 average, No. 1 in MLB.
Away: .230 average, worst in MLB.

Home: .520 slug, No. 1 in MLB.
Away: .384 slug, No. 29 in MLB.

Home: .882 OPS, No. 1 in MLB.
Away: .672 OPS, No. 29 in MLB.

I don’t have the rankings available, but the Rockies average 6.2 runs at home, and 4.1 runs on the road.

They average 1.55 homers per home game and only 1.05 HRs on the road.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: With runners in scoring position, the Cardinals rank 20th in the majors in batting average (.258), 28th in slugging percentage, and 24th in OPS. I

SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: With runners on first and third and one out in the seventh, maybe the manager could have forced the Rockies to make a defensive play by ordering Harry Bader to bunt. It isn’t a bad idea to put pressure on the defense with a fast runner dropping down a bunt.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: I liked his aggressive attitude with the pitching in Tuesday’s game. Even though it didn’t click for the desired results, it was the right move to pinch hit for Wacha with the bases loaded. It was up to the hitter, Carpenter, to come through.

BREATHLESS: The weak Cardinals’ lineup had a hard-contact rate of 12.5 percent in Tuesday’s game, according to FanGraphs.

ON DECK: Dakota Hudson for the Cardinals tonight in another 7:40 p.m. game. I’m surprised that Hudson doesn’t get mentioned in the NL Rookie of the Year conversation. He’s 15-6 with a 3.40 ERA.

TRACKING THE BREWERS: I hate to see players get hurt, and the Yelich injury was especially painful to him and his team. In the first inning of Tuesday’s game at Miami, Yelich fouled a pitch off his right kneecap and limped away with a fracture that will sideline him for the remainder of 2019.

With a five-game winning streak and three games in St. Louis this coming weekend, the Brewers still have a puncher’s chance of catching the Cardinals in the NL Central. And they’re in the thick of the NL wild card race — only a game behind the Cubs, who hold the No. 2 spot behind Washington. The Phillies, Diamondback and Mets are all within two games of the Brewers in the wild card standings.

For the Crew and their fans, the thought of reaching the postseason without Yelich is unsettling.

Yelich leads the NL with 7.7 WAR. He’s first in wRC+ (173), slugging percentage (.671), onbase pct. (.429), OPS (1.100) and Isolated Power (.342). He’s tied for second with 44 homers, ranks seventh in runs (100), and 10th in RBIs (97.)

And in a very underrated part of his offensive game, Yelich is No. 3 in the NL with 30 steals — and has been caught stealing only two times.

The Brewers will use a combination of Trent Grisham, Ben Gamel and Tyler Austin in right field. But no one can fill the Yelich void.

“I think first and foremost, we feel awful for Christian,” Milwaukee GM David Stearns told reporters that cover the Brewers. “This is a guy who has carried us in a number of ways over the last two years. He could have been 2½ weeks away from a repeat Most Valuable Player Award. That’s where our thoughts go first.

“From a team perspective … this is a gut punch for a night, and then we need to recover and play really strong baseball.”

Said Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain:

“I talked to him earlier, told him to keep his head up. He’ll bounce back. We’ll try to find a way to get it done without him. He was very down, had a few tears in his eyes. I know how hard he works, how much he loves his teammates. Day in, every night the grind of just going out there competing every day — he does it day in and day out. It definitely hit him hard. We’re just trying to keep his head up right now.”

TRACKING THE CUBS: After Tuesday’s loss at San Diego, the Cubs’ wild-card lead dipped to one game over Milwaukee and 1 and ½ games over the Phillies. The Cubs fell despite Kris Bryant (knee) returning to the lineup to bash a pair of two-run homers.

According to FanGraphs the Cubs have a 19 percent chance to win the division and a 61% probability of making the playoffs.

“This is not the ideal situation,” Bryant told reporters that cover the Cubs. “But how many years are you just going to go through a cakewalk and just be all rosy and smiles on faces and everybody’s happy? I don’t think that’s how life goes in general.

“What I can tell you is that everybody here is very motivated and ready to go. And being where we are in the standings is not where we wanted to be. But I think we’re all very ready and hopefully we’ll make these last (18) games really count.”

Thanks for reading …

-Bernie