Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: Cards Need More Big Games From Marcell Ozuna

The Daily Redbird Review:

FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals got back on track with a swell 4-2 win over a Washington team that came into Busch Stadium holding the top spot in the National League wild-card race.

At 40-22, the Cardinals have the NL’s best record since the All-Star break. Monday’s win also gave the Cards a 26-11 mark since Aug. 9. And since Aug. 9 only Atlanta has a better record than St. Louis among MLB teams.

Chicago and Milwaukee also won last night, so the standings remained the same, with the Cardinals leading the Cubs by two and the Brewers by three. The Cards’ regular season is down to 12 games. Buckle up.

PLAYOFF ODDS: According to FanGraphs the Cardinals have a 59.6 percent probability of winning the NL Central, ahead of the Cubs (34.5%) and Brewers (5.9%.)

BASEBALL HERO: Entering Monday’s game, Marcell Ozuna had the worst batting average, onbase percentage and slugging percentage among MLB hitters since Aug. 28. His .113 batting average over that time told the story. But Ozuna came out of the deep freeze offensively Monday night, lofting a two-run homer off Stephen Strasburg for a 2-0 lead in the first. And after the Nationals tied it, Ozuna took matters into his own hands again in the seventh, striking a two-run double for the winning blow.

Ozuna also starred defensively, saving a run in the fourth with a strong throw to pin Asdrubel Cabrera at the plate. Cabrera lost his challenge to Ozuna when attempting to score the tying run from second base on a single to left.

MORE ON OZUNA:  He’s nine for 55 in September (.162) but four of his nine hits have flown for home runs. He’s up to 28 homers and 86 RBIs on the season. Ozuna stepped up in a huge way Monday night. The Cardinals need a helluva lot more of this from Ozuna over the the final 12 games.

TURNING POINT: Cards’ leadoff man Dexter Fowler was the human turning point for both of Ozuna’s big hits, doing his part to set up RBI opportunities by walking in the first inning — and walking again, plus stealing a base, in the seventh.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Rookie starter Dakota Hudson was terrific again, allowing two runs, five hits and a walk in his seven innings.

The victory gave Hudson a 16-7 record on the season. Those 16 wins tie him for 12th on the list of most victories in a season by a big-league rookie since 1969, when MLB lowered the pitching mound.

Moreover, the 16 wins tie Hudson for No. 2 on the list for rookie wins in a season since Justin Verlander was credited with 17 in 2006.

Hudson has a fine 3.35 ERA for the season. But he’s really been dialed in during his nine starts since the beginning of August; Hudson is 7-2 with a 2.21 ERA.

Also:

1. Fowler leads all MLB leadoff hitters in walk rate (17.3 percent) and onbase percentage (.393) since Mike Shildt installed him in the leadoff spot on Aug.

2. John Brebbia, Andrew Miller and Carlos Martinez sealed the win by combining for two innings of scoreless, hitless relief. Miller notched four of the six outs, and Martinez needed only two pitches to bag his 20th save of the season.

3. The Cardinals bullpen leads the majors with a 75 percent save percentage. Jordan Hicks, the closer to begin the season, saved 14 in 15 opportunities before being lost for the season with an elbow injury on June 22. And since taking over for Hicks, Martinez has converted 18 of 19 save attempts. So when your two primary closers for the season are a combined 32 of 34 in save opps, that’s pretty damn special.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Cardinals not named Marcell Ozuna went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position … For the season Paul DeJong is batting .207 with a .297 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position. With RISP and two out, DeJong is batting .200 with a .300 slug.

The Cardinals offense is still trying to catch up. For the season they rank 11th in the 15-team NL in runs per game (4.69), 11th in batting average (.246), 11th in OBP (.321), 12th in OPS (.735) and 13th in slugging (.413.)

The Cards also rank 13th in the league in OPS (.751) with runners in scoring position.

By the way the .246 batting average would be the lowest by a Cardinals team in a season since Bill DeWitt Jr. took over as owner in 1996. That’s 24 seasons.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY:  All good….

GOOD MOVE, SHILDTY: This team’s excellence and intelligence in running the bases is invigorating and very much appreciated. And Shildt and his coaches have played a major in transforming a chronic team weakness into a team strength. The Cardinals stole four bases Monday, one apiece by Fowler, Yadier Molina, Kolten Wong and Tommy Edman.

The Cards have 109 steals on the season, most in the NL and fourth in the majors. The Cards have swiped four or more bases in six games this season, the most by the a STL team since 2006.

And here’s the most important stat: the Cardinals have an 81 percent success rate in steal attempts; that’s outstanding.

ON DECK: Another 6:45 p.m. first pitch at Busch Stadium, with LH Patrick Corbin starting for the Nationals against Cards RH Miles Mikolas.

SPLITSVILLE: Both of Tuesday’s starters have notable home/road splits this season.

Mikolas has a 2.91 in 14 home starts, and a 5.80 in 16 road starts. He’s allowed a .377 slugging percentage at home and .515 on the road. Mikolas has yielded 0.9 homers per nine innings at home and 1.8 per nine on the road.

Corbin has a 2.00 ERA in 14 home starts and a 4.45 ERA in 16 roadies. He’s allowed 0.5 homers per nine innings and a .449 slugging percentage at home — compared to 1.6 homers per nine and a .284 slug at home.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie