The Daily Redbird Review:
FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals lost to the Nationals 6-2 on Tuesday night in another dull showing by an absent-minded offense.
Question: Is this officially a slump? Yeah, I think so. Even though the Cardinals have one of the best records in baseball since the All-Star break, 40-23), they’re only 6-7 in the last 13 games and have lost five of their last eight.
The offense continue to wobble along in a sad state, and the bullpen isn’t as sturdy as before.
We can debate the verbiage, but no matter how we term it, we’re seeing a downturn. The timing is rather unfortunate.
STANDINGS CHECK: The Cubs lost to the Reds, and the Brewers beat the Padres, so we have a tie for second in the NL Central. With 11 games remaining in their regular-season schedule the first-place Cardinals lead the Cubs and Brewers by two games. The Brewers and Cubs are tied for the second wild-card spot, a game and a half behind the Nationals.
PLAYOFF ODDS: After walloping the Brewers 10-0 on Friday night, the Cardinals had an 80.1 percent probability of winning the NL Central. But after three losses in four games since then, the Cardinals’ odds for winning the division are down to 57.7 percent. That’s still pretty strong … but the Redbirds need to start winning games. The Cubs have a 29.5 percent chance to take the division. The Brewers are at 12.8 percent.
CARDS KILLER: Nationals starter Patrick Corbin made the Cardinals look absolutely silly during his six innings, striking out 11 of 28 batters faced. The Cards did have five hits and four walks against Corbin. But the walks were an offshoot of Corbin’s strategy to get the undisciplined Cardinals to chase pitches out of the strike zone. And the Cardinals slipped into the trap. According to FanGraphs, only 22.7 percent of Corbin’s pitches were located in the strike zone, and the Cards swung at 32 percent of Corbin’s out-of-zone bait. Corbin had a high swinging-strike rate of 19 percent, with the Cardinals unable to lay off his down-and-in slider.
Corbin is a very good pitcher, no question. But as I pointed out in this space Tuesday morning, Corbin entered this start with a 2.00 ERA at home — and a 4.45 ERA on the road. So let’s not make this guy out to be Warren Spahn, OK? (Google it, kids.) The Cardinals’ hitting approach last night was utterly inept.
BASEBALL HERO: The author John Barth said it: “Not every boy thrown to the wolves becomes a hero.” Well, the Cardinals weren’t thrown to the wolves on Tuesday night … but they had a lot of sliders thrown at their ankles and had absolutely no idea what to do except, swing, batter batter batter. The Cardinals’ two runs were scored on errors by the Nationals.
BLAME GAME: The Cardinals went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position. In their last four games they’re 2 for 27 with runners in scoring position. In Tuesday’s loss the Cards had an overall chase rate of 35.5 percent on pitches out of the strike zone — and swung at only 61 percent of the strikes offered to them. Their overall contact rate was a terrible 62 percent. Their hard-contact rate was only five percent. So, so bad.
TURNING POINT: There were three:
1. Bases loaded, third inning. Marcell Ozuna struck out, Paul DeJong hit a ground ball that was fumbled by shortstop Trea Turner for a run-scoring error, and Yadier Molina struck out to kill the inning.
2. Bases loaded, fifth inning. DeJong grounded out to end the inning. No runs.
3. Sixth inning, runners on first and third. Pinch-hitter Jose Martinez struck out, but Tommy Edman scored on a throwing error by Nationals catcher Yan Gomes, who was trying to catch Harrison Bader stealing. The run cut the Washington lead to 3-2. With Bader moving to third on the error, Dexter Fowler grounded out and the Nationals escaped again. After the Fowler ground out the Cards’ win expectancy dropped to 32.8 percent.
HEY, YOU DID GOOD: There isn’t much to talk about here.
1. Starting pitcher Miles Mikolas was OK, but just OK. He went six innings, gave up eight hits and three earned runs, walking only one, with four strikeouts. But five of Washington’s eight hits came on two-strike counts including a triple, homer, and two doubles. Granted, the triple should have been caught by Harrison Bader. But Mikolas had a hard time finishing off hitters.
2. Paul Goldschmidt had a double and walked twice.
3. Reliever Giovanny Gallegos kept the Cardinals within one run by pitching 1 and ⅓ scoreless innings.
LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Let’s go to the list:
1. This must be repeated: the Cardinals went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and are 2 for 27 with RISP over their last four games. The Cardinals rank 26th in the majors this season with a .746 OPS with runners in scoring position. This month they’re batting .218 (25th) with a .688 OPS in RISP situations.
2. Paul DeJong has a .588 OPS in 136 plate appearances with runners in scoring position this season. That .588 OPS is the worst among the 71 MLB hitters that have at least 136 PA with runners in scoring position in 2019.
3. The Cardinals have scored two runs or fewer in four of their last five losses. Despite what you may read in the local gazette, this is not a recent trend. Only six MLB teams have scored two runs or less in a game more often than the Cardinals (46) this season. And five of those six teams have losing records. The only NL teams to score two or fewer runs in a game more frequently than St. Louis are non-contenders Miami and San Francisco.
4. A day after the gushing and dutiful mainstream STL sports media all but arranged for a parade to honor Marcell Ozuna because he had his only good game since Aug. 28, Ozuna returned to his recent form by striking out twice on out-of-zone pitches with men in scoring position. In his last 19 games Ozuna is batting .130 with a .550 OPS. But he does have four homers.
5. The Cardinals have had a substantially better bullpen than the Nationals this season, but that wasn’t the case last night. After Gallegos pitched well to keep the score 3-2, a procession of three relievers — John Gant, Ryan Helsley and Genesis Cabrera — let the game get away by giving up four hits, three earned runs and three walks without a strikeout.
6. The STL bullpen has a 4.67 ERA this month and has allowed a .341 OBP and .408 slug.
7. Since the All-Star break Gant has a 6.86 ERA and has walked an astronomical 18 percent of batters faced.
SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: Might want to reconsider his dependence on Gant … might want to move the lineup pieces around a little. DeJong, who bats fifth, has been struggling terribly … might want to get a fresh athlete in the lineup; it’s a shame to see the Cardinals keep Randy Arozarena glued to the bench.
GOOD MOVE, SHILDTY: Hitters gotta hit.
BREATHLESS: If the Cardinals lose today’s game, they’ll be 0-3 in their last three series. The Cardinals haven’t lost three consecutive series since dropping five in a row — Cubs, Phillies, Pirates, Braves, Rangers — during a stretch that began May 3.
ON DECK: Adam Wainwright vs. Max Scherzer today at 12:15 p.m. Enough said.
Thanks for reading …