After six games in Milwaukee, you’d have to forgive the Cardinals if they were starting to regard the retractable-roof edifice as more of a house of horrors with Christian Yelich playing the main ghoul. With a get-away day in a series they’d already lost, it might have been tempting to just hurry through, take your medicine, and head home to more favorable locales. Instead, as we expect from this team, they kept the losing streak in check and proved that if the Brewers are the better team right now, it’s not by much.
There were a few choices for Hero, but a four-hit day usually gets a lot of weight and that’s exactly what Paul DeJong provided. Along with those four hits, he drove in a run and scored one as well, even though none of the hits were for extra bases. For all the concerns about DeJong hitting third–and I was at the forefront of that–he’s had exactly two hitless days this season. Two. He has a 1.038 OPS on the season. More notably, he’s striking out a little less than once a game. DeJong’s strikeouts were my main concern with him in that slot behind Paul Goldschmidt and he’s tailored his game remarkably. Granted, that’d still give him 144 strikeouts if he played every game as he has so far, but I think if you get everything else DeJong has been bringing to the table, you can deal with a strikeout every night.
Kolten Wong came into the Milwaukee series on a 1-17 slide and extended that with an 0-3 in the opening game. He had a hit on Tuesday and then nabbed three in this one, with a run and an RBI. It has to be an interesting feeling for Wong to know that when he was in that slump, he was still going to be playing regularly. That should have given him the confidence to come out of it naturally and hopefully that’s what we are seeing now.
Goldschmidt had two hits, which was encouraging to see, and Matt Wieters had two in his second start in six days. Wieters drove in two runs with his knocks, putting him close to the entirety of Francisco Pena‘s production in just one month. It’s very, very nice to have a solid backup and I still wish that Mike Shildt would use him more as a late inning pinch-hitter. I get the idea of being down a catcher, but if you have a situation where Wieters can help you with a plate appearance in the eighth, I think you worry about the infinitesimal chance of Yadier Molina getting hurt before the game is over if it happens. Because there aren’t too many games in major league history that a team has lost BOTH their catchers.
On the pitching side, Michael Wacha continues to pitch for the offseason payday he’s likely to receive. (Well, I say likely, but when Dallas Keuchel is still a free agent, you can’t guarantee anything.) Take out that Dodgers game and his ERA on the season is a shade over two. I don’t know that he’s pitching that well, especially since he had those eight walks in a different game, but he’s probably been the best pitcher so far on the team, though Adam Wainwright might beg to differ. In this one, he calmed the Brewers for six innings, allowing a two run home run to Aaron Wilkerson, who had come on in relief of Corbin Burnes after Burnes left with one out in the fourth having allowed five runs.
Which brings up an ugly issue: as much as Yelich beat up on the Cardinals in these seven games, the Brewers pitchers have done a lot in that realm as well. Not talking about pinch-hitters hitting in the ninth spot, just people that make their living throwing the ball for the Milwaukee club. Here’s the combined line over those seven games.
8-for-14, four runs, one double, two homers, six RBI
That’s a 71 homer pace over 500 at bats. That a 214 RBI pace over 500 AB. That’s a batting average of .571, a slugging percentage of 1.071. Yelich has been better, but honestly, not by much. The MVP is hitting .500 with a slugging percentage of 1.542.
I continue to want to see how different this matchup is in Busch Stadium. While the differences aren’t all due to Miller Park–after all, both teams get to hit there–I have to feel that’s at least some of it. Then again, it always feels like the Cardinals give up base hits to other pitchers more frequently than they should, though one time I ran some numbers and it really wasn’t out of line that season (whichever one that was). I probably should dig into that again or someone with better tools than combing through box scores should.
Anyway, Wacha did well and the bullpen was solid. Andrew Miller erased some of the good feelings that were building up for him by allowing a couple of hits and a run, but no damage was really done given the four-run lead at the time and Jordan Hicks made sure there wasn’t an uprising in the ninth to make it mean something. Also, another good outing by John Gant to bridge from the starter (who at least made it six innings this team, not always something you can take for granted) to the back end of the bullpen.
It’s actually hard to come up with a Goat in this one. All the starters had a hit and the pitching was fine. I don’t want to go with Marcell Ozuna, even though he left four on base, because he also hit a home run in the second that got the scoring started. I guess we’ll go with Jose Martinez, who went 1-4, struck out twice, and left three on. Like I often say, not all Goats are created equal.
The Cardinals have actually been somewhat lucky. Part of that luck is their own making–they’ve beaten non-Milwaukee teams at a 8-3 clip–but the Brewers haven’t run away with the division even with all the wins against St. Louis. In fact, after Thursday’s games, Pittsburgh (the team the Cardinals have beaten twice this season) leads the NL Central by percentage points over the Brewers with the Cardinals a game back. If you told folks they’d be this bad against Milwaukee (at least results-wise, as many of these games were still very close), I don’t think they’d expect to be this close, even this early in the season.
The Mets come into Busch tonight and if the Cards are going to win this series, they pretty much have to win tonight. In his last two starts, Jason Vargas has given up eight runs. He’s not lasted past the first inning in either outing. St. Louis really needs to put the wood to him because Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are the starters for the last two games. You might be able to beat one of them. Beating both of them? That’s a big ask. Let’s hope the bats come out hot tonight!