Six games in a row where the Cards have won and scored at least six runs. Time to break this out.
(Can you believe this has been around for 10 years? I mean, I guess the fact that drinks used to be a quarter and now are 50 cents is somewhat of a tell, but still, a decade with this classic?)
It’s been a remarkable run, a run that has seen the Cardinals move out to three games ahead of the Cubs, with the Brewers fighting to stay relevant. There’s still a month of baseball to play, but the Brewers have been rough away from home and they play the Cubs in Wrigley this weekend and are away from Miller Park for 13 of their last 26, including a run through St. Louis. Given all their issues, they really need to try to beat Jack Flaherty today, because if they go down 7.5 they are probably starting to make winter plans.
However, we aren’t here to talk about the Brewers. We’re here to talk about the serious Cardinals. While it’s too simplistic (and probably really inaccurate) to tie the change to the firing of Mark Budaska, it’s an easy demarcation line to draw. Let’s see how a few hitters and the team have done since Budaska was relieved of his duties on August 12.
|Player||Through 8/12||After 8/12|
Obviously not everyone has increased, but even those that haven’t changed their batting average drastically are getting on base more. Goldschmidt might be the only one that has worse numbers in the small sample. Unfortunately, that’s been a running theme for most of this season–imagine the team with a fully locked in Goldschmidt. We saw that in July, but that’s about it. Looking at his monthly OPS numbers, one of these things is not like the others.
The team is clicking right now, even without their centerpiece going strong. This probably has little to do with the coaching change and more to do with a better constructed overall lineup. Moving Dexter Fowler (and lately, Kolten Wong) to the top of the lineup has put runners on for the big guns to do damage. Removing Matt Carpenter from the lineup, at least on the regular, has helped take away what has been one of the drags on the offense. It also should be noted that Yadier Molina returned right at the beginning of the time frame measured above. While Matt Wieters (and Andrew Knizner, though we didn’t see him as much) did a fine job, they also didn’t quite have the consistency that Molina has shown this season. I’m not saying that Molina needs to play every day the rest of the season–it seems clear the month off has rejuvenated him a bit–but getting him back in the lineup seems to have helped spark things as well.
We’ve said all year that if you could couple some offense with this pitching staff, you’d probably be all right. Since August 13, the Cards have a team ERA of 2.66. Right there, that’s going to win you some ball games, but when you get serious eight times in that 15 game span, that’s an explosive combination and one that we as fans are very here for.
Now that I’ve said all that, the club will probably come out today against Jordan Lyles and wind up being overly quiet. It’s an afternoon game, they’ve won six in a row, they are heading home with an off day, the Cards scored eight off of Lyles when they saw him in late July when he still was with the Pirates, and the offense always seems to go quiet (on both sides!) when Jack Flaherty pitches. It feels like a trap game and even if it does wind up going that way, taking two of three in Milwaukee is still a nice achievement.
But if it doesn’t, if the Cardinal bats are strong and Flaherty is as well, the Cardinals can put some pressure on the Cubs to win tonight against the Mets and Noah Syndergaard. (They are sending Kyle Hendricks to the mound so they’ve got a better-than-normal shot of winning a road game.) Hopefully that’s what September is going to be about this year: winning and making the Cubs try to match it. If things stay as serious as they have been lately, there’s a real good chance of it.
Thursday (6-5 win vs. Colorado)
Hero: Dexter Fowler. It was good of Matt Carpenter to draw a walk in front of him, but Fowler’s seventh-inning blast put the Cards on top.
Goat: Miles Mikolas. Five runs in six innings isn’t usually a recipe for winning and Mikolas was lucky to wind up with a no-decision. It was the third straight start where Mikolas had allowed five runs or more.
Notes: The bullpen kept the Cards in the game, with Dominic Leone and Giovanny Gallegos throwing scoreless innings until the Cards took the lead and Andrew Miller and Carlos Martinez locking it down after….deuces were wild in this one as Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, and Paul DeJong each had a two-run homer….Tommy Edman had two hits at third base since Harrison Bader had returned to claim an outfield spot.
Friday (8-3 win vs. Colorado)
Hero: Jack Flaherty. Six scoreless innings, three hits, nine strikeouts. Just another amazing Flaherty outing, which is what he’s been putting up since the All-Star Break.
Goat: John Gant. We continue to hold Gant in high regard in the bullpen given what he did earlier in the year, but he’s got a 5.06 ERA and a 1.688 WHIP in 16 second-half innings. He allowed three hits and two runs in the ninth here, which was more a nuisance than anything else, but it feels clear right now you can’t use him in high leverage spots.
Notes: Big day for Marcell Ozuna, who had a double, a homer, and three RBI….back-to-back two hit games for Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt….Yadier Molina topped all that with three hits…Flaherty also had a hit, a sacrifice bunt, and a sacrifice fly.
Saturday (6-0 win vs. Colorado)
Hero: Dakota Hudson. Following up his no-hit innings in his previous start, Hudson allowed just two in six innings here, though he did walk three. Keeping his scoreless streak going against the Reds this weekend might be tough, though it helps he’ll be in Busch.
Goat: Tommy Edman. He did draw a walk and score a run but he also left five men on base.
Notes: Cardinals drew 24 walks in four games against the Rockies, including eight in this one….another two-hit night for Marcell Ozuna, who as we saw above is red-hot right now….homers by Harrison Bader (which started the scoring) and Paul Goldschmidt (which capped it).
Sunday (11-4 win vs. Colorado)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. Getting the start because Kolten Wong was hurt, Carpenter went 3-4 with a home run, two RBI, and three runs scored. Which inspired a lot of “is he back” but the next couple of nights haven’t followed up on that possibility.
Goat: Michael Wacha. After the club bailed him out of the 2-0 hole, he still couldn’t go five for the win, falling an out short. Seven strikeouts ran up his pitch count but he also had six hits and two walks in that span. One of the best things we’ve seen from Mike Shildt since the trading deadline is his aggressiveness in pulling Wacha before things get really bad.
Notes: Ryan Helsley picked up the win. This was only the second time he’s appeared in a winning game this season. I understand that they are doing their best to piggyback Helsley and Wacha but let Helsley get the front half of that and see if he can’t stretch out to a more reasonable five-six innings. Of course, maybe you want Wacha early so that if things do go south, you can pull him quickly and have time to recover….another home run for Lane Thomas. I know the “sign Marcell Ozuna” bandwagon is going strong, and there’s plenty of legitimate reasons for it, but I think of how trapped Thomas and Randy Arozarena and, perhaps, Official Prospect of the Blog Dylan Carlson would be next year if that happened…..three hits and two RBI for Tommy Edman, who is starting to really earn his “regular” tag.
Monday (12-2 win at Milwaukee)
Hero: Marcell Ozuna. Two hits and three RBI. I told you, there are some good reasons for that re-signing thing.
Goat: Matt Carpenter. 0-4, three strikeouts, five left on base. While he’s never matched up well against Gio Gonzalez, this didn’t really help him get any traction toward regular playing time.
Notes: Somehow Gonzalez, who gave up eight runs in the first two innings, went longer in the game than Adam Wainwright, who left in the fourth up 9-2 but having allowed six hits and two walks in that span. Waino is always going to be iffy on the road and it’s good that he had the support he did, though he also worked his way out of some of his jams….we dogged on John Gant a bit earlier but here he stranded the two runners he inherited and then pitched two more scoreless innings….two hits for Harrison Bader and two hits, including a home run, for Yadier Molina…..Paul DeJong hit a home run that loudly clanged off the Bud Light sign in center, continuing his sign rampage.
Tuesday (6-3 win at Milwaukee)
Hero: Yadier Molina. Not one but two homers, accounting for the first three Cardinal runs.
Goat: Paul Goldschmidt. 0-5 with two strikeouts and four left on. There were times where a hit from him could have blown the game open.
Notes: Thankfully we saw the good Miles Mikolas in this one, as he allowed just one run in six innings with 10 strikeouts. With the Cardinal offense quiet early, Mikolas keeping them in the game so they could rally was big….three hits for Harrison Bader, including one that just about went out of the park….Kolten Wong pinch-hit and stayed in the game, going 2-2 with a double and a stolen base, so I think we can stop worrying about his toe and start seeing him in the starting lineup….Andrew Miller gave up a two-run homer that 1) brought the Brewers back to within one and 2) scuffed up Giovanny Gallegos’s ERA a bit, as the baserunner was his. Miller feels like he could strike out the side or give up a big home run (or both!) every time he goes out there. That 3.63 ERA of his is high, but not terrible, and doesn’t tell the whole story….also, a rain delay in a park with a retractable roof? You are doing it wrong, Milwaukee.