Better The Second Time Around

Five days ago, on a Wednesday afternoon in Busch Stadium, Joe Ross was masterful.  He allowed four hits and a walk in six scoreless innings, making the Cardinals again look less than threatening.

Yesterday, Ross looked to duplicate that feat.  It didn’t really work out for him.

We’ve talked so much about this club either barely scraping up hits or producing runs like they were in a factory working overtime for a quota.  The good games might be coming a little more frequently, though.  They scored double-digits twice this week and hit nine in a third one.  Of course, they were also shut out in two games over that span, meaning the pendulum on this clock is going back and forth enough to cause a strong breeze.  Consistency, as we continue to say, is an issue.

However, it’s also encouraging to see that the Cardinals, seeing a pitcher for the second time this year, made the adjustments necessary to get better results.  If–and, to be fair, it’s a big if–St. Louis uses the first time they see someone to set a baseline for how to attack them afterwards, I think we could live with a few bad games if this is the result.  Especially for those NL Central pitchers that they are going to see time and again.  Ross is the first one they’ve seen twice so it’s impossible to know if that’s the kind of thing that will happen again, but it’s a nice though.

It’s funny that we just yesterday were talking about whether those “hard hit” metrics were ever going to turn into results.  One of those that had some good expected stats and barrel rates but terrible results was Paul DeJong.  So of course he comes out with his second two-homer game of the season.  The first one started the scoring, the last one was a grand slam that put things out of reach for the Nationals.  He also walked and scored another run.  That’s a pretty solid night for anyone but had to feel good for a guy that was scuffling enough there were questions about how viable he was as a regular producer.  To be fair, one night doesn’t completely overturn that, but it’s a real good start.

DeJong wasn’t the only one with a good night, of course.  We had another sighting of back-to-back home runs, this time Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt.  (Goldy finally got me some #bombsaway points, so I was very glad to see that.)  Justin Williams hit his second home run of the season, both coming in the last five days.  With him heating up, the news that Tyler O’Neill should be back this weekend might cause some playing time issues for Mike Shildt to sort out.

Or maybe the answer is fairly easy.  While the Goat in a game like this isn’t really the same as a Goat in many others, Matt Carpenter still gets the tag.  It’s tough to say that in part because he did get his first regular hit of the season, which also drove in a run, but wasn’t content with a single and was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.  The other two at bats were strikeouts, though he also tossed in a hit by pitch at the end of it.  Carpenter has now struck out 14 times in 32 plate appearances.  His 35.9% strikeout rate is in the bottom 5% of the league.  It’s concerning that when he hits the ball he gets out, but then you could say that some of those will start dropping in based on velocity, etc.  It’s impossible for a strikeout to drop in and, given his age, it’s fair to wonder if that’s going to reverse.  He’s also gotten all three hits on fastballs.  He’s 0-14 with 11 strikeouts in at bats ending with a breaking or offspeed pitch.  If he’s selling out for the fastball (and this is all he’s getting out of it), then he’s not going to be getting any fastballs soon.

So, in regards to that, when O’Neill comes back it would seem to make sense to put him, Williams, and Dylan Carlson in the outfield and Edman back at second base.  Harrison Bader is also starting to make some progress, so eventually Edman is going to be forced back to the dirt.  I can understand Shildt running Carpenter out there now while there’s playing time to see if something works, but that window seems to be rapidly closing.

On the pitching side, Jack Flaherty made it through the sixth again, allowing him to own both instances the staff has done that.  I wasn’t sure he would, given that he was around 75 pitches in the fourth, but Shildt let him get a bit past the 100 plateau.  He wouldn’t have needed that much had not Nolan Arenado made his second error to lead off the sixth.  Flaherty almost got out of it, but eventually wound up allowing three (unearned) runs.  At least he had the cushion to deal with that, though I guess if he didn’t a reliever might have been summoned earlier.  Also kudos to Flaherty for his suicide squeeze.  All sorts of neat things last night!

Flaherty going through the sixth made it a good night of rest for the bullpen.  Genesis Cabrera threw an inning, which was a little interesting.  Cabrera’s not one that I’d normally want to see wasted in a blowout, but it looks like they are trying to keep his innings up and the only obvious “throw in a blowout” pitcher is Daniel Ponce de Leon, who came in after Cabrera to throw two innings, both scoreless.  That was nice to see out of Ponce, who has definitely had his issues this year.  He didn’t walk anyone and it only took him 23 pitches to cover both frames.  Maybe that had something to do with the Nationals being ready to go home down 12-5 but it was still a step forward.

With another double digit game, that means no offense tonight, right?  Possibly, but Patrick Corbin has been really bad this year.  It would be terrible if they couldn’t get something off of him.  The Cards scored 11 on Opening Day then scored six (albeit some late) the next day against the Reds, so it wouldn’t be unheard of for the Cardinals to score in back-to-back days.  Let’s see if they can!

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