Who knew that Dylan Carlson was the glue holding the whole offense together?
In the 10 games through Friday, the Cardinals were averaging 3.7 runs per game. That’s not a lot, of course, but it’s enough that the offense wasn’t really much of an issue, especially with the solid pitching that they have. Then Carlson’s back acts up and he can’t play Saturday and Sunday. The Cards muster a total in the two games of three runs, and one of those only happened because of the zombie runner on second in the 10th inning.
(To diverge for a moment, the whole “ghost runner” nomenclature for the extra runner that appears in extra innings is completely wrong. I assume you, like I, used ghost runners in the backyard for games when you didn’t have enough people. Those were invisible runners that you could place where you needed. Paul Goldschmidt physically ran the bases last night. He actually was there, not an intangible being. So “zombie” makes more sense than ghosts. He was “dead” (ended the last inning) but now shambles along anyway. Plus the whole idea is mindless so it fits! Hopefully after this season we don’t have to worry about what to call it, but I don’t trust baseball to not keep this stupid thing when they do the CBA.)
It’s not just Carlson, of course. The loss of him, Paul DeJong, and Tyler O’Neill has created some real issues in the lineup. (Granted, DeJong has been ably replaced by Edmundo Sosa, who won’t but should get Player of the Week consideration after hitting .588 with a 1.455 OPS in the last five games.) The lineup has been shortened–Yadier Molina moves up to fourth after hitting sixth much of the season. Harrison Bader is fifth and as much as I appreciate the improvements that Bader may have made in his game, he does not need to be hitting above seventh, I don’t think. Justin Williams has been pressed into action and he’s still really struggling with the sample size starting to increase. Having him sixth is a good way to short out rallies, if they occur.
These guys starting means the bench is basically non-existent. There is no way, as good as he was going, that Adam Wainwright should have batted for himself with two on and nobody out in a scoreless game in the seventh. Yet what were the options? They weren’t going to use Knizner and run that infinitesimal risk of running out of catchers. (In the seventh, I think I’d have taken that chance, but that’s not what they or most anyone in baseball would do, sadly.) Carlson was to be used only in the strictest emergency. Max Moroff….is there, but I’m not sure why nor am I completely sure that Mike Shildt remembers he is, being that he got one at bat this week, on Friday after the Cubs blew things open. The only feasible option was Matt Carpenter (which, given his season, is also very much an illustration of the problem) and they felt like they probably needed him later in the game. I don’t agree with it–a base hit right there could have given the Cardinals the lead that they could protect over the next two frames–but it makes some sense.
Now, none of this (save maybe Carlson’s injury) gives an explanation about how you can have the bases loaded after Wainwright’s bunt hit (because the ump blew that call–that should have been a disaster) with Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado coming up and not score a single one. That was the Cardinals of old, that sort of situation that we in the past have dreaded because we knew it was coming. Last night, it was more of a jump scare because how well, at least in comparison, things had been going.
Assuming the same situation, which obviously you can’t because so many things would have been different but go with me here, I think having Carlson hitting second probably does get a run in. He’s been lacking in power, but he’s been really good at getting hits. I’d almost bet he’d have gotten a fly ball that would have gotten the run in. I like to think that, at least. We’ll never know.
The club is hopeful that Carlson will be back in the lineup tonight against the White Sox. Hopefully that’s the case because it’s pretty clear that the Cardinals need him pretty desperately. He won’t solve the whole problem, though. The depth of the Cardinals has been exposed both on the hitting and the pitching side of things. While we know that big moves are six to eight weeks away, it might be a good time for John Mozeliak to make some sort of depth move, perhaps signing a veteran that can be a bigger threat off the bench or a reliable arm for the bullpen while others get healthy.
Well, if nothing else, they should have a good idea what they are facing tonight. Here’s a scouting report.
Saturday (2-1 Win)
Hero: Yadier Molina. Perhaps there need to be more ballpark proposals at key moments. Yadi followed up such an event with a tie-breaking home run in the seventh, propelling the Cardinals to the only win they’d get this weekend and, notably, making sure they couldn’t be caught for the division lead while at Busch.
Goat: Nolan Arenado. It looks like things are starting to cool off for the third baseman. 0-4 in this one with a strikeout and two left on base.
Notes: It’s been a while since we’ve seen Miles Mikolas and it didn’t seem the broadcast was mentioning it, so I thought it was just me until I talked with my Musial cohost Allen Medlock, but Mikolas looked awkward on the mound to me. Allen said it looked like he was short-arming the ball, which seemed to fit what I was seeing. The results were there, of course, but I wonder if that was a sign that there were some things not right. Of course, Mikolas left before the fifth and wound up back on the IL, though the team says there were no problems noted on an initial MRI. All that said, forearm tightness is not good and it would seem strongly possible that we don’t see Mikolas again until the All-Star break at the very best….kudos to the bullpen for being much better, even when more innings were needed, than Friday night. Of course, Shildt got to use the Big Three for much of it but we need to celebrate another good outing by Daniel Ponce de Leon. 1.2 scoreless here with two strikeouts and a walk after a scoreless inning on Monday. Not bad and hopefully that means Ponce can be a reliable sixth inning guy or someone that can pitch mid-level leverage innings if necessary….two hits, including a triple, by Edmundo Sosa. That man doesn’t have any desire to give the shortstop job back to Paul DeJong and that’s good, since it seems DeJong might be out longer than expected. He went on the DL on the 14th and the club at the time hoped it’d just be the 10 days, but that’s today and there’s no indication that he’s returning even this week….the 3-6 hitters combined for one hit, Yadi’s homer.
Sunday (2-1 loss in 10)
Hero: Adam Wainwright. Talk about someone not getting what they deserve. Eight scoreless innings for the veteran right-hander and he never was in much trouble. That happens when you only allow one hit and only walk one batter. If only someone could have come through in the seventh.
Goat: Paul Goldschmidt. 0-4 (though he drew a walk) and his popup in the seventh with the bases loaded was a killer. Even a sacrifice fly there might have won the game. He also left Tommy Edman on second in the first and was unable to drive in Matt Carpenter with two outs in the ninth.
Notes: The Cardinals put up a tweet before the game about their perfect closer. Alex Reyes still hasn’t blown a save, but his record is marred after last night. It was only a matter of time before Javier Baez burned the Cardinals, but it’s always so irritating when he does it. Reyes seemed to come unraveled after that, walking two batters before getting the last two guys to strike out. (Probably helped that the last out was Craig Kimbrel, taking only his second major league at bat.) Those sorts of things are going to happen. The Cardinals should have done more to make sure it didn’t get to that….two of the six St. Louis hits were by, you guessed it, Edmundo Sosa. He’s been such a joy to watch this week and he’s really having fun. Plus that speed! He’s got to be faster than even Harrison Bader is….the fact that the Cardinals couldn’t get to Zach Davies is pretty concerning, given their history against him. He should not have gotten away with a scoreless line…..Giovanny Gallegos and Reyes were used in the last two days, so if the Cardinals get a lead tonight, who do they go to besides Genesis Cabrera?