In the premiere episode of Phineas and Ferb, the boys build a rollercoaster that stretches around their entire town of Danville. (If you haven’t seen the show, which we also talked about last year, you really should avail yourself of it, especially if you have Disney+.) The show would return to this every so often, whether it was a time-traveling Candace returning to bust the boys or redoing the episode as a musical. The rollercoaster wasn’t a one and done thing for the show.
The ups and downs of the season aren’t a one time thing for the Cardinals either. I have no doubt that I’ve used this analogy many times to describe a season and it’s always relevant. However, this past week was one of those thrill ride types with sharp drops and dangerous turns. Nobody’s asking to get off just yet, but it’d be nice if we could catch our breath with a nice steady climb for a bit.
Beating the Cubs is always great, especially in a four game series. That unprecedented bullpen meltdown aside, the Cardinals played a pretty good series and made up some ground. They were half a game behind the Reds going into the weekend and you felt fairly good about their outlook. They didn’t necessarily play that much worse this weekend, but came up short in key moments and it took a power surge on Sunday to avoid an ugly sweep.
That all means that, when you take the good and take the bad (sorry, that’s a different TV show) the Cardinals sit at 50-50. I looked it up for the series preview (which will be along shortly over here) but the Cards were 50-50 in 2018, then won 38 of their last 62. Obviously they came up short that season, falling a couple games short of the last wild card spot, but that sort of run this year would put them very much in contention for either the division or a wild card spot.
The question is, of course, can they do it? Can they put together a stretch of good baseball? They are 6-4 in their last 10, which is something I guess. They are 9-6 since the beginning of the first San Francisco series. The problem is, to get on the sort of run they had in 2018, they need to win more like 10 of 12, 15 of 20. They haven’t been able to be that consistently good. The schedule gets softer, Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas return, so perhaps August is where they make their run as they have under Mike Shildt in the past.
It’s more likely we’ll ride the rollercoaster a few more times before it coasts to an end in September (well, I guess probably before that because the highs and lows won’t matter as much when there’s no chance at all for October). If that’s the case, hopefully we at least get some reasons for hope in 2022 out of the deal.
Thursday (3-2 win vs. Chicago)
Hero: Dylan Carlson. Two doubles and a home run for the young man. I had argued he needed a break from the leadoff spot but between this game and the weekend it looks like he’s made some adjustments and is ready to go.
Goat: Tyler O’Neill. 0-4 with two strikeouts.
Notes: Kwang Hyun Kim lost his scoreless streak but still pitched the way we’ve come to expect, allowing two runs in six innings and mixed in seven strikeouts as well. They’ve not stretched Kim out past the sixth very often but I wish they would, especially since he’s not running up huge pitch counts…..Ryan Helsley came into a clean inning and did fine, allowing a hit but no runs. Helsley has been much more effective as a fireman coming in with runners on, though, and the club seems to realize that though they still try to use him as a bridge guy with mixed success….Carlson led off the game with a homer but Nolan Arenado‘s two run blast in the third was the difference…..Edmundo Sosa got clocked with a 95 mph fastball right in the head, but somehow stayed in the game and there haven’t been any repercussions noted in the past couple of days. It was a scary sight, though.
Friday (6-5 loss at Cincinnati)
Hero: Andrew Knizner. Knizner hadn’t started in over two weeks and hadn’t pinch-hit or come into a ballgame late since then either. With Yadier Molina going down abruptly, Knizner stepped in and had two hits and drove in two runs. It was a tough situation for the young man and he came through.
Goat: Ryan Helsley. See, this is why we talk about Helsley as fireman instead. Helsley came into the seventh with a two-run lead and gave up three hits, capped by a double by Eugenio Suarez that drove in one and a wild pitch that brought in the tying run. Helsley was spared giving up the lead because Dylan Carlson threw out a guy at home, though that merely delayed the inevitable.
Notes: A three run sixth from the bottom of the lineup looked like it was going to be enough for the Cardinals. Four straight hits from Harrison Bader, Tommy Edman, Knizner, and Edmundo Sosa before a sacrifice fly from Dylan Carlson. If you can get that sort of production regularly from those folks, things are going to be much better….Bader and Paul Goldschmidt joined Knizner with two hits….Giovanny Gallegos got the loss with an inning that was less than his standards, exacerbated by his own error. It could have been worse, given the bases were loaded with one out, but you do wonder if Gallegos (and to some extent Alex Reyes) are hitting a bit of a dry patch. Getting another late-inning reliever so you don’t have to run those guys out there in every close game would be really nice….Adam Wainwright made the last out as he was pinch-hitting for Gallegos. There’s been a lot made of Yadier Molina not being put on the IL and this at bat gets pointed to. However, 1) Molina’s inability to play was only found out on Friday, so there wouldn’t have been anyone else on the roster anyway; 2) there were two outs and nobody on, and while I know it’s Yadi in Cincy, the idea that he was going to hit a home run or even get on base for the top of the order to do something is a little bit of a stretch; 3) if Molina had been on the IL, that’s where Ali Sanchez comes in and I don’t know that Sanchez is much better than Wainwright overall. If Yadi can’t play today, they should put him on the IL and backdate it. However, given the idea that he was only out a day or two, I can understand not wanting to put him on the shelf for 10 days when you don’t have to.
Saturday (5-3 loss at Cincinnati)
Hero: Paul DeJong. Two hits, driving in one and scoring one. It also got DeJong’s season average over .200 for the first time in a long while.
Goat: Tough night for Dylan Carlson, going 0-5.
Notes: Cardinals went 3-10 in this one with runners in scoring position, much like they did on Friday. A well-timed hit in either game makes this a nicer weekend….Jake Woodford was OK in his outing, giving up three runs in five innings, but he walked two and allowed seven hits so the damage could have been worse….T.J. McFarland had his worst outing as a Cardinal, allowing two runs in two innings. It was a hit by Jonathan India and a homer by Jesse Winker, so he’s truly a member of the 2021 pitching staff as those guys have destroyed anyone wearing the birds on the bat. He bounced back and got three groundouts and has been a good acquisition so far….Nolan Arenado did drive in one, but hit into two double plays that erased scoring chances….two hits for Paul Goldschmidt as he continues his strong summer.
Sunday (10-6 win at Cincinnati)
Hero: Harrison Bader. Three for four and hit the three-run homer that broke the tie and sent the Cardinals on to the win.
Goat: Johan Oviedo. Staked to a 9-3 lead in the fourth, Oviedo was unable to get out of the fifth. Six walks, five hits, and left with two men on with one out in the fifth. Last time the team let Oviedo down trying to get his first major league win. This time it was on him. The Cardinals did option him out yesterday, since they won’t need a fifth starter for a while.
Notes: Power display as Tyler O’Neill, Bader, Dylan Carlson, and Nolan Arenado all went deep, with Arenado’s maybe getting a little assist by a fan catching it in their cap….both of the Millers made it into a game yesterday, which shows that there was a significant lead. Andrew Miller gave up a run on three hits but did strike out two, so if anyone was interested in trading for him he probably didn’t hurt his stock. Justin Miller struck out a batter, walked a batter, and hit a batter, then was removed for Genesis Cabrera who allowed both runs to score….Cabrera was ejected leaving the field in the eighth (eject a pitcher leaving the game, that makes sense) after a pretty bad missed call by the umpire. Then again, as Mike Shildt said, that wasn’t anything unheard of in this series….tough day for Edmundo Sosa, who was double-switched into the game midway through. 0-2 with two strikeouts and four left on.