The Cardinals are in first place but it’s hard to say they are firing on all cylinders. Just most of them.
That was evident yesterday as Dakota Hudson fell back into old habits with his command. The walks didn’t really pile up like in the past–he only issued two in his seven innings of work–but he had long counts and threw less than 60% of his pitches for strikes. Interestingly, even two starts ago, when he went seven innings and allowed one run to the Padres, he also threw under 60% strikes (well, 59.6%, so I guess it would round up). This season there’s only been two games where he’s pumped in more than 60% strikes–his last time out against the Rays (65.9%) and his May 3 start against the Royals, where he threw 63.1% strikes but allowed nine hits and three runs in six innings. For comparison, Adam Wainwright‘s lowest rate has been 61% in his 12 starts and Miles Mikolas has been at 62.6% or higher (usually much higher) in his.
That said, Hudson still went seven innings yesterday and you wonder if a true outfielder like Dylan Carlson had been out in right instead of Brendan Donovan if TJ Friedl‘s triple would have been caught and Hudson could have possibly gotten away with four runs over seven instead of the six he wound up giving. Nothing against Donovan, who has been outstanding, and there’s absolutely no guarantee another outfielder would have made the play, but you do wonder if things would have gone differently.
This weekend was a mix of things, really. It started with a game that the Cardinals won because they scored two runs in the first and outpitched the Reds the rest of the way. It ended in a game where the offense did its part (six runs, after Juan Yepez homered in the ninth to make things interesting) but the pitching lost the game. In the middle was a game that, in all honestly, the Cards probably should have lost but the Reds bullpen wouldn’t let them. You’d like to say “good teams win those kind of games” and that’s true, but it’s also hard to know how much credit to exactly take here.
All that said, the Cards are still in first place. The Brewers lost three games to Philadelphia and two of three to Washington, so whatever you think the stumbles against Tampa Bay, things could easily be worse. This next series could be a big one, because the Cardinals get the Pirates while the Brewers get the Mets. This would be a real good time to see the Cardinals push out their lead a little bit, especially since they have four in Miller Park next week. We’re hitting Flag Day tomorrow, one of those traditional markers of “it’s serious now” and hopefully with the coming return of Jack Flaherty and the current integration of Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson we’ll see things start to click into place soon and they can start playing some consistently winning baseball.
Thursday (2-1 loss at Tampa Bay)
Hero: Miles Mikolas. Nine strikeouts in his eight innings of work, allowing just three hits. The problem was one of them was a two-run homer by Ji-Man Choi and Shane McClanahan wasn’t giving up anything.
Goat: When the team only gets two hits, it’s hard to narrow it down. We’ll go with Tommy Edman, not only because of our “leadoff man breaks ties” rule we usually use but also he and Harrison Bader were the only ones to strike out twice.
Notes: A game that lasted less than two hours. Who says we need a pitch clock?….Nolan Arenado and Albert Pujols with the only hits (Nolan also walked) and the only run scored when Albert reached on a throwing error….if it wasn’t for the fact that both pitchers are so good, you’d have thought the Cards were just anxious to get back to Busch.
Friday (2-0 win vs. Cincinnati)
Hero: Andre Pallante. Though Pallante has been in the bigs all year, this was his second real start, somewhat granted because of how well he did against the Cubs last weekend. Pallante has now claimed a spot in the rotation, at least until the return of Jack Flaherty, on the back of his 5.1 scoreless innings in this one. Four hits, four strikeouts, and even though it’s the Reds, that’s pretty remarkable.
Goat: Tough day for Nolan Gorman, who went 0-4 with two left on and really has seemed to be boom or bust in his early MLB career.
Notes: I didn’t watch any of this one but it looks like after the first I didn’t miss much. Four baserunners in the first (and two Cincinnati errors) and only five more the rest of the way….two hits by both Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill….this was the first game in a while, if not the entire year, that the Big 3 wound up pitching in the same game, as Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos (notably, in the eighth), and Ryan Helsley finished this out with no hits allowed, though Gallegos did have control issues again, walking three.
Saturday (5-4 win vs. Cincinnati)
Hero: Tommy Edman. Hit a walk off homer, get a Hero tag. Edman had two hits on the day but everyone’s going to remember that fairly improbable shot off of Joel Kuhnel to pull victory from defeat.
Goat: Yadier Molina. 0-4 is bad enough, but hitting into a double play in the ninth–on the first pitch–was as frustrating as it was predictable. Someone should have hit for Molina there, especially since there was little need to worry about the backup catcher getting to play. Yadi is averaging 3.6 pitches per plate appearance and has swung at the first pitch almost 50% of the time. Honestly, I thought it was higher. I know that we are seeing Andrew Knizner more than most Yadi backups and I get that he’s not hitting either (.046/.087/.046 in June compared to Yadi’s .182/.182/.227) so I guess it’s just something to make peace with. Still, that double play was flashing in neon lights. Thank goodness Edman made it moot.
Notes: Big kudos to Juan Yepez for getting the hit before Edman’s homer, keeping the game alive for his heroics….two hits for Nolan Arenado again here, so the bat is starting to really heat up from its May cold. Of course, that probably means Paul Goldschmidt is going to be cooling off. Goldy went 0-4 here with three left on base and his on base streak came to an end….before the ninth, all the runs had come courtesy of Tyler O’Neill, who had a sacrifice fly in the sixth and a two-run double in the eighth, though he got inexplicably thrown out trying to steal third after that….not the most ideal outing for Adam Wainwright, but he does for some reason have trouble with Cincinnati. Here he gave up three runs in the third but held the line otherwise, going seven innings….Drew VerHagen took the eighth and gave up a run that almost was the deciding factor. I know the Cards have liked him more than Nick Wittgren or T.J. McFarland, but he’s allowed runs in his last three outings and his four June appearances have him with an 11.25 ERA with eight hits in four innings. He had a better ERA in May but his FIP pointed to some problems. (That said, I don’t know how to judge a fielding-independent stat when one of the big keys to the team is the fielding.) Right now his ERA is 5.19 and his FIP is 5.91. If he doesn’t start putting up some zeroes it’s going to be hard to justify keeping him in that “chase” category of relievers.
Sunday (7-6 loss vs. Cincinnati)
Hero: Juan Yepez. Three hits, including the two run homer in the ninth that made things very interesting for a bit.
Goat: Dakota Hudson. Seven innings is nice and all, but giving up six runs makes it real hard for your team to win a game.
Notes: I almost went with Andrew Knizner as the Goat since he went 0-3 and left six men on base. It seemed clear that the Reds were looking for him, though they didn’t exactly pitch around Harrison Bader to get to him. (Bader went 0-3 with a walk)….Nolan Arenado with his first homer in a while gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead that Hudson immediately squandered….the bats were active, with Tommy Edman, Nolan Gorman, and Brendan Donovan all having two hits….Johan Oviedo gave up a home run to Tommy Pham, a home run that proved very costly later on….it was the good outing for T.J. McFarland. He’s been (basically) alternating bad ones and good ones but it’s probably telling that he’s got only 14 plate appearance that aren’t low leverage. I still think that the DFA is coming at some point, perhaps when Jack Flaherty returns.