Second Verse, Worse Than the First

And the Cardinals lose this one 7-1.  One run on….two hits?  Two [lousy] hits?

You can’t say [lousy] on this website!

Ah, it’s OK, nobody’s reading anyway.

Yesterday, we talked about how it was pretty understandable that the club might not have the same pep and verve that they had over the weekend.  It was a draining set with the Cubs and they were facing a good and unknown to them pitcher.  Those excuses wear a bit thin when you try to apply them to more than one game, however.  Jake Odorizzi isn’t someone they’ve seen a lot, given his career in the American League, but he’s been around and there is plenty of video on him.  I’m not saying they should have beaten him around the yard, but mustering two hits against him in five innings isn’t exactly asking the world.

But at least they hit Odorizzi, as little as that might have been.  Three Twins relievers threw four innings with absolutely no blemish.  No hits, no walks, nothing.  They struck out four of the 12 batters they faced.  I know it was a day game and I know it was a getaway day, but let’s try not to get away BEFORE the game is over, guys.

This game got a decent kickoff, at least, as Jose Martinez (who gets to be the Hero) smacked a home run in the first inning.  Carlos Martinez couldn’t hold it, though, and looked more like the pitcher we saw in New York to open the series (though not nearly to that level) than the one we’ve seen over his past run of starts.  Martinez walked three and hit a batter while striking out only two.  Four free baserunners is tough to deal with when you allow four hits as well in your five innings.  It was a blip of a day and there’s no reason to think it’d happen again his next time out.  Well, except for the fact that he’ll be facing these Twins again, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be fired up to erase this one from people’s memories.

Other than Jose’s hit, the only other knock came on a bit of a flare by Francisco Pena.  That’s it.  Well, Jose and Greg Garcia also drew walks, though Garcia was then cut down trying to steal.  Martinez’s walk came to lead off the fourth inning.  The next 18–18!–batters were retired.  No wonder folks were already past the era of good feelings from this weekend.  Watching Cardinal batters flail isn’t a great way to spend the afternoon.

I can’t give any pitcher the Goat because they could have been almost perfect and still wouldn’t have won that game the way the offense was going.  Given that there were a ton of 0-fers, I’ll invoke our general tiebreaker and give Matt Carpenter the Goat for another 0-4 day.  I know, I know, barrels, xwOBA, all that stuff seems to say that Carpenter will be hitting any time now.  Everything except, you know, actual hits.  It’s just seven games, but his worst numbers this year come at leadoff (.327 OPS) so that’s not triggered a renaissance.  It’s a bit ironic that he said in the spring that he was not going to try to hit homers because he was tired of striking out, yet he’s striking out in 5% more of his plate appearances than he did last year.  But he’s not hitting homers (he had seven after 34 games last year, with a .938 OPS compared to this year’s .601) so I guess mission accomplished?

That’s actually an interesting comparison to make.  Let’s look at a few OPS from 2017 and 2018 after 34 team games.

Player 2017 2018 Variance
Matt Carpenter .938 .601 -.337
Dexter Fowler .743 .567 -.176
Marcell Ozuna .988 .605 -383
Jose Martinez .811 .821 +.010

I was going to include Tommy Pham but at this point in the season he’d only played a few games and his OPS was 1.240, which is a little skewed even for him.  Still, you can see the problems above.  Ozuna and Martinez had similar OPS at the end of the season, while Fowler’s increased and Carpenter’s decreased.  I doubt this says anything about the future, not like the various stats that come out of Statcast do, and even to get something you’d probably have to compare how their OPS each year of their career at this point in the season compares to the end of the year.  All I know is that it’s very concerning to have the bulk of the offense cratering, which seemed to happen early last year as well.  Offensive problems have been a hallmark, it feels like, of the John Mabry era (2013 excluded) and even with the changes in assistant hitting coaches, you wonder if a new voice might be needed.

While the offense is to blame for yesterday, there’s no doubt the pitching staff didn’t help it out much.  As noted, Carlos gave up four runs in five innings, which is really out of character for him this season.  Sam Tuivailala, who threw two innings on Sunday night, came in and allowed a run on two hits.  Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, making his fourth appearance in five days (I know most of those were short ones, but still, that’s a lot of wear on a guy) gave up a double and a homer before getting the next three batters.  Only John Brebbia, who threw the last two frames, was able to come out unscathed.

It was a terrible way to end a homestand, a terrible way to start the Yadier Molina Sabbatical, a terrible way to squander the momentum from the dramatics of this weekend.  There’s an off day today, a much needed one for many of the bullpen arms, and then they pick it up again tomorrow against the Padres, who are already 11 games under .500.  To say they have to at least win the four-game series in San Diego probably isn’t necessary.  That should go without saying.  Miles Mikolas, who’s been one of the brightest spots this season, will try to right the ship against Jordan Lyles, the former Houston top prospect who has bounced around in the majors and currently sports a 3.66 ERA in relief.  This will be his first start of the season, so hopefully even if he pitches well for the first couple of innings, the Cards can get to him later on.

It’s sad when they could top the team total in hits from this series in a couple of innings, but let’s hope that happens!

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