The Cardinals tossed another couple of trends out of the window last night. They had their first loss to a NL East team and their first loss during the week. Guys, we told you, this “losing the weekend” thing only works if you are going to win every game during the week.
Do other teams have this identity where struggling or average pitchers have their best games against them? Erick Fedde came into this game having given up six runs in less than two innings in his only other 2021 start. His career ERA is over 5.00. Yet last night, St. Louis was only able to get to him for two hits and a run before he left with two outs in the fifth. That may be what happens when the core has an off night–Nolan Arenado had his hitting streak snapped and Paul Goldschmidt also went 0-4. When they are not hitting, there’s not enough in this lineup to pick up the slack and help them ease their load.
To be fair, we did see two guys that have had King Kong on their back get knocks last night. Matt Carpenter got his first hit of the season, albeit a bunt single against the shift, and Paul DeJong broke an 0-26 with a solid liner up the middle. Whether those guys can continue to capitalize on their small success remains to be seen. Carpenter probably won’t get a lot of shots at it, though with everyone else scuffling, Mike Shildt will probably mix him in occasionally as he tries to find the right combination.
Speaking of Shildt, the manager admitted afterwards that last night wasn’t his best game. I wasn’t able to see the game, at least not until the late innings, but I see that we had another one of those classic situations where the manager lets the pitcher hit, runs don’t score, and then the pitcher gets rocked the next frame. Given the situation, I believe you can understand Shildt’s thinking but also realize, as he did, that it was the wrong call. Given the way this team has struggled to score runs, if you have an opportunity like that, you take it. Doesn’t mean that it would have worked out–the pinch-hitter could have failed and Washington could have then scored off of whatever reliever came in–but it’s the better, smarter move.
Give credit to Shildt, though, for publicly acknowledging it. We saw this situation a number of times with the former manager and it was often explained or rationalized away. Shildt said that he had an off night and a lot of the game could be blamed on him. We recognize that players have those sort of days. It seems logical managers would as well. Just like the players, you hope Shildt will learn from it and improve.
A little tough to find a Hero in this one, but I’ll give some notice to Ryan Helsley. Helsley came into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out after Andrew Miller had been….there’s not other way to say it, bad, giving up a run on a walk and three hits (the last two almost identical). Helsley then struck out Yan Gomes, then got a weak fly ball by Ryan Zimmerman. For some reason, in a three run game, Kyle Schwarber decided to test Dylan Carlson. That went about as well as you’d expect. Molina tagged him out with about 25 feet to go. Helsley then struck out the first two batters in the ninth before allowing a couple of singles and being replaced by Tyler Webb, but you have to give him a ton of credit. The Helsley we’ve seen recently looks a lot more like what we expected than the one we saw to start the season.
As for Miller, he’s had five outings and given up runs in three of them. Batters are hitting .421 against him and his ERA in the early going is approaching 10. When you look at his Baseball Savant page, the numbers are frightening. For Miller to be good, the slider has to be working and right now, it’s more often sitting in the middle of the plate. What people were pointing out on Twitter last night was a significant drop in velocity. The slider dropped last year to 80.1 and now is sitting at 78.2. The fastball is down to 87.5. Those kind of things, if they aren’t some early season fluke, point to either an injury or age-related decline, neither of which is a great thing. While it would have been difficult to manage a season like 2020 and not have his option vest, given the doubleheaders and the like, it probably would have been better for this year’s squad if they’d figured out a way to do it. We’ll see if there are some stories or news bits about Miller in the coming days.
I really hate to do this, but if it was anyone else an 0-4 day with three strikeouts would be a Goat-level day and you have to treat folks as equally as possible. Nolan Arenado has been carrying this team and it’s not entirely fair to put that game on him–it wasn’t all his fault–but that’s a rough night for the third baseman.