There’s nothing quite like taking a mess and turning into something orderly. Even if your whole house is a disaster area complete with FEMA on your front yard, getting one room back to livable state, looking sharp with things put away and furniture dusted, can feel like an accomplishment. That holds even if that was the easiest room in the house to restore to order.
The Cardinals have made themselves quite the mess, but getting out the brooms against the lowly Diamondbacks still felt really good and brought a little optimism to an area that so desperately needed it. Now it’s easy to dream about winning more than they lose during this 10 game road trip that ends the traditional first half of the season. I mean, Colorado’s not been good (though they have been remarkably good at home) and we just saw the Cubs implode a couple of times when they played Milwaukee. Beating both of those teams (and taking at least one from the Giants in between) should have them in second in the division and then they can focus on how to catch up to the Brewers.
One room at a time, though. They didn’t create this hole all in one day and they won’t get out of it that quickly.
It was nice to see good pitching throughout the series. There were some hiccups in the bullpen, but they were usually able to work it out. Yesterday wasn’t any different in that regard, as Kwang-Hyun Kim became the second starter in a row to get a win after a month-plus of only Adam Wainwright being able to pull off that feat. I’m giving Kim the Hero tag not only because five innings of one run ball is more than what we’ve come to expect from starters (which is a distressing lowering of the bar, but it is what it is) but also because he drove in the first two runs of the game with a surprise double over the head of Josh Rojas. (This moment of joy brought to you by the lack of a DH.) Allow one and drive in two? That’s a pretty solid day for a pitcher.
It’s still a little concerning that Kim can’t regularly push past the five inning mark. He went six against the Marlins, but that’s the only start in over a month that’s seen him get into the sixth. The bullpen seems to be a little better these days (though, as we’ll see, that’s not a blanket statement) but forcing them to cover four innings regularly isn’t ideal.
A heck of a day for Paul Goldschmidt as well against his former team. Hits in his first three at bats, including two doubles, and he drove in one while scoring one. From all indications, he should have had a fourth hit as he blistered a ball in that at bat only for it to find a glove. It was July 2019 when he was so scorching hot that he was player of the month. It’ll be interesting to see if he can approach those levels this July.
Offensively, it was a good day overall and it was good to see the Cardinals continually putting more runs on the board. They didn’t rely on a six run inning, they got two here, one there, another one there. That sort of consistent approach is good to see and has to be more difficult for the other side to deal with. They put up 12 hits with only one walk, so folks were swinging, but only three strikeouts so it was effective. Tyler O’Neill got three hits, which was good to see since he’d been a little quiet of late (2-15 coming into this one). O’Neill doesn’t have a home run since he hit two against the Indians on June 9, but he’s been adjusting to the league’s adjusting to him, walking eight times since then after only having five at that point. Things will shift around soon, I’m sure, and the dingers will return.
Our Goat has to be Roel Ramirez, who was given the chance to improve on last year’s debacle against the White Sox, where he threw two thirds of an inning and allowed six runs, including four straight homers. He didn’t allow any long balls, but he also didn’t drop his career ERA from 81.00. Given a 7-1 lead in the eighth, Ramirez gave up a single and two walks (with a groundout mixed in there), leaving the bases loaded for Ryan Helsley. Helsley’s pretty good about stranding runners, but not today. He walked in a run, the 20th time that’s happened this year I believe, threw a wild pitch that allowed another run to score (another “must be 2021” move) and then got two groundouts, allowing Ramirez’s third runner to score and showing that he’d allowed, in his big league career, nine runs in one inning of work over two years. It’s hard to see them keeping him around, though they may have to until Seth Elledge is eligible to return. Maybe he’ll find another time where he can try getting outs without allowing a ton of runs.
Alex Reyes pitched the ninth after throwing two innings the night before. It does sound like this was entirely Reyes’s idea, that he started warming up even without the coaching staff asking and was vocal before the game about being available. If Ramirez and Helsley hadn’t made it close, I don’t think Mike Shildt lets him get in there. However, if the Cardinals are going to make a run, they are going to be asking a lot of Reyes in the second half. It was good to see that he seemed to have no ill effects and I guess if there’s a save opportunity tonight, Giovanny Gallegos will get the call since he’s had two days off.
Harrison Bader was with the club yesterday getting evaluated and was on the plane to Colorado, so he’ll likely be activated today and the short run of Lars Nootbaar will come to an end. I imagine we’ll see Noot again, but the hot streak from Memphis didn’t carry over as he went 4-25 while with the club. Still, he brought some energy and now has first-hand knowledge of what he needs to work on to return and be more successful.
With the Cubs blowing their 7-0 first inning lead yesterday in spectacular fashion and the Reds dropping a game to the Padres, the Cardinals now sit tied for third and just two games out of first. Again, they are eight behind Milwaukee, so there’s no celebration going on here, but it’s nice to see that corner of the place starting to take shape. If the Cards could somehow be in second at the break, that might color the moves made at the deadline in a positive way. Hopefully the momentum carries over–it is Adam Wainwright tonight, though not at home–and this cleaning spree can continue!