OK, so it’s been basically a month since I last wrote, which has to be the longest I’ve gone in season in my blogging career. (Not that anyone has likely noticed, of course.) The shows have continued to plug along but I’ve not been able to get motivated enough to put words to paper, to use a metaphor. Which means that the “recap” section below is going to be a doozy, but we’ve got to get those Heroes and Goats sorted out.
Another reason it’s been tough to write? My goodness, is everything coming up Cardinals. Tuesday was the first time since August 13, when the Brewers won against the Cardinals, that the Cards had lost any ground in the divisional race. It’s been a frustrating stretch for Milwaukee fans, who have not only seen their team go 14-19 since the calendar flip to August but have seen at least a couple of times the Cardinals rally to win on a day where the Brewers were poised to pick up ground. Now the gap is 8 1/2, the magic number is under 20, and folks are starting to focus more on whether the Cards can catch the Mets or Braves for the second seed rather than the division title. (You know it’s going tough for Milwaukee when you are pretty sure that they’ll reach .500–they’d have to go 9-18 the rest of the way not to–but with their schedule and their play, you can’t quite rule it out.)
All of that and the team seems to be getting stronger. The early returns on swapping Jack Flaherty for Dakota Hudson are very strong, though kudos to Hudson for almost throwing a complete game at Memphis last night. However Flaherty looked pretty sharp in his return, striking out six, and if he’s got something that at least resembles that 2019 form, the postseason rotation takes a significant step up. Not that it was bad before, of course, as Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright have been solid all year long and Jordan Montgomery is at the top of everyone’s “Best Trade at the Deadline” lists. When you bump Jose Quintana, who has been more than serviceable, that’s an impressive improvement.
The bullpen has been stronger with Genesis Cabrera going to Memphis but more importantly the emergence of Jordan Hicks. The biggest knocks on Hicks, not only when he was a starter but even when he was a closer, was that his command was shaky and he didn’t strike out a lot of guys for someone that could throw 105. Since the beginning of August, though, he’s struck out 23 and walked seven in 16.2 innings. In a smaller sample, since he gave up three runs without getting an out in Arizona, he’s thrown eight innings, allowed no runs, walked no batters, and struck out 10. If he’s made some sort of adjustment to get these results regularly, the end of games with him, Giovanny Gallegos, and Ryan Helsley (with his new entrance light show) are going to be very tough for opponents. Plus they may get Steven Matz as a bullpen piece before the end of the season, though honestly it’ll be interesting to see what they can do with him.
Plus you still have your MVP candidates clicking in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. You have Albert Pujols turning back the clock, at least when lefties are concerned, and making 700 become believable. You have pieces around the big bats, like Brendan Donovan or Tommy Edman. Tyler O’Neill is looking better. The bench is solid. This feels like the most complete team we’ve seen in St. Louis in a number of years. It’s a team that can win with pitching or with offense. They aren’t going to be the favorites in October–the Dodgers have that role sewn up–but they aren’t going to be overlooked either.
We’re in line for a wonderful end of the season, with history a possibility every night. What more can you say?
RECAP (This got ridiculous. I’ll recap the rest of the games next time I write.)
Tuesday, August 9 (16-5 loss at Colorado)
Hero: Andrew Knizner. Two hits, two RBI.
Goat: Miles Mikolas. This was the start of a little bit of a down spell for Mikolas. 10 runs in less than three innings is the extreme, of course, and it never got any worse than this!
Notes: The last hurrah for T.J. McFarland, who gave up two runs in 2.2 innings but was designated for assignment the next day. That was actually one of his better outings…..Patron Pitcher of the Blog Packy Naughton gave up four runs in 2.2 innings and allowed his inherited runner to score (in fairness, TJ let one of Packy’s runners in as well). Naughton’s magic seems to have worn out and it’s questionable we’ll see him return from Memphis. It was fun while it lasted though….Dylan Carlson left five men on going 0-4 in the leadoff spot. Things didn’t really improve over the next month….two hits for Tommy Edman at the bottom of the lineup.
Wednesday, August 10 (9-5 win at Colorado)
Hero: Albert Pujols. A four hit day, capped with a home run off of old friend Austin Gomber.
Goat: Dylan Carlson. 0-5 leading off with six left on base.
Notes: Three hits for Nolan Arenado, including a double and a homer that immediately preceded Pujols’s….Cards scored five in the first and that was without the homers….four hits also for Paul DeJong, which was the last real big game he’s had….two hits for Yadier Molina and Lars Nootbaar….Jose Quintana did another solid job, allowing just two runs in six innings in Coors Field….less good was Chris Stratton‘s outing, when he gave up five hits and three runs in the last frame before securing the victory.
Thursday, August 11 (8-6 loss at Colorado)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. 3-5, two runs, a home run, and three runs driven in. It was almost enough to offset the bad inning of pitching.
Goat: Genesis Cabrera. Allowing the two inherited runners to score was bad enough, but he also served up two homers while allowing four runs of his own, all without recording an out.
Notes: The pitching wasn’t too bad save Cabrera. Dakota Hudson gave up two runs in five innings, which is solid in Colorado for anyone, especially him. (He did walk four, however.) Hicks didn’t allow a hit, just two walks in his second inning of work that led to Cabrera’s entrance. Jake Woodford threw 1.2 scoreless innings, which raised his stature a bit….two hits, including a homer, from Nolan Gorman….a three hit day for Corey Dickerson, who had a lot of hits in August.
Friday, August 12 (3-1 win vs. Milwaukee)
Hero: Jordan Montgomery. Like he has done pretty much every time since the trade, he dominated, throwing six scoreless innings and striking out eight.
Goat: Tommy Edman. 0-4 and left two men on base.
Notes: It was the MVP show in this one, with Paul Goldschmidt hitting a two run homer in the first and Nolan Arenado capping the scoring with a homer in the sixth….only six hits total (including an Albert Pujols single) but the pitching made it hold up….Andre Pallante gave up a run in his inning of work but Ryan Helsley shut things down in the last two innings, striking out three.
Saturday, August 13 (3-2 loss in 10 vs. Milwaukee)
Hero: Adam Wainwright. Nine innings and allowed just a Luis Urias homer in the eighth while striking out eight. Man deserved better.
Goat: Tommy Edman. 0-4 with a strikeout.
Notes: Nolan Gorman had a double, the only Cardinal extra base hit of the game….Giovanny Gallegos took the 10th and gave up a leadoff triple to Hunter Renfroe, bringing in the go-ahead run. Renfroe scored later, proving to be the difference….11 strikeouts and no walks against the Brewer pitching staff, mainly Corbin Burnes who went seven and struck out six.
Sunday, August 14 (6-3 win vs. Milwaukee)
Hero: Albert Pujols. It’s a good day when you go 2-4. It’s better when those two hits are home runs. Pujols hit a solo shot in the second, cutting the Brewers lead in half, then smoked a three run shot in the eighth, providing some significant insurance. Legendary.
Goat: Nolan Arenado. 0-4 with a strikeout and three left on.
Notes: The Pujols frenzy overshadowed a few things. First, Miles Mikolas went eight innings, allowed just four hits and two runs, and put the team in a position to come back….also Dylan Carlson homered in the eighth to break the tie before Pujols smashed his blast….Tyler O’Neill had two hits, including a homer in the sixth that tied the game up….two hits and a walk also for Tommy Edman.
Tuesday, August 16 (5-4 win vs. Colorado)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. A home run in the fifth padded a lead, a sacrifice fly in the seventh tied the game up after the Rockies had come back.
Goat: Packy Naughton. He only faced two batters but allowed a hit to the first that brought in both inherited runners and gave the Rockies the lead.
Notes: Jordan Hicks almost got through his second inning of work before a swinging bunt and a walk sent him to the showers and Naughton into the game….Jose Quintana had another very solid start, allowing two runs in five to a team he’d seen in his last start….three hits for Dylan Carlson….two hits for Tyler O’Neill but his most important at bat was the walk he drew with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, truly walking off the win.
Wednesday, August 17 (5-1 win vs. Colorado)
Hero: Nolan Gorman. Two singles but three RBI.
Goat: Paul DeJong. 0-4 with two strikeouts.
Notes: Another good outing by Jordan Montgomery, who struck out eight in 5.2 innings….solid work also by Andre Pallante, who stranded the inherited runner while finishing the sixth and then pitched two more scoreless innings….three hits by Brendan Donovan, who chipped in a run and an RBI as well…..two hits, unsurprisingly, from Paul Goldschmidt.
Thursday, August 18 (13-0 win vs. Colorado)
Hero: Albert Pujols. So many options here, but you have to give kudos to the man brought in to pinch-hit in the third with the bases loaded and he hits a grand slam. Plus he stayed in the game, got another hit and another RBI, and, well, is Albert Pujols.
Goat: Yadier Molina. He did throw a runner out stealing but went 0-4 at the plate.
Notes: We’ve talked about the other two, let’s talk about the third. Adam Wainwright went seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits while fanning seven. What year is this again?…..Lars Nootbaar had an effective day in the leadoff spot, going 2-3 with a homer, two RBI, and two walks….Brendan Donovan went 2-2 before being replaced by Albert….Paul Goldschmidt was 3-4 with a run and two RBI….the top three spots in the lineup therefore combined to go 9-12 with seven runs, 10 RBI, two walks, and no strikeouts…..Genesis Cabrera got a chance to work in the blowout and threw a scoreless inning, just walking one.
Friday, August 19 (5-1 win at Arizona)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. He started everything off with a solo homer, then added two more hits and another RBI.
Goat: Paul DeJong. 0-4 with four strikeouts.
Notes: Another great outing for Miles Mikolas, keeping Arizona to just one run and two hits over eight innings….Nolan Arenado went 4-5 and drove in two….Dylan Carlson had two hits out of the leadoff spot….Jordan Hicks took the ninth and allowed two hits but struck out the side.
Saturday, August 20 (16-7 win at Arizona)
Hero: Albert Pujols. ANOTHER multi-homer game? Plus two more hits to boot? (And that third hit was a screamer that, if it had a degree or two more of launch angle, would have been homer number 3.) Truly, he is a machine.
Goat: Jordan Hicks. Hicks didn’t record an out, gave up three hits, walked a guy, and saw all but one of them score before Giovanny Gallegos rescued him.
Notes: Offense aplenty in this one, of course. Paul Goldschmidt went 3-6 with a homer and four RBI….Paul DeJong hit a grand slam in the eight run ninth….Nolan Gorman pinch-hit for Pujols in that ninth and had a single, an RBI, and then came around to score….3-3 night for Lars Nootbaar who scored three runs and drove in two….two hits for Andrew Knizner, who also drew a walk….Dakota Hudson kinda needed the support, as he gave up four runs in 4.1 innings on five hits and three walks. Save for Hicks, though, the bullpen held the line.
Sunday, August 21 (6-4 win at Arizona)
Hero: Chris Stratton. We don’t always give the middle relievers enough credit. Jose Quintana didn’t have it in this one, going just 2.2 innings and giving up four runs (two earned) and walking three. He had blown through the 3-0 lead the Cards gave him in the top of the first and was down 4-3 with two on when Stratton came in. Not only did Stratton get out of that jam, he pitched two more scoreless innings, keeping the team close until the bats could do what they do.
Goat: Jose Quintana. Everyone has an off day and thankfully this one didn’t wind up hurting the Cards.
Notes: Jake Woodford, Genesis Cabrera, and Giovanny Gallegos finished this one out, combining for 3.2 scoreless innings with only one hit allowed….Lars Nootbaar led off the game with a home run….Nolan Arenado went 2-5 and drove in three runs, including the go-ahead single in the seventh….two hits for Brendan Donovan before he was pinch-hit for by Albert Pujols, who singled and was pinch-run for with Tommy Edman, who also singled when he spot came back around in the eighth to drive in the final run.
Monday, August 22 (1-0 win at Chicago)
Hero: Jordan Montgomery. You know you’ve done something if you can knock Albert Pujols off of here. A complete game one-hitter? That’ll do it. Seven strikeouts to boot!
Goat: Tommy Edman. 0-4 with two strikeouts leading off.
Notes: Albert Pujols hit a home run off of his 449th different pitcher, the only run Montgomery needed….it was one of only four hits for the Cardinals in the game as well, and AP had one of the other ones.
Tuesday, August 23, Game 1 (2-0 loss at Chicago)
Hero: Lars Nootbaar. Two hits on a day when the team only got 5.
Goat: Yadier Molina. Plenty of 0-4s, but his left three men on.
Notes: Adam Wainwright pitched well, though there wasn’t much he could do in this one. Did walk four in his six innings, but usually two runs over six will get you someplace….kudos to JoJo Romero who quickly has gone from spare part acquired for Edmundo Sosa to a key part of the bullpen. Here two scoreless perfect innings with a strikeout….only five strikeouts for the team, so they put the ball in play, just not with any authority.
Tuesday, August 23, Game 2 (13-3 win at Chicago)
Hero: Nolan Arenado. He homered in the fourth to start the scoring and had two more hits.
Goat: Matthew Liberatore. Everyone else did so well that his two runs in 2.2 innings at the end of the game kinda stands out.
Notes: Corey Dickerson had four hits, part of his record 10 straight knocks over three days….Tommy Edman went 2-5 with three RBI and a big fly….Tyler O’Neill, 2-4, also with a homer….Jake Woodford did a fine job filling in as a starter during the doubleheader, allowing just one run over 5.1 innings.
Wednesday, August 24 (7-1 loss at Chicago)
Hero: Corey Dickerson. 4-4, though it didn’t make much of an impact.
Goat: Miles Mikolas. The offense didn’t help him any and Brendan Donovan made a key error meaning some were unearned, but Mikolas still allowed five runs in 6.2 innings.
Notes: Genesis Cabrera finished it off and allowed three hits, a walk, and two runs in an inning and a third….between Nolan Arenado, who got ejected on a very controversial call, and his replacement Paul DeJong, the three spot went 0-4 with three strikeouts, the same like Nolan Gorman put up….the only real bright spot was Lars Nootbaar smashing a home run in the fifth to break up the shutout.
Thursday, August 25 (8-3 win at Chicago)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. Three hits, two home runs, five RBI, a walk, and three runs scored. That’s an MVP kinda day.
Goat: Paul DeJong. One of only two without a hit, he went 0-5 with a strikeout and four left on.
Notes: Tyler O’Neill also went 0-4 (but had a sacrifice fly) and Nolan Gorman went 1-5. All the other starters had at least two hits….Andrew Knizner had a couple of hits, including a double….Corey Dickerson had three hits, though his consecutive hit streak was snapped….Dakota Hudson had a very solid start, going seven innings and allowing just two runs at Wrigley. He struck out four and walked just two….Packy Naughton struggled again, letting up a run on three hits, but Jordan Hicks slammed the door with 1.2 scoreless, including two strikeouts.