Last time we got together in space (unlike at the other spot) we discussed that perhaps the worst was over. A new month, a day off to reset after a tough trip, and things had to be looking up. It seemed like things really couldn’t get worse.
The Cardinals are four games into a winless May. They scored four runs off of Shohei Ohtani but lost the game in the ninth. They scored seven runs the next day, but only after Jack Flaherty gave up 10. Even a lead against the Tigers wasn’t safe when Jordan Hicks came in last night.
They are 10-23. If they lose today in Adam Wainwright‘s season debut they will be worse than the 1973 team we’ve heard so much about the past few weeks. In fact, you have to go back to 1907, when they started 10-29, to find a worse start. Folks, that’s not good.
Then we get this in the news before the game:
It’s really hard not to see the front office have no idea what to do when you see this news. You spent $88 million for a catcher and you are already looking to move him around? When you sent down Jordan Walker in part because there weren’t enough outfield at bats?
It’s true that Contreras has been one of the bright spots on the season. Over the last two weeks he’s slashing .302/.367/.395, so wanting to make sure his bat is in the lineup is a reasonable thing. Andrew Knizner, whose bat has not been something you want in the lineup (save last night’s home run), has a better catcher’s ERA this season if you buy into that. I think there’s a little something to the fact that Knizner knows the pitchers a bit better, but I would have thought any issues Contreras might have had could have been cushioned by the fact that Dusty Blake would be taking a greater hand in the approach on the pitching side.
So now the Cardinals have a catcher who can hit but they won’t let him catch and two catchers (sorry, but I hold out little hope that Tres Barrera will bring much to the offensive table) that can’t hit but will catch. I know that the Cards lost their DH last night because they pinch-hit for Knizner in the eighth, but that was a low risk situation. If the Cards had tied it, you have bats on the bench to pinch-hit when the pitcher comes around if you have to. Carrying three catchers may allow for more hitting for Knizner, but you wouldn’t need that if you let Contreras go behind the plate.
I’m sure that the front office has some ideas on why this works but it’s impossible to see it as anything but a panic move. Which, when you are 10-23, the worst record in the National League by two games, 3 1/2 games out of fourth place in the NL Central, and already eight games out of the last playoff spot, you probably are going to panic in that sort of situation. Thank goodness for the Royals (8-25), keeping the Cardinals in their rightful place as best team in Missouri.
Yet with all of this panicking, the Cardinals still apparently have Steven Matz, he of the 6.39 ERA and 0-4 record, set to go tomorrow while Matthew Liberatore stays in Memphis. Now, as of this writing Memphis’s starter is still TBD so that could change, but if it doesn’t, why not? What good does it do the club for Liberatore to dominate AAA while people can’t get outs in St. Louis?
I will give the front office some credit in that they had some roster churn yesterday, bringing up Juan Yepez and James Naile, though you wonder how much their hand was forced given that Tyler O’Neill and Jake Woodford went on the IL. If those two were healthy, would the activity have happened?
That said, Dylan Carlson just homered to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead in the second. Let’s see if Adam Wainwright can hold it and maybe, just maybe, put the first touches on a winning streak.
Tuesday (5-1 loss to Los Angeles Angels)
Hero: Guillermo Zuniga. Made his major league debut by striking out two in an inning of work. And then got demoted today after not throwing another frame. Baseball!
Goat: Steven Matz. He settled in after the first and threw four scoreless innings, but that four spot before the Cardinals came to bat really set the tone.
Notes: The team only had four hits and Paul Goldschmidt‘s double was the only one that went for extra bases….Drew VerHagen gave up a run in his inning of work as it continues to seem like his early season success may have been an illusion.
Wednesday (6-4 loss to Los Angeles Angels)
Hero: Nolan Gorman. Two hits, including a home run in the first that gave the Cardinals a rare early lead.
Goat: Giovanny Gallegos. Tasked with locking down the save, he went surf and turf, giving up home runs to Jake Lamb and Mike Trout before Shohei Ohtani singled in another one to add to his misery.
Notes: Home run in this one by Dylan Carlson, who seems to be finding his footing and, probably not coincidentally, is getting more consistent playing time….Oli Marmol made the right call, I believe, in bringing Ryan Helsley into the seventh to make sure the game didn’t get away there. I can understand his logic in not using Helsley in the ninth as well….two hits from Nolan Arenado, who in fits and starts might be figuring something out.
Thursday (11-7 loss to Los Angeles Angels)
Hero: Tommy Edman. Two hits including a big three run homer that at least made it a game.
Goat: Jack Flaherty. Seven runs in 2.1 innings and left with the bases loaded, only to see Jake Woodford allow all the inherited runners to score.
Notes: Four hits for Lars Nootbaar, a career high, though they were all singles….two hits for Paul Goldschmidt and Willson Contreras, in what may be the last game he catches for a while….credit where it’s Drew, VerHagen threw 1.2 scoreless innings which might have been big had the bats rallied a bit more….three strikeouts in two innings for Chris Stratton, who has been a good solid bullpen piece this season.
Friday (5-4 loss to Detroit)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. Three hits, including two doubles.
Goat: Jordan Hicks. Just when you thought Hicks was fixed, he melts down again. Two walks and a hit led to three runs (Giovanny Gallegos allowed one of them to come across) in just 2/3 of an inning.
Notes: Kudos to Andrew Knizner for his first homer of the season and for making sure #bombsaway wasn’t a shutout….two hits each for Nolan Arenado, Paul DeJong, and Lars Nootbaar….the problem was, at least one time the Cardinals had three hits but no runs to show for it….Jordan Montgomery gave up a homer to Javier Baez (who was always a problem in his Cubs days as well) but then was cruising and the decision to pull him with a bullpen depleted from the day before was a little strange.