Cardinals Catch-up: Team plays plenty of free baseball while dominating the city of Chicago. Back in first place.

This time last week, things were not looking so good for the St Louis Cardinals. They had just been swept by the Pirates and had fallen out of first place in the NL Central. However, after another week that was full of much scrapping and fighting, the Cardinals sit at the head of the division. It took many extra innings, but the guys hung in there and completed a double sweep of the teams from Chicago.

Game Recaps

Tuesday, May 1st vs Chicago White Sox

Michael Wacha kicked off this short 2 game series against the White Sox at home. The hitter on the Sox roster he had faced the most so far to this point was Welington Castillo, who had 1 homer and a single in 8 AB’s against Michael. Wacha went into the game with a 3.62 ERA and 4-1 record in 5 appearances.  

Wacha was able to make it through 5 innings and gave up 2 runs on 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 K’s. Read here for a deeper dive into Michael’s early, but inconsistent season.  For the first time in a while, the Cardinal bullpen was strong, with Gregerson, Hicks, Leone, and Norris all throwing an inning and only giving up one hit and one walk combined. Bud Norris pitched the final inning and earned his first win of the season.

To lead off the bottom of the first for St.Louis, Tommy Pham stayed hot and smashed a home run deep to LF to put the Cardinals ahead early. Things were quiet until the bottom of the ninth when the Cardinals started trailing 2-1. Matt Carpenter went yard to lead off the inning and bring the score to 2-2. Jose Martinez struck out to follow but then Marcell Ozuna hit a double to get into scoring position. With Ozuna on second base, Mr. Molina put the Cardinals ahead for good with a walk off single to help St. Louis win 3-2. Please observe below:

This walkoff win was the 3rd walkoff win of the season out of 15 total wins. 20% of our wins and 16% of our losses to this point have come of this variety. This is a trend that continued through the next series as well.  

In this game, Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina each recorded multiple hits. This is the first multi-hit game for Carp since April 17th. In this game he hit in the second slot for only the third time this season. With minimal sample size, he hold his highest batting average of any lineup position in the second slot at .250. For the Cardinals to be successful this year, Matt has got to figure out his early season woes at the plate and return to the 20+ hr form that we have grown accustomed to over the past three seasons.

More: Cardinals Catch-up: St. Louis cools off, falls to third place in division after getting swept by Pirates

More: Ozzie Albies: Man on Fire

Wednesday, May 2nd vs Chicago White Sox

This matchup started with Cardinals’ ace Carlos Martinez on the hill vs White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito, who was 1-3 with a 7.71 ERA on the season going into the matchup.

The first inning started out a little rocky as Carlos walked the leadoff batter and gave up a single to the second batter of the game. However, he was able to retire batters 3-4-5 in order with a foul pop fly and two groundouts to make it out of the first unscathed.

In the bottom of the 6th, Tsunamy helped out his own cause by blasting the very first home run of his career.

In the 7th, Molina was the second batter in the inning and reached on a single to RF. Dexter Fowler then drove him in with his first homerun since April 21st. This was Fowler’s 4th dinger of the season.

After allowing 2 hits in the 8th, Martinez was pulled and Dominic Leone came into the game in relief. Upon entry, Leone suffered from a passed ball-walk-single-sac fly sequence that allowed the Sox to score two runs. Mike Matheny had seen enough and brought in a more consistent reliever in Bud Norris.

Norris continued his awesome 2018 by retiring 4 Chicago hitters in a row to close out the 8th and 9th innings to earn his 6th save of the season as St. Louis held on to beat the White Sox 3-2.

In total, the St. Louis hitters mustered their 3 runs on 3 walks and 4 hits.

The final line for Martinez was 99 pitches  7.1 IP, 5H, 1(E)R, 2 BB, 5 SO. He moved to 3-1 on the season with an ERA of 1.40.

Friday, May 4th vs Chicago Cubs

Miles Mikolas started on Friday in the opening game of the three game series against the Cubs and he pitched a solid 7 innings plus one batter. He gave up 7 hits and struck out 4 while walking none. His pitch control continues to help him have an incredible K/BB ratio this season with 31 strikeouts to 2 walks this season.

All of the Cardinals’ scoring took place in the bottom of the second inning. Fowler reached on an error by the Cubs’ shortstop. Gyorko then got on base with a single. Tommy Pham capitalized by smashing a homer to left to drive in the two guys on base plus himself.

Tyler Lyons and Luke Gregerson combined to throw a solid 8th inning where no runs were scored. In the 9th inning, Bud Norris put himself in a tight situation by allowing 3 singles that ending up allowing 2 Cub scores. However he was able to work out of the jam and earn his 7th save of the season. Cardinals held on 3-2.

Saturday, May 5th vs Chicago Cubs

Game two of the series contained much more offense as Luke Weaver struggled on the mound for St. Louis by allowing a total of 4 runs in 4 innings. Likewise, the Chicago starter Tyler Chatwood also had a rough outing by allowing 4 runs (1 unearned) in 4 innings.

Weaver gave up all of his 4 allowed runs in the 2nd inning when he gave up a total of 5 singles to the Cubs.

St. Louis answered in the bottom of the fourth inning when they manufactured a total of 4 runs off of only 1 hit, which was a double by Matt Carpenter that drove in 2 of the runs. The Cubs took back the lead in the 6th when Javier Baez smashed a solo homer to go up 5-4. St. Louis gave up a homerun in the 7th to Anthony Rizzo to let the Cubs go up 6-4.

Greg Holland pitched a scoreless 8th and Jordan Hicks likewise did not allow any runs in the top of the 9th. Every time that Hicks does well I am going to go out of my way to point it out. I know a lot remains to be seen regarding his stamina and strikeout abilities, but right now the kid is dealing, with an ERA that is bordering on sub 1 territory. Back to the game.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Cardinals did not lie down and quit. They tied up the game at 6-6 by scoring two runs via a Harrison Bader walk, Jose Martinez single, and a Marcell Ozuna double. This damage was done against Cubs pitcher Brandon Morrow.

An event of note did take place in this ninth inning. Catcher Yadier Molina took a foul ball off of his groin area and was taken to the hospital immediately for surgery. He is expected to miss at least a month. Memphis Redbirds catcher and highly rated Cardinal prospect Carson Kelly was called up and will likely see some substantial playing time as he splits time behind the dish with Francisco Pena. 

You hate to see a good man go down, but his teammates hung tough and finished the job. It took less than one extra inning before Kolten Wong stuck the dagger into the Cubs with a two run walk-off homerun to right field. This was only Wong’s second dinger of the season, but it came at an awesome time.

Sunday, May 6th vs Chicago Cubs

Are you tired of the Cardinals always playing extra innings? Well then you would have been really tired after this one. In addition to a rain delay, the Cards and Cubs played extra sets for the second day in a row.

There was not near as much scoring in this game as there was on Saturday. Michael Wacha went 5.1 innings and gave up 2 runs (1 earned) while striking out 5 and walking 3. The earned run was a solo homer given up to Kris Bryant in the 4th and the unearned run came in the first inning via a throwing error that allowed a runner to advance while already on the basepath.

In the bottom of the second, Jedd Gyorko took Jon Lester yard to get St. Louis on the board. Gyorko also accounted for the second and final run in regulation for the Cards when he came home on a triple by Kolten Wong in the 6th. It was ruled a triple, but it was a misplay by Cubs outfielder Jason Hayward as he went awkwardly down to his knees to try and make a play on the line drive, but then lost it in the lights of Busch Stadium. Home field advantage??

The 9th inning concluded with both teams locked at 2-2. The Cardinals used every single one of their eligible position players in this game through pinch hits and substitutions. The 10th-13th innings crawled by as the game creeped into Monday morning. The 14th inning finally came and Javier Baez hit his second homer in the series off of Mike Mayers. Again, the team in red did not quit, but decided to answer. In the bottom of the 14th, Harrison Bader reached on a single to put the tying run on base. Dexter Fowler played copycat to Kolten Wong and ended the game with a single swing to drive in runs 3 and 4. This completed a sweep of the Cubbies and also kept a winnings streak alive at 5.

Monday, May 7th, Minnesota Twins

John Gant earned his second start of the season in the big leagues on Tuesday against the Twins. Most of Gant’s time so far this season has been spent at AAA Memphis, where he has started 5 games and collected 4 wins with an ERA of 2.40.

Only two Cardinals got hits on Monday in Harrison Bader (1), and Paul Dejong (3).

Gant took the L in the first game of the series against the Twins as he gave up 4 runs in 5.1 innings off of 6 hits and 2 walks. Bowman and Gregerson pitched well in their 2.2 combined innings of relief, giving up 1 hit and 1 walk total. Ryan Sherriff Struggled in the 8th as he gave up 2 runs on 4 hits.

Cardinals lose the opener of the series 6-0. Pittsburg is the only other team to shut out the Cardinals so far this season.

Team Notes

After a successful week, the Cardinals are now sitting in first place in NL central. They are 1 game ahead of Brewers and 2 games ahead of the Pirates.

Misc Player Notes

  • Adam Wainwright is rehabbing at AA Springfield and threw on Monday. 

  • Bud Norris and Tommy Pham are both battling soreness and tightness issues and are day to day right now after sitting out Monday.

Misc Team Notes

Right now, St. Louis ranks in the NL basement in terms of team hitting. They are hitting .232 as a team and that is only good enough for 11th in the NL. Surprisingly, the Cardinals have smashed 41 homeruns, which is good enough for third in the NL. Below is a heat map of all the qualified hitters (103 PA’s) + Kolten Wong and how each individual player is performing so far compared to his teammates.

hitting 5.8

The strength of this team so far this season has undoubtedly been the pitching staff. In 33 games, the staff has been forced to throw a combined 10 additional innings. That is over 1 free game of baseball that fans have been given. The team ERA is 3.34, which is good enough for 2nd in the NL behind the Diamondbacks. This pitching staff has succeeded in keeping the ball inside the park and has given up the fewest homers in the NL. One blemish on this bullpen is that St. Louis has only capitalized on 9 of the 15 save opportunities. However, Bud Norris has done an excellent job in closing out all 7 of his opportunities this year.

pitching 5.8

Upcoming Games

Tuesday 5/8 – Minnesota Twins @ Home

Thursday 5/10 – @ San Diego Padres


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