Cardinals Catch-Up: Late inning heroics and Wacha on fire

Overall, the Cardinals went 4-3 over the course of the week against several in-division opponents with exceptionally strong outings from Michael Wacha. A few of the bats started to heat up as well. We witnessed another pair of walk-off adventures, saw a young star come back (to promptly go back on the DL), and gained some momentum going into a week where the Cardinals should hopefully get a hot streak going.



Monday, May 28th @ Milwaukee Brewers

With the return of Alex Reyes looming, this was another important start for Luke Weaver, who has been up and down for much of the season and not proven himself very consistent. This game did not go well for him as he gave up 4 runs in 4 innings, including a HR to Christian Yelich.

Mike Mayers and Brett Cecil both gave up additional runs and the Brewers scored a total of 8 runs in this one.

On the offensive front, Matt Carpenter stayed hot in the lead off spot with multiple hits including a HR off Brent Suter in the 5th inning. Shortstop prospect Yairo Munoz smashed his first career home run in the 5th inning. These two homers accounted for all of 3 of the total runs of Cardinal offense as they lost the first game of the series 3-8.

More: Heart Attack Birds of 2018

More: Cardinals Catch-Up: Split for the week, high on upside

Tuesday, May 29th @ Milwaukee Brewers

Michael Wacha was back on the hill and continued to pitch well. In the 6.2 innings he threw, he gave up 2 hits, 4 walks and 3 strikeouts.

Jordan Hicks threw the 8th and 9th innings and struck out four batters, which is uncharacteristic for him, as his previous strikeout max in a game was 2.This was only his third outing this season where he threw at least two innings.

The Cardinal bats were alive on Tuesday as 3 hitters smashed home runs (Carpenter, Bader, Pena). Bader and Pena both had 3 hit nights and Gyorko added a pair of singles as well.

St. Louis won handily 6-1 to bring the series to a split.

Here is icing on the cake:

Wednesday, May 30th vs Milwaukee Brewers

The rubber match of the Milwaukee series was like Christmas to many St. Louis fans. Though the game was streamed on Facebook Watch and was rather grainy at times, it was a good day. Stud pitching prospect Alex Reyes made his return to the Majors after being out last season in recovery from TJ surgery. He looked good in the four innings that he pitched.

Per baseballsavant.com, he used his four seamer 56% of the time (41 pitches) and averaged 94.8 mph. He used his slider 24.7% of the time and earned both his strikeouts with this option. He was pulled after the 4th inning due to fatigue and caution. Unfortunately, more information was revealed later and you can read about that here:

Gant, Lyons, and Tuivailala all followed in relief and gave up a run a piece, so the Brewers ended the game with 3 runs after taking back their lead in the 7th inning. This was all the run support they needed for their monster reliever Josh Hader, who came in to close out most of the remainder of the game, with the exception of the last out.

On Wednesday, Dexter Fowler had his first multi hit game since May 16th, with a trio of singles, which he scored on one of them. Matt Carpenter stretched his hitting streak to 6 games, which tied his longest of the young season. Tyler O’Neill had another ofer and was joined by Jose Martinez and all the pinch hitters. Yairo Munoz tallied a pair of hits to extend his hitting streak to 5 games. Since Cardinal SS Paul DeJong went on the DL with a hand injury, Munoz has been slashing at .429/.467/.536 and making the best of his time in the starting lineup.

Despite tallying 8 hits, the cardinals could only muster 2 runs in the 7th off of a Bader hr and Pham sac fly. This was not enough as the Cardinals lost the final game of the series 3-2 and fell to 5 games back of the Brewers in the NL Central.

Thursday, May 31st vs Pittsburgh Pirates

In this first game of a four game series, Jack Flaherty took the mound for the Cardinals. This was a rough start for Jack as he gave up a season high 7 hits in only 5 innings of work. He gave up a home run also, which he has done in four of his six appearances so far this season. He left the game having given up 4 runs (1 unearned), a season high, with no walks and 5 k’s.

In relief, the Cardinal bullpen struggled yet again (their bullpen ERA ranks 13th in the NL). Lyons and Brebbia pitched a combined 4 outs without giving up a run, but Jordan Hicks came in and really struggled in the 8th inning after inducing a double play ball to end the 7th. Hicks gave up a single, double, and a walk to give up the lead. Bud Norris relieved him and promptly gave up a home run to Francisco Cervelli to put the Pirates up 3 runs. Mike Mayers pitched the rest of the game flawlessly.

The bats were streaky, but alive in St. Louis. The Cardinals struck first in the bottom of the first with four runs due to a pair of singles and then back to back RBI hits for Fowler and Yairo Munoz, who coincidentally each committed fielding errors in the game. St. Louis snagged a single run in the 5th but due to poor pitching, saw themselves going into the final frame down 3.

In the bottom of the 9th, Harrison Bader led off with a double, followed by Pham reaching on an error, and Ozuna walking. Pinch Hitter Luke Voit drove in the first run with a single to left field and Yairo Munoz provided the team with the finale and I’ll just leave you with that. Cards win 10-8.

Friday, June 1st vs Pittsburgh Pirates

The Lizard King started for St. Louis on Friday. Going into the game, in 59 previous PA’s against the Pirates roster, Mikolas had a 20% K% with a .255 batting average against him. Friday was his 11th start of the season and unfortunate ended up being his first loss, despite pitching well. He threw six strong innings and gave up two runs (1 earned). Tuivailala gave up another two runs before Mike Mayers and Brett Cecil threw blanks in their respective frames. In total the Pirates scores 4 runs, which was plenty.

On offense the Cardinals were very lackluster. After a 10 run outburst the night before, the Cardinals were blanked by Jameson Taillon (8 IP) and Edgar Santana. This was the third time this season that St. Louis failed to score a run, with two of those events against Pittsburgh. Marcell Ozuna collected a few hits and Martinez and Fowler each earned a hit a piece. Outside of that, there was essentially no offense, as the Pirates beat the Cardinals 4-0.

Saturday, June 2 vs Pittsburgh Pirates

Luke Weaver continued to fight and does not want to be the guy looking in once the pitching staff is at full strength (which we are still holding out hope for). Weaver threw five innings on Saturday and gave up one run after 90 pitches. Austin Gomber made his Major League debut and the 24 year old lefty threw three full shutout innings. The Cardinals went into the bottom of the ninth up 2-1 with the man Bud Norris out there to close out the game. Alas he did not. He gave up a home run to Austin Meadows to tie the game before striking out the next three batters. Blown save number one on the season. However that was not the end of the story.

Early in the game in the bottom of the second inning, Marcell Ozuna cleared the fences with his fourth home run of the season. In the fifth inning, Tommy Pham drove in Luke Weaver to account for the second Cardinal run on the game. However, it took a Kolten Wong walk off homer in the 9th to finally finish off the Pirates 3-2. Earlier this week I wrote about the clutchness of the Cardinals this season, and they are apparently going to continue that trend. Despite the obvious hitting woes this season, St. Louis is top five in the NL in home runs despite being close to the bottom five in runs scored. Feast or famine for these Birds.

Sunday, June 4th vs Pittsburgh Pirates

On Sunday, we witnessed the complete inverse of Friday’s game. Michael Wacha pitched a gem and had a no hitter going until the 9th inning when Colin Moran led off with a single to break up the no hit bid. Fortunately, as you will see, the Cardinals provided some offense and allowed Wacha to earn his 7th victory of the season. This puts him tied for second in the NL along.

Jordan hicks came in and finished off the 9th inning without allowing a run, with two of his earned outs coming via strikeout. If you are counting, you will notice that Hicks has adjusted well over his last 7 outings as he has struck out 10 batters in his last 7 appearances (8 IP). Previously he had struck out only 8 batters in 20 appearances (20.2 IP).  You can see below that he has settled in to a pitch mix between mostly his incredibly fast sinker and super slider. 

hicks
Data from FanGraphs.com

In the first inning the Cardinals decided they wanted to get ahead in a hurry. The first three batters all reached base and were driven in by a Marcell Ozuna home run/grand slam. This was the first time this season where he has hit homers in back to back games. This is the kind of production that the Cardinals need from their cleanup slot. Right now Ozuna has earned a .697 OPS, which is well below the league average of .724. But hey, small steps.

St. Louis added another insurance run in the 8th on a Yairo Munoz single to help make the final score 5-0, good guys.


Up Next: Tuesday-Thursday at home vs Miami and on the road at Cincinnati Friday-Sunday.

Yadier Molina and Carlos Martinez are both expected back this week from the DL.

@barnburnerbro

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