Cardinals Catch-Up: Two hot hitters not enough to win games

So far, the 2018 season has been a roller coaster for the St. Louis Cardinals. Last week featured more of the same. New Cardinal Marcell Ozuna seems to be settling in nicely this month, slashing .455/.478/1.000 for the week with 4 home runs and 8 RBI’s. His partner in consistent hitting, Jose Martinez, missed the second series of the week for paternity leave. The Cardinals lost a few close games but also experienced a blow out loss at the hands of the Cubs. St. Louis capped the week off with a surprising shut out that featured 4 innings of bullpen work. Hit the highlights of each game below, and find out what to look for in the upcoming week.

Monday, June 11th vs San Diego Padres

If you recall, St. Louis and San Diego were split 2-2 against each other so far this season at the start of this series.  Jack Flaherty started for the Cardinals and went 6.1 innings and only gave up 3 hits and one run off of 6 k’s and a walk. The only run was earned off of a Cory Spangenberg homer in the second inning. This performance pushed Jack’s ERA under 3 again, to 2.96. His 6 strikeouts matched his average per appearance.

An assortment of relievers did their duty, giving up one total run the remainder of the game, and Bud Norris closed out the 9th Inning to earn his 13th save of the season.

You already know they won because I spoiled that info above, but I’m sure you would like to know how many runs this inconsistent offense was able to muster. It’s not a given that holding an opponent to 2 runs equals a victory. As of Monday, the Cardinals had scored less than 3 runs on 17 occasions this year (27%).

Fortunately, this was one of those times where they did score more than 2 runs. The Cards smashed 3 home runs – Martinez, Ozuna, Gyorko – and collected 12 total hits, which allowed them to drive in 5 runs. This was sufficient as the Cards won 5-3.

Tuesday, June 12th vs San Diego Padres

Just like I told ya, it is not a given that the Cardinals can put three runs on the board. On Tuesday they could only muster 2, which (unsurprisingly) was not enough to beat the Padres. Out of the 18 games scoring 2 or less runs, the Cardinals have lost all but one of those matchups. As of late, the offense has been sitting squarely on the shoulders of the two guys below.

Miles Mikolas earned only his second loss of the season after giving up 3 runs on 6 hits over 6 innings. Mike Mayers gave up 1 run in the 7th, while Jordan Hicks pitched scoreless baseball in the 8th and 9th innings. Many Cardinal fans were pretty salty that Matheny pitched Hicks two innings in a game where St. Louis was behind.

A three hit 7th inning generated all of the scoring for St. Louis as two sad runs were all they could muster. In total, St. Louis only earned 5 hits for the whole game and fell 4-2.

Wednesday, June 13th vs San Diego Padres

Spoiler alert… the Cardinals scored 2 runs…so yeah, they lost. Marcell Ozuna hit his 8th home run of the season, a two run shot in the 6th inning – this was all of the Cardinal offense for the night.  As of Wednesday, Ozuna had hit safely in 6 straight games and in 10 of his last 11.

Luke Weaver started and his final line looks worse than his performance. He pitched 5.1 innings and was responsible for all 4 of the runs given up. However, he was dominant in stretches. In order to keep his spot in a healthy rotation, he will have to extend those stretches to remain relevant. He is the only current Cardinal starting pitcher with an ERA over 3 – his is now 4.52.

Cardinals lose the rubber match of the series 4-2, but not without a taste of nostalgia.

Friday, June 15th vs Chicago Cubs

What should have been the start to a very exciting series against the in-division rival Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium, turned out to be an introduction to a cruel reality. Two Birds on a Bat podcast built their most recent episode around whether or not, in today’s day and age, this is actually a rivalry.

Young Michael Wacha, who has been very consistent this season, started off the series on the mound for the Cardinals. Having previously given up only 21 earned runs in 13 outings, you had to feel like St. Louis had a decent chance to take down John Lester, despite his strong start to the year.

As you can see in the graph below, the wheels fell off for Wacha and he only recorded 4 innings worth of outs – he faced 4 batters in the 5th. It was easily his worst start of the year and the 8 earned runs (plus 1 unearned) he gave up caused his season ERA to increase almost 8 tenths of a point.  

wacha graph
Fangraph of Wacha’s walks and ER allowed per appearance this season

The St. Louis bullpen, spread over 4 pitchers,  gave up 4 runs over their 5 innings of work. Three Chicago hitters recorded 3 hits a piece, and the Cubbies smashed 3 homers on their way to 13 total runs. For the season, St. Louis has only matched that run total once, and that was against the Red. As you could guess, the 13 runs was more than enough for Chicago to beat St. Louis.

Despite home runs by Ozuna, Carp, and Pham, the Cardinals could not muster enough to make a dent in the Cubs lead and were embarrassed in the opening game by a score of 13-5.  

For the first 15 days of June, St. Louis has been feast or famine, with 18 of their 30 extra base hits earned by going over the fence. This was only the second loss by the Cardinals in a game this season when they hit 3 or more home runs (out of 11 games).

Saturday, June 16 vs Chicago Cubs

On Saturday, the Cardinals jumped out in front of the Cubs by scoring 2 in the first inning. Carlos Martinez improved from his last performance, but still has not returned to pre-injury form. Martinez pitched 5 innings and gave up 3 runs. He walked 6 and struck out 5. St. Louis used 4 relievers to finish the back half of the game and they gave up 3 runs (2 earned) over 4 IP.

Marcell Ozuna hit his 10th home run of the year in the first inning with 2 outs. Carlos Martinez helped out his own cause with an RBI single in the 4th inning.  

In total, the Cardinals amassed 9 hits and 4 walks over the course of the game. Yairo Muno was responsible for 3 of the hits for his second 3+ hit game of the season. It was not enough as STL fell to the Cubs 6-3, in slightly more respectable fashion than the day before.

Sunday, June 17th vs Chicago Cubs

The finale of the series fell on Father’s Day and Jack Flaherty (no idea if he is a father or not) showed out with a 5 inning performance where he struck out 7 and gave up 0 runs. In a surprising turn of events, the bullpen completed the last 4 innings of the game to pitch a combined shut-out.

St. Louis scored 2 runs in the 6th, one in the 7th, and another 2 runs in the 8th. Bud Norris closed out the 9th. John Brebbia was the pitcher of record and earned his first win MLB win.

The 10 hit, 4 walk effort by St. Louis was good enough for 5 runs, including a home run my Matt Carpenter, his 10th of the season. Tommy Pham also kept his league leading hitting streak alive with a single in the 6th inning. Cardinals salvaged one win in the series by beating the Cubs 5-0 on Sunday. On the season, the Chi-Stl series is 5-3 in favor of the Cardinals.

Despite going 5-5 in their last 10 games, St. Louis is sitting only 4 games back in the NL Central with plenty of baseball left to play. So far this month, the Cardinals have their lowest monthly winning percentage at .467.

Upcoming, the Cardinals have some tough games on the schedule at home. They will play 3 games against Philly (37-32 3rd in NL East) starting on Monday and then a 4 game set at home vs Milwaukee (42-29, 1st in NL Central) beginning on Thursday.


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