I am pretty sure we all know now how Sisyphus felt.
The Cardinals continue to get close in the wild card, only to see the boulder roll down the hill again. Last Sunday, they were one out away from making up ground on everyone in the mix for that second wild-card, only to see Alex Reyes give up a walk-off homer. They then take two of three against the Reds, clobber the Brewers in the opener, then Sunday are two outs away from making up ground on the Reds again, only to see Alex Reyes give up a walk-off homer.
I’m not going to get into the game decisions—that’s what the real blog is for—but there’s no doubt that games like this prove why we really shouldn’t get invested in the 2021 Cardinals. Assuming anyone can even feel anything anymore as many times as they’ve been burned this season.
Oh, and now the Dodgers, who are much much better than the Cardinals, come into town. At least we can spend four days talking about Albert Pujols and speculating on his 2022 location. Maybe that’ll distract us from the bushel of missed opportunities this club has acquired.
The Last Time We Met…..
There’s not a lot that was worth remembering from when the Cardinals went out to LA as the calendar flipped from May to June. Game 1 was a bullpen meltdown after Jack Flaherty left the game injured, an injury that would keep him out until August. Seven runs in 2.2 innings by Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, and Daniel Ponce de Leon took care of any drama. The Cards were able to squeak out Game 2 when Edmundo Sosa singled in Tyler O’Neill to break a 2-2 tie in the ninth. And the third game was the legendary detonation of Carlos Martinez, who gave up 10 runs and didn’t get out of the first.
The Giants somehow have continued to be the leading force in the NL West and, as of this writing, have put it to Walker Buehler tonight, meaning that the Dodgers will be a game out of the West lead when they arrive in St. Louis should the score hold. However, the best race in baseball well might be those two powerhouses trading punches for the next month and the Cardinals get to be right in the path of a motivated team from LA.
Surprisingly enough, over the last 30 days the Dodgers offense hasn’t been anything particularly to write home about. They sit 20th in OPS with a .722, well behind the Cardinals .791 which puts them 5th in baseball. (Fifth, really? I guess there have been some good days in the last month when I think about it.) They are 9th in home runs with 39, four better than St. Louis. They are seventh in strikeouts while the hometown nine are 18th.
However, it’s no surprise to those that follow the blue and white or know their history that pitching is the reason they are putting up the wins. In the last month they sit first in ERA (2.28), first in WHIP (1.03), first in batting average against (.186—second is the White Sox at .224). They gave up four or more runs seven times in August and one of those was in a game they still won by 10 runs. You can’t really even work the starters to get to the bullpen, because while they aren’t as strong, they still have a 3.25 ERA for the season and Kenley Jansen is still 30 for 35 in save opportunities.
The Mound Men
Monday: Max Scherzer (12-4, 2.40 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 3.03 xERA) vs. Miles Mikolas (0-1, 4.41 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 4.15 xERA)
Tuesday: TBD vs. J.A. Happ (8-7, 6.20 ERA, 5.40 FIP, 5.62 xERA)
Wednesday: TBD vs. Adam Wainwright (14-7, 2.91 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 3.78 xERA)
Thursday: TBD vs. Kwang Hyun Kim (6-7, 3.53 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 4.41 xERA)
—xERA courtesy of FanGraphs
I don’t think anyone needs a primer on Max Scherzer, the guy that could have been a Cardinal and the one time we’ve heard the front office say they regret not going after a player. At one time, earlier in the year, we hoped that the front office would be in a position to rectify that mistake at the deadline, but instead Scherzer went from one coast to another, landing with the Dodgers before he heads into free agency. Scherzer faced the Cardinals back in April and did Scherzer-like things, throwing six scoreless innings and striking out nine. His last start was against the Braves where he….threw six scoreless innings and struck out nine.
The Dodgers haven’t announced anyone else, obviously, and with Clayton Kershaw on the injured list, Trevor Bauer perpetually on the administrative leave list, and Walker Buehler going against the Giants on Sunday night, the Cards will probably see Julio Urias (16-3, 3.11 ERA) but after that it’s a bit iffy. David Price, if he gets cleared, might take a start. Other than that, it’s kind of a mystery.
The Hot Seat
There’s quite a bit of grumbling about how Mike Shildt is running his bullpen. You can argue whether he’s got enough options or not, but it feels like he’s a bit slow to adapt to what is happening down there. That said, the odds of Mike Shildt not managing the Cardinals next year are about the same as the odds that I will be managing the Cardinals.
We’ll keep doing this even though the Cardinals continue to act like they don’t want to be here. The Padres have a two game series with the Angels bookended with two off days, so the Cardinals have a chance to make up ground if they can win when San Diego is off. The Reds, who have recently lost series to both the Marlins and the Tigers, have a three game set with the depleted Cubs before an off day on Thursday. The Phillies go to Milwaukee for three games before coming back home Thursday to start a four game series with the Rockies.
It’s been somewhat interesting to see the changes in playing time over the last few weeks. Andrew Knizner (until this series with the Brewers) was getting about a start a series, which is much more regular time on the field than he had the rest of the season. It’s also worth noting that Paul DeJong didn’t even get a pinch-hit against the Brewers and only has one start since August 27 and that start was the second game of the doubleheader against the Reds. I’m not saying it’s unjustified—Edmundo Sosa is hitting .354 with an OPS over 1.000 since the beginning of August—just that it’s interesting.
That being said, according to Baseball-Reference, DeJong has been worth 1.6 bWAR, which ranks ninth on the team. Tenth? That’s Yadier Molina at 1.2. On the other end, Paul Goldschmidt leads the team but Tyler O’Neill plugs in between him and Nolan Arenado.
On August 7, pinch-hitting in the fourth inning, Matt Carpenter hit a 103.7 mph double that brought in Paul DeJong and almost scored Tommy Edman, but Edman was caught at home. Since that time he’s gone 0-18 with five walks. He’s only hit one ball in that span over 100 mph, a groundout to the shifted second baseman against the Pirates on August 12. In those 18 AB, he’s struck out seven times. He’s not started since playing in Kansas City on August 14. We talked last time about whether he’s hit his last home run but it becomes fair to speculate whether that double was the last hit we’ll see from Carpenter as a Cardinal.
Currently listening to: Cardinals Off Day 20. I did listen to Chirps earlier in the week while mowing the yard and it was excellent as always. Some good stuff here as well from the Bens, who are probably glad that the next off day isn’t until a week from Thursday, by that time perhaps the agony will be over and a true focus on the offseason will be able to get started.
Currently reading: With the 20th anniversary coming up, I picked up a book I’ve thought about reading for a while. The Only Plane in the Sky is an oral history, from interviews and transcripts, of what happened on September 11. Reading this only confirms not only the horror of what happens but the absolute bravery and dedication of those that tried to get others out, even though they knew that they themselves probably weren’t going to make it.
I, as well as my Musial co-host and our friend Joe Schwarz (stlcupofjoe on Twitter, as most of you know), were interviewed for this article in the Los Angeles Times about the return of Albert Pujols and the possibility that he might be a Cardinal next year.