They Just Can't Go Away

The Cardinals keep trying to exit the wild card race but their opposition has other ideas

A team that goes 2-3 against Pittsburgh and Detroit in the latter part of August really shouldn’t be a team that has postseason dreams. Right now, the Cardinals should be focusing on the goal of staying over .500 (by their run differential, they should be six under, but somehow are a couple games over) and not worrying about whether they will have a conflict if they schedule a golf game after October 3.

Yet after games of August 25, ten years after another August 25 win propelled them to infamy, St. Louis sits 3 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot. It’s a huge gap between that and the first wild card spot, but the whole “get in and let’s find out” idea is the new rallying cry in baseball. With 37 games to play, they could still be considered in the hunt, especially with four games against a careening San Diego (who is the reason this is even a possibility, even though now they are on the outside looking in) and six games against the Reds, who hold the ticket at the moment.

Are the odds good? Of course not. Baseball Reference says they have a 2.3% chance to make the playoffs. FanGraphs is a little more generous at 5.3%. FiveThirtyEight says 6%. It’s not enough for the team to start selling tickets but it’s enough for at least the beginning of September to have interest. The Cardinals pride themselves on not having many “meaningless games”, i.e. games after they are eliminated, with just a handful over the last 15 years. In that regard, they will meet their goal. With a couple more wins, and with some more help from their friends, maybe they can make even more of September worth watching.

The Last Time We Met…….

Folks, if you can’t remember last weekend, I’m not really sure what to tell you. Brief recap, the Cards were shutout by Mitch Keller in game one, Genesis Cabrera (with a little help from Lars Nootbaar) coughed up a lead in game two, and Adam Wainwright does what he does to the Pirates in game three.

Cards do lead the season series 10-5, so at least they aren’t playing for that this weekend.

The Opponent

There’s really not much to say about a team that the Cards have already seen six times in the past two weeks. Pittsburgh is who they are, a struggling team that will finish last (it seems unlikely Chicago will catch them, though they are trying) and will probably lose their 100th game about the middle of next month. They did win two of three from the Diamondbacks in their last series. I imagine some of their fans are now saying they can’t even lose right, since that gave Arizona a leg up on for the top draft pick, though Baltimore and Texas may beat them both out.

The Mound Men

Thursday: Miles Mikolas (0-1, 1.00 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 3.54 xERA) vs. Mitch Keller (4-10, 6.35 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 5.69 xERA)

Friday: J.A. Happ (7-6, 5.88 ERA, 5.26 FIP, 5.58 xERA) vs. Dillon Peters (0-1, 1.86 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 4.60 xERA)

Saturday: Adam Wainwright (12-7, 3.10 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 3.83 xERA) vs. Steven Brault (0-2, 1.93 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 5.54 xERA)

Sunday: TBD (probably Kwang Hyun Kim—6-6, 3.27 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 4.20 xERA) vs. Wil Crowe (3-7, 5.46 ERA, 5.67 FIP, 5.29 xERA)

xERA courtesy of FanGraphs

As noted above, Keller did a number on them in the last series, throwing five shutout innings before turning it over to the bullpen. He allowed six hits and a walk, so he wasn’t dominant, but the Cards couldn’t break through. That was the only time the team had seen him this season, so maybe with him fresh in their mind they will do better. Then again, in three career starts (16 innings) he has a 0.56 ERA against St. Louis, so maybe not.

Peters has bounced around the league a bit, starting with the Marlins and moving to the Angels before hitting Pittsburgh this year. He’s thrown a total of 11.1 innings in the bigs over the last two years, but one of his two starts this season was against the Cards last time out, when he gave up one run in five innings in the second game but didn’t get a decision.

Brault has four starts in the majors this year and two of them are against the Cardinals. He’s gone a combined nine innings and given up three runs but has two losses to show for it. Last time, he gave up a run in four innings but he was up against Wainwright so that was all Uncle Charlie needed.

The Cardinals have seen Crowe twice this year, once at the beginning of May when they scored three runs in five innings off of him, and once in the series before last, when he gave up one run in 4.2 innings but he was up against Wainwright so that was all Uncle Charlie needed.

The Hot Seat

Alex Reyes seems to have hit a bit of a wall. He had the Tigers down and out with a one run lead and two outs in the ninth, but a double by Miguel Cabrera and a base hit by Harold Castro tied things up. That gave Reyes his third blown save of the year, which isn’t much until you realize he didn’t blow his first until after the All-Star Break.

For the second half of the season, Reyes has a 5.28 ERA. He gave up five earned runs in the first three months combined, but has given up six in both July and August. Ironically, Reyes has cut down his walks—he’s not walked anyone since that walkfest against Atlanta—but the results have gotten worse. He’s pitched in seven games since facing the Braves and has given up three earned runs (so his ERA is 3.38) but five more unearned runs. Batters are hitting .270 against him over that span. The strikeouts are still there (10 in eight innings) but the ninth has become even more nerve-wracking than it was when he was walking folks.

Scoreboard Watching

While the Cardinals get Pittsburgh over the next four days, they’ll be keeping an eye on a few other teams. The Reds finish their series with the Brewers this afternoon, so the Redbirds will know the result before they take the field. Then the wild-card leaders head to Miami for three games with the Marlins, who have won two of their last 10.

San Diego, after a devastating loss to the Dodgers last night, gets LA for one more this evening before taking on the other team that calls Los Angeles home (even if they really don’t), seeing the Angels on Friday and Saturday. I feel like there’s a reason there’s no game scheduled for Sunday but I don’t remember what it is.

The Phillies are now at .500 and 1 1/2 behind the Cardinals, but that can change quickly as we all know. They start a four game series with the Diamondbacks tonight, the team that just lost a series to the Pirates, so you know, it could be worse for Phillies fans.

Assorted Crudités

I hinted at this last time, but let’s look at just how good Adam Wainwright has been over the second half of the season. Granted, all these numbers are helped by the fact that he’s thrown 17 scoreless innings at the Pirates in August, but still, it’s pretty cool to see. Wainwright, since the break, is:

—Fifth in baseball in ERA (2.21)
—Tied for first in wins (5)
—One of nine pitchers with a complete game
—One of five pitchers with a shutout
—Tied with Zach Wheeler for most innings pitched (57)
—11th in strikeouts (51)
—First in WHIP (0.86—Aaron Nola is second at 0.90)
—Fifth in batting average against (.199)
—First in age out of all those he’s ranked with (39 years, 361 days as of today)

Even if Yadier Molina wasn’t already locked in for 2022, I think the Cardinals would put a big push on Wainwright to come back. Obviously he’s still able to get hitters out and when you mix that with his leadership in the clubhouse, he’s a legend.

Paul DeJong is hitting .192 (10-52) for the month of August. However, he’s hitting .333 this month (6-18) against the Pirates, so maybe that bodes well for a good weekend. (The fact that he’s hitting .118 against non-Pirates teams is a bit more distressing.) DeJong is 11-41 against Pittsburgh this season, good for a .268 average and a .928 OPS.

Random Links

Currently listening to: Cardinals Off Day 19, having had an enjoyable time listening to Chirps when I mowed Tuesday night. It’s the nature of podcasting that anything you spend much time on during the show is rendered moot soon after you publish it. I know it’s happened to me often, but listening to the Bens discuss KK’s usage is a little different when you know Jack Flaherty’s injury is going to put him back in the rotation.

Allen and I will record Musial in the morning. If you’ve got topics or questions, drop me a message on Twitter and we’ll see if we can get to it.

Daniel 6