What Do We Have Here?

No, seriously, I don't know.

I’m writing this Thursday night. Max Scherzer and Trea Turner are going to Los Angeles. Anthony Rizzo is a New York Yankee. The Brewers added Eduardo Escobar since the beginning of the Indians series and the Reds have brought in a few relievers.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis……

It’s very possible that when you get this in the morning, there will be a new Cardinal and we’ll have put some of the frustration of a quiet deadline behind us. It’s also possible that, with seven hours until the deadline, the deck has not been shuffled and the same hand the club had all month long is the hand they expect to carry them through the rest of the season.

Besides Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas returning, of course. That’s just like a trade, except for the fact that it isn’t really.

Even for a club that is notoriously quiet about things, that never signals where it is looking, there’s been a distinct lack of rumors. Usually at least the national writers, when looking at teams that might make moves, include the Cardinals on their list. This year, not so much. A lot of that is where they are in the standings and their playoff odds, but I wonder if some of it is just informed by the fact it doesn’t look like they’ll be active.

So that’s one problem writing this preview, not knowing what the additions (if any) to the Cardinals will be and if they will affect the series. The other problem? The Twins are sellers that haven’t sold yet.

Friday’s scheduled starter, Jose Berrios, is one of the hottest names on the market. Sunday’s scheduled starter, Michael Pineda, has been rumored to be dealt for quite some time. Both of them, as of right now, are Minnesota Twins. The odds of both of them staying that way would seem slim.

So take this preview as the snapshot in time that it is, before the dealer calls for the final game and gets the Cards ready. We’ll see how good the hands are come this evening.

The Last Time We Met…..

The Cardinals and Twins saw each other twice last year. The first time, the Cardinals lost both games, flew to Milwaukee with COVID in their midst, and started the craziness that was the rest of their season. That craziness, with the rescheduling and doubleheaders, also affected the second series.

Because of needing to make up games, MLB turned the Cardinals/Twins two game series in Busch in September into a doubleheader, so that they could have a day off before making up two Tigers games with a doubleheader. In the first game, Carlos Martinez, who was destroyed in that series in Minnesota, made it into the third before letting the Twins on the board via a three-run homer by Josh Donaldson. He allowed another run in the fourth before leaving for Jake Woodford, who gave up a home run to Nelson Cruz in the fifth to make it 5-0. Meanwhile, Jose Berrios was cruising but ran into trouble in the sixth, when Tommy Edman hit a two-run shot to make it 5-2. Berrios would leave after a Paul Goldschmidt single, a runner that eventually came around to score. However, the rally fell short and Miguel Sano blasted a two-run homer off of Ryan Helsley to get to the final 7-2 score.

Cardinals had better luck in the nightcap as they won for the first time in four chances against Minnesota. It looked bad when Daniel Ponce de Leon gave up a two run homer in the second to Brent Rooker, but the Redbirds exploded for five runs in the third against Randy Dobnak and Caleb Theilbar. Honestly, that inning looked like one the 2021 staff would put up, as the Cardinals loaded the bases on a single, a hit by pitch, and a walk, then scored runs on a hit by pitch, a walk, a fielder’s choice, a single, and another bases-loaded walk. The two teams traded runs and then Nelson Cruz homered off of Giovanny Gallegos in the seventh, but it wasn’t enough and St. Louis took the nightcap 6-4.

The Opponent

Minnesota sits 17.5 games back in the AL Central, a shocking collapse for a team expected to contend again this season. As noted, they are in talks to move some of the pieces of their team to other locations. Nelson Cruz has already headed to Florida, meaning that he can’t visit the scene of his most famous moment again. Josh Donaldson had some rumors around him though I don’t know if any of them are recent. This team could look a lot different in the morning.

It doesn’t look like the offense is the real problem. The Twins sit 10th in OPS with a .749 mark, which is higher than the team that leads their division, the White Sox. They are second in baseball with 151 home runs, just two shy of the Blue Jays. They don’t steal a ton (37) but they are successful when they do (just 9 caught).

Jorge Polanco has been the warmest hitter the last month, putting up a .896 OPS and hitting six homers. Josh Donaldson (.892, four homers) has been right there with him, however.

Ironically, since most of the rumors surround their hurlers, it’s the pitching that’s been the problem. The club has a 5.01 team ERA, which is right there with the Pirates for 27th in baseball. Teams are hitting .259 against them (28th). However their WHIP is just a couple of ticks better than what the Cardinals have as a team.

The Mound Men

Friday: Jose Berrios (7-5, 3.48 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 4.09 xERA) vs. Wade LeBlanc (0-2, 4.58 ERA, 5.28 FIP, 5.40 xERA)

Saturday: Bailey Ober (1-1, 5.19 ERA, 5.35 FIP, 4.60 xERA) vs. Jake Woodford (2-2, 4.25 ERA, 5.63 FIP, 5.13 xERA)

Sunday: Michael Pineda (4-5, 3.86 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 4.63 xERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (8-6, 3.51 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 4.01 xERA)

xERA courtesy of FanGraphs

As we continue to say, this series really could be impacted by whatever happens before 3 PM Central time. If Berrios and Pineda are still on the squad, you could see a pretty clear path to a Twins series win, which would be disastrous for the Cardinals. If Berrios especially gets traded, things look a little better for St. Louis. We noted that Berrios pitched well against the Cardinals last time that he saw them, which is not unexpected. In his last start, he gave up two unearned runs in seven innings against the Angels.

Ober is a rookie pitcher who hasn’t faced the Cardinals, but at least he’s not a lefty to complete the stereotype. Ober has made 10 major league starts this year and only completed five or more innings four times, though he’s done that in his last two starts. In fact his last start he got an out in the sixth, his longest major league outing yet, as he allowed three hits and two runs in that span.

Pineda is a guy I mentioned on Meet Me at Musial about the time Jack Flaherty went down as someone the Cardinals might want to target. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to trade except for the last week in July because otherwise he could have really helped. Pineda has dealt with some injuries but only thrice this year has allowed more than three runs, giving up two in six against the Tigers in his last start. The only time in his 10 year career that he’s faced the Cardinals was April of 2017 when the Yankees came to Busch. Pineda went seven innings and allowed two runs, one off a home run by Yadier Molina, in the 9-3 New York win.

The Hot Seat

If things don’t change between now and the deadline, there’s no seat hotter than John Mozeliak’s. Not from any perspective that matters—Bill DeWitt Jr. is fine with his approach and if Mo leaves the job, it’ll be on his terms—but the fan base is going to be pretty irate, especially since Mo has publicly talked about the need for innings.

Scoreboard Watching

The Brewers head down to Atlanta for three, getting them primed for their trip to Busch next week. Cincinnati heads to the Mets (who may or may not have a former Cub on their roster by then) for what could be a tough weekend.

On the wild card front, the Phillies are in Pittsburgh, so they should be fine, and the Dodgers and their shiny new toys go to Arizona for a less-than-tough challenge. San Diego hosts the Rockies in a series they’ll be favored in as well.

Assorted Crudités

Miles Mikolas was supposed to throw about 45 pitches in his rehab assignment last night. Instead, he threw closer to 60. I have a feeling they are accelerating him to the majors and seeing how it works before they try to do that with Jack Flaherty. I elaborated a bit on that idea on the show last night.

Since the start of the Cubs series, Dylan Carlson is hitting .297 with four home runs and an OPS over 1.100. It’s only nine games but it’s good to see him coming around a bit after such a terrible run around the All-Star Break.

Whatever little surge Matt Carpenter had, though, seems to have gone by the wayside. Since the All-Star Break, he’s 2-19 with a double, two walks, and 11 strikeouts. That’s more than half his at bats, as you can probably do the math. It gets a little better if you stretch all the way back to the beginning of the month (slash line of .242/.306/.364) but he’s still has 18 strikeouts in 36 plate appearances. The problem is, depending on the day he’s still possibly the best pinch-hitter on the bench.

Ryan Helsley should never be used on back-to-back days. Five times that’s happened this year and his slash line is .400/.478/.700.

Random Links

Currently listening to: Cardinals Off Day Episode 15. No Chirps this week, unfortunately, but with the two off days there was plenty of content from Godar and Humphries.

Currently reading: Out of the Shadows, the latest book in The High Republic publishing event from Star Wars. Keeping up with THR stories is tough, given that they run through comics, books, and stories in the Star Wars Insider magazine. I don’t get the magazine and I’ve not read the young readers books (yes, even the ones for elementary school kids play into the overall storyline) but I’ve done the comics, the adult books, and the young adult ones like this one. So far, this has been a good read and has continued the story of the Nihil threat.

As noted, there’s a new Meet Me at Musial out where Allen and I talk about the lack of trade deadline activity.

If you are interested, The Cardinal Six game for the Minnesota series will be accepting entries until first pitch tonight. Most of the questions aren’t terribly reliant on what will or won’t happen.

Romans 8:1-17