photo: Jon Lester (Jeff Le/USA TODAY Sports)
The St. Louis Cardinals continue to frustrate, going 3-3 while losing winnable games due to bullpen failures. Veteran Jon Lester made two solid starts. As Adam Wainwright turned 40, our history feature checks where the pitcher was at ages 20, 25, 30 and 35.
The St. Louis Cardinals took on the Reds at Great American Ball Park in the first game of a three-game series. The visitors were the victors on Monday, 3-1.
Jon Lester took the mound for the Redbirds and was very good. The left hander pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up only one run on one hit, a home run. Lester struck out five and walked two to earn his fifth win of the season. T.J. McFarland and tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. Luis Garcia got the final out of the eighth. Giovanny Gallegos threw a scoreless ninth to earn his third save.
Paul Goldschmidt blasted a two-run home run in the first inning to get the Cardinals on the board. The Reds got one back in the second on a solo home run by Kyle Farmer, the only hit given up by Lester and the only run the Reds scored.
The score remained 2-1 until the sixth inning. Dylan Carlson doubled to right and scored on a single by Tyler O’Neill to make if 3-1, the final score.
Nolan Arenado and O’Neill were both 2-for-4. Goldschmidt drove in two. In the field, Arenado made a fielding error.
Tuesday, August 31 – Cardinals at Reds (postponed)
The second game of the series was rained out and was played on Wednesday as the first game of a doubleheader.
The Cardinals won the first game of the twin bill on Wednesday by a one run margin in seven innings.
St. Louis got on the board first with a solo home run by Paul Goldschmidt in the first inning. This was the second first inning long ball of the series by the first baseman. St. Louis increased the lead in the second inning on a solo home run by Harrison Bader.
The Reds answered with three runs in the home half of the second to go up on the Cardinals 3-2. The Redbirds responded by tying the game in the top of the third. Nolan Arenado singled, Dylan Carlson singled, and Arenado scored on a sac fly by Edmundo Sosa.
In the bottom of the third the Reds regained the lead 4-3. The Cardinals persevered and scored two runs in the fourth the second long ball of the game by Goldschmidt, a two-run shot that gave the Redbirds the 5-4 lead and eventually the win.
Miles Mikolas got the start for St. Louis and the right hander pitched three innings and gave up four runs on five hits, struck out three and walked one. Genesis Cabrera followed with two scoreless innings of relief to earn his third win of the season. Luis Garcia tossed a scoreless fifth and Giovanny Gallegos threw a scoreless seventh to earn his fourth save.
Pinch hitter Jose Rondon was picked off first base.
The Reds avoided the double header and series sweep in a big way by shellacking the Cardinals in the finale of the twin bill. Starter J.A. Happ did not have a good outing and lasted only one-plus innings. The left hander gave up seven runs on eight hits and walked two. In the top of the second, Junior Fernandez relieved Happ with no outs and one runner on. He struck out the first hitter, then gave up a two-run home run. One run was charged to Happ and the other to Fernandez. Daniel Ponce de Leon relieved Fernandez and finished the inning but allowed an inherited runner to score. Ponce de Leon returned for the third inning and surrendered two more runs. Kodi Whitley followed and tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Brandon Dickson yielded one run in the fifth and Alex Reyes threw a scoreless sixth. Happ took the loss, his seventh of the season.
St. Louis offense scored two runs on three hits against Reds pitching. Tommy Edman hit a solo home run in the first inning to get the Redbirds on the board. Nolan Arenado’s solo home run in the fourth inning provided the only other St. Louis score.
In the field, Paul DeJong and Tyler O’Neill each made a throwing error.
Thursday, September 2 – Off day
The Cardinals bounced back from Wednesday’s trouncing to become the trouncer, as the Redbirds walloped the Brewers at American Family Field on Friday in the first game of a weekend series. The game marked the 300th game starting together for the battery of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina.
Wainwright pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up two runs, one earned, on four hits, struck out four and walked three. It was not one of Wainwright’s best starts, but it got the job done. T.J. McFarland relieved and got the final two outs of the seventh inning. Kodi Whitley tossed and scoreless eighth. Brandon Dickson surrendered two runs in the ninth. Wainwright earned his 14th win of the season.
The scoring began with a two-run home run by Nolan Arenado in the first inning. In the second inning, Molina was hit by a pitch and Edmundo Sosa drew a walk. Harrison Bader followed with a single to load the bases. Wainwright singled to score Molina. The Cardinals led 4-0.
The score became 8-0 in the third inning. Arenado hit his second long ball of the night, a solo shot. Dylan Carlson and Edmundo Sosa singled. Harrison Bader then thumped a three-run home run to left center field.
The score remained 8-0 until the seventh inning. Tyler O’Neill hit a two-run home run to increase the Cardinal lead to 10-0. The Brewers finally got on the board in the home half of the seventh.
The Cardinals were not content with 10 runs. In the top of the ninth, Tommy Edman doubled, O’Neill and Carlson walked, and Molina came to the plate and hit a grand slam to left center field. Sosa followed with a solo home run and the Redbirds led 15-2.
The Brewers managed to score two more runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 15-4 final.
Arenado was 2-for-5 with three RBI and two runs scored. Sosa went 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored. Bader was 3-for-5 with three RBI.
On the base paths, Edman stole his 22nd base of the season. The second baseman also made a throwing error.
The Cardinals followed their big offensive game with a nothing offensive game on Saturday. The Redbirds were shut down and shut out by the Brewers in a 4-0 loss.
St. Louis’ offense could not figure out Brewers starter Adrian Houser, who pitched a complete game shutout. The Cardinals had three hits against Houser, scattered over nine innings with none producing a run. All three hits were singles, two by Tommy Edman. The other hit was from Nolan Arenado.
The Brewers scored four runs against Cardinals pitching and all four runs came in the first two innings off starter Kwang-Hyun Kim, who just didn’t have it that day. The lefty pitched through 1 2/3 innings and was pulled for Jake Woodford. Recently called up from Memphis, Woodford was very good and kept the score at 4-0. The right hander tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings and saved the bullpen. Alex Reyes came in for the eighth and threw a scoreless frame. Kim took the loss, his seventh of the season.
In the field, Dylan Carlson made a throwing error but also had an outfield assist at second base. Tyler O’Neill also had an outfield assist at second base. Woodford picked a runner off first base.
This game started out as a promise of redemption for the Cardinals’ shutout loss the previous day and a series win, and for the bulk of the game the promised was fulfilled, until it wasn’t.
It began with the Brewers taking the lead on a solo home run in the second inning. The Cardinals came back with three runs in the fourth inning to take a 3-1 lead. Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill each singled to start the fourth. Yadier Molina drew a walk to load the bases. Edmundo Sosa’s sac fly scored Arenado and the game was tied. Harrison Bader hit a soft grounder up the third base line that appeared to be foul, but the Brewers third baseman touched it in an attempt to field it, and it went by him. At that point, the ball was called fair, and two runs scored. Bader ended up on second base on a squibber. The play was originally scored as an error on the third baseman but was later changed to a double for the Cardinals center fielder.
The Cardinals added two in the seventh on a two-run moonshot by O’Neill that was hit out of the ballpark. The game entered the bottom of the ninth with the Cardinals up by four runs and on the cusp of leading town on a high note.
This is when the promise failed miserably. The bullpen, the source of past frustration and several devastating losses, did what it has done before. Giovanny Gallegos was brought in to pitch the ninth after relieving ineffective Genesis Cabrera in the eighth. Cabrera had loaded the bases on a double and two walks. Gallegos got the final two outs, but it was a slow process which took eight pitches and seemed like more. Gallegos was sent back in to pitch the ninth and it did not go well. The right-hander gave up two doubles, a single and a walk with one run scoring. With the score at 5-2, the bases loaded and only one out, Gallegos came out and Alex Reyes came in. Reyes threw a pitch that was called a ball and the next pitch he threw was hammered into the right center field stands for a walk off grand slam. The Cardinals lost a four-run lead and the game in the blink of an eye.
Prior to this catastrophe, Jon Lester started the game and performed well again. The veteran left-hander pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up one run on six hits, struck out two and walked two. After Lester came the club’s two most effective relievers of late, but neither remained in the game long. T.J. McFarland, who threw two pitches and got two outs. He did not return. Then came Luis Garcia, who threw 12 pitches and got three outs in the seventh. He also did not return. Cabrera was next and the rest need not be repeated.
Tyler O’Neill had a good day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Dylan Carlson was 2-for-4 and Harrison Bader was 2-for-5 with two RBI. The outfield did well. The bullpen did not.
Tommy Edman stole a base and so did Edmundo Sosa. Molina back picked Luis Urias off first base.
The Big Picture
The Cardinals had a 3-3 week. They took 2 of 3 from the Reds but lost two of three to the Brewers. The final loss was one of the worst of the season.
Once again, the bullpen failed in the worst way possible. St. Louis fans have heard this song before if they haven’t tuned out already. The Cardinals had a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth in Sunday’s game and lost 6-5 on a walk off grand slam. It was ugly and it was devastating to say the least.
There is no other way to say it other than the relievers involved have done this before and it could have been avoided. Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos, and Alex Reyes have made a ton of appearances over the season and may just be worn out. This has appeared to be obvious for several weeks now, yet the manager has not markedly changed his bullpen usage formula.
On the other hand, two of the newer and lately more effective relievers, T.J. McFarland and Luis Garcia, pitched earlier in the game and threw just 14 pitches between them. Either or both could have continued for multiple innings, but they were one and done in favor of the big three, who were a big flop.
Things were going well up to Sunday. The offense has made big strides, and except for the shutout game on Saturday when the entire offense was fooled by Adrian Houser for nine innings, have not been the problem lately. The starting pitching has also not been a major issue, as Jon Lester made two good starts. though Kwang-Hyun Kim and J.A Happ didn’t pitch well during the week. That will happen on occasion. What continues to happen to the bullpen should not be happening.
Top offensive performers for the week by OPS are Harrison Bader (1.130), Tyler O’Neill (1.098), Nolan Arenado (1.087), and Paul Goldschmidt (1.059). Bader and Arenado have improved the most from their sub .500 OPS from a week ago. Tommy Edman (.750) came down from last week, and Edmundo Sosa (.698) and Dylan Carlson (.681) have slipped as well. Yadier Molina brings up the rear at .564.
The tough schedule continues as the Cardinals return home for four games against the Dodgers and three more games with the Reds for the final time in 2021. If the offense and the starting pitching can continue the current course, and something changes for the better with the bullpen, then the team has a chance. The Big Three in the bullpen need to be a big no for the back end of games for the foreseeable future, but whether anything will change is the big question.
Albert Einstein is quoted as having said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. The Cardinals should do everything possible to avoid insanity.
NL Central Standings
At this point, the more relevant standings are the Wild Card. Currently, St. Louis is three games behind the second WC club San Diego. Also ahead of St. Louis are Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.
- 9/1 The Cardinals recalled C Ali Sanchez from the Memphis Redbirds.
- 9/1 The Cardinals selected the contract of RHP Brandon Dickson from the Memphis Redbirds.
- 9/1 The Cardinals placed RHP Ryan Helsley on the 60-day injured list. Right elbow stress reaction.
- 9/2 The Cardinals sent RHP Dakota Hudson on a rehab assignment to the Springfield Cardinals.
- 9/3 The Cardinals placed RHP Junior Fernandez on the 10-day injured list.
- 9/3 The Cardinals recalled RHP Jake Woodford from the Memphis Redbirds.
- RHP Jordan Hicks (right elbow inflammation) remains on the 60-day injured list. Hicks began throwing bullpen sessions on August 16, but the team is being very cautious with the young right hander. It appears there may not be enough time for Hicks to return for this season and the team is looking for places for Hicks to play winter ball over the offseason to evaluate where he is at in his recovery.
- 2B Max Moroff (left shoulder subluxation) remains on the 60-day injured list after suffering a shoulder injury in a batting practice session. Moroff had surgery on the shoulder and is out for the rest of the season.
- RHP Dakota Hudson (Tommy John surgery) made a rehab start for the Springfield Cardinals on Thursday. He is scheduled to make another start for Springfield on September 7. Manager Mike Shildt told the media that Hudson may be making two or three more starts before activation. His next start will be Tuesday night for Double-A Springfield at Hammons Field. The RHP could possibly pitch for the Cardinals out of the bullpen at some point before the season is over.
- RHP Carlos Martinez (right thumb ligament sprain) had surgery on July 16 to repair his thumb ligament. The surgery makes it less likely the right hander will return to pitch this season. If that is the case, Martinez may have thrown his last pitch as a Cardinal. Martinez is on the final year of his contract, and though the team holds options for 2022 and 2023, they are not expected to pick them up.
- LHP Wade LeBlanc (left elbow pain) remains on the 10-day injured list. The left hander has suffered a setback in his attempt to return from an elbow injury. Le Blanc experienced continued discomfort after throwing his first bullpen session on August 24. His next bullpen has been delayed and his likely return to pitching is doubtful, but if he does return it will not be as a starter.
- RHP Ryan Helsley (right elbow stress reaction), was placed on the 60-day injured list on September 1. The move signaled an end to Helsley’s season.
- RHP Justin Miller (right ulnar nerve irritation) was placed on the 10-day injured list on August 18. Miller was scheduled to throw a bullpen on Sunday. How he recovers from his bullpens will determine whether the right hander will return to pitch this season.
- LHP Andrew Miller (left foot blister) was placed on the 10-day injured list on August 28, retroactive to August 27. The left hander has thrown two bullpen sessions and the team is optimistic he will return shortly after the 10-day minimum has expired.
- RHP Jack Flaherty (right shoulder strain) remains on the 10-day injured list. He is set to start playing catch, but the team is being very cautious with him. The bottom line appears to be that Flaherty may not return this season, or if he does, it may be out of the bullpen toward the end of the season. There isn’t sufficient time for the right hander to build back up to a starter’s workload.
- RHP Junior Fernandez (right lat strain) was placed on the 10-day injured list on September 3. Scans revealed a Grade 2 lat strain and the injury is serious enough that his season is most likely over.
On Monday, Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Dodgers come to Busch Stadium for a four-game series. Miles Mikolas is set to make the Monday start, followed by J.A Happ on Tuesday, Adam Wainwright on Wednesday, and Kwang-Hyun Kim on Thursday.
The homestand will continue as the Reds come to St. Louis for a weekend series beginning September 10.
The Cardinals will make a brief road trip to New York to play the Mets in a three-game series starting Monday, September 13, then return home for a weekend home series against San Diego.
Following the Padres series, the Cardinals return to Milwaukee for a four-game set. They end that week with a weekend series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The Cardinals regular season schedule can be found here.
Blast from the Past
Adam Wainwright turned 40 years old on Monday, August 30. The big right-handed pitcher has had a long and fruitful major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals, and if all goes well, he may return for the 2022 season. If he does not return, his career can be counted as nothing short of a complete success in the aggregate. At this point, at age 40 he has a career line of 181 wins and 105 losses and a career ERA of 3.35. He has been a Cy Young Award finalist four times and has two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger Award.
This week’s Blast looks at the career of Wainwright at four distinct points in his career, ages 20, 25, 30, and 35.
At age 20, Wainwright was pitching in the minor leagues in the Braves organization, the team that took him in the first round of the 2000 draft. On August 30, 2001, Wainwright turned 20 years old. On that day he was with the Macon Braves, then a Class A team in the South Atlantic League. Future Hall of Famer John Smoltz was a teammate of his. Wainwright made 28 starts for the Macon Braves in 2001 and had a record at the end of the season of 10-10 and an ERA of 3.77. He pitched 164 2/3 innings and had one complete game that season.
By the time Wainwright turned 25, he was with the Cardinals organization after being traded on December 13, 2003. On August 30, 2006, his 25th birthday, the right hander was already in the big leagues, having made his debut the year before on September 11, 2005. On August 30, 2006, he pitched out of the bullpen in a game against the Marlins at Busch Stadium. He went two scoreless innings in a 13-6 win for St. Louis.
Up to that point, Wainwright had made no starts but had appeared in 51 games out of the bullpen and had an ERA of 3.17 in 65 1/3 innings pitched. He finished five of the 51 games. At the end of the season, he had pitched 75 innings with an ERA of 3.12, all in relief. He also appeared in the postseason as the Cardinals won the World Series title. Wainwright appeared in nine postseason games, all as the closer, which of course included the NLCS against the Mets when he froze future teammate Carlos Beltran with a curveball to win the series.
Wainwright turned 30 on August 30, 2011. He did not pitch that season, recovering from Tommy John surgery. That was also a World Series Championship year, a title he enjoyed even though he participated in spirit only. He was with the team during the postseason as a cheerleader and did receive a World Series ring.
Wainwright’s 35th birthday came on August 30, 2016. On that date, the right hander started a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Wainwright went seven innings and gave up one run on three hits. He struck out seven but got a no decision in a 2-1 win over the Brewers. At the end of the 2016 season, Wainwright had a record of 13-9 with an ERA of 4.62. Though it was not his worst season, it was not one of his best. He led the NL in hits allowed and earned runs.
This season, the year of his 40th birthday, Wainwright’s career has been reborn in a sense. He has pitched his best baseball since 2015. He did not pitch on his birthday this year but started two days prior on August 28 against the Pirates at PNC Park, a game the Cardinals won 13-0. He tossed seven scoreless innings with only three hits allowed.
Wainwright is still going strong and most fans hope he will decide to be back with the Cardinals for his 41st birthday. Stay tuned.
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