St. Louis Cardinals MLB Notebook – Week of September 24-30

photo: Miles Mikolas (Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

The St. Louis Cardinals crumbled in the final week, going just 1-5, to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Miles Mikolas earned the only win. In our weekly history feature, the 2011 NLCS against the Brewers is remembered.


Game Recaps

Monday, September 24 – Cardinals 4, Brewers 6

In the final week of the regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals had a two-game lead for the second wild card with two crucial series against the Brewers and the Cubs just ahead.

The first game of the Brewers series, which Milwaukee made a bullpen game, ended in defeat for the Redbirds.  Jack Flaherty got the start and pitched 5 1/3 innings, during which he gave up three runs on four hits.  Dakota Hudson secured the final two outs of the sixth.  Jordan Hicks surrendered one run in the seventh and Bud Norris allowed a run in the eighth. Mike Mayers, Tyler Webb, and Dominic Leone combined for the ninth, with Mayers giving up the sixth Brewers run. Norris was tagged with the loss.

The Cardinals got on the board in the third on Matt Carpenter’s RBI double.  In the sixth, Jose Martinez hit a solo home run and Marcell Ozuna followed with a two-run shot.    Martinez went 2-for-5.

Norris made an error on a pickoff and Ozuna had an outfield assist.


Tuesday, September 25 – Cardinals 4, Brewers 12

If the first game of the series was bad, the second game was worse.  Cardinals pitching could not contain the Brewers bats.  Austin Gomber gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings pitched.  In the fourth, the left hander gave up three consecutive singles and was replaced by Tyson Ross with two outs and two runners on.  Ross walked his first batter, then gave up a bases clearing triple before getting the final out of the inning.  Ross returned to pitch to one out in the fifth, Dominic Leone got the final two outs of the fifth.  Chasen Shreve and John Brebbia combined to pitch two scoreless innings.  Mike Mayers started the eighth and yielded two runs.  Brett Cecil got the final out of the eighth, then returned for the ninth and surrendered three more runs.  Giovanny Gallegos collected the final out of the game.

Yadier Molina’s three-run home run in the fourth inning put the Cardinals on the board.  Paul DeJong’s sac fly in the fifth represented the fourth and final Redbird run.

Defense was an issue in this game, with three errors, fielding miscues by Kolten Wong and Matt Adams, and a bad throw by Paul DeJong.


Wednesday, September 26 – Cardinals 1, Brewers 2

The Brewers swept the Cardinals in the final game of the series and more or less dashed the hopes for Cardinals fans looking for a postseason appearance.  The Redbirds offense was practically nonexistent, with only two hits and one run, via Jedd Gyorko’s sac fly in the fourth inning.  The two hits were a double by Paul DeJong and a single by Jose Martinez.

John Gant started for the Cardinals, and pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up one run on four hits. Chasen Shreve replaced Gant and walked his only hitter.  Dakota Hudson allowed the inherited runner to score but got the final two outs of the inning.  Jordan Hicks and Carlos Martinez combined to pitch the final three scoreless innings.  Shreve was tagged with the loss.

Yairo Munoz made a fielding error.  Jose Martinez had an outfield assist.


Thursday, September 27- Off day


Friday, September 28 – Cardinals 4 at Cubs 8

The Cardinals traveled to Chicago for the final series of the regular season against the Cubs.  Adam Wainwright made what could be his final pitching performance with St. Louis.  Wainwright pitched five innings and gave up four runs on five hits while fanning seven and walking one.  Tyler Webb and John Brebbia combined for a scoreless sixth.  Bud Norris started the seventh, walked the first batter and gave up a single to the second.  A throwing error put runners on second and third with no outs.  Chasen Shreve gave up a sac fly that scored a run charged to Norris but got all three outs of the inning.

Jordan Hicks began the eighth and struck out the first batter, but then the wheels came off the bus.  Hicks gave up a single to Jason Heyward and hit Kris Bryant with a pitch.  Wilson Contreras grounded into a force out and Heyward was out at third, but a throwing error by Jedd Gyorko put Bryant on third and Contreras on second.  Hicks then walked Tommy LaStella to load the bases and then followed that with a walk to David Bote to score Bryant.  Hicks was replaced by Dominic Leone, who gave up a single to Albert Almora that scored Contreras and Bote, with both runs charged to Hicks.

The offense didn’t put runs on the board until the sixth, when Matt Carpenter scored on Paul DeJong’s ground out and Marcell Ozuna plated Jose Martinez via a single.  Tyler O’Neill drove in a run in the ninth on a single, then scored on a fielding error.

More baserunning and defensive woes occurred, with Harrison Bader picked off first base, Jedd Gyorko making two throwing errors and Kolten Wong with a fielding miscue.


Saturday, September 29 – Cardinals 2 at Cubs 1

Miles Mikolas (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The Cardinals finally won a game during the last week, defeating the Cubs to temporarily stave off postseason elimination.  It didn’t last long, as the later win by the Dodgers ended their October hopes for the third consecutive year.

Miles Mikolas made the start and pitched well.  The right-hander went eight innings, giving up only on unearned run while striking out six.  Mikolas earned his 18th win.  Carlos Martinez tossed a scoreless ninth.

For the scoring, Paul DeJong singled in a run in the fourth and Matt Carpenter plated a run on a single in the fifth.

Yairo Munoz committed a fielding error that led to the unearned run.


Sunday, September 30 – Cardinals 5 at Cubs 10

In the final regular season game, an effort to send the Cubs to the Wild Card game instead of a Division championship fell short.  The Cardinals began well, scoring two runs in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.  The lead only lasted until the third inning.

Jack Flaherty gave up four runs in the third inning and was removed with two outs.  Three runs scored before Flaherty was replaced by Chasen Shreve, who gave up an RBI single by Jason Heyward.  Austin Gomber pitched a scoreless fourth, but then got into trouble in the fifth.  The inning began with a single by Javier Baez, followed by an Anthony Rizzo double.  Kris Bryant then doubled to score both.  Gomber got Jason Heyward and Albert Almora out, but then gave up a two run home run to Willson Contreras.  Gomber finally got out of the inning by striking out Alec Mills.  Tyler Webb started the sixth, got the first two outs, then gave up a double to Baez and walked Rizzo.  In came Dakota Hudson.  Kris Bryant hit a ground ball that was fielded by Matt Carpenter, but Hudson couldn’t catch the throw at first base and Baez scored.  Hudson walked Heyward, gave up a single to Almora that scored Rizzo, then struck out Contreras to end the inning.  The two unearned runs were charged to Webb.  Daniel Poncedeleon and Mike Mayers pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth.

The two first-inning runs scored on singles by Paul DeJong and Patrick Wisdom.  Yairo Munoz drove in two runs on a single in the sixth and was hit by a pitch in the seventh with the bases loaded for the Cardinals’ final run of the game and season.

Jose Martinez threw out Baez at home plate for an outfield assist.


Big Picture

The Cardinals ended the final week of the season going 1-5 in two must-win series against the Brewers and Cubs.  The only win was on Saturday at Chicago.  The 88-74 final record for the Cardinals put them in third place in the NL Central for the second consecutive season. They finished seven games back in the division and three games out of a share of a wild card.

The issues with the Cardinals during the week were inconsistent offense, a bullpen that couldn’t keep runners off the bases, and the resurgence of some very poor defense.  Starting pitching was also inconsistent.  Miles Mikolas pitched a very good game, and John Gant was decent.  Flaherty made two starts this week, both of which were not up to his usual standards.  Adam Wainwright faltered somewhat in his final start, and Austin Gomber was not good in his one start.

Defensive issues have plagued the Cardinals all season, in fact for the second straight year.  It would get better for a while, then resurface.  There were numerous errors this week especially.

At a time when wins were crucial for that final postseason push, the Cardinals basically fell apart.  Though the team was not officially eliminated until after the second game of the Cubs series, the sweep at the hands of the Brewers was really the death knell to the season and the Tuesday loss in what appeared to be a very winnable game set the stage.


Author’s opinion on the season and the upcoming offseason

2018 began much like the previous two seasons under Mike Matheny.  It appeared to be just another repeat year, with listless offense, serious bullpen issues, poor defense and baserunning.

Mike Shildt (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Things changed when Mike Matheny was dismissed and Mike Shildt replaced him.  The team appeared to be energized and the offense picked up.  Changes were made to the bullpen that were an improvement.  The defense seemed to be better.

The month of August was a lot of fun.  The team made a serious run for the postseason.  The midseason trade of Tommy Pham led to a starting center field position for Harrison Bader.  Bader took advantage of his opportunity and shined throughout the month of August, giving the team the burst they needed.  He was a lot of fun to watch.  Cardinal Nation’s hopes were high.

Much of the energy began to fizzle in September.  Matt Carpenter’s offense cooled off considerably.  The strikeouts increased.  Usual offensive standouts like Jose Martinez and Jedd Gyorko began to take poor at bats.  Gyorko especially slumped during the last two weeks.  The much improved bullpen took a nose dive.  Way too many walks and runners put on bases.  By the final week, the team appeared to be completely out of gas.  The last week was a huge disappointment.

This author places blame on no particular person or persons.  Perhaps the run in August wore everyone out.  Whatever the cause, the team-wide slump was a disaster for October hopes.

This author hopes the organization makes some significant changes in the offseason.  A middle of the order bat is a necessity.  The team needs a star.  The starting rotation has this author concerned as well.  There are question marks of health and effectiveness for all starters except Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas.  The health of Alex Reyes and Michael Wacha is a concern.  Luke Weaver had a very poor season and his effectiveness as a starter is in doubt.  Carlos Martinez spent the final month in the bullpen but also had health issues all season.  The possibility of adding a starter should be considered in this author’s opinion.

Spring Training next season should focus on the defense issues that plagued the team all season.  The defense must improve.


Standings pending Monday tiebreaker games

NL Central W L PCT GB E#
Chicago 95 67 0.586    –
Milwaukee 95 67 0.586    –
St. Louis 88 74 0.543 7 E
Pittsburgh 82 79 0.509 12.5 E
Cincinnati 67 95 0.414 28 E
Wild Card standings W L GB E#
Colorado 91 71     –        –
Los Angeles 91 71     –        –
St Louis 88 74 3 E
Pittsburgh 82 79 8.5 E
Arizona 82 80 9 E

Who’s Hot

Over the past six games (does not contain recent Sunday game results):

  • Miles Mikolas had an ERA of 0.60 and a WHIP of 0.47.
  • John Brebbia had an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 0.90.
  • Dominic Leone had an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 0.75.
  • Dakota Hudson had an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 1.29.
  • Giovanny Gallegos had an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 0.75.
  • Carlos Martinez had an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 0.67.
  • Tyler Webb had an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 0.00.
  • Jose Martinez had an OPS of .970. He had one HR, four doubles and three RBI.

Who’s Not

Over the past six games (does not contain recent Sunday game results)

  • Jedd Gyorko had an OPS of .249.
  • Yadier Molina had an OPS of .447.
  • Austin Gomber had an ERA of 12.27 and a WHIP of 1.91.
  • Adam Wainwright had an ERA of 7.20 and a WHIP of 1.20.
  • Jordan Hicks had an ERA of 13.50 and a WHIP of 2.63.
  • Tyson Ross had an ERA of 27.00 and a WHIP of 9.00.
  • Mike Mayers had an ERA of 27.00 and a WHIP of 4.00.
  • Brett Cecil has an ERA of 27.00 and a WHIP of 3.00.

A Look at Cardinals Lineups

The lineups over the last seven games.

  • The leadoff hitter was Matt Carpenter.
  • The number two hitter was Jose Martinez.
  • The number three hitter was Paul DeJong.
  • The cleanup hitter was Marcell Ozuna for six games and Tyler O’Neill for one game.
  • The fifth hitter was Jedd Gyorko for five games, and Yadier Molina and Patrick Wisdom for one game each.
  • The sixth hitter was Yadier Molina for five games, and Gyorko and Harrison Bader for one game each.
  • The seventh hitter was Bader for four games, Kolten Wong for two games and Yairo Munoz for one game.
  • The eighth hitter was Munoz for three games, Bader for two games, and Wong and Francisco Pena for one game each.

Trade and Acquisition Rumors

There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.


Transactions  

There are no transactions to report.


Injury Report

There are no new injuries to report.


Looking Ahead

With St. Louis’ final game of the regular season played, and with the club eliminated from postseason contention, Cardinals fans can only watch other teams play in October.

Because of ties for the division championships in both the NL Central and NL West, there will be two tiebreaker games played on Monday, October 1 to decide the Division winners and the two Wild Card teams in the NL.  The Brewers will play the Cubs at 12:05 and the Dodgers will play the Rockies at 3:09.  On Tuesday, the two NL Wild Card teams will play.  The AL Wild Card game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees will follow on October 3.  The NLDS begins on October 4 and the ALDS begins on October 5.

The NLCS is set to begin on October 12 followed by the start of the ALCS on October 13.  The first game of the World Series is scheduled for Oct 24.

After the World Series is over, the Hot Stove season begins.


Blast from the Past

This week’s postseason history segment reminisces about the 2011 National League Championship Series between the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Brewers were the NL Central Division Champions while the Cardinals entered the postseason as the NL Wild Card.  The Brewers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks in their Division Series, and the Cardinals edged the Philadelphia Phillies in the other.

The first two games of the NLDS were played at Miller Park in Milwaukee.  On October 9, the Brewers beat the Cardinals 9-6.  The Cardinals took the initial 1-0 lead, but the Brewers came back to score two.  St. Louis took the lead back with three runs in the fourth and one run in the fifth to make it 5-2.  A big 6 run sixth inning for the Brewers put the game out of reach, though the Cardinals were able to add one more run in the seventh.  Jaime Garcia was the losing pitcher.  David Freese hit a three-run home in the fourth.

The Cardinals came roaring back to take Game 2 by the score of 12-3.  The Cardinals had 17 hits with home runs by Albert Pujols and David Freese.  Pujols also had three doubles and five RBI.  The winning pitcher was Lance Lynn.  The loser was Shaun Marcum.

Game 3 moved to St. Louis.  The Cardinals won 4-3.  All four Cards runs were scored in the first inning.  Rafael Furcal singled, and Jon Jay and Albert Pujols hit back to back doubles.  The last two runs scored on a double play with the bases loaded and no outs, and on a David Freese double.  St. Louis winning pitcher Chris Carpenter gave up two runs in the second inning and one in the third.

The Brewers came back to win Game 4 to tie the series 2-2.  The score was 4-2.  The Cardinals runs came on solo home runs by Matt Holliday and Allen Craig.  Kyle Lohse took the loss.  This author was present at that game, sitting in the third deck, first row, directly behind home plate.

Game 5 was the final game in St. Louis, which the Cardinals won, 7-1. All seven Cardinals runs came via small ball or Brewers errors, of which there were four.  The winning pitcher was reliever Octavio Dotel.  Zack Greinke was the loser.

Game 6 moved back to Milwaukee.  It ended in a 12-6 blowout by the Cardinals and an advancement to the World Series.  David Freese hit a three-run home run, Rafael Furcal added a solo home run, and Albert Pujols launched a two-run shot.  The win again came off Brewers starter Shaun Marcum, the Game 2 loser. St. Louis’ winner was reliever Marc (“Scrabble”) Rzepczynski.  The Cardinals had 14 hits.  The Brewers again were killed by errors, as they committed three.

2011 NLCS win (Jeff Cutty/USA TODAY Sports Images)

The Cardinals went on to win the World Series in seven games over the Texas Rangers.  The memorable Game 6 made David Freese a St. Louis hero forever.


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