Five things about the Brewers Series
The Brewers came to town and busted the Cardinals’ win-loss pattern by taking two of the three games of the series. The Cardinals head to Atlanta 13-14 after an 8 game home stand where they went 4-4. It has to be a disappointment for a club that was coming back to town having won six of the previous seven games and looking to put a run together. Each of their four losses were winnable, losing three of the games by one run and another by two. Two of those losses came in extra innings.
The Cardinals now head to Atlanta for three games and then Miami for three games, before returning to St. Louis to face the Cubs again. They are currently 2.5 games behind the Cubs and need to play well over the next week to keep within striking distance. It was during the first two months of the season that the Cubs put the pedal down and walked away with the division last season. The Cardinals can’t afford to let that happen again.
Here are my five things.
Wong just continues to rake
Last night Kolten Wong had his first three hit game of the season and flashed all his tools. He stole a base, bunted for a hit, and flashed the glove. His slash line so far this season is up to .303/.398/.500.
Since the Cardinals committed to Wong at second base after they came home from being swept in New York, Wong has hit .388/.474/.653 with 6 doubles, 2 triples, and a home run. He has 9 RBI to go along with 9 runs scored.
FOX Sports Midwest did a pregame bit with Wong and Mike Matheny about their relationship and how it’s improved over the last little bit, which has potentially provided Kolten more confidence to play aggressively and we’re now seeing it. In his fourth at bat last night he got out, but as my UCB Podcast co-host Kevin Reynolds put it, he was practically drooling at the plate.
His defense needs to be cleaned up. He was ripped pretty hard following an error in the 10th inning of Monday night’s game, but he had driven in the tying run in the bottom of the 8th. Without him they would have lost in 9 instead of 10 innings. But regardless, he’s put up a -3.6 UZR in 203 defensive innings at second base so far this season. He was a +7.1 UZR in 635 defensive innings last season, so it’s important to remember that his defensive play so far this season is uncharacteristic.
It may not have been Star Wars Night, but that Star Wars “May the Fourth be with you” mojo was in full effect as both Stephen Piscotty and Dexter Fowler exited last night’s game early. Piscotty exited the game with an apparent hamstring injury while running out a ground ball in the bottom of the second. Fowler would exit after the third inning.
It forced some interesting defensive alignment as Aledmys Diaz made his professional debut in left field. It went uneventfully for him. No awkward dives to be found.
It’s trouble for the Cardinals if these guys are out for any real length of time. Fowler had just recently turned the corner and was beginning to hit and while Piscotty was still searching, he is expected to be a big part of this club’s offensive attack. Now it seems like the organization will be turning to Tommy Pham, who was lifted from tonight’s game in Memphis and is likely on his way to Atlanta to catch up with the team while they figure out what they need to do.
Pham is hitting .283 with 4 home runs and 19 RBI in 25 games for Memphis so far this season. He’s also had stretches where he’s done stuff like that in the Majors as well, like in September 2015 and over the summer of 2016. However he’s also gone through stretches where he’s been unable to put the ball in play on a regular basis.
But with his future cloudy, this may be the opportunity that Pham has been waiting for to prove he can stick and stay healthy. Both have been easier said than done for the 29 year old outfielder.
The Cardinals are also sending Jhonny Peralta out on a rehab assignment to Palm Beach. Matheny says he will play third base and shortstop to help him get his at bats in. But there seems to also be some undercurrent that he could see time in left field, a position he did play a little bit in his final season with the Tigers.
He’ll reinvent his game when the hitters tell him it’s time. Well, it might be time. Once again, Adam Wainwright put together a decent start… except for that one inning. His last time out it was a four run spot in the fifth inning against Toronto. Tonight it was a three run spot in the third as he gave back the three runs the Cardinals clawed out in the bottom of the second.
Two starts ago against these same Brewers he gave us his best start of the season, allowing just 2 earned runs over 5 innings of work with no walks and nine strikeouts. But the Brewers were ready for him this time. In five innings last night, Wainwright allowed four runs on 10 hits and three walks.
Through six starts he has a 6.30 ERA, which is a slight improvement over the 6.68 ERA he had after six starts last year. But he was clearly showing signs of going in the right direction last year. This year he is battling for each and every out in every inning. That’s just not a recipe for success.
Worries about Bowman?
Early this season Matthew Bowman was the unhittable man out in the bullpen, and about the only guy out there capable of getting consistent outs. That led to a lot of work, but Mike Matheny managed to keep him from working back-to-back days on a regular basis. He actually only did that twice, and the first time it was just for one batter and he threw three pitches and got the out.
But now Bowman has had some struggles lately. His once perfect ERA is now up to 3.95 as he has allowed six earned runs in his past four appearances. It’s the first time he’s allowed runs in three out of any four appearances in his big league career. And just the third time he’s allowed runs in back-to-back appearances as well.
Whether being used too much (14 appearances, 12.1 innings in April) or just rust tonight (hasn’t pitched in four days), it’s something to keep an eye on.
Rain, rain, go away!
The rain delayed Wednesday night’s game to give the Cardinals yet another doubleheader. This makes four Cardinals games that have been cancelled by rain this season. I can’t remember another season having so many games impacted by rain, especially in this short a span of time. There’s been lots of rain and flooding in eastern Missouri, so there are more important problems than baseball, but I think everyone can agree that they could use a break from the rain in St. Louis.
Bonus: Second time is a charm
I pointed this out on Twitter earlier and it might have made a larger piece if Fowler hadn’t have gotten hurt. But after his two RBI triple in the second inning, Dexter Fowler increased his batting average in his second AB of a game to .400 with an .860 slugging percentage. He is down to .160 in his first at bat of a game.