Five things about the Reds Series

The St. Louis Cardinals wrapped up their season series against the Cincinnati Reds with a sweep to put their season record against the Reds at 10-9. When play wrapped up last night the Cardinals are80-72 and 5 games out of the NL Central, but find themselves 1.5 games behind the Colorado Rockies for the second Wild Card.

The Cardinals head to Pittsburgh where they will play a three game series this weekend against the Pirates before heading home for four against the Cubs and three against the Brewers to finish out the season.

Pham is the first Cardinals’ player since 1900 (and maybe first Cardinal ever) to hit 20 home runs, 20 doubles, steal 20 bases, and (working on) hit .300 in a season. When the Cardinals shared this tidbit of information, Tommy Pham was at 19 doubles and a couple nights later he hit a pair of doubles to help drive the Cardinals to victory. He went 6-for-15 in the series with 2 walks.

Assuming Pham plays in all 10 games to finish out the season, assuming he bats second and maintains his 13% walk rate, Pham should get about 40 at bats over the final 10 games of the season. That would mean he needs to go 8-for-40 at the plate over the final 10 games to maintain that .300 batting average.

You go, we go. Dexter Fowler put together a good series for the Cardinals as it appears he has supplanted Paul DeJong as the team’s #3 hitter of the moment. Fowler went 7-for-13 in the series with two walks, two home runs, and three doubles. Fowler is now batting .270/.367/.504 for the season.

It’s safe to say that while Fowler has not been the player we expected him to be when the Cardinals signed him last winter, he has still been good. His .270 batting average is above his career average, his .367 OBP is right at career average, and his .504 slugging percentage is a career high. So are the 18 home runs.

Health and defense have been his major drawbacks, but those could be alleviated with a regular offseason and perhaps a move to left field.

Weaver continues to roll. Luke Weaver has arrived at the perfect time for the Cardinals this season. With the injury to Adam Wainwright, Weaver stepped into that rotation spot and hasn’t skipped a beat. Dating back to August 2nd, the Cardinals have won all 8 games in which Weaver has taken the mound and 7 straight starts. Over those 44.2 innings, Weaver has a 1.61 ERA and 0.96 WHIP.

There are no breaks for him either as his next start is expected to come on Monday against the Cubs and then he should get one in the Brewers series to finish up the season.

Other than against Cincinnati, Juan Nicasio has been pretty good. Nicasio has a 3.18 ERA since joining the Cardinals earlier in September to go along with a 1.06 WHIP. In 5.2 innings he has allowed just 2 earned runs, both of those to Cincinnati. And both in games the Cardinals won. With the way he’s been pitching, he’ll be a large part of the equation if the Cardinals make the playoffs and there will likely be a glaring hole come October when he’s ineligible.

Flaherty moved to the bullpen. The move of Jack Flaherty to the bullpen after he posted a 6.46 ERA over the first four starts of his MLB career probably spells the end of the season for the right handed former first round pick. He made it through five innings just once in those four starts, but he’s also thrown 164 innings and 29 starts which is a tremendous amount of innings for a rookie. Hopefully he came up, learned some lessons and will come back next season like Weaver has done this year.

In his place the Cardinals will start John Gant, which doesn’t have me too inspired. I guess Wainwright is more injured than anyone has let on since he’s been available out of the bullpen this week and hasn’t found the mound. Gant had a 3.83 ERA in 18 starts for Memphis this season and had a 4.80 ERA over 7 starts for Atlanta last year.

Five things about the Brewers Series

It was a short two-day set against the division rival Milwaukee Brewers and the Cardinals successfully(?) split it, winning the opener 10-2 before falling in the finale 5-6. With the loss, the Cardinals fall now 6 games back in the NL Central behind the Cubs. It is the furthest back they’ve been since July 16th when they finished play 6.5 games back.

Wham, Pham

Tommy Pham went deep twice in the series finale, driving in four of the Cardinals’ five runs on his 18th and 19th home runs in the 1st and 8th innings, respectively. Pham went 4-for-8 in the series with 2 walks and 4 RBI. He is hitting .316/.423/.525 since the All Star Break. His 4.6 fWAR in 103 games ranks him the 20th best position player in baseball and all except Mike Trout (5.8 in 87 games), Carlos Correa (4.7 in 84 games), and Bryce Harper (4.7 in 106 games) have played 20+ more games than him.

The shut down bullpen

In both games against Milwaukee, the bullpen brought it. On Tuesday they threw 3.1 innings and allowed just one hit. On Wednesday, they threw 2.1 perfect innings. If, and granted it is a big if, the Cardinals still have some hope of making a run at this thing, they’ll need performances like this out of the bullpen.

Weaver looks good

Luke Weaver made his fourth start of the season and went 5.2 innings and allowed 2 runs. He became the first Cardinals rookie pitcher to strike out 10 batters in back-to-back starts since Rick Ankiel, which isn’t bad company for a rookie. In his four big league starts this season he has a 3.00 ERA in 24 innings. That goes nicely with the 2.55 ERA he had in 15 starts in Memphis.

Homers for Houston

Matt Carpenter, who went to high school in Missouri City, TX, a suburb of Houston, said that he would donate $10,000 for each home run he hit the rest of the season to relief efforts. Adam Wainwright said he’d match it and so did the Cardinals. Carpenter would go deep for his 18th home run of the season in the 5th inning off Carlos Torres.

I can’t even be mad

Two out in the top of the 9th and Randal Grichuk gets a hold of one to center field, but there’s Keon Broxton jumping at the wall to rob the would-be go ahead home run. It would have put the Cards on top at least 7-6 headed to the bottom. But a game saving, home run robbing catch? I can’t even get mad.

Weaver optioned to Memphis

The Cardinals announced today that they have optioned RHP Luke Weaver to Memphis and recalled RHP Sam Tuivailala ahead of today’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Weaver heads back to Memphis following the best start of his brief MLB career. On Wednesday he allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8 in 6.1 innings of work against the Milwaukee Brewers. He made two starts in St. Louis while covering for Adam Wainwright who is on the disabled list and expected to return this weekend in Cincinnati.

This will be Tuivailala’s fifth stint with the big league club this season as he is called up to support the bullpen. He has a 2.40 ERA over 20 appearances with St. Louis this season, allowing a 1.19 WHIP and striking out 8.1 per nine. During his last stint he posted a 0.90 ERA and 0.90 WHIP while striking out 10 in 10 innings of work. While in Memphis since, he threw five scoreless innings in four appearances.

I’d expect him to be returned to Memphis this weekend when the club activates Adam Wainwright in his return to the rotation.

Weaver, Mejia optioned; Wong returns

The Cardinals made a handful of roster moves yesterday. First they traded outfielder Todd Cunningham to the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations. Then they optioned right handed pitcher Luke Weaver and infielder Alex Mejia to Memphis. And finally they called up Kolten Wong from his rehab assignment. There will still be one move to be made since this leaves the Cardinals’ active roster at 24 players, but it’s expected that it will be left handed reliever Zach Duke.

Cunningham, 28, was signed to a minor league deal before the season and has hit .270/.401/.400 with 4 home runs in 76 games for Memphis this season. Likely left out in a roster squeeze in Memphis between prospects, this is a minor deal as Cunningham was unlikely to play for the big league club.

Luke Weaver pitched two scoreless appearances in St. Louis during his short cup of coffee as he will return to Memphis where he has a 1.93 ERA and 7-1 record over 11 starts.

Alex Mejia hit .214/.214/.429 with a home run in his brief time with the Cardinals. His playing time tailed off at the end when the Cardinals elected to try Matt Carpenter at second base to get Luke Voit in the lineup, but he will always have July 1st against the Nationals where Mejia single-handedly provided the offense in a 2-1 victory.

This brings Kolten Wong back to the big league roster and into an interesting lineup situation, which I discussed a little in a column today. Wong had a team best .301 batting average and .393 on base percentage when he hit the disabled list in mid-June.

The transactions leave the Cardinals with a 24 man roster and it’s expected that the final spot will go to left handed reliever Zach Duke. Duke was acquired last summer for Charlie Tilson and had a 1.93 ERA over 23.1 innings out of the Cardinals’ bullpen down the stretch. Unfortunately, Duke underwent Tommy John surgery after the season.

Duke has made five rehab appearances in the minors, posting five scoreless innings allowing 3 hits and a walk.

Weaver returns as Mayers gets optioned

The St. Louis Cardinals have optioned right handed pitcher Mike Mayers to Memphis and recalled right handed pitcher Luke Weaver for the first time this season.

Mayers will return to Memphis having once again struggled to keep the opposing team off the scoreboard in the Majors. He allowed two earned runs over 4 innings of work between two appearances, allowing an earned run in each. Though it should be noted that in his most recent appearance, he made it through two scoreless innings before allowing a run in his third inning of work.

Weaver, a former first round pick of the Cardinals, is expected to make his 2017 big league debut out of the bullpen. He holds a 1.93 ERA and a 7-1 record in 11 starts for Memphis this season.

He had recently been named to the Pacific Coast League All Star team and was the PCL’s Pitcher of the Month in May.

During his debut with the Cardinals last year he made eight starts for the big league Cardinals with a 4.54 ERA but averaged just 4.5 innings per start. He made one relief appearance, allowing 5 earned runs over 0.2 innings of work.

I campaigned heavily for Weaver’s call up last year, because I liked that he was dominating at every level he hit. But I’ve been uncertain about his promotion this year since he demonstrated he still had developing to do. But he has improved and should likely be able to be a good piece for the St. Louis bullpen.

Weaver and Harris optioned to minors

The Cardinals continued trimming their roster today, announcing that pitchers Luke Weaver and Mitch Harris have been optioned to minor league camp. That reduces the number of players in major league camp to 51.

Luke Weaver, 23, dominated the minors last season, posting a 1.30 ERA over 13 starts between Double-A Spingfield and Triple-A Memphis. However, he struggled to find traction in the Majors when called up to step into the Cardinals’ rotation last summer, posting a 5.70 ERA over 8 starts, 1 relief appearance, and 36 innings.

He was likely always going to be ticketed to open the season in Memphis and was more or less jockeying for a position on the depth chart for a midseason callup. But he will need to continue to work, as this spring he struggled in his 4 appearances for the big league club, posting a 12.60 ERA on a 3.00 WHIP in 5 innings.

Mitch Harris, 31, did not pitch last season for the Cardinals after undergoing UCL reconstruction surgery. In 2015, he had a 3.67 ERA on a 1.59 WHIP over 27 innings in St. Louis and a 3.38 ERA on a 1.50 WHIP over 27 innings in Memphis.

Harris made just two appearances for the big league club this year, posting a 9.00 ERA and 3.00 WHIP over 2 innings of work. He will likely start the season in Memphis again and be on the list for a midseason callup in the need of relief help.

Cardinals land four players on midseason Baseball America’s Top-100 Prospects

Baseball America published their midseason update to their Top-100 prospects list and it featured four Cardinals prospects. Here’s who we’ve got.

#2 – RHP Alex Reyes

Alex Reyes was ranked #7 by Baseball America before the season began, and his numbers aren’t quite what most likely expected. Though the prospect list makers still like him, Reyes has a 4.35 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 9 starts for Triple-A Memphis since returning from his 50 game suspension for marijuana in May. While he struggled through June, he had his best start of the season on Monday, allowing just 1 run and striking out 9 over 6 2/3 innings of work.

#75 – RHP Luke Weaver

Luke Weaver was unranked before the season began and, after a late start to the season following a broken wrist, has come out and excelled in Double-A Springfield. The 22 year old Weaver, who was the 27th pick of the 2014 draft by the Cardinals, has a 0.83 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 7 starts for Springfield. His walk rate and strikeout rate have both improved over last season. Weaver was the Cardinals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month for June.

#88 – RHP Jack Flaherty

Another 2014 first rounder (34th pick) by the Cardinals is 20 year old Jack Flaherty. Flaherty was ranked #80 before the season began so he has fallen a few spots. In his second full professional season, Flaherty has a 3.82 ERA and 1.34 WHIP over 14 starts for High-A Palm Beach. Over his last five starts though, Flaherty has a 1.70 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.

#89 – OF Harrison Bader

A third round pick from the 2015 draft, Harrison Bader quickly established his bat last season, hitting 11 home runs in 61 games between Low-A State College and Mid-A Peoria. He got a promotion to Springfield this season and got off to a hot start, hitting .379 with 7 home runs in his first 30 games this season and was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Month in April. He has struggled since, but his overall slash line still sits at a respectable .283/.346/.485 with 13 HR and 12 doubles in 75 games. He was promoted this week to Triple-A Memphis and is 2-for-10 in two games.