It was one of those great “agonizing” decisions that you sign up for as a manager.
It’s the top of the sixth of a 2-2 game. Cardinal starter, Miles Mikolas, has pitched five respectable innings in the midst of two fairly nasty streaks. The Cardinal bullpen has surrendered runs in eight straight games. It has been seven games since the Cards last had a quality start – a distinction that Mikolas was one inning away from.
But, Miles was up to bat with two outs and runners at first and second, and the quandary was right before rookie interim manager Mike Shildt. If Mikolas hits, the scoring chance may go down the drain. But, Miles had only thrown 74 pitches. He might be good for one or two more innings.
On the other hand, even if Miles does throw two more innings, you will still have to turn to the bullpen at some point – and at that point, every run you can get your hands on will be worth its weight in gold.
So, Mike went for the run. He sent Jedd Gyorko to pinch hit. After Jedd grounded out, out came the bullpen.
Four innings later, Yadier Molina’s flyball to right ended the 7-2 Chicago victory (box score). The bullpen’s evening read 3 innings pitched, 5 runs on 6 hits (including a game-changing home run), 3 walks, 1 hit batsman, 2 strikeouts, and 1 wild pitch.
Basically, par for the course.
After a very encouraging 14-2 drubbing of the White Sox on July 10, the Cards have now lost 6 of the last 9 games, due in no small part to a collapsing bullpen. The numbers give context to the atrocious state of things.
Over the last 9 games, St Louis relievers have thrown 33 eventful innings. Those innings have seen opposing hitters pile up 37 runs (35 earned) on 53 hits (that is not a misprint) and 20 walks. The bullpen ERA over these innings is a horrific 9.55 (the starters have managed a more-than-decent 3.68 ERA in those same games). The batting line against this august group is a disturbing .366/.450/.510.
Eighteen games into the month of July, the Cardinal team ERA has swollen to 5.05. In 96.2 innings this month, the Cardinal starters have accounted for a 3.63 ERA and a .233/.317/.341 batting line against.
In 58.1 innings, the bullpen has mostly negated all of that fine effort. Their ERA over the course of the whole month is 7.41, with a .325/.401/.443 batting line against.
Mike Shildt – all things considered – hasn’t done too bad at the helm of this team. His team is decisively in his corner – and he might even have the makings of a fine, fine manager.
Mike’s biggest problem right now is that he has inherited the same fading team that got his predecessor fired. When they brought Shildt in, the management group defended the move by saying that the team needed to hear “a different message.” If this organization has a “bullpen whisperer” somewhere, they would be well advised to locate him quickly.
Yes, Matt Carpenter’s home run streak came to an end. The two streaks that threaten to define the rest of the Cardinal season roll merrily on.
It had been 366 pitches delivered to 90 batters over 23.1 innings since the last time Mike Mayers had allowed a home run. Four pitches into that 91st plate appearance – with the score still tied at 2 and Kyle Schwarber up – Mike served up the home run that decided the contest.
Mayers has now allowed runs in 4 of his last 7 games – surrendering a total of 7 runs over his last 9.1 innings.
Heading into the Cub series, Brett Cecil had allowed just 1 earned run in his previous 11 innings, with a .184 batting average against.
He appeared twice against Chicago, with eerily similar results – 3 runs allowed in one-third of an inning. The first time no one cared – Brett was just mopping up in the 18-5 victory on Friday. Last night, his collapse allowed a still-close game to spin away.
In the increasing rubble of the Cardinal season, Yadier Molina continues to be a beacon. Since being moved into the second spot in the lineup, Yadi – who had two hits last night – is hitting .389 (7 for 18). He is hitting .333 so far in July.
With a single and a double last night, Yairo has hit safely in each of the last 10 games in which he has had an at bat. Yairo is 13 for 34 in those games (.389). The hits include 2 doubles and 3 home runs (.706 slugging). He has 11 RBIs in those 34 at bats.
The Cards open their seventeenth road series tonight in Cincinnati. As befits a team with a 26-25 road record, the Cards are 5-5-6 in their previous 16 road series.
This is also the seventh time this season that the Cards have lost the first game of a series before pushing the series to a rubber game. They are now 2-5 in those rubber games.
This was the sixth time this season that St Louis has played a rubber game against a team that had won its previous series. The Cards have now lost 5 of the 6.