When the Cardinals’ plane landed in Denver prior to last Tuesday’s game against the Rockies, St Louis had won 23 of 30 games and climbed from 3.5 games behind in the division to 4 games ahead.
But the magic seems to have vanished somewhere over the mountains. Last night they were pushed around by Washington, 6-2 (box score) their fifth loss in the last eight games.
And so, the division is still sitting there for the taking. The Cardinal lead is down now to just two games over both Chicago and Milwaukee. St Louis has 11 games left – only four at home. Increasingly, it is looking that the 2019 National League Central Division will be decided in Wrigley Field beginning Thursday night.
All but on life-support when they arrived in St Louis, the Milwaukee Brewers – after taking two of three from the Cards – are now well positioned to make the playoffs again. While they do end the season with six games on the road, the Brewers have no winning teams left on their schedule. As long as they take care of the business before them, they will almost certainly gain on either the Cards or the Cubs, as those two teams will play each other seven more times before the season ends.
And if those games are fairly even divided, Milwaukee could easily swoop in and take the division. To say the least, it will be a very interesting two weeks.
Marcell Ozuna, of course, was the hero of the Monday game – his home run and double accounting for all the Cardinal offense. He followed that performance with an 0-for-3 last night. Unfortunately, that latter result has been much more the norm than his Monday show.
Over his last 19 games, Marcell has had multiple hits in just 2, while being held hitless in 12 of them. Marcell is 9 for his last 69 (.130). Counting his 4 on Monday, Ozuna has 9 runs batted in over those 19 games.
He is now a .155 hitter for the month (9 for 58).
Marcell – who was 0-for-2 against Washington starter Patrick Corbin – has been one of the most prominent right-handed bats that have never really punished left-handed pitching. He is 13 for 72 (.181) against lefties. He hit .314/.362/.533 against them last year.
There was more damage done to the bullpen last night, as a 3-2 game got out of hand over the last two innings. The Cardinal bullpen has slumped to a 4.67 ERA this month.
But in the midst of this trouble, Giovanny Gallegos – who was dinged for a couple of runs over a few recent games – has started to look very much like his old self. He pitched to 4 batters last night, and struck out 3 of them. Giovanny holds a 1.29 ERA in the second half over 28 innings.
Much valued for his ability to dominate left-handed batters, Gallegos struck out both he faced last night. Lefties are now 0 for 12 with 7 strikeouts against Giovanny this month, and 4 for 45 (.089) with 19 strikeouts in the second half.
It was when John Gant entered the game that things started to go seriously awry, as John continues to regress severely from his early season dominance. Gant faced two batters, giving a hit and a walk. One of the runners scored after he left the game. John has seen runs scored against him in 5 of his last 10 games, a 7.1 inning span that has seen him give 10 runs (9 earned) on 10 hits and 11 walks (1 intentional). He has allowed the last 42 batters to face him a .323 batting average and a .500 on base percentage.
He is up to 6.86 with the ERA in the second half.
St Louis has now lost 3 of the last 5 quality starts they’ve received from their rotation. It brings them to 48-22 on the season in games in which they’ve received a quality start.
They have now lost more quality starts than any Cardinal team since the 2016 team finished 56-24 in those games. They are now up to 31.4% of these games lost – the highest rate since the 2014 team (62-29) lost 31.9% of the time they got a quality start.
In allowing one of the two runners he inherited to score, Ryan Helsley has now seen 6 of his 11 inherited runners cross the plate (54.5%).
St Louis had scored first in six consecutive games prior to last night.