Honestly, Mike didn’t have a whole lot of choice.
On the day that his most productive outfielder (Dexter Fowler) landed on the IL for an indeterminate amount of time, the game came down to two of the youngsters vying for that lineup spot.
The game against the Reds is tied at three in the ninth inning. A single off the bat of Brad Miller and a walk to Paul DeJong set things in motion. Yadier Molina then bunted the runners to second and third.
If there were any moment in this chain of events that I would like to have back, it would be this one. Yadi has carried one of the team’s hottest bats recently. He had already contributed a home run earlier in the game, and was hitting .303 on the season. Given this as a do-over, I might want to let Molina swing away. It is, however, also true that Yadi is a profound double-play threat. In just 76 at bats, Yadi has already bounced into 7 (nearly one third of the teams’ total for the year). So, the thinking is that rather than risk the double play taking all the starch out of the inning, a bunt could push the lead run to a position where he could score on a fly ball. Cincinnati answered the bunt by intentionally walking Matt Carpenter, leaving the game squarely on the shoulders Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas.
At this point, there was some chatter about a pinch-hitter or two. To his credit, manager Mike Shildt left his young prospects to face Cincy closer Raisel Iglesias and his high-ninties fastball. It wasn’t, though, like he had a whole lot of choice. Left on his bench was Harrison Bader (.196), Dylan Carlson (.176), the just-re-activated Rangel Ravelo (0-for-2 on the season) and backup catcher Andrew Knizner (4-for-16 on the season).
O’Neill has put up big home run numbers in the minor leagues, but has yet to overcome his strikeout problem in the majors. When he went down on three pitches, it marked his twentieth strikeout on the season in just 73 at bats.
Then it was Thomas’ turn. Lane burst brightly onto the scene late in 2019. Before he broke his hand on August 27, Thomas hit .316 with 4 home runs in just 38 at bats. He was especially good (in a short sample, of course) with two outs. He was 6-for-16 (.375) with 2 home runs and 7 runs batted in in that circumstance.
But 2019 was a long time ago.
Fowler takes a .279 batting average, 4 home runs, and a .485 slugging percentage with him to the IL. If he plays again this season, it’s anyone’s guess whether he can pick up where he left off. In the bigger picture, Dexter is 34 (and will be 35 next year in the last year of his contract). For good or ill, Dexter is not the future.
And so it will be the stripling outfield – Bader, Carlson, O’Neill, Thomas, and eventually Austin Dean and Justin Williams. There could be some struggles in the short term. But in the long term this may be the best thing to happen for the Cards. While none of these gentlemen is especially established in the show, all have excellent minor league pedigrees. Save for the depth of pitching, these outfielders represent the pride of the organization. Three of the six need to show that they can hit big-league pitching, and this opportunity coming sooner rather than later may be a blessing in disguise.
Last night, it didn’t work out that way. But somebody will grab this opportunity.
St Louis has now lost 5 of its last 8 games, and this in spite of Brad Miller’s best efforts to keep the team afloat. Brad had two hits (one a home run) and a walk last night. He now has had 35 plate appearances over the last 8 games with the following production: 3 singles, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, and 8 walks (1 intentional) – a batting line of .333/.486/.815. He has scored 6 times and driven in 8 during the 8 games.
Miller has been batting fourth, but might be eyeing a leadoff spot. Both of his hits came with no one out, and over the last 8 games, he is a .455 hitter (5 for 11) and a 1.364 slugger (3 home runs and a double) batting with no one out. For the season, Brad has a .385/.543/.885 batting line with no one out. He is 10 for 26 with 4 of his 5 home runs.
Another hot hitter, recently, Paul DeJong was saddled with an 0-for-2 last night, but he did draw walks in both of his plate appearances with no one out. For the season, Paul has a .393 on base percentage when batting with no one out.
His ninth-inning intentional walk was the highlight of Matt Carpenter’s 0-for-3 evening. Carpenter has played in 7 of the last 8 games, collecting 2 singles in 23 at bats (.087). He is still walking. Yesterday’s was his sixth in his last 7 games, and his thirteenth in his last 13 games. Toss in 3 hit-by-pitches, and Matt carries a .370 on-base percentage over those 13 games – albeit with a .105 batting average (4 for 38).
Genesis Cabrera walked two more batters in what, otherwise, was a spotless two innings in relief last night. In 10.1 innings so far this year, he has walked 7 and hit 2 others. But control notwithstanding, Genesis has started to settle in. Over his last 6 appearances (8 innings) Cabrera has been touched for 1 earned run on 4 hits. The last 32 hitters he’s faced are hitting just .077 against him. And 9 have struck out.
Austin Gomber is one of the reason why (at .173) the Cardinal pitching staff has the lowest batting average against them with two outs. Batters are now 1 for 15 (.067) against Austin with two outs after he struck out Matt Davidson to end the eighth inning last night.
Aided by the blowout win in the second game, the Cards scored their most runs in any series so far this year with 26. The previous high had been the 21 they scored in the first series against the Cubs. That – of course – was a five-game series. The previous high in a three-game series was the 19 they scored against Kansas City.
Brad Miller connected on his third home run in two games last night. He also drew a walk – his sixteenth of the season. All of last year, in 79 games and 170 plate appearances, Brad only walked 15 times.
My Designated Hitter Rant
As the DH seems to be a real threat in the near future – and many expect it to be universal and permanent by 2022 if not sooner – I am going to include the link to my DH rant at the bottom of all my baseball posts this year (and next, probably). If you have already read it, you should know that I added a section on July 30 after the Cards first five games with the DH. Here is the link. If this idiocy is to become law, I want to do everything I can to make sure as many people as possible understand why this is wrong.