St. Louis Cardinals: Cardinals held at bay by Hammel, fall to Royals

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ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 22: Yairo Munoz #34 of the St. Louis Cardinals is caught stealing second base by Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals in the fourth inning at Busch Stadium on May 22, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 22: Yairo Munoz #34 of the St. Louis Cardinals is caught stealing second base by Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals in the fourth inning at Busch Stadium on May 22, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals put together yet another poor offensive outing against a struggling pitcher, losing 5-1 to Jason Hammel and the Kansas City Royals.

Jason Hammel came into the game with an ERA over six, yet the St. Louis Cardinals were simply ineffective against him. While they were able to string together nine hits, all were singles, and were only able to score a run on an odd-looking bait play that neither runner fully looked committed to until the Royals made an error.

The Fowler-Carpenter pair at the 1-2 spots didn’t work particularly well for St. Louis, mainly due to Dexter Fowler‘s struggles. He was unquestionably the worst player on the field, and looked like he has no direction at the plate. This is no more epitomized than in his last at-bat of the night. He took two obvious balls, then got to a 3-0 count on a borderline call that went in his favor. However, Fowler swung at the next pitch and flew out to left.

Matt Carpenter hit the ball hard, but he also hit the ball into the shift way too much. He continues to pull the ball at a 45% rate, and teams are playing into it. He is on a hot streak and is making progress, but he will need to diversify his hit location as he did earlier in his career if he is going to be able to hit.

Jose Martinez took a nasty bean ball to the ribs tonight, but was mildly disappointing otherwise. While he made decent contact, got hits, and had a steal of home that flashed good base running instincts there was no doubt that he missed some pitches and some opportunities to go yard. With a guy like Hammel on the mound, we need more from Martinez.

Marcel Ozuna had an encouraging game tonight, as he saw the ball well and made enough contact to record hits. While he didn’t get the ball squarely on the bat tonight and consequently couldn’t drive the ball very far, he still put himself in a position to succeed, and might have been the best hitter tonight.

Tyler O’Neill had very discouraging at-bats, but a very encouraging one as well. While the strikeouts were as ugly as you can get, O’Neill was able to hit against a left side overload shift. For a guy known mainly for power and not bat control or discipline, this is a wonderful sign.

Kolten Wong had a typical Kolten Wong game. He was great on defense, making a great reactionary catch and overall put in solid work. However, he looked mediocre at best at the plate, and didn’t really look like he had a chance to hit anything tonight.

Along with Ozuna, Anthony Munoz was one of the other bright spots in the offense. He took the pitches that were coming to him, and didn’t sit on good pitches or whiff at bad ones. This resulted in some good, slapstick hits off of a pitcher that should’ve given up more.

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Unfortunately, both Francisco Pena and Mike Matheny made it difficult for Munoz to score, as Pena’s poor hitting paired with Matheny’s poor decisions caused Munoz to get caught stealing twice.

He made good contact early in his first at-bat, but looked completely outmatched from that point on. I know we can’t expect much from Pena, but looking like a fool against Hammel is alarming.

Weaver put together a solid outing, though he made really big misses. The two home runs that he gave up were pitches that soared just a bit off course into a sweet spot for a batter, and he struggled somewhat from the stretch. However, he was efficient for the most part, and got an unlucky break on a great hit from Alex Gordon on a good low fastball.

Brett Cecil also had an encouraging outing. While it wasn’t perfect, he made some pitches and got the job done. It’s nothing to holler home about, but if he can keep up his recent performance, the Cardinals money in him might not be as lost as many Cardinals fans think it is.

The topic of the night is Greg Holland, and not for a good reason. Brought into a lower leverage situation, he couldn’t locate his slider again, and the problems that have plagued him as a Cardinal continued to rear its ugly head. Holland ended up loading the bases without getting any outs, and the game soon became out of reach.

The question of what to do with Holland is a big topic swirling through the Cardinals’ minds after this game. I don’t think it’s time to give up on Holland yet, but he needs to be kept out of close games in the 9th inning until further notice. He needs to re-acclimate in the lowest of stress environments, and while its not ideal, it’s better than $14 million in dead money. Holland certainly has the talent, so the Cardinals shouldn’t give up until all possible options have been used.

Next: Official podcast episode 2.11

Was this game the final straw for Holland in your eyes? How concerned are you with Fowler after this game? What needs to change for this offense to succeed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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