The St. Louis Cardinals ended their West Coast road trip with a three-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine.
Expectations ran high as the two clubs with postseason aspirations met for the first time this season and it met those expectations and then some. The St. Louis Cardinals ultimately went 1-2 in the series with the Dodgers but 5-5 for the road trip.
The Dodgers won Monday 9-4, the Cardinals took Tuesday’s contest 3-2 and lost Wednesday 14-3.
Let’s discuss the good, bad, and ugly from this series.
Tyler O’Neill had a great series at the plate and patrolling left field. On Monday night, he launched a 108.3 mph, 414-foot homer off Trevor Bauer in the seventh inning.
In the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game, O’Neill singled off of reliever Blake Treinen. He then stole second base and sprinted home to score the game-winning run thanks to a single off the bat of Edmundo Sosa.
The Gold Glove-winning left fielder then made a jaw-dropping, game-saving catch to secure the only victory for the Cardinals in the ninth.
Such an awesome play by O’Neill!
O’Neill wasn’t alone with the defensive gems, Tommy Edman and Dylan Carlson also made some flashy plays with their glove in this series.
It’s also good to see Carlson break out of his home run slump this roadtrip, hitting two in the Dodgers series. On Monday, he also knocked a homer off Trevor Bauer. The blast went 392 feet with an exit velocity of 101.5 mph. Justin Williams had a huge blast earlier in that same inning 416 feet at 115 mph, off the foul pole.
Off the foul pole and 115 off the bat! pic.twitter.com/dRYLMTG9mm
Nice swing for Williams. Even nicer to see Bauer get rattled.
In Wednesday’s game, the Cardinals took an early lead with a solo shot from Paul Goldschmidt that traveled 422 feet to center field. In the third inning, Nolan Arenado broke out of his slump with a ground-rule double to right field, scoring Carlson then in the fifth inning, Carlson hit his sixth homer of the season 365 feet to right field.
St. Louis Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty exited Monday’s game after five innings with what has been reported by Katie J. Woo of The Athletic as a “significant” injury to his left oblique. Robert Murray also wrote about the injury here.
This is gut-punching news for a pitching staff that has already experienced significant injury issues in this young season. While Flaherty was put on the 10-day injured list, he does not have a time table for his return and could face a lengthy stay on the shelf.
Prior to his exit, Flaherty threw 83 pitches giving up two earned runs – back to back home runs in the second inning to Gavin Lux and Chris Taylor. He also struck out nine batters.
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Right hander Johan Oviedo was called up from Memphis to take Flaherty’s roster spot. So far, Oviedo has only been called upon to take spot starts. The tall righty’s performance is not stellar by any means; he pitches more as a stop gap. Oviedo has pitched in five games, starting four. He’s thrown 20 innings, giving up 17 hits and 13 runs, 12 of which were earned. While he has struck out 16 batters, he’s also walked 15, hit two batters and threw one wild pitch. He has a 27.4% CSW, which is about average.
With Flaherty and Miles Mikolas both out for a significant periods of time, it’s time for more than just a stop-gap. Whether it’s to try out Daniel Ponce de Leon or Jake Woodford as another stop-gap starter, bring up one of the arms from Memphis or make a trade, it’s time for the front office to make a serious move. He may get more chances, but the Oviedo starter experiment is close to an end and the Cardinals need to step up and make a move to help the pitching staff.
The bullpen continued to be an ugly concern especially after Flaherty’s exit from Monday’s game.
During the first third of the sixth inning, Ryan Helsley threw 14 pitches and gave up two hits and two earned runs. Genesis Cabrera, a member of the team’s top three relievers, was next up to take the final two thirds of the sixth. He threw 34 pitches and while he gave up a double to Chris Taylor, the lefty gave up two earned runs and struck out two. The worst part of his outing was giving up three walks – including walking the bases loaded.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted that the team had 14 bases-loaded walks already this season. He noted this was the most the team has had since giving up 17 in 1974.
Take that in for a moment. On May 31, the team is already closing in on breaking a terrible team record for bases loaded walk.
Cabrera has pitched in 26 games, holding nine games but giving up one blown save. He has given up 18 hits, seven earned runs including one homer. He has 30 strikeouts but has thrown five wild pitches and hit three batters by pitch.
Cabrera has 15 walks and one intentional walk. He has a 49.1% first pitch strike rate. It’s as if he starts out great but suddenly struggles to finish off the batter. He does have a 26.3% CSW.
To avoid overusing arms in the pen, the team needs to work on stretching out effective starters, which became a huge concern in Wednesday’s game.
Carlos Martinez’s start Wednesday was the ugliest inning Cardinals fans have endured in some time. He was visibly frustrated and not focused for the entire two-thirds of an inning he was on the mound. The Dodgers scored six runs before Martinez even got his first out of the inning. Max Muncy then flied out. A string of walks and singles came and Martinez walked Justin Turner to load the bases.
At that point, Manager Mike Shildt had seen enough and removed him for Jake Woodford, who then gave up a grand slam to Cody Bellinger.
Martinez’s inability to settle down and get some outs is quite concerning. With the team’s recent luck, is Martinez also injured? Or is he just having one of those games where he isn’t focused and blows the game.
Unfortunately, Martinez is terribly inconsistent at times. Hopefully he will refocus and rebound in his next outing because Martinez needs to perform as fans know he can. He has shown he can be an effective, innings eating force and the Cardinals need this from him.
The team did get a good start on this series from John Gant. He went six innings on Tuesday, throwing 95 pitches. He gave up no runs, three walks and struck out four. Great effort from Gant who has become a strong starter for the team.
Gio Gallegos, another top reliever for the Cards, did try to make things interesting. While throwing 35 pitches over the course of two innings, Gallegos gave up a walk and then a two run homer to Matt Beaty.
One bright spot for the bullpen in Wednesday’s game came from Seth Elledge and Junior Fernandez. They each pitched two innings and gave up zero runs. Elledge walked one and struck out three, while Fernandez walked two and struck out two. It’s good to see other pitchers step up from the bullpen.
It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals battle the bullpen issue, and pitching in general. Murray wrote about the imminent return of Andrew Miller. Miller, a lefty, should really help the team with his return from the injured list due to a blister on his toe.
The Cardinals return to Busch Stadium Thursday for a four game series with the Cincinnati Reds.