Like much of this season, the St. Louis Cardinals seem poised to overcome their constant struggles. The club is hoping for playoff magic if they can only make it through their next block of games.
The Cards salvaged double-header split at the hands of offensively-challenged Milwaukee on Monday. That sort of showing still does not bode well for the Redbirds’ playoff chances. In all, St. Louis has lost six of their last 10, and land exactly at the .500 mark. Their series with Milwaukee figures to be a micro chasm for many of the Cardinals’ difficulties this season, especially if the team cannot manage a series win. Indeed, after being no-hit by the Chicago Cubs’ Alec Mills, the Brewers looked fallible. Yet despite scoring only four runs in 17 innings on Monday, St. Louis managed to perform just as more poorly.
The Cardinals could neither cash in on a stellar performance from Daniel Ponce de Leon nor from Milwaukee’s poor offense. Still, the story from the series thus far may be the return of one very important player for St. Louis.
Kim Returns, Picks Up Where He Left Off
Lefty Kwang-Hyun Kim pitched in game one on Monday, his first start since returning from the injured list. One of the club’s more consistent arms this season, Kim did not disappoint. His great would end after seven innings, six strikeouts and just three hits allowed, though the lineup could not provide Kim any run support. Even so, the Cardinal rotation stabilizes much more with Kim’s return, slotted behind a great top-three in Wainwright, Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson.
Kim now holds a 0.63 ERA in 28.2 innings during his shortened campaign. In postgame interview, Kim highlighted his body feels good and he doesn’t expect to have any lingering issues the rest of the season. “No need to worry unless something really bad happens,” Kim said via a translator. “But no need to worry about my body.”
Injuries & Fatigue Return, Take Toll
Two notable injuries affected the club this week, as Giovanny Gallegos landed on the 10-day IL with a groin strain and outfielder Austin Dean joined him with a right elbow strain. The transactions are understandably worrisome for St. Louis, who has battled injuries, COVID-19 stints and numerous double-headers to even be in playoff position. The loss of Gallegos is more significant after the Cardinal bullpen blew the series finale versus the Reds on Sunday, the game ending with a score of 10-5. Fans and baseball writers have begun to wonder whether the effect of playing 37 games in the last month have played a role in the bullpen’s fatigue.
Spot starter Johan Oviedo also hit the injured list on Thursday, who had been acting essentially as sixth starter during the club’s breakneck schedule. Oviedo was required to move to the injured list after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. His injury complicates the back end of the Cardinal rotation, leaving a spot up for grabs with options including Jake Woodford and Austin Gomber, both young arms with plenty to prove before a playoff run.
It should be noted that Oviedo tested negative for the virus since going on the injured list and could return before Wednesday’s double-header. If the right-hander does not pass Tuesday’s test, that would open the door for Woodford or Gomber in Oviedo’s rotation spot.
Perpetual Inefficiency of Cardinal Outfielders
Before this week, it would have been a bold claim to name Harrison Bader as the most consistent St. Louis outfielder. Now, that statement might be the most certain supposition the club has around to judge its options.
Bader, while he has played better in the last week (5-for-25, HR, 4 RBI), is far from being considered elite outfield talent. The 26-year-old plays the game with what can best be described as reckless abandon, leaving productive batting lines behind in favor of awe-inspiring outfield mastery. Yet with the total inefficiency of the outfield corps in St. Louis, Bader needs to become the one to lead their offensive charge. Should Tommy Edman continue to frequent this outfield rotation, Bader’s offense could spark something more exciting as they wait for the return of Dexter Fowler. While there are a lot of things that Bader does not do particularly well, playing the game at full speed is not one of them. Taking his offense in stride with spectacular glovework will unite everything the Cardinals believe Bader can become.
He’ll just have to step up to this challenge.
Catch of the month?
No, catch of the year! pic.twitter.com/fXfLZJMbc4
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 13, 2020
Elsewhere Around the Club
Dylan Carlson was optioned back to Double-A Springfield on Tuesday. The Cardinals top prospect ended his time at the major league level hitting .162/.243/.458 in nearly 80 plate appearances.
Carlos Martinez was recalled in a corresponding move on Tuesday and pitched 3.2 innings against the Minnesota Twins. He allowed four runs on seven hits and struck out three in his first appearance since late July. Martínez was charged with the loss.
Adam Wainwright is the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2020 Roberto Clemente Award nominee for the fifth time in his career. The award is intended to recognize the most philanthropic and community-oriented leaders of the MLB community, in homage to Pirate great Roberto Clemete.
Finally, the Cardinals community is honoring former scout Charles Peterson, who recently died from COVID-19. Peterson had worked since 2012 as an amateur scout for the organization. He was a central part of the signing of Andrew Knizner and the club’s first-round pick this year, Jordan Walker.
Featured Image Courtesy of Getty Images
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