SEATTLE — During a recent conversation in the clubhouse with his team, manager Mike Shildt sought to address what he believes has been holding back the offense, undermining its consistency, and minimizing even their snappiest rallies.
Singles are swell. Singles are good kindling.
But where’s the lumber to bring the heat?
“Take your hacks,” he said he told his players. “Get your swing off.”
In the middle of their season and at the midway point of their road trip along the west coast, the Cardinals remain a middling offense, and Shildt traced it back to a lineup that has lacked thump and needed a reminder that it’s OK to flex, even if it means a few more strikeouts. Their opponents, especially on this road trip, have bruised them with home runs, and also given Shildt all the evidence that he needs Let loose. See what happens.
Tommy Edman happens.
Down two runs entering the ninth inning, the Cardinals loaded the bases on singles, tied the game on a sacrifice fly, and then Edman did damage. The rookie mashed a three-run homer to send the Cardinals to a 5-2 victory against the Mariners. Edman’s pinch-hit homer, his second homer of the road trip, was the only extra-base hit in a five-run ninth inning that left the Cardinals leaping in jubilation. Or maybe just relief.
Until their ninth-inning uprising, the Cardinals got exactly the kind of start they always desired from sinkerballer Mike Leake. It was swift. It was expedient. It was relentless in its pace, full strikes, and empty runs. It was everything that wanted from the righthander when they signed him as a free agent before the 2016 season.
And it came at their expense.
Leake, who the Cardinals traded two years ago to Seattle, pitched 7 2/3 innings and offered the Cardinals little more than a leadoff double from Paul Goldschmidt. Leake struck out seven, did not walk a batter, and outlasted Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. The Mariners, one of many teams who have embraced the home run as the super-collider for their offense, got a solo homer from Dylan Moore for their first run, and then added to the lead by scoring on a wild pitch. Both of the runs counted against Wainwright in his five innings, though he did not let loose the wild pitch that allowed the second run to score.
That’s where the game stood at the beginning of the ninth. The Cardinals did what Shildt has watched them do often. Jose Martinez singled. Goldschmidt singled. Tyler O’Neill walked. They had the bases loaded and still couldn’t crack that scoreboard with a crooked number. Dexter Fowler lashed a single that brought home the first run, and Goldschmidt outran the throw home on Yadier Molina’s lineout to tie the game. The Cardinals had found their way around the bases in the most laborious fashion to – only tie the game. Six Cardinals had come to the plate and they had produced the necessary two runs, but still two runs.
As if to prove Shildt point, Edman upended the game with a homer.
“We’ve got to do damage,” Shildt said, echoing what he told the team over the weekend in San Diego and again Tuesday. “We talked about it before the game. We’ve got to do damage. We play the game pretty well in a lot of phases. We try to manufacture and score runs that are there. We’ve got to put the ball out of the ballpark, and we’ve got to put the ball in the gap. Last night (Tuesday) was a good start to that.”
Wednesday was even better finish.
Still paying a portion of Mike Leake's salary, Cardinals face their former starter
He's been gone almost as long as he was with the Cardinals and that still only brings him halfway through the contract he signed as a commitment with the Cardinals.
Mike Leake, sinkerballer, is set to make Wednesday night his 54th start for the Seattle Mariners, inching ever closer to matching the 56 he made for the Cardinals have signing a five-year, $80-million contract complete with a no-trade clause. That didn't last. In August 2017, with encouragement from Leake and a willingness to waive his no-trade protection, the Cardinals moved the righthander to the Mariners and other than covering some of his salary each season haven't had to think of him since.
Now, they face him.
Leake started June strong with three consecutive starts of at least seven innings and no more than three earned runs. He's allowed 12 runs (11 earned) in his previous 11 1/3 innings, and that included allowing eight runs on 11 hits when last he made a start at home, at T-Mobile Park.
The Cardinals are covering $5 million of his salary this season.
Yairo Munoz gets an encore at leadoff despite the righthander Leake starting against the Cardinals. Munoz had a two-run single Sunday and a key two-run homer Tuesday in the Cardinals' series-opening loss to the M's. Munoz said he's been talking with Jose Martinez and Yadier Molina about his approach at the plate, and it was counsel from Martinez on Tuesday that urged him to look for a breaking ball. When he got a sloppy, looping slider, Munoz tagged it for a 404-foot homer. It was his first homer of the season.
The Cardinals made one roster move early Wednesday. Reliever Ryan Helsley was moved from the 10-day injured list and optioned to Class AAA Memphis, where he has been on a rehab assignment.
He and Mike Mayers have been dovetailing their rehab outings for the past week. Mayers is out of options and thus the Cardinals have kept him on a rehab assignment in order to get him innings, get him sharp, and then in the near future get him back to the majors.
Here's the lineup for the second game of the Cardinals' interleague series against Seattle:
1. Yairo Munoz, 3B
2. Jose Martinez, DH
3. Paul DeJong, SS
4. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
5. Tyler O'Neill, LF
6. Dexter Fowler, RF
7. Yadier Molina, C
8. Kolten Wong, 2B
9. Harrison Bader, CF
Pitcher: Adam Wainwright, RHP
Check back throughout the evening for coverage from Seattle and any notes and news that should surface at the ballpark formerly known as Safeco.