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Tipsheet: While Cardinals sputter, Cubs roll on with reserve power

Tipsheet: While Cardinals sputter, Cubs roll on with reserve power

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The Cardinals went down swinging over the weekend. They had the fortitude to rally again and again against the Cincinnati Reds but they lacked the offensive depth to finish the job.

Their four-game sweep at the hands of the injury-depleted Reds was capped by depth player Jose Rondon whiffing on a pitch down and way, way, way off the plate.

He left the potential tying and winning runs in scoring position while summing up the Cardinals’ offensive predicament these days.

Rondon is 4-for-18 as a fill-in this season, which is actually pretty good compared to some of the others:

  • Lane Thomas, 4-for-40, 16 strikeouts.
  • Justin Williams, .160 with 46 strikeouts in 119 at bats before a stiff neck put him on the injured list.
  • Max Moroff, 1-for-16, 10 strikeouts before his season-ending shoulder surgery.
  • John Nogowski, 1-for-16.
  • Scott Hurst, 0-for-5.

That’s a lot of failure. Meanwhile other teams are getting production from their depth guys during this injury-marred big league season.

Former Cardinals third baseman Patrick Wisdom has powered up for the Chicago Cubs. He smacked two homers Sunday, giving him seven in his first eight starts for the Small Bears.  

Wisdom has 10 RBIs in his first 34 at bats since stepping up from Triple-A Iowa.

“He's been carrying us,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He's a real offensive force for us right now. It seems like every time he gets up he's going to do something really good to help the team. Real damage. What is that, seven home runs? Real power since he's been up.”

That surge isn’t a complete fluke.

Wisdom, 29, hit 31 homers for Triple-A Memphis in 2017 while property of the Cardinals. He also his 31 homers for Nashville in 2019 while belonging to the Texas Rangers.

He failed to stick with the Cardinals and Rangers, but for the time being his power is translating at the big-league level for the Cubs.

"It's the same game," Wisdom said. "There's another deck on the stadium and more cameras. There's bigger things but it's the same game. The more at-bats you get, the more pitches you see, the better you get. I'm thankful for my time in the minor leagues."

TALKIN’ BASEBALL

Here is what folks are writing about Our National Pastime:

Katherine Acquavella, CBSSports.com: “The St. Louis Cardinals are struggling as of late. They were swept by the Cincinnati Reds this weekend in a four-game series at Busch Stadium. The last time the Reds had swept a four-game series in St. Louis was back in 1990. They did manage to keep things interesting in Sunday's game when they came back to tie the game thanks to a seven-run seventh inning, but still ultimately fell to their division foe. Now, they've lost five straight games and seven of their past nine games . . . While the club did show some offensive resiliency in Sunday's loss, they still need to improve as they own a minus-18 run differential after the weekend and sit behind the Cubs and Brewers in the National League Central.”

Alyson Footer, MLB.com: “The National League Central continues to be one to watch, for a couple of reasons. First, the most obvious -- every team but the Pirates appears to be in this race, even the Reds, who made quite a statement with a sweep in St. Louis over the weekend.  But also, keep an eye on the Brewers, tied with the Cubs for first place and employing two of the best starting pitchers in baseball. If they stay on par, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes will be very much in the Cy Young Award conversation.  Woodruff’s 1.42 ERA is third-lowest in the Majors, while Burnes’ 1.97 is fifth-lowest. They’re also second and third in the NL in WHIP -- 0.71 for Burnes; .074 for Woodruff.”

David Schoenfield, ESPN.com: “The Red Sox are better than expected, and the Yankees are nowhere near as good as expected. Nothing in these three games changed that view. It was a big week for the Yankees, with seven games against the Tampa Bay Rays and the Red Sox, and New York laid an egg, going 2-5. What's especially disappointing is that the Yankees won two of the first three against the Rays and had Gerrit Cole starting the fourth game of that series. But Cole allowed five runs in five innings in a 9-2 loss, and then the Red Sox cleaned up . . . The Yankees just haven't scored runs, which is maybe the biggest teamwide development of the season. The Yankees are 27th in the majors in runs per game -- ahead of only the New York Mets, Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates, which sounds almost impossible for a team that ranked fourth in 2020, first in 2019, second in 2018 and second in 2017. It's not just because of injuries, as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have actually been pretty healthy, with Judge playing in 57 of 60 games and Stanton in 41. More worrisome, it doesn't feel like a scary lineup that is just waiting to kick into gear, not with DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres basically turning into singles hitters; Gardner looking over the hill at 37; Clint Frazier and Rougned Odor hitting under .200; and somebody named Chris Gittens hitting sixth on Sunday. It's not as simple as just getting Luke Voit healthy. There are real problems here. The Yankees have hit .215 and averaged 2.6 runs per game over a 3-10 stretch.”

Ken Davidoff, New York Post: “The 60-game milepost never meant much to a baseball season, just a round number, until last year. Now we can use it as a measuring stick. Now, it gives us one more data point underlining the Yankees’ decline. The Yankees lost a ridiculous, 10-inning, 6-5 game to the Red Sox Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, suffering a sweep at the hands of their historic rivals, their fourth straight loss overall, 10th in 13 tries and five out of seven this homestand against the Bosox and Rays. Remember the disappointment you felt during last year’s COVID-shortened schedule when the Yankees wound up 33-27, giving them a lousy draw in the expanded postseason? Well, now they’re 31-29, and if this season had ended today, with the more traditional 10-team field, Aaron Boone and company would be headed home for the winter. This is a franchise in seriously hot water.”

Jesse Yomtov, USA Today: “The defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays started the 2021 season 19-19 but have gone on a tear over the past month, winning 19 of their last 23 games . . . The Rays' surge has them narrowly ahead of the Boston Red Sox atop the American League East, with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees also above .500 and almost certain to remain in the race all season. Outfielder Austin Meadows has 22 RBI with a 1.061 OPS in his last 15 games, while 41-year-old lefty Rich Hill has a 0.74 ERA in his last six starts to lead a pitching staff that had the AL's best ERA (2.70) in the month of May.”

MEGAPHONE

"An awful week for us. We've got to get right; we've got to get better. We've got to find a way to start scratching out some W's."

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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