3 takeaways from the Cardinals’ last week: Stars slump as anemic offense continues

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3 takeaways from the Cardinals’ last week: Stars slump as anemic offense continues

The early-season atmosphere has soured already for the St. Louis Cardinals. Boos rang out at Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon as the Milwaukee Brewers blanked the Cardinals 2-0 en route to a three-game divisional sweep. The Cardinals scored eight runs in the series, spoiling quality starts from Kyle Gibson (six innings, one earned run, three strikeouts) and Sonny Gray (6 1/3 innings, two earned runs, 12 strikeouts). The loss marked the fifth time this season a Cardinals starting pitcher allowed two runs or fewer only for the team to still end up in the losing column.

In all, the Cardinals have lost a season-high four straight games. For all the offseason talk of pitching, pitching, pitching, the (lack of) hitting, hitting, hitting is the real concern.


After 22 games, the Cardinals rank near the bottom of many offensive categories, including OPS (.641, 25th in the majors), slugging percentage (.339, 26th) and home runs (13, 29th). Slumps from Paul Goldschmidt (.179 average, .507 OPS, one extra-base hit), Nolan Gorman (.169 average, .554 OPS, 38 percent strikeout rate) and Jordan Walker (.164 average, .511 OPS, zero home runs) have exacerbated those issues, but the lack of production is a team-wide issue.

Here are three offensive trends to monitor as the Cardinals aim to break out of an already serious funk.

Lacking the long ball

The Cardinals haven’t homered in over a week. The team’s last round-tripper came April 12 in the third inning of a 9-6 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks when Lars Nootbaar swatted a three-run home run in his season debut. Since then, there has been a significant power outage.

Reserve catcher Iván Herrera and Nolan Gorman share the team lead with homers at three apiece. That’s not an encouraging sign for the heart of the order of Goldschmidt, Willson Contreras and Nolan Arenado who have combined for four. Contreras and Arenado pace the offense in terms of getting on base and hitting for average, but the power has been missing across the board. Only the Chicago White Sox (who hold the majors’ worst record at 3-18) have fewer home runs (11).

Scoring position sorrows

What made the series sweep by the Brewers even more frustrating was the many scoring opportunities the Cardinals left on the table. The Cardinals went 2-for-22 with runners in scoring position over the three-game set. They stranded 31 runners. This goes beyond the small sample size of the Milwaukee series. Dating to last weekend, the Cardinals are 10-for-66 with runners in scoring position.

What adds to those frustrations is that one swing could have changed the outcome in a majority of those games. Of the Cardinals’ 13 losses, seven have come by a difference of two runs or fewer. The Cardinals’ inability to capitalize in prime scoring situations has already cost them a handful of games.

Small (ball) victories

Though the power has been minimal, the Cardinals’ emphasis on small ball has been relatively effective. With Victor Scott II being optioned to Triple-A Memphis, Michael Siani should see more reps in center field. He’s no power hitter, but he gets on base and his speed can be a weapon. The Cardinals will continue to rely on manufacturing runs via small ball until the lineup finds some consistency.

The reason for Scott’s option to Memphis was two-fold:

One, it was necessary for Scott’s development. He was overmatched by major-league pitching (understandable, considering his rushed route to the big leagues). Scott hit just .085 (5-for-59) in his first stint in the big leagues after skipping the Triple-A level. And with the rest of the team scuffling, the Cardinals needed to make a transaction to increase their offensive input.

Two, manager Oli Marmol wants to give Herrera regular playing time. Herrera has been one of the few Cardinals producing offensively. The team recalled catcher Pedro Pagés as the corresponding move when Scott went down, meaning the Cardinals can now regularly implement Herrera and Contreras in the lineup without risking being without a backup catcher or burning the designated hitter later in games. While it’s unconventional to carry three catchers, the Cardinals need all the help they can get offensively, and Herrera is one of their better options.

Still, it’s a minor upgrade to what is becoming a major problem in St. Louis. The Cardinals are simply not scoring. As April trickles on and the early-season runway becomes shorter, that trend only grows more concerning.

(Photo of Nolan Gorman: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)