ST. LOUIS — Remain positive. Something that is easier said than done in the world of sports.
June began for the St. Louis Cardinals to put a rough May behind them. When that failed to take place, July was supposed to signal a turning point. One last push before the All-Star Break.
One game in, and let's say the mission isn't off to a dazzling start. You know it's bad around town when the postgame show is full of announcers on the radio making excuses. Ricky Horton, the king of Kool-Aid production in town, tried to damper the Cardinals' sixth loss in their last seven games by praising their ability to take pitches to the opposite field.
After St. Louis lost to a team that was 38-50 and had lost four in a row, Horton tried to pick a bright spot in a thunderstorm. What a nice guy. The reality is there are few bright spots for this team.
Game No. 83 ended in disappointment, which is becoming an understatement for a dull season. The Cardinals haven't hit well for over two months, but on a night where they crank out three home runs and score more than three runs, their pitching doesn't do the job.
Without further delay, let's look at five things we learned.
People get excited for a Paul Goldschmidt single these days
The acquired superstar is in the midst of his worst season since becoming a full-time starter, and that includes collecting mere hits. The guy struck out for the 91st time in 2019, but he drove a pitch to right field for his 77th hit later on. He drew a walk, and fans were tweeting, "SEE! He's coming out of it." Yawn, the dude has 16 hits since June 2. Goldschmidt's work at the plate would be nice if he was Pete Kozma, not a long-term locked-in star player.
Jack Flaherty enduring a rough stretch
It's one thing to be struggling during your past five starts, and quite another to deal with that as well as the loss of a close friend. The late Angels' pitcher, Tyler Skaggs, who suddenly died on Monday, was friends with Flaherty, even seeing him last week. If only that were the only problem with the kid. Flaherty has also allowed a boatload of home runs this year and thrown an abundance of high-leverage pitches. He couldn't get out of the fifth inning Tuesday night, walking four and allowing eleven baserunners and four runs. The bullpen allowed one run in 3.1 innings, but that lone mistake happened to be a game-winning one.
Flaherty has allowed four earned runs or more in four of his last five starts. The once promised one (and still will be, most likely) is suffering a regression this year. He's allowed 19 home runs in just 90 innings, including one in six straight starts. Yikes is a word.
Hail the Cafe!
Jose Martinez proved his mettle with two solo home runs. After a slow batch of at-bats, Martinez is finding a groove, at least with the slugging ability. The .529 bash mark over his last 15 games shows a guy earning his time, even if it's bound to be elsewhere. You can tell me the designated hitter is coming to the National League, but not anytime soon. Martinez is a DH, through and through. Seeing him drop some destruction in Seattle was bittersweet.
Too many soft bats
Harrison Bader and Kolten Wong are vital defenders, but quite frankly, they offer weak bats. Take both of their last 15 games at the plate, you have a 15-92 mark. Bader is nearing .200, and Wong dropped to .239 Tuesday. With Marcell Ozuna out, other bats need to step up. While these two save runs with their glove, the bats can't afford to be such a liability. The Cards had two guys over .280 in their lineup: Martinez and the recently promoted Yairo Munoz. Soft bats.
Keep starting O'Neill
He'll strike out or get a hit. Tyler O'Neill has nothing left to prove at Memphis. With the weak outfield and Ozuna absence, now is the time to see what he's got. Granted, the man will be a human muscle fan or cause whiplash. O'Neill will whiff so hard a breeze will hit the people at the airport, or he'll hit a line drive that will turn heads. In his three games since returning, O'Neill is 3-12 with eight strikeouts. He did have two hits on Tuesday, and no matter what, he needs to stay in. O'Neill's power gives this team punch they truly lack. Unlike Ozuna, he's not a liability in the outfield. See what he's got, or what he doesn't while the opportunity presents itself. Dylan Carlson and Lane Thomas can wait.
One more thing. It's nice to see Yairo Munoz in there, even if it's sad that it took an injury to get him in there.
The Cardinals are 41-42, which translates to bad in this town. Here, it's 10 better or a tragic loss of hopes and dreams. Once again, a payroll of $162 million demands more, especially with Goldschmidt on board.
Things haven't gone as planned. Miles Mikolas is half the pitcher he was once last season. Flaherty regressed. Carlos Martinez is in the bullpen. Alex Reyes is hurt. Jordan Hicks is worse. John Gant is somehow the best pitcher on the team this year. And that's the not so bad part. The hitting ... is quite a story.
Goldschmidt looks like damaged goods and has an ugly swing. Bader and Wong can't hit. Fowler can get on base, but that's about it. Yadier Molina is trying to keep a .700 OPS. Martinez can hit but can't field. Matt Carpenter is such a bad year he collected a horrible stomach flu and a bad back in 72 hours. Paul DeJong had a great April, but that's it. DeJong is 24-119 with 30 strikeouts. Tommy Edman is fun, but not a savior. O'Neill strikes out 75% of the time at the moment.
Things are bad. Don't sugarcoat it. You owe the team zero favors. Don't be afraid to boo and shout. The wait is over. It's July 3 and the Cardinals are not okay. They are less than mediocre and show zero signs of improving.
The next five games are against two of the worst teams in baseball, but I'd be surprised if the Cardinals won three of them.
If that doesn't tell you how ugly things are, nothing will.
Forty-one-42 but starting to take the ball to the opposite field.