As much throws and innings will be invaluable to the Cardinals as they lean on their arms to push through the thick soup of their revised schedule, it will be vital for the field players to give them a helping hand, a steady hand, to avoid unnecessary efforts.
“We have to play as cleanly as possible,” said coach Mike Shildt, “and not give any extra strikeouts.”
A team that orchestrated a historic breakthrough a year ago – from the game’s most brilliant slide to defense – has loosened its grip with eight errors in four games. Three of those errors came in a costly streak Thursday in Pittsburgh’s doubles game at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals made three field errors in Game 1 and gave the Pirates three unearned runs, ultimately losing 4-3. A facing error in an extra inning allowed Pittsburgh to increase their lead enough to be impervious to the Cardinals two-run response.
The Cardinals, at 11-11, have played fewer games than any other team in the majors, but only 18 teams have more errors than the 16 Cardinals.
“We won’t always play clean,” said Shildt.
“We didn’t play as clean as we would like. Game 1 was a little telling. We’re going to make our mistakes. But we’ll have to keep playing clean base baseball, and everything will be fine.”
Undeserved races Thursday brought the Cardinals’ total to 12 in 22 games.
Only 13 baseball teams, all of which are in the middle of their season, have allowed more undeserved runs. The Cardinals have allowed the same as Milwaukee in seven games fewer and the same as Texas in eight fewer. On Thursday, Kwang Hyun Kim pitched six great innings in Game 1, and the only inning he conceded was an undeserved inning due to two errors from third baseman Brad Miller.
A set that could have ended in less than 10 shots and put Kim ready to finish the game instead extended to 22 shots and the Cardinals were behind, 1-0. Moving through the pitch count holes is a priority to maintain pitch depth, to hold up for the next few weeks.
“The whole game is timed,” said Shildt.
The need for this was highlighted during all eight games and the Cardinals’ five-day stay in Chicago to restart their season after the COVID-19 outbreak. The Cardinals went 4-4, won twice at Wrigley Field, and struggled against the Cubs with their throws. Their launch remained effective because the defense was reliable. Exhausted by the demand for three doubles in five days, the Cardinals didn’t ask for more from pitchers playing bad outs in extra shots, extra work, extra problems. The Cardinals – without their Gold Glove receiver Yadier Molina and their Gold Glove finalist Paul DeJong – haven’t made a mistake in five games at Wrigley. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
For 17 days, the Cardinals were limited in the practice they could do, and while the focus was on pitchers and their arm strength, hitters and eyes, there is something for players to do. pitch and their timing. When DeJong went to Springfield, Missouri, and the alternate site to do a few days of training there, he described how endurance and endurance on the court was not what he lacked.
“It was the first step,” he said. “Speed.”
With doubles, the lack of a day off and access to the designated hitter, the inside was juggled. Tommy Edman has played four different positions in the previous five games. Edman started third in Game 2 on Thursday, continuing what was a split in the hot turn between himself, Miller and Matt Carpenter. Miller’s two mistakes on Thursday drew Edman for the lead of Team Four, and 11 of the team’s 16 mistakes came from within.
It was a highlight in 2019 as the Cardinals had three Gold Glove finalists on the pitch and a second goal Kolten Wong.
This team in good hands has yet to play a full week as a unit.
“I think that could be part of it,” said Shildt, when asked about the necessary reshuffle of some outfielders. “I don’t think there were too many rebounds that led to anything. If you look at our mistakes, it was situations where the guys were mostly playing (their) position.”
The on-field errors that cost Thursday’s opener contrasted with Tyler O’Neill and Dexter Fowler’s away play in the corners which stole additional bases from the Pirates. Dylan Carlson had a superb game in Game 2. If nothing else, the grass field pointed out some of the rough spots on the dirt. The Pirates knocked out the double title without getting an additional base hit. In two of the Cardinals’ last three losses, the decisive races have come in a rally fattened by error.
The Cardinals were one of the best baseball racing prevention teams in 2019, and throughout 2020 have shown agility to thwart their opponents with skillful changes. It was the recent wave of errors that cost their record dearly, but if contained, it won’t have a ripple effect that will further wear down their tone. They don’t have time for that.