Cardinals toppled by Indians

Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez (11) gets emotional after hitting a three-run homer during the third inning of a MLB game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. The Cardinals extended their losing streak, falling 10-1 to the Indians. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

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The Cleveland Indians slapped the Cardinals around 10-1 Tuesday night. But, ever since the first interleague game played here 24 years ago this week, the Indians have done that.

On June 14, 1997 the Indians bopped the Cardinals 8-3 at Busch Stadium with Manny Ramirez getting two hits. On Tuesday, Jose Ramirez had three hits, good for four runs batted in and seven total bases.

Included was a three-run homer in the second inning off Carlos Martinez, putting the Cardinals irretrievably behind. “We’ve got to be on the other side of the three-run homer,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, whose team hasn’t had one since May 11 when Tyler O’Neill hit one.

The opposition meanwhile, has had two three-run homers and a grand slam in the past six games, all losses.

So the interleague scoreboard between the Indians and Cardinals looks like this: In 30 games, the Indians have won 19, including a 12-7 record here. They have outscored the Cardinals 152-93 in those games or an average of about 5.1 per game to 3.1.

This sounds much like the differential for the Cardinals’ most recent nine games, of which they have lost eight. Opponents have tallied 68 runs in those nine games, or 7.6 per game. The Cardinals have scored 28 runs, or the same 3.1 per game

The analysts will argue, correctly, that it’s hard to win when you’re never ahead. The Cardinals have led after only three innings of the 54 played during their six-game slide.

“We played from behind with a big, crooked number again,” said Shildt.

Also not worthy of much debate is that it’s hard to win when your starter can’t go past four innings. In the six defeats, there were three starts of four innings, one of three innings and one of less than an inning by Martinez. The only starter to have a legitimate start was older-than-dirt Adam Wainwright who went seven innings in a loss.

The starters’ inability to pitch innings means, most noticeably, additional work for the bullpen. But it also means more work for an understaffed, underqualified bench,

Other than Yadier Molina, whose sore left knee precluded him from playing Tuesday, the three Cardinals on the bench had a total of nine hits in 77 at-bats for a .118 average. As pinch hitters, John Nogowski (who is one for 16 in that category). Lane Thomas and Jose Rondon, all rookies, are batting .103.

Nogowski has fanned only twice as a pinch hitter but he needs to play some games and get some at-bats—somewhere--to have more of a chance at this pinch hitting stuff. But he is a first baseman and the Cardinals already have one of those in Paul Goldschmidt.

Nogowski had one of the few critical at-bats for the Cardinals on Tuesday, pinch hitting for Martinez in the fourth inning with the bases loaded, two out and the Cardinals down four runs with their best shot at Cleveland ace Shane Bieber, who was wobbling a little after two walks and a hit batsman. Nogowski grounded sharply into a forceout.

But the Cardinals’ recent downfall can’t be blamed on Matt Carpenter, who seems to be an easy target, almost daily, on social media. In Carpenter’s past six starts, he is eight for 20 (.400), including singling twice and being hit by a pitch on Tuesday. Despite a .177 batting average, Carpenter’s on-base percentage for the season is .310, just four points under Molina, six under leadoff man Tommy Edman and nine under No. 3 hitter Paul Goldschmidt.

In their past nine games, the Cardinals have scored in just 15 innings or less than two innings a game. The opponents have scored in 28 innings or an average of 3.1, which is a good 3.1 in this instance, and about the norm for a good team.

Right now, the Cardinals are not a good team or even close to one. But they have hope. And he is 39 years old.

Wainwright, the only pitcher go past four innings in the past week, will be pitching Wednesday night. He also is the last Cardinals pitcher to beat the Indians, hurling a 7-2 complete-game win here this past Aug. 30, when, with no fans to do so, the Cleveland players in the dugout doffed their caps and saluted the veteran, who turned 39 that very day.

Wainwright and Molina, after donning their masks, embraced for an eternity near the mound. That’s the last time Molina had a starting pitcher to hug on the field at the end of a game.

Molina will try—very hard--to play on Wednesday.

It shouldn’t all be on Wainwright and Molina. But it surely seems like it.

“I feel great about both of those (players),” Shildt said. “They’re obviously guys that we rely on after years in this organization. It’s always a good time for Waino and Yadi to get in the lineup.

"I’m looking forward to tomorrow already.”

Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter

rhummel@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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