The good? John Gant allowed just one hit Saturday night against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The bad? Just about everything else.
Gant had five walks, allowed five runs and was pulled after recording just five outs as the Cardinals suffered a 7-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
Two weeks ago the Cardinals were in first place. They now sit five games back of the Cubs and Brewers after losing for the 10th time in their past 12 games. Saturday’s loss dropped the Cardinals back to .500 at 32-32.
“The fact of the matter is we haven’t been able to be consistent,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.
A starting rotation riddled with injuries and inconsistency was again the problem Saturday. Gant, who was marvelous in his first 10 starts of the season, struggled badly for a second straight game.
Gant threw 48 pitches in the second inning alone – and couldn’t complete it. He was pulled after a bases-loaded walk with two outs – his fifth walk of the inning. One walk was to pitcher Kyle Hendricks. Another walked in a run.
He also allowed a two-run homer earlier in the inning to Ian Happ before a bullpen badly beat up due to overuse was summoned into action way to early yet again. The Cardinals bullpen had cover the next 6 2/3 innings – a scary thought with Carlos Martinez on the mound Sunday.
“John couldn’t locate his fastball today, it’s almost as simple as that,” Shildt said.
Gant has allowed 12 earned runs in his last two starts after previously giving up just nine earned runs in his first 10 starts. One reason? The long ball. Gant has served up three home runs in his past two starts after allowing just one home run in the first 10. As a result his ERA has jumped from 1.60 to 3.36 in barely a week.
But he’s hardly the only pitcher to struggle. The Cardinals have just one starting pitcher to earn a win in the past two-plus weeks and the pitching staff as a whole continues to walk batters at an alarming rate. Many of them came back to haunt the Cardinals again Saturday.
“We’re last in the league in walks,” Shildt said bluntly. “There’s frustration and I can’t alibi it with everybody. We’re trying to find solutions; I’m not here to complain about it. It’s been what it’s been. We have to find a way to get better.”
Nolan Arenado and Paul DeJong each hit solo home runs to account for the only two Cardinals runs.
Here’s how Saturday’s game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base. … Pitcher Jake Woodford provided one of the few offensive highlights for the Cardinals when he recorded his first career hit in the third inning. … Tommy Edman and Tyler O’Neill also had hits. … The Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth inning but Craig Kimbrel entered and got Edmundo Sosa to ground out to end the game. … The home run for DeJong was his first since coming off the disabled list Friday following a month-long absence for a broken rib. … Arenado’s 12 home runs are second on the team.
On the mound: Jake Woodford relieved Gant with two outs in the second inning and gave up an RBI single and hit a man with the bases loaded. Both runs were charged to Gant. Woodford allowed a run on two hits in 1 1/3 innings. … Seth Elledge allowed a solo home run to Joc Pederson in the fourth inning. … Andrew Miller, Junior Fernandez, Alex Reyes and Angel Rondon combined for four scoreless innings to keep the Cubs from scoring after the fourth inning. … Cardinals pitchers had eight walks and hit a batter while allowing just five hits.
Key stat: Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks has a 2.82 ERA in 140 2/3 career innings against the Cardinals. The right-hander has made 22 starts against the Cardinals over his career and has an 11-3 record. He has a 2.13 ERA in 12 2/3 innings this season against the Cardinals, and a 4.94 ERA in 10 starts against everybody else.
Worth noting: Infield prospect Nolan Gorman hit three home runs for Double-A Springfield Saturday after hitting two home runs the night before. He’s the first Springfield Cardinal to ever hit three home runs in a game. His five home runs in a two-game stretch is a career-best. … Jordan Walker, the Cardinals’ first round pick in the 2020 draft, was activated from the injured list Saturday and returned to action for Low-A Palm Beach.
Looking ahead: The Cardinals will look to avoid the sweep when Carlos Martinez takes the mound on Sunday Night Baseball. First pitch from Wrigley Field is set for 6:08 p.m. C.T. on ESPN. Martinez has struggled of late, allowing 15 runs in his past 4 2/3 innings.