Mikolas finally gets run support, but can't cash in

April 21st, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- Looking for something -- anything, really -- to believe in on Saturday following another crushing loss some 15 hours earlier, the Cardinals offense finally gave tough-luck pitcher some much-needed run support and a seemingly promising two-run lead.

However, in yet another twist to bedevil the slumping Cardinals, Mikolas was hit hard by the bottom of the Brewers order, a middling offensive output was outdone again, and the day ended with even more frustration.

Milwaukee got home runs from Brice Turang and rookie Jackson Chourio to wipe out a two-run deficit in the fourth inning and the Brewers went on to throttle the reeling Cardinals with 18 hits in a 12-5 victory at Busch Stadium on Saturday.

“The offense started to look a little better early in the game, we put together some good at-bats together and we controlled the strike zone, but we still needed more,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “I mean, you give up 18 hits and 12 runs, you’re not going to win many ball games.”

Going into Saturday’s game, the Cardinals had scored just four runs in three of the games that they had lost with Mikolas on the mound. The offense mustered four runs in Saturday’s early going – the first time in seven games that they had scored more than three runs -- and staked Mikolas to an early 4-2 lead, but it wouldn’t last for long.

As was the case much of last season, Mikolas was unable to put away hitters and was repeatedly hurt late in counts. His 0-2 pitch to Turang was off the plate, but the Milwaukee second baseman still golfed it for a two-run homer. A batter later, Mikolas’ 93.5 mph fastball caught far too much of the plate on a 1-2 pitch and Chourio drilled it just over the wall in right field for a solo homer that put the Brewers up 5-4. It was the first road home run of Chourio’s promising MLB career.

“It stinks because we played some great defense and put a few runs on the board and I wasn’t able to keep the runs off the board,” said Mikolas, who surrendered at least five earned runs in a start for the third time this season. “That one was on me today. I didn’t do my job out there.”

Home runs -- the lack of them for the Cardinals and the amount of them off St. Louis pitching -- have been a big reason why the club has limped to a 9-12 start. The 26 homers allowed by Cardinals pitching not only ranks as the sixth-most in MLB, but it is double the production of the offense (13 homers). Only the White Sox (10 homers) have fewer long balls than the Cardinals, who have not homered in the past seven games.

Star sluggers Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Nolan Gorman have been lagging in power production thus far. Goldschmidt, who had a single in four at-bats on Saturday, doesn’t have an extra-base hit in a career-long 19 games. Arenado, who doubled in the Cardinals first run on Saturday, has just one homer in his last 47 games. Meanwhile, Gorman -- who led the Cardinals in homers with 27 in 2023 -- didn’t play on Saturday after striking out four times in five at-bats on Friday night.

“Listen, if Goldy and Gorman aren’t Goldy and Gorman …,” Marmol said before the game when asked what can be done to spark the struggling offense. “We can go to the next question of, ‘Hey, have you thought about shuffling the lineup?’ You can do all the shuffling you want, if those two guys [Goldschmidt and Gorman] aren’t in the middle of it and hitting doubles and homers, well … .”

Marmol didn’t finish his thought, but his point was made nonetheless about where the Cardinals will likely end up if they can’t count on their proven power hitters. The same likely can be said for Mikolas, who was hoping to have a big bounce-back season after leading all of baseball in hits allowed in 2023. Also at issue with Mikolas is the big right-hander’s inability to get chase on pitches outside the strike zone and his reliance on throwing too many strikes when ahead in counts.

“The damage was from him being in 0-2 and 1-2 counts and then there were a lot of pitches on the plate, as we’ve talked about before,” Marmol said. “It’s something that gets him from time to time and it definitely showed up today.”

Added Mikolas, who surrendered 11 batted balls at 95 mph or harder on Saturday: “I let that game get away from us.”