With the St. Louis Cardinals on a hot streak and me out of town for the weekend, I’m keeping it short today. But I don’t want to leave you empty-handed so I’ll provide some discussion intro to get you all started in the comments.
I want to highlight some of my favorite moments of what was an eventful week full of great Cardinals baseball.
The Hamburger Phone
Who doesn’t love a good hamburger phone? It’s a great prop and the Cardinals have even made a game out of it in the dugout. Derrick Goold gave us some excellent reporting about it on Friday, and if you haven’t read his story yet, you should. You can read it here.
For as cool as the retro, corded hamburger phone is, my favorite part of the whole thing is the game that the Cardinals have made out of it.
To summarize from Goold’s piece, there are a few rules.
- Each player gets one home run “call” per game
- To make the call, a player grabs the phone, punches in a player’s uniform number, and hits the pound sign
- A player gets their call back if the player they called reaches base
What I want to know is if the players are keeping track of who has made the most correct calls (they definitely are) and who is winning. They really need to make a leaderboard and put it up in the dugout for some public bragging rights.
Home Runs Galore
On Thursday night against the Dodgers, I think I was more surprised when a Cardinal hitter didn’t hit a home run than when he did. All in all, the Cardinals scored 16 runs on 12 hits and, of those 12 hits, 7 of them cleared the fence.
In the first four games of the week, the Cardinals clubbed 13 home runs. I may not be around to update the total before this posts on Sunday, but I feel very confident that the number is going to go up.
The Cardinals are simply crushing the ball and it’s not limited to one or two players either. Nolan Arenado is scorching hot. Paul DeJong is mashing. Andrew Knizner has cleared the fence this week. Willson Contreras is crushing the ball. Juan Yepez joined in on the fun. I’m probably leaving some players out but the point is that everyone is crushing the ball from the top of the lineup to the bottom. It’s been really fun to watch.
I’m pretty sure that hamburger phone is ringing off the hook.
A Willson Contreras Curtain Call
Say what you want about Contreras’s defense, or game calling, or the way he handles the pitching staff, but his bat is legit. The guy flat out rakes. And his energy is infectious.
On Thursday, he clubbed a pair of home runs and earned his first curtain call as a Cardinal. It was really cool to see and it was an even cooler moment because of how well he handled the whole getting-benched-at-catcher-for-a-little-while thing.
He accepted the move, never aired his frustrations to the media, did what was asked of him, and simply kept hitting. And now he’s the catcher again. He deserves a ton of credit for the way he handled the decision and it was awesome to see him rewarded by the fans on Thursday night for his excellent play.
It gets better, though.
Lol Contreras was asked when the last time he got a curtain call like that?— Ghabriel (@thestlcardsfan4) May 19, 2023
He said seven years ago. Seven years ago! https://t.co/Sw5Oc1CpFt
Apparently, Willson Contreras hasn’t had a curtain call since his first at-bat as a Chicago Cub. That’s mind-boggling for how good of a player he was in Chicago.
It’s clear that he loves being here and it’s awesome to see him and the fans embracing each other.
Matthew Liberatore’s Gem
Watching Matthew Liberatore pitch like the Cardinals best starter was really fun to watch. And, boy, was he good. His fastball looked rejuvenated, sitting 95, touching 97.6, and gaining over an inch of ride from last year. For a pitch that’s never been his best attribute, he seemed really comfortable working it up in the zone and that helped him generate a 34.8% whiff rate.
The increased velocity didn’t just help Liberatore’s fastball, though. His curveball was disgusting, generating whiffs at a rate of 30.8% and looking like this:
#cardscaptions #stlcards https://t.co/qRq1eFIXfc pic.twitter.com/ME44tOrh4K— cardinalsgifs (@cardinalsgifs) May 18, 2023
According to PitchingBot, this was Matthew Liberatore's best pitch last night. Disgusting pic.twitter.com/mxcx5fZERj— Jacob (@CardinalsReek) May 18, 2023
The lefty didn’t use his slider very much, only throwing it 5 times, but it’s a good pitch that deserves more usage and I’ll be watching to see if Liberatore starts building it into his arsenal more.
Regardless, I’m beyond excited to watch him pitch again, which, despite some confusing messaging, seems like it will be out of the rotation at some point against Cleveland or Cincinnati.
Oscar Mercado’s First Cardinals Start
I couldn’t end this piece without showing Oscar Mercado some love. It took 10 years for him to reach the majors with the team that originally drafted him, but it took him only one start to make an impact.
On Thursday, Mercado racked up 3 hits from the 9-hole, played both right and left field, and even stole 2 bases to boot. Am I the kind of person who gets excited about a 28-year-old minor league free agent signee showing out in his team debut? Absolutely. It was a joy to watch.
He may be a fourth (or fifth, or sixth, or...) outfielder, but Mercado has the profile to add value to this team. He can play centerfield and the corners (and also came up as a shortstop) and can steal bases which makes him an ideal candidate for late game situations requiring a defensive replacement or a pinch runner. He also has a decent offense profile with a good walk rate, not a ton of strikeouts, and some, if not overwhelming, power.
I don’t expect him to play a huge role on the team, but who knows? Maybe he’s a devil magic candidate (if he even qualifies for that). At the very least, he’s a fine bench outfielder to have while the outfield gets healthy.
It was fun watching him play and I would love to see him have more success for as long as he’s in the majors.
Thanks for reading, VEB. Now, I want to know what some of your favorite moments of the week are. There are a lot to choose from.
The comments are all yours. You know what to do. Post away.