Healing Bullpen Backs Offense as Cards Hammer Fish

The last time Trevor Rosenthal pitched a meaningful inning was July 8 in Milwaukee.  Trevor – already deposed as the closer – came out of the bullpen into a 3-3 game in the ninth inning.  He walked a batter and surrendered a sacrifice bunt before Seung-hwan Oh came in to complete the loss, allowing the walk-off single to Jonathan Villar.

In the 17 games since then, the Cardinal bullpen has pitched 62 innings with a 1.60 ERA and a .168 batting average against, allowing only 3 of the last 16 inherited runners to score.  Not coincidentally – even though the rotation has only managed 7 quality starts and a 4.55 ERA in those games – St Louis has won 12 of the 17.  At the risk of over-simplification: Fix your bullpen, fix your season.

That bullpen made another significant contribution last night, offering 4 innings of shutdown relief (while the Marlin bullpen spit out 3 important runs in their 4.2 innings in addition to allowing all three of their inherited runners to score).

The trio that closed things out last night were not prominently thought of as the season began, but gradually have carved out bigger roles for themselves in this evolving bullpen.  Matthew Bowman was a Rule-5 guy that had been unimpressive in the Met organization the year before.  Dean Kiekhefer was an unheralded minor leaguer.  Seth Maness was a veteran who was sliding out of late inning consideration.  An abortive beginning to his season almost led to his being optioned to Memphis.  He landed on the disabled list instead, returning at the end of June to underwhelming fanfare.  More on them in a bit, but first let’s consider last night’s starter.

On the plus side, Mike Leake didn’t walk anyone last night.  He still hasn’t walked anyone since he walked Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer in the sixth inning of his June 30 start against the Royals.  That was 31.2 innings, 131 batters faced, and 463 pitches ago.

As with Wacha last night, Leake’s actual game was better than his line showed.  He threw four very good innings.  As for the fifth, it sometimes happens – even to veteran pitchers – that after your offense has blown the game open (and an eight run lead seemed pretty much blown open) it can be difficult to hold your focus.  The Marlins are a pretty explosive offense.  They don’t need much of an opening to throw up a big inning.

That apology being made, this is, nonetheless, two straight games that Leake has been punctured for 6 runs.  It is also three times in the five games he started in July that he has given up at least 5 runs.  He is actually 3-2 over his last five games, but with a 5.70 ERA, surrendering 40 hits in his last 30 innings.

Yesterday I noted that Leake got less run support than the rest of the starting staff.  The 11 from last night match his total run support from his previous 3 games.  He now has the second highest average support runs per nine innings this year at 5.41 (Wacha is at 5.56).

Up until last night, Leake had been performing better on five days rest instead of four.  In 11 starts this year on four days, Leake is 4-6 with a 4.18 ERA.  On five days he was 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA.  He’s now 3-1 with a 4.45.

The more I watch Matthew Bowman, the more I like him.  With 2 more scoreless innings last night, Matthew has been solved for only 2 earned runs in his last 16.2 innings covering 14 games (1.08 ERA).  And nothing about it looks fluky or lucky.  Bowman has some nasty breaking pitches that drop off the table.

For the month of July, opponents hit .157 against Bowman, who has gone 22 innings without giving up a home run.  Matthew also has one of the highest ground-ball ratios on the team, now at 62.3% after all three batters who put the ball in play against him last night hit it on the ground.

Bowman was pitching last night on two days’ rest.  So far this season, that seems to be the longest you should have him go in between appearances.  He has pitched on two-days or less 20 times this season and pitched with three-days or more 14 times.  He holds a 2.22 ERA with no home runs allowed in 24.1 innings with less than three-days’ rest, and a 4.00 ERA, allowing all three of his home runs in 18 innings after having had three or more days off.

Dean Kiekhefer still hasn’t thrown enough for any meaningful trends to develop.  He did strike out Ichiro last night.  Cardinal management would love to be able to trust him to get one or two left-handed batters out so they can have more flexibility with Tyler Lyons.

Seth Maness finished up with a nearly spotless 1.1 innings.  He’s been much better since his return from the DL, and especially over his last 8 appearances where he’s managed a 0.87 ERA in 10.1 innings.  His batting average against has been a surprising .162 this month (and just .129 over his last 9.1 innings).  Seth is actually throwing the ball better, I think, than he has ever thrown it.

As his sinker has re-discovered its bite, Seth has also re-discovered his ground ball mojo.  Seth got four of the five batters he faced last night to hit the ball on the ground.  Now 18 of the last 27 (66.7%) that have put the ball in play against Seth have been induced to hit a ground ball.

Fifteen of his 21 pitches were strikes (71%).  Seth Maness has thrown 82 of his last 113 pitches for strikes (73%).  Throwing strikes and getting ground balls will put up a lot of zeros.

Oh didn’t get a shot at a save last night, but he has seemed more confident in the role of late.  He has saved 5 of the 12 wins – four of them in one-run games – and has done so with minimal drama (5 innings, 0 runs, 2 singles, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts, 73% of pitches thrown for strikes).  In the 7 total games (and innings) that Oh has been the closer, he has been touched for 1 run.  That was during the July 3 game against Milwaukee when he walked into a bases-loaded, no-out situation – but also with a 9-4 lead.  It was pretty grisly business as he gave a walk, a double and saw the Brewers creep to within 9-8 before he finally closed things down.  Beyond that, he has been quite good and getting better.  The same is true of the bullpen in general.

Is the bullpen fixed?  Way too early to say that.  The good 17 game run has included series against Miami (twice), the Dodgers and the Mets – so that is all encouraging.  If Rosenthal gets fixed and returns to be an important part of the mix (or if Alex Reyes ends up here before long) it could only add to the growing confidence these guys are beginning to get.

In the 11-6 win last night (box score), there were also a few guys who did some hitting.

Yadier Molina pushed his hitting streak to 13 games.  With three hits last night, Yadi now has multiple hits in 4 straight games and two or more hits in 5 of the 13.  He has also doubled now in 5 straight games.  He is hitting .380 (19 for 50) and slugging .620 during his streak.

With 2 games left in July, Yadi is hitting .329 for the month (24 of 73).

Kolten Wong – seemingly energized after his big hit against Familia – went 3 for 5, including a double and a triple.  His July average has now crept up to .275 (14 for 51).

Tommy Pham is only hitting .264 this month, but his home run last night was his fifth in 72 July at bats.

Randal Grichuk joined the action late and didn’t join in on the fun, going 0 for 2.  Randal has 4 hits in his last 32 at bats (.125).  He has only 10 hits in his last 48 at bats (.208) but the hits include 2 doubles and 3 home runs.

St Louis did add two more home runs to their season tally last night.  They now have 142 in 103 games.  They are now 17 behind the total of the 2012 Cardinals.  That team hit more than one home run in a game 46 times.  The 2016 Cardinals have already managed that feat 39 times.

Aledmys Diaz Takes Round One vs Fernandez as Cards Win

In what is expected to be a long-running contest between former neighborhood competitors, Aledmys Diaz decisively (and aggressively) took round one against Miami’s Jose Fernandez.  Diaz homered, doubled and drove in three runs to highlight the Cardinals 5-4 win in Miami last night (box score).

Aledmys is finishing July strong.  He has two hits in each of his last two games.  With three games left in the month, Aldemys is hitting .304 (28 for 92) and slugging .522 (he has 4 doubles, 2 triples and 4 home runs so far this month).  He leads the team in walks this month with 12 and is 2 behind Stephen Piscotty for the team RBI lead in July, 18-16.

In the fifth inning last night, Diaz came to the plate with a chance to add to the Cardinal 3-0 lead.  He had Jeremy Hazelbaker at third with no one out.  As he has done almost without fail the whole year, Diaz delivered the run from third with less than two outs.  Last night he did it with an RBI double.  For the season, he leads the team driving in 17 runners from third with less than two outs.  Matt Holliday is second on the club with 13.  Diaz is also the best among regulars in percentage of delivering that runner, as he comes through in that situation 65% of the time (17 of 26).  Jedd Gyorko has delivered 6 of 8 (75%).

For the season, the Cards are delivering that run 56% of the time.

I continue to be impressed by Diaz’ ability to control what is still a powerful swing.  Being extra-aggressive against his boyhood friend, Diaz swung at the first pitch thrown him an uncharacteristic 4 of 5 times and swung at 13 of the 17 pitches he saw overall.  The only one of those swings he missed with was on an 0-1 curveball from Fernandez.  Two pitches later he jumped on another curveball and stroked it for his RBI double.  For the season, he is missing on only 15.4% of his swings.  Among regulars, only Yadier Molina misses on fewer of his swings (14.3%).

Looking very comfortable at the plate, Yadier Molina has stretched his hitting streak to 12 games.  He has two hits in each of the last 3 games, and four of the twelve have been two-hit games.  He’s also doubled in each of the last four.  His batting average over these 12 games sits at .356 (16 for 45) and his slugging percentage up to .600 (on the strength of 5 doubles and 2 home runs).  With the streak, Molina’s July batting average reaches .309.

Although he wasn’t quite as aggressive as Diaz, Yadi offered at 8 of the 16 pitches thrown to him.  Yadi is always aggressive at the plate, and especially so when he’s going well.  For the month of July, Molina is swinging at 53.9% of the pitches that he’s seen (139 of 258).  That is the second highest rate on the team this month behind Stephen Piscotty’s 54.6% (196 swings at 359 pitches).

Piscotty, though, has really looked lost at the plate recently.  He is now 0 for 12 with 8 strikeouts and a double-play grounder to show for the road trip.

All three of his strikeouts last night were swinging.  Stephen is in one of these spells were he’s swinging at pitches out of the zone and taking pitches in the zone.  He had 6 called strikes against him last night.  For the entire month, Stephen has only taken 37 strikes, and only 22.7% of the pitches that he takes are called strikes.  Last night 54.5% of the pitches he watched go by were called strikes (although, in his defense, 3 of those called strikes were inside).

In his first at bat against Jose Fernandez, Piscotty saw 3 fastballs and 2 curves.  His second time up against him, he saw 2 fastballs and 6 curves.  The last time he saw Fernandez he saw four pitches – all curves.  Both times he struck out against Fernandez, he did so chasing a curve out of the zone.

Piscotty is pretty unlikely to be called out on strikes.  Of his 75 strikeouts so far this season, only 13 of them have been the result of a called third strike (17.3%).  This is almost desperately true this month.  Piscotty has now struck out 20 times in July – 19 of them swinging.

Fernandez and company threw first-pitch strikes to 30 of the 40 Cardinal batters last night.  The hitters swung at 18 of them, and 12 of the 22 that took the first pitch, had it called a strike.  Fernandez, especially, had some success throwing his first-pitch curveball for a strike.

The five runs the Cardinals scored in Michael Wacha’s six innings increase his run-support-per-9-innings to a rotation leading 5.56, although for all of that, the runs have been pretty equally divided.  Four of the five starters are averaging at least 5 support runs per game.  Only tonight’s starter, Mike Leake, has had to be content with less – he’s getting a still solid 4.83 runs per nine innings.

July wasn’t Michael’s best or most consistent month.  He finished 2-0 with a 4.23 ERA.  But, he walked no one last night, and only walked 6 in his 27.2 July innings.

Two of them scooted through for hits, but all four batters who put the ball in play against Jonathan Broxton hit the ball on the ground.  For the first three months of the season, Jonathan only got ground balls from 48.9% of the batters who put his pitch in play.  This month, his 67.7% is the team’s highest ground-ball rate.

That’s not the only significant trend shift in Broxton’s season.  Through April and May Broxton faced 4.63 batters per inning and averaged 4.23 pitches per batter.  Through his first 19.2 innings this season, Broxton was throwing strikes with only 58.7% of his pitches and throwing 19.58 pitches per inning.

Since the beginning of June, Jonathan faces only 3.88 batters per inning, throws 14.54 pitches per inning (3.75 per batter), and throws strikes 66.7% of the time.  In his inning last night he faced 5 batters on 12 pitches, 8 of them strikes.  He struck out 20 batters in his first 19.2 innings.  He has 13 in his last 21.2.  His ERA for the first two months was 5.49.  Since the beginning of June his ERA has been 2.49.

With another good inning last night, Kevin Siegrist lowered his ERA to 1.35 over his last 13 appearances covering 13.1 innings.  The hit he allowed was only the seventh in that span.

Seung-hwan Oh closed things up with another very solid inning.  He gave a hit but got a strikeout and a double play.  Over his last 30 appearances covering 28.2 innings Oh has allowed only 4 earned runs (1.26 ERA).

Facing just three batters, Oh is averaging just 3.75 batters per inning he’s pitched this month and 3.90 per inning pitched this year.  The only pitcher on the staff who faces fewer batters per inning is Tyler Lyons at 3.85.

In one of those small baseball ironies, Wacha and Broxton – who feature ground balls – didn’t get a double play turned behind them.  But both Siegrist and Oh – who get far more fly balls than grounders – each had a double play turned for them.

Although the Marlins ended up with four runs, this was a much better pitching performance than the score would indicate.  Whether by design or chance, everyone (beginning with Wacha) threw strikes and got ground balls and, therefore, had short innings.  As a staff, they needed just 112 pitches to dispatch Miami, with no inning requiring more than the 19-pitch second inning.  Of those pitches, 79 were strikes (70.5%), there were no walks surrendered, and 20 of the 30 batters who put the ball in play hit it on the ground.  It was a very tidy performance against an offense that gave us significant trouble at home.

The Cardinals hit multiple homers for the 38th time this season and now have 140 for the year.  The 2012 Cardinals were the last edition of the team to surpass either of those figures.  That team hit 159 home runs with 46 multi-home-run games in 162 games.  The 2016 Cardinals have now played 102.

All of the teams last six wins have been by one run.

Random Stats: Lineup Data

As we head down to Miami, let’s look over the lineup statistics and see what’s new in here.

Even though they tried their best to give the last one away (box score), St Louis will finish July 5-0 when Adam Wainwright starts.  For the season, the team is 15-6 (.714) when Adam starts.

Matt Adams has only started 12 of the 23 games this month, but St Louis is 10-2 when he starts and 4-7 when he doesn’t.  For the season, the Cards are 30-23 (.566) when Matt is in the starting lineup and 24-24 when he’s not.  This is true even though there are significantly more runs scored when Adams starts on the bench (5.44 per) than when he’s in the lineup (4.75).

It is, I’m sure, too simplistic to tie Yadier Molina’s 11-game hitting streak to the fact that he is beginning to get regular rest.  He has started only 17 of the 23 games this month.  The response to Yadi in the lineup is a 12-5 record (.706) and 5.35 runs per game.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that in the six games that they’ve given Yadi a break this month, they are only 2-4, scoring just 2.67 runs per game in those contests.

The Cardinal July record when Tommy Pham starts is also 12-5.

Kolten Wong – who delivered the game-winning double last night – has scrambled for playing time since returning from Memphis.  He has only started 10 games this month, and the offense has suffered when he’s in the lineup.  St Louis has only scored 3.90 runs per game in July with Wong in the lineup against 5.23 runs per game when he’s not.  Nonetheless, St Louis has gone 7-3 in Kolten’s starts and 7-6 when he starts the game on the bench.

Greg Garcia is one of the players who have taken advantage of Matt Carpenter’s injury.  This month, St Louis is 8-4 when Greg is in the lineup and 6-5 when he’s not.

Every so often as I do this I run across something that makes me re-run the data, to make sure what I’m seeing is real.  This one surprises me, but is quite true.  Until July, Matt Carpenter had only been out of the lineup for 7 games.  That St Louis won 5 of the 7 is encouraging but hardly newsworthy.

Matt started 5 games this month before his injury, with the Cards losing 3 of the 5.  With Matt Carpenter out of the lineup, St Louis has been 12-6 this month.  Over the course of the first 101 games this year, St Louis is 37-39 (.487) when Matt is in the starting lineup and 17-8 (.680) when he is not.

St Louis, of course, is not a better team without their best hitter.  The better record is mostly attributable to the rebound of the pitching staff in July.  It is, I think, significant to note that the average run scoring is virtually the same with and without Carp.  In his 76 starts, St Louis averages 5.09 runs per game.  They average 5.04 in the 25 games that he hasn’t started.  The suggestion here is that the way the Cardinals utilize Carpenter (ie batting him leadoff) isn’t necessarily getting the most impact from his talent.

With the Cards poised to face elite right-hander Jose Fernandez tonight, it’s interesting to note that they are 13-3 against right handers this month and only 1-6 against lefties.  The record against right-handers has been achieved in spite of the loss of, perhaps, their biggest weapon against them.  When healthy, Brandon Moss started 37 games against right-handed starters.  St Louis is 23-14 (.622) scoring 5.27 runs per game in those starts.  Without Brandon, the record against righties is 18-16 with 4.82 runs per game.

For the month, St Louis is actually hitting lefties for a higher average (.256 – .246) and scoring more runs against them (4.86 – 4.56), making the respective records all the more curious.

Molina and Pham have each started 12 of the 16 games against right handers this month – although not the same 12 games.  Their records are identical here as well, as St Louis is 11-1 those games.  They are also 11-2 when Stephen Piscotty starts against righties.

Before his injury, Jhonny Peralta made four starts against left-handers this month.  The Cards scored just 13 runs in those games and lost all four.  In the 11 starts Peralta has made against lefties this season, St Louis is 2-9 and averaging 3.73 runs per game.

Randal Grichuk has been in the starting lineup 23 times when St Louis has faced a left-handed starter.  The Cards are 12-11 in those games, scoring 5.35 runs per game.  When facing a lefty without Grichuk, St Louis is 1-6 scoring 4.43 runs per game.

In Carpenter’s absence, Greg Garcia and Tommy Pham have taken the bulk of the leadoff opportunities.  Garcia has been there 8 times (5-3 record) and Pham has had 6 starts there (5-1).  For the season, St Louis is 36-38 (.486) scoring 5.11 runs per game when Matt Carpenter bats leadoff and 18-9 (.667) scoring 5.00 runs per game with someone else in that spot.

Aledmys Diaz has held down the second slot in the order for all but one game this month.  The Cards are 13-9 scoring 4.73 runs per game with Diaz batting second.  For most of the first month and a half of the season, Piscotty was the predominant second hitter in the order.  For the season, Diaz has batted second 53 times to 30 for Piscotty.  They are 31-22 (.585) with Diaz and 16-14 (.533) with Piscotty.  The runs per game number also slightly favors Diaz, 5.19-5.10.

The third spot in the order has been divided very evenly this month between Piscotty and Matt Holliday.  Piscotty has been there 12 times in July, leading the Cards to a 9-3 record and 4.83 runs per game.  In the 11 games that Holliday has batted third this month, St Louis is 5-6, 4.45 rpg.

For the season, Matt Holliday has hit third 80 times.  The team has responded with 38 wins, 42 losses (.475), scoring 4.96 rpg.  They are 10-4, 5.14 rpg with Piscotty.

Seven different Cardinals have hit clean-up so far this month, with none of them landing there more than Stephen Piscotty’s 8 starts.  Of the 7, only Piscotty (3-5) and Gyorko (0-1) have losing records.

For the season, four different players have made at least 14 starts in the clean-up role.  Of these, the team has a winning record only when Randal Grichuk bats fourth.  They are 11-3 (.786) scoring 6.00 runs per game in Randal’s starts at clean-up.  The others are Piscotty (21-22), Adams (9-10), and Moss (7-9).  Matt Holliday hit some clean-up for the first time this month.  St Louis was 4-2 in his six starts at clean-up.

Six different players have hit fifth for the Cards in July – all of this variance in the rest of the batting order stemming mostly from the loss of Carpenter at the top.  Of the July six, Matt Adams has made the most starts in the five-hole (7) and done the most winning (6-1).

For the season, the Cardinals have their best record when they have Adams batting fifth (14-10, .583).  Yadier Molina has still made the most starts there this season with 29, with the Cards going 14-15 in those games.

Molina’s ten starts batting sixth this month are the most of six different players to hit there.  Sixth has really been Yadi’s place all year.  With his 6-4 July, the team is now 25-16 (.610) when Yadi bats sixth.  They have scored 5.46 runs in those games.  St Louis is 29-31 (.483), scoring 4.82 runs per game when Yadi doesn’t bat sixth.

As seven different players have hit seventh this month, there is little to distinguish them.  Yadi’s 4-0 record there is the best, such as it is.  For the season, 12 different names have been written into the seventh spot.  Jedd Gyorko has ended up there the most so far, with 24 starts.  The team record with him there is 11-13.  They are 12-10 when Kolten Wong bats there, 9-8 with Molina and 7-5 with Grichuk.

The eighth spot in the order has been manned by six different players in July, with none of them getting more than six opportunities there.  At 5-1, Tommy Pham has seen the best results.  For the season, Kolten Wong has batted here the most (26 starts) and has done the best by quite a margin.  St Louis has won 18 of those 26 (.692), scoring 5.31 runs per game.  The numbers on the other two who have made at least ten starts hitting eighth: Aledmys Diaz, 10-13, .435, 5.65 rpg; and Greg Garcia, 5-6, 4.82 rpg.  Everyone else is 21-20.

A few words about last night’s game.

After the seventh inning last night, I decided I would write about lineup stuff today to avoid dealing with last night’s game.  After the comeback, I thought I would abandon numbers altogether and write a 7,000-word prose poem memorializing the victory.

This morning, I decided to go back to the lineup numbers (because we haven’t talked about them for a while) and just make a quick non-statistical comment about the game.

I defend Mike Matheny a lot, but every so often he makes indefensible decisions.  In last night’s seventh inning, he left a gassed Adam Wainwright, who pitched the entire night with runners all over the bases, to throw 117 pitches – 31 of them in the seventh – before he finally served up what had been a 3-1 lead on a hanging curve to their big power hitter.

As egregious as the decision was, Adam almost made it work.  Pitching on heart and fumes, with the tying runs on base, no one out, and the top of the Met lineup up, Adam came so close, striking out the first two hitters before finally serving up the home run to Cespedes on the ninth pitch of the at bat.  It was as courageous a display as I have seen for a long time – perhaps back to Chris Carpenter against Philly in 2011.

I think some of the team’s response in the ninth borrowed something from Wainwright’s courage.  I don’t think you can watch your teammate fight with his last ounce of strength like that and not have it reach something deep inside you.  I think it’s no surprise that it was Molina who struck the first key blow.  His career has been as much about heart as it has been talent and skill.

In what would be perhaps the oddest twist of an odd season, it’s possible that Matheny’s bad gamble might finally be the play that lights the candle under this team.  We’ll have to see, of course.  This team has already followed several emotional victories with strings of bloodless defeats.

Still, we get glimpses (and last night was another) of this very dangerous team that sits right below the surface of the team we’ve seen most of the year.  Somewhere down there, there is that championship team.  It’s the one that everyone connected with the team has promised us is down there.  The team that they all say will show up one of these days.

What they did last night – given all the circumstances that attended the comeback – showed championship resilience.  I’m not sure there are any other clubs out there that could have pulled that one out. Will that team will show up in Miami tonight?

By the way, the home run streak came to an end.  After hitting 30 home runs over a 17-game span of at least one home run in each game, the streak came to a memorable end as the Cards used 5 doubles to upend the Mets.

All of St Louis’ last five wins have been by one run.

The Marlins – who won two of three from Philadelphia – will be the seventh consecutive team to face the Cardinals after winning their previous series.

Cards Don’t Hit Much in Doubleheader Split with Mets

As you might expect after the split of yesterday’s doubleheader (box score 1) (box score 2), the review is decidedly mixed.  The positives are: two more home runs from Jedd Gyorko (he now has 14 on the year – 7 of them this month); 7 scoreless innings from 6 different relievers in close games against a quality opponent; and a Cub loss that brings the Cards back to within 6.5 games of that lovable team from Chicago.  With the two home runs from Jedd, the 2016 Cardinals have – in 100 games – eclipsed the home run total of the 2015 team, 138-137.

But as we leave behind the young and imprecise pitching staff of the San Diego Padres and run headlong into two elite staffs (the Dodgers and Mets) our offense has subsequently disappeared for long stretches at a time.  A ready example: from the time Gyorko hit his first home run yesterday afternoon through the end of the doubleheader, St Louis scored just one run over the final 15 innings.

While there was not a whole lot of good news offensively during the doubleheader, there were a couple of moments that didn’t belong only to Jedd Gyorko.  One of these was the bat of Yadier Molina.  He only played in game one, but singled and doubled, scoring a run in the game he started.

Sort of quietly, Yadi now has a nice little ten-game hitting streak that even has a trace of power.  Molina is now hitting .324 (12 for 37) during his streak with 5 extra-base hits (3 doubles and 2 home runs).  Yadi has a .568 slugging percentage during his streak.

With the streak, Yadi’s average for July rises to .283.  But he’s been especially valuable while the game has been close.  Yesterday afternoon – with the game still scoreless – Molina singled to set up the Cards first run.  His fifth-inning double almost increased the Cardinal lead to 4-2, except that Matt Adams was thrown out at the plate.  For the month, Yadi is 13 of 39 (.333) when the Cards are even in the game, ahead by no more than one run, or trailing by no more than two runs.

Greg Garcia also had a solid doubleheader, going 3 for 7 in the two games (with his pinch-single Sunday night, Greg is 4 for his last 8).

Aledmys Diaz singled sharply his first time up, but then went 0 for his last 7 in the doubleheader.  His single is his only hit in his last 14 at bats, as Diaz is starting to cool down with the rest of the team.  Since the beginning of the Dodger series, Aledmys has 4 singles in 21 at bats (.190).  His only walk in that span was intentional.

Diaz came to the plate four times yesterday with his team in the lead.  That he went 0 for 4 in those at bats may have something to do with lack of familiarity.  These were his first plate appearances with a lead in nearly a week.  The last time St Louis was ahead in a game when Diaz came to bat was the seventh inning of the first game of the San Diego doubleheader, 26 at bats ago.

Randal Grichuk’s season continued to take on water.  He was 0 for 4 in the two games and dropped a fly ball that led to a costly run in the second game.  After a brief hot streak after his return from Memphis, Randal now has 4 hits in his last 30 at bats (.133).  He has struck out 15 times in those 30 at bats.

The last two at bats of his frustrating night came in the fifth (with St Louis trailing just 2-1) and the eighth (the Cards now down 3-1).  He struck out both times – the first time looking at three straight pitches from Colon.  These were his sixteenth and seventeenth at bats this month with the Cardinals trailing, but by less than 6 runs.  He has one hit in those at bats (.059).

In the broader sense, Randal’s bat has been especially silent all year when the games have been close(ish).  From the point in all Cardinal games where the birds have trailed by no more than four runs to the point where they have led but by no more than two runs, Grichuk has contributed a .188 average (37 for 197) with 5 home runs and 20 runs batted in.

Matt Holliday’s season average slipped to .235 as he went 0 for 5 with 2 strikeouts in the doubleheader.  Matt helped bring the Cards from behind in the first game of the San Diego doubleheader with a home run against Colin Rea.  He is 1 for 20 (.050) since that swing.  That one hit was an RBI double against LA when the Cards trailed by six.  His July average is down to .172 (11 for 64) with 2 home runs and 9 runs batted in.

Stephen Piscotty played only the first game.  He was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts and a double play grounded into.  Since the beginning of the Dodger series, Piscotty is 4 for 19 (.211).  Usually a great hitter in tight games, over the last two series he is 0 for 13 when the game is closer than five runs either way.

For the doubleheader, St Louis hit a combined .190 and struck out 23 times.  They are hitting .188 with 49 strikeouts in the five games against the Dodgers and Mets.

Over the last five games, just 41 of the 194 Cardinals that came to the plate did so with their team ahead in the game (21.1%).

Once his teammates gave him a three-run lead, it took Carlos Martinez 9 batters and an inning and a third to see that lead sliced to 1.  This has been a recurring difficulty in an otherwise excellent month for Carlos.  In 21 innings this month when Martinez is pitching with less than a two-run lead, his ERA sits at 2.14 while holding batters to a .224 batting average.  He’s only faced 17 batters this month with a lead of two runs or more, but those 17 have a .357/.471/.643 batting line against him.

Jaime Garcia has had similar difficulties this month.  It’s as though he can’t wait to surrender any lead he’s given.  The lead Gyorko gave him last night lasted 1.2 innings.  He has pitched 18.1 July innings either tied or behind.  He has a tidy 1.47 ERA and a .200 batting average against for those innings.  He has pitched 11.2 innings this month with any kind of lead, with a resulting 6.94 ERA and a .292 batting average against.

Random Stats: Leading Off an Inning

One of the drags on the offense this month has been a persistent inability to get the leadoff man on base (speaking here of leading off the inning, not just the game).  In April, our leadoff men reached base at a .390 clip.  The May figure was an OK .324.  In June, they tailed off a little more to .311.  So far in July, our leadoff men carry an on base percentage of .279 as only 50 of our 179 offensive innings have begun with a Cardinal batter getting on base.

Greg Garcia has gotten some looks at the top of the lineup – he’s batted leadoff in 5 of his last 7 starts.  He has, however, only started 7 of the last 14 games.  Of all the fulltime and part-time players, Garcia has done the best with his leadoff opportunities.  In the 15 innings this month that he’s led off, he has reached base 7 times (.467).  July has actually been a below average month for Greg in this respect.  For the season, he has led off 28 innings and reached base through hit (7 times) or walk (8 times) in 15 of them – a .536 on base percentage.

Kolten Wong has only led off 5 innings this month, reaching base only once.  For the season, though, this has been as aspect of the game that Kolten has excelled at, reaching in 19 of the 50 innings that he’s led off (.380 pct).

With Matt Carpenter’s return seemingly imminent, I have to say that his injury situation didn’t play out at all as I had anticipated.  In my mind this was a terrific opportunity for someone – especially Wong – to lay a claim on the leadoff spot – to make it his own so that Mike Matheny might be tempted to move Carpenter into a better run-producing spot in the order.  But no one has done much with the opportunity, and Wong hasn’t even been given even one start in the top spot in the order.

Stephen Piscotty has the team’s fourth-best on base percentage leading off an inning.  He has reached in 4 of his 11 innings this month (.364) and 33 of 89 (.371) for the year.  Next on the list – surprisingly – is Brandon Moss at .357 (20 of 56).  Brandon reached twice in six innings this month before being sidelined with his injury.  So a case could be made that much of our difficulty in getting leadoff runners on is caused by injury situations that will largely be resolved with the return of Carpenter and Moss.

It’s also true that too many of the regular players have mostly disappeared this month when given the opportunity to lead off innings.  Several of them have generally failed in this situation for the entire season.  Aledmys Diaz is at .214 (3 of 14) this month – he’s at .323 for the season.  Matt Holliday is also at .214 (3 of 14) – he is only .271 for the season.  Matt Adams is at .188 (3 for 16 this month) – reducing his season average to just .278.  Jedd Gyorko’s been having a great month, but not when leading off an inning.  He has reached just twice in twelve innings (.167).  For the season, he is hitting just .179 and reaching base at just a .238 clip when leading off.  Randal Grichuk has been the first man up in 15 different innings this month, reaching just twice on singles (.133).  For the season, his on base percentage is just .250 (17 for 68) when leading off an inning.

The numbers seem to suggest here that there is a “leadoff mindset/approach” that some players employ and others – seemingly – will not.

Tommy Pham is the hardest to explain when it comes to leading off an inning.  He has struggled as much as anyone else in the leadoff spot.  He’s had six games in the top spot of the order, but has just 4 hits in 28 at bats (.143) and has walked just once.  But, when he leads off an inning in games where he bats somewhere other than leadoff, Tommy has a .450 on base percentage (7 hits, a walk, and a HBP in 20 opportunities).

When the Cards get their leadoff hitter on, he scores 48% of the time.

First Inning Catastrophe Too Much for Cards to Overcome

A bloop single, a dribbler up the third-base line and a walk set the stage for the implosion that was heralded rookie Mike Mayers first major league inning.  Is second was only slightly less damaging.  The batsmen keep scratching valiantly back, but after seeing Los Angeles add 3 more in the second – after they had tallied 6 in the first – the deficit was too great to overcome as the Dodgers held on for a 9-6 victory (box score).

With consecutive two-hit games, Stephen Piscotty has pushed his July batting average to .321 (25 for 78).  His two-run double gives him a team-leading 18 runs batted in this month and raises his July slugging percentage to .577.

That double came in the seventh, in his last at bat of the game.  Piscotty is hitting .317 this season in the seventh through ninth innings (33 for 104) with 4 home runs and 17 runs batted in.

Aledmys Diaz’ streak of reaching base in 26 consecutive games came to an unceremonious end.  He sent three fly balls to deepish right field, but nothing fell in for him.  Over the course of the streak, Aledmys’ batting line was .356/463/.614.  He hit 5 home runs, walked 18 times and drove in 20 runs.

After his torrid series against San Diego and his dramatic home run in game one of the Dodger series,  Jedd Gyorko has cooled a bit – now hitless in his last ten at bats.

Once Scott Kazmir had gotten him to ground out in the first and third innings, the odds started sliding toward the Dodger pitching staff.  In general, Gyorko is most dangerous this season through the first four innings.  In 67 at bats before the fifth inning, Jedd has 22 hits (.328 average) that includes 5 home runs.  His early-game slugging percentage is .612.

From the fifth through the eighth, though, his average dwindles to .189 in 95 at bats.  Last night Jedd struck out in the sixth and grounded out in the eighth.

When Matt Holliday doubled home Piscotty in the first inning, it provided the first, first-inning run the Cards have scored since Matt Carpenter’s injury fifteen games ago.

Seth Maness was the same kind of hero in this game thatTyler Lyons was in the 16-inning game.  After Mike Mayers’ rather disastrous debut, Maness quieted the Dodgers for the next 3.2 innings.  Seth’s season started very badly and was interrupted for 35 games by an injury.  Since his return to the bullpen, though, Seth has been called on 10 times and has pitched 12.2 innings allowing just 2 runs (1.42 ERA) on 7 hits and 3 walks.

None of the 8 batters that faced Trevor Rosenthal last night scored, but 5 of them reached base (on a single, a double and 3 walks).  Sixteen of the 35 batters he has faced this month have reached base against Trevor (.471).

Last night was the fourth time this month that Trevor has pitched in the seventh, and the second of those four times that he has left without retiring a batter, as he walked all three he faced on 19 pitches.  He has thrown 82 pitches to the 15 batters he’s faced in his four seventh innings, retiring only four of them.

Matthew Bowman was also heroic, as he came on in the seventh and wriggled clean of a bases-loaded, no-out situation.  He then added a scoreless eighth.  Bowman has quietly stitched together a 1.32 ERA over his last 12 appearances and 13.2 innings.  Matthew hasn’t served up a home run since Martin Maldonado connected in the sixth inning of the June 1 game in Milwaukee.  He has now gone 19 innings, throwing 265 pitches to 71 batters since that last home run.

With that perfect eighth inning, Matthew continues a fairly spectacular late inning trend.  He has pitched 17.2 innings do far this season after the seventh inning.  In them, he has surrendered 2 runs on 9 hits (8 singles and a double).  He carries a 1.02 ERA and a .153 batting average against from the eighth inning on.

Mayers’ distressing inning was by no means the only time the Cards have struggled starting a game.  The team ERA in the first inning this year is 4.41 (4.95 for the month of July).  In contrast, after Bowman’s scoreless eighth, the team ERA for the eighth inning this month is 1.35.

This was the Cardinals twelfth series this season that went to a rubber game.  The Cards are 7-5 in rubber games so far.  All five of these rubber game losses have come at home, where St Louis is only 4-5 in rubbers games.

The Mets – who just took two of three from Miami – will be the sixth consecutive team the Cardinals have faced that won its previous series.  Even with this loss, St Louis is still 10-5 in series against teams that had won their previous series (going 29-19 in those series).

Cards, Adams, Out Last Dodgers in 16

Matt Holliday lead off the sixteenth inning of last night’s game flying out to right field.  At that point, St Louis’ offense had accounted for 7 hits in 52 at bats.  But for a dramatic two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth-inning drive by Jedd Gyorko, the Cards wouldn’t even have had this chance.  As the game clock turned to five hours and ten minutes, the 444th pitch of the evening sped toward Matt Adams, who drove it over the Cardinal bullpen to put an end to the 4-3 marathon (box score), give the Cards back-to-back walk-off wins, give them three consecutive one-run wins, raise the over-all winning streak to a season-best five games (all at home), and perch the Cards eight games over .500 for the first time this season.

It was quite a blast.  And a long time coming.

Aledmys Diaz finished the night 2 for 6 – his fourth straight game with two hits.  He is 8 for his last 19 (.421) and has 4 runs batted in in his last four games.  Diaz’ July batting average holds at .328 (he is now 22 for 67).  His on base percentage (.438) is also a team-best, while his July slugging percentage (.552) is second on the team.

The only time in all 16 innings and 7 plate appearances that Diaz came to the plate with two outs was in the third inning, when he promptly delivered the single that resulted in two runs scoring.  Aledmys is 8 for 12 this month (.667) when hitting with two outs.  His season average of .289 is second on the team among regulars to Yadier Molina’s .298.

Jedd Gyorko added to his legend with 2 more hits last night, including the dramatic game-tying home run with two out in the ninth.  Jedd now has a little five-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .526 (10 for 19) and slugging 1.316.  Jedd has hit 5 home runs and driven in 8 over his last five games.

His July batting average is now .395 (17 hits in 43 at bats).

Both his hits came with two out.  He is now 6 for 14 this month (.429) when batting with two out.  Four of the five home runs he’s hit this month have come with two out.  From the beginning of the season through June 30, Gyorko hit only .204 with two out (10 for 49) with only 2 extra-base hits (both doubles) and 2 two-out RBIs.

Mostly though – as you would expect during a game where the home team managed just 8 hits in 16 innings – the hitters endured a long and fruitless night.

Tommy Pham becomes the latest to struggle in the leadoff spot.  Since Carpenter went down, Cardinal leadoff hitters are 10 for 54 (.185).  Pham went 0 for 6 last night.  He had two big doubles in the last game of the San Diego series, but they are his only hits in his last 23 at bats (.087).

Stephen Piscotty’s big home run Thursday night has masked his recent struggles at the plate.  Piscotty endured an 0 for 7 that included the double-play that ended the fifteenth inning.  Stephen has one hit (the home run) in his last 14 at bats (.071).

Piscotty was also 0 for 4 with two out last night.  Stephen is hitting .282 this year with two out, after hitting .359 in that situation last year.  But July has been harder.  He is now 7 for 32 (.219) this month in two-out at bats.

Matt Holliday was one of the heroes of the first game of the Wednesday double-header with a second inning home run against Colin Rea.  That home run was his fifth hit in nine at bats, but he hasn’t had a hit since.  He is now 0 for his last 11 (including his 0 for 7 last night), and .182 for the month of July.  His outs last night included 2 line outs, but also 2 strike outs.

When Kolten Wong was removed for a pinch-hitter he was 0 for 2 and his average had tailed to .230 on the season as he is just 2 for his last 17 (.118).  July has not been his best month – his average is down to .229 with 3 runs batted in (for the month).

Before he left the game, Wong did steal second with two out in the third.  St Louis is now 17 out of 20 for the season when attempting a steal with two outs.  They are 7 for 21 when stealing with less than two outs.

The Cardinals sent 19 men to the plate with nobody out over the course of the 16-inning marathon.  Over the course of the season, 53% of the Cardinals who reach base with no one out end up scoring.  Last night, only 3 of the 19 reached base and only one of those scored.

Throughout the entire season so far, Michael Wacha has seemed not quite ready to start the inning.  In his 20 starts so far, batters are hitting .304 against Michael until there are two outs in the inning.  Once Wacha gets that second out, the batting average against him drops to .217.  This combination leads to a lot of games for Michael like last night. Where he manages to get through 6 innings with only two runs given up, but at the cost of a whole lot of base-runners and pitches thrown.

Last night, the Dodgers were 6 for 12 against Wacha with nobody out; 4 for 9 with a walk with one out, and 0 for 6 with 2 outs.

Kevin Siegrist got us through the seventh still tied, but with the kind of outing that is starting to get all too familiar as he surrendered a hit and a walk before ending the inning.  Over his last 11 appearances (totaling 11.1 innings), Kevin has been charged with only 2 earned runs (1.59 ERA), but has walked six and hit another while allowing 6 hits.  It has cost him 190 pitches (19 of them last night) to get through his last 11.1 innings.

His walk was a two-out pass to Howie Kendrick – the third two-out walk from Kevin in his last 5 outings.  He then got Grandal to fly out to right.  For the season, batters hit .146 against Siegrist with 2 out (7 for 48).  Over the course of his career, batters are hitting .197 against Siegrist with two outs.

Matthew Bowman gave us four big extra-innings outs last night.  He has a 1.54 ERA over his last 11.2 innings.

Tyler Lyons – with 4.1 enormous innings of scoreless relief – has to be re-writing his role in the bullpen the same way that Jedd Gyorko is re-writing his role with the offense.  Over his last 11 appearances, Tyler Lyons has pitched 17.2 innings.  He has only allowed 2 runs (on 2 solo home runs) and struck out 17.  His ERA over his last 17.2 innings is 1.02.

I am hesitant to get too excited about Seth Maness, but it should be pointed out that, with his 1-2-3 sixteenth last night, he has retired the last 14 batters he has faced.

With 8 quality starts in their last 12 games, the Cardinal team ERA for the month of July has dropped to 2.99.

The Dodgers hit .318 against the Cardinal pitching staff last night when there was no one out.  With two outs, Los Angeles finished 2 for 18 (.111) with no runs batted in.

The dramatic home runs that tied and won the game were numbers 133 & 134 for the Cards just 96 games and 3,328 at bats into the 2016 season.  This was the thirty-seventh time this team has hit more than one home run in a game, passing already the 36 multi-home-run games the 2015 Cardinals managed.  The last Cardinal team to produce more than 36 multi-home run games was the 2012 club.  They did it 46 times.

The 2015 team hit 137 home runs all season.  They had 78 at this point of the season.  Home run #134 of the 2015 season was one of the most dramatic of the year.  Game # 157, September 28 in Pittsburgh.  St Louis clings to a 1-0 lead in the ninth, until Mark Reynolds puts a wrap on the season with his 2-run home run against Mark Melacon.  It sent St Louis to a 3-0 win and the division title and Pittsburgh to the Wild Card game.

Piscotty and Diaz Pitch In to Provide Sweep of Padres

For seven and a half agonizing innings, it was looking like the Cards would have to be satisfied with three out of four from San Diego.  Padre starter Andrew Cashner was rarely in trouble, and was able to pitch his way out of the little trouble he found himself in.

Then the flash-mob offense showed up again, and the Cards (led by Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz) put up five runs in the last two innings to walk off with a 6-5 win (box score).  St Louis is 5-2 since the break, and the mood around the team and those following it is starting to thaw a bit.  In a mostly foggy season, a few rays of sunlight are starting to creep through. Whether this is a “turning point” win remains to be seen.

If asked, I suppose I would have to say that the low point of the season so far was the 0-5 home stand against Houston and Texas in mid-June.  After a thrilling sweep of Pittsburgh that looked like it was going to thrust us into the midst of contention for the division, we dropped all five in frustrating fashion – the last three by one run.  At the end of that catastrophe, the Cardinals sat at 35-33 and 12.5 games deep in the standings.

While never “putting things together” for any extended time, the St Louis Cardinals have quietly clawed their way back into the discussion.  Since the Texas massacre, St Louis has gone 16-11, pushed themselves back up to seven over .500 (the high-water mark of the season) and crept to within 6.5 games of the Cubs for the first time since May 23.

Nine of the sixteen wins have come at the expense of Milwaukee and San Diego, so it’s a less-than-confident resurgence.  Nonetheless, some things are starting to fall almost in place – culminating in the recently concluded San Diego series.

While his series wasn’t as spectacular as Jedd Gyorko’s, Aledmys Diaz nonetheless had a significant hand in the sweep of the Padres.  He played in three of the four games, getting two hits in each game – including the hit that concluded the series last night.  He finished 6 for 13 (.462).  His batting line for July is an outstanding .328/.438/.574.

In the larger context of the Cardinals push back into contention, you would have to say that Diaz and the pitching staff are the driving forces.  Over his last 23 games, Aledmys has 32 hits in 86 at bats – hits which include 7 doubles, 2 triples and 5 home runs.  He has driven in 19 runs (in 23 games) and walked 17 times.  He has reached base in all 23 games (and has done so in 24 straight games overall) with a batting line of .372/.486/.674.  His OPS since the end of the Texas series has been 1.160.

Tommy Pham contributed two doubles to last night’s rally.  As June has given way to July, Pham has started to look more like the offensive force that we were hoping to see this year.  He is now hitting .298 this month (14 for 47) with a .596 slugging percentage as 8 of his 14 hits have gone for extra-bases – 3 of them home runs.

Tommy got pitches to swing at early in the count last night, with 3 of his 4 plate appearances lasting fewer than five pitches.  Tommy isn’t one for working deep at bats.  This year, when his at bat is over by pitch four, Tommy is hitting .326 (15 for 46) with a .739 slugging percentage.  All 5 of his home runs have come in these quick at bats.  The 29 times his at bats have lasted five pitches or more, Tommy hits just .130 (3 for 23) with 6 walks.

Matt Holliday left the game after being grazed on the nose by a pitch.  He was 0 for 2 at the time.  While some hits have fallen in for Matt lately, he is still stuck at .208 (10 for 48) for the month.

Both of Matt’s at bats were one-pitch affairs, as he flied out on the first pitch he saw in the first and grounded out on the first pitch he saw in the fourth.  Across all of baseball, batters thrive when they get something to hit on the first pitch.  The major league batting average (according to baseball reference) on the first pitch is a healthy .348 with a .582 slugging percentage.

But Matt hasn’t been able to make it work for him so far this season.  He has the team’s lowest batting average on the first pitch (.234 on just 11 for 47 hitting) by almost 30 points (Diaz is second at .263).  He is hitless the last 11 times he has hit the first pitch, and one for his last 17.

Matt Adams was also hitless in his two at bats last night before leaving for the pinch-hitter.  Adams has had a tough time this month.  He is now 6 for 38 in July (.158).

His two at bats last night lasted 8 and 5 pitches, respectively.  In fact, Adams 8-pitch strikeout that led off the second inning was the longest Cardinal plate appearance of the night.  But Adams is like Pham in this regard.  If he can put one of the first three pitches he sees in play, he’s a .319 hitter with a .626 slugging percentage.  If he doesn’t, his average drops to .223.

After returning hot from Memphis, Randal Grichuk has cooled off.  He is 2 for his last 18 after striking out 3 times in an 0 for 4 evening.  He has struck out 10 times in those 18 at bats.

The Cardinals’ ten hits last night included 5 doubles and a home run.  The team is hitting .270 for the month of July with 26 home runs and a .474 slugging percentage.

Adam Wainwright pitched well enough to win last night, although he would have been the loser, had the Cards not rallied.  With six innings of two-run eight-strikeout ball, Adam’s July ERA rises to 0.93 (he had only allowed 1 earned run in his previous 23 innings).  Opposing hitters are batting .216/.252/.294 against him this month.  His record is still 3-0 and, through 29 innings he has struck out 27 and walked 5.  Waino has not surrendered a home run since the seventh inning of his May 28 win against Washington.  He gave up 3 that night, but none since – 9 starts, 61.2 innings, 913 pitches and 237 batters faced ago.

Wainwright has pitched to 108 batters this month.  Only 17 of them (15.7%) have hit either of his first two pitches.  Only 16 of them (14.8%) have extended him past five pitches.  The other 75 (69.4%) have been resolved in three to five pitches.

Jonathan Broxton got them out in the ninth on 7 pitches, 6 pitches and 5 pitches respectively.  Of the 28 batters he’s faced this month, 17 have ended the at bat in four pitches or less.  They are hitting .313 against Broxton.  The 11 that have gone more than four pitches against Jonathan are 0 for 9 with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts.  Since the lost home stand against the Texas teams, batters are 1 for 13 (.077) with five strikeouts when Broxton takes them to more than four pitches.

When Travis Jankowski lined out to right in the third inning, he became the only Padre to hit the first pitch thrown him last night.  Since the Texas series, opposing batters are hitting just .228 against the Cards (26 for 114) when they hit the first pitch.

The Dodgers – who just took two out of three from Washington – will be the fifth consecutive team the Cards will play that has won its previous series.

Gyorko Stars as Cards Win Two from Padres

Starting pitchers Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia both pitched well enough to win, and ex-Padre Jedd Gyorko made sure they did as he hit three home runs and St Louis won both ends of yesterday’s double-header 4-2 (box score) and 3-2 (box score).

Jedd Gyorko was the story of the double-header and, actually, the San Diego series so far.  He was 4 for 7 yesterday with three home runs and 5 runs batted in – including the game winner in both games.  He is now 7 for 10 for the series with 4 home runs and a 1.900 slugging percentage.  Gyorko, furthermore, is now 13 for 21 (a .619 batting average) with a triple, 6 home runs, 10 runs batted in and a 1.571 slugging percentage against the team that traded him to St Louis.

The San Diego series has floated Jedd’s July numbers to a .412 batting average (14 for 34) and a .794 slugging percentage (he has a double to go with the homers).

All three of yesterday’s homers – and all four during the series – have come when Jedd hit the first strike thrown to him.  So far for the month of July, he is 8 for 10 when he hits the first strike.  This has been his MO for the entire season.  Gyorko, as an aggressive early-in-the-count hitter, is hitting .407 this year (22 of 54) and slugging .963 hitting strike one.  Ten of his 11 home runs and 20 of his 27 RBIs have come on the first strike in the at bat.

Aledmys Diaz played the first game and got two hits.  Aledmys is having a very strong July.  Through 69 plate appearances over 15 games, Aledmys has put together 11 singles, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs, 9 runs batted in, 11 walks, 1 HBP and 1 sacrifice bunt.  His batting line for the month so far is .321/.441/.589.

His first time up, he grounded the first strike he saw into right field.  This is something that he did a lot early in the season, but has been absent lately.  He is just 2 for 15 this month when hitting the first strike.  He hits .324 for the season when hitting the first strike.

But as the season has progressed, Aledmys has become the team’s best two-strike hitter.  After singling to left on an 0-2 pitch in the seventh inning of the first game, Aledmys is now hitting .345 for the month (10 of 29) with two strikes on him.  For the season, he leads the team at .283.  The major league average (according to baseball reference) is .176 when hitting with two-strikes.

Yadier Molina, who also played only the first game, has quietly put together a little six-game hitting streak.  Yadi has seven hits in his 20 at bats over the course of the streak, including a double and 2 home runs.  He’s also walked 4 times in the 6 games and has seen 106 pitches in his last 24 plate appearances (4.41 per).  His batting line for the 6 games in .350/.458/.700.

Yadi hit the first strike thrown to him twice – flying to deep left on the first pitch in the fourth and grounding out on a 1-0 pitch in the eighth.  He is just 4 for 18 this month (.222) when hitting the first strike thrown him.  His home run came on a 2-2 pitch.  All three of Yadi’s home runs this year have come on two-strike pitches.

Kolten Wong beat out an infield single in the sixth inning of the second game.  It is his only hit in his last 14 at bats.  After torching AAA pitching during a brief send down, Kolten is hitting .219 in July with 3 RBIs in 38 PAs.

In 3 of his 7 plate appearances, Kolten landed in two-strike counts.  He went 0 for 2 with a walk and a strike out.  Four of his five walks this month have come on 3-2 pitches (the only one that didn’t was an intentional walk).  But while Kolten is walking more in two-strike counts, he’s not hitting.   He is 1 for 14 (.071) this month with two-strikes on him.

With seven extra-base hits (2 doubles and 5 home runs) mixed among their 16 hits over the two games, the Cards slugged .541 for the double-header – maintaining their team .470 slugging percentage for the month.

When the Cardinals hit the first strike thrown to them during the double-header they went 7 for 15 with 4 of the 5 home runs – a .407 batting average and a 1.267 slugging percentage.  For the season Cardinal hitters are hitting .334 with a .619 slugging percentage on the first strike.  The major league averages are .352 and .603.

Carlos Martinez was the winning pitcher in game one.  With his seven innings of two-run ball, Carlos has quality starts in 8 of his last 9 outings, missing only his last start in Milwaukee before the break (when he only went five innings).  Carlos is now 2-1 in three July starts with a 2.84 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 19 innings.

Of the five batters who hit Jaime Garcia’s first strike, only one had a hit to show for it – that would be Matt Kemp, who accounted for the only run against Jaime by launching his first pitch of the sixth inning out of the park.  For the month of July, Jaime has given up only 6 hits to the 22 batters who have hit his first strike.  All 6 have been for extra bases – including 4 home runs.  The slugging percentage against Jaime on his first strike is .909 for the month.

Seung-hwan Oh threw 1-2-3 ninth innings in both games, striking out 2 each time, to save both games.  Oh has now allowed just 3 earned runs over his last 25 appearances, covering 23.2 innings (during which he’s struck out 32 batters).  His ERA over that stretch is 1.14.

The last batter he faced last night – Alexi Amarista – flew out on his first pitch.  He was the only one of the six batters Oh faced to hit his first strike.  For the season, only 13.2% of the batters that face him have put his first strike into play, and they do much worse (.136) that the league average.  Oh hasn’t given up a first-strike hit since the eighth inning of the June 18 game against Texas.

Four of the six batters who faced him (the ones who struck out) found themselves in two-strike counts.  For the season, 71.1% of the batters who face Oh end up in two-strike counts – the highest ratio on the team.  They don’t generally flourish in this spot, as they hit only .119 (15 for 126) when battling against Oh with two-strikes on them.

Kevin Siegrist was nearly as good as Oh last night.  He also pitched an inning in both games, retiring all six who faced him.  He struck out two and got 2 holds.  Kevin has had some spotty outings of late, but has allowed only 2 earned runs over his last 10.1 innings (1.74 ERA).

Tyler Lyons never made it to two strikes on Ryan Schrimpf, who homered on his 2-1 pitch, but he did get to two strikes on Travis Jankowski – the other batter he faced in the seventh inning of the second game.  Jankowski bounced to second on a 3-2 pitch.  Tyler Lyons continues as the hardest on the staff to hit against with two strikes.  Janikowski’s ground out leaves the league just 6 for 75 (.080) against Tyler’s two-strike arsenal.

The good starts from Martinez and Garcia drop the starters’ ERA for the month of July to 2.83.  Over the last ten games, the starters are 7-0 with a 2.40 ERA.  The bullpen is 0-3, with 2 saves, 8 holds, and 2 blown saves while allowing 4 of their 12 inherited runners to score.  Their ERA is 2.77.

All of the runs scored in the double-header came on home runs.  With five more last night, St Louis now has hit 131 for the season over the course of 94 games and 3,241 at bats.  The 2015 team managed only 137 home runs for the entire season.  Ninety-four games into the 2015 season, St Louis had totaled just 75 home runs.  They wouldn’t reach the 131 plateau until Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Piscotty went back-to-back against Milwaukee’s Taylor Jungmann (homers 130 and 131) in the fourth inning of game number 153 on September 24.  Peralta’s 3-run homer tied the game at three and Piscotty’s gave the Cards a lead they wouldn’t relinquish on their way to a 7-3 win.  At that point, the Cardinal season was 5,174 at bats old.

When Gyorko hit two in the nightcap it extended the season-long streak to eight consecutive games that the Cardinals have hit at least one home run in.  It is the team’s longest streak since they homered in 10 in a row in 2011.  It was also the 36th time this season that the Cardinals had hit more than one home run – as many times as last year’s team did that all season.  The three-home-run first game marked the fifteenth time this season that St Louis has hit as many as three in a game.  This only happened 8 times all last year.  The 2009 team was the last Cardinal team to hit three or more home runs 15 times – but that was their total for the entire year.

The double-header sweep gives the Cards the series victory, no matter what happens tonight.  In 31 series so far this year, your Cardinals are 15-13-3.  Of those 31 series, they have only won the first game 11 times.  They have now won 10 of those 11 series, going 28-6 in those games.

And, yes, the Cards have not been good against winning teams.  But they have been very goods against teams that had won their previous series.  Remembering that San Diego had swept San Francisco three games before coming here, St Louis has now faced 14 teams coming off winning series.  We have won 10 of the 14 series, going 27-17 in those games.

Random Stats: Swinging at the First Pitch

Before hurting himself on a check swing, Matt Carpenter had come to the plate 21 times this month.  He swung at the first pitch only twice: in the third inning of the July 3 game against Milwaukee and Chase Anderson (he fouled off the first pitch and eventually popped out on a 2-2 pitch); and in the ninth inning of the July 5 game against Pittsburgh’s Mark Melancon (he fouled off the first two pitches, took a ball, and then flied out to left).  For the season, Carpenter is taking the first pitch 86.9% of the time.  In the at bats he takes the first pitch, his batting line is .280/.420/.528.  In the 46 plate appearances this season that Matt has swung at it, he has 4 home runs and a line of .410/.419/.821.

Aledmys Diaz has had 65 plate appearances so for this month.  He has taken the first pitch in 52 of them (80%).  He is hitting .385/.529/.744 when he takes that pitch, but is now just 1 for 13 this month (.077) in those at bats when he swings at it.  In his first 190 plate appearances this season (through May 31), Aledmys swung at the first pitch 57 times (30%).  In those at bats, Diaz hit .382 (21 of 55) with 4 doubles and 3 home runs and a .618 slugging percentage.  In his 162 PAs since June 1, Aledmys has offered at the first pitch just 29 times (17.9%).  He is 4 for 27 (.148) with one home run in those at bats.

Over the course of 2015, Randal Grichuk swung at the first pitch thrown him 35% of the time – a moderately aggressive rate (the major league average is about 28%).  In the at bats when he swung at that pitch, Randal hit .314 and slugged .576.  He did OK when he didn’t offer at that first pitch – hitting .254 with a .532 slugging percentage.  As the early part of his season spiraled out of control, Grichuk got more and more aggressive with the first pitch.  He swung at 39.3% of them in April, 42.2% in May and a fairly astonishing 51.3% in June.

Thus far in 39 July plate appearances. Randal has offered at 15 of the first pitches offered him – a still aggressive, but not desperately so 38.5%.  He has 7 hits (including 3 home runs) in those at bats – a .467 average with a 1.067 slugging percentage.  His 24 PAs this month when he took that pitch closely resemble his 2015 performance in those at bats – he’s hitting .261 with a .522 slugging percentage.

Yadier Molina has always been a pretty aggressive hitter.  Last year he swung at 40.9% of the first pitches thrown to him, hitting .278 when he did and .265 when he didn’t.  This season he is swinging at the first pitch with roughly the same frequency (40.1%), but his batting average – so close last year – is dramatically divergent so far this year.  He’s hitting .302 when he does and .227 when he takes the first pitch.

In the 151 plate appearances that Kolten Wong has taken the first pitch this season, he is hitting only .208, but has drawn 20 walks, pushing his on base percentage to .331.  He has swung at the 64 others, walking eventually in only 1 of those plate appearances, but batting .274.

Batters who swing at Jaime Garcia’s first pitch this month have only hit .250 against him (7 for 28), but 5 of the hits are for extra-bases (2 doubles and 3 home runs) for a .643 slugging percentage.

When Carlos Martinez finally takes the mound this afternoon, he will be making his first start of the second half and his third of the month.  He has racked up 18 strikeouts in his first 12 innings this month, but has also allowed 13 hits and has a .289/.373/.400 batting line against him.

Previous to this month, batters only swung at that pitch 29.5% of the time, and with not much difference in results (they hit .210 when they did and .219 when they didn’t).  Over the last two starts, batters are taking 80.4% of the first pitches that he throws.  The 41 who have taken his first pitch have gone on to hit .371 and slug .514.  The ten that have swung at Carlos’ first pitch this month are 0 for 10 with 6 strikeouts.

Eighteen of the twenty-six batters that Seung-hwan Oh has faced this month have taken his first pitch.  A couple of them have walked and one was hit by a pitch.  The rest managed 1 hit in 15 at bats (.067).  For the season, batters who take the Oh’s first pitch go on to hit .128/.221/.183.

This year, an aggressive 31.6% of batters facing Trevor Rosenthal have swung at his first pitch.  Their batting line is a mostly un-productive .217/.250/.304.  But the 106 batters who have taken the initial pitch from Rosenthal and allowed him to get into trouble have fared much better (.346/.500/.469).  This month, 14 batters have taken Trevor’s first pitch and 9 of them have reached (.643).

Through the end of June, 132 batters had swung at Adam Wainwright’s first pitch.  They hit .355 against him.  For the month of July, they are 2 for 15 (.133).