The Cincinnati Reds made their very first visit to the home ballpark of the St Louis Cardinals in mid-April this year. The Cardinals opened that first series hitting six home runs and trouncing the Reds 14-3. At that time, their home record was 3-1.
Fast forward to Cincinnati’s very last visit to St Louis this season. Cincinnati only hit four home runs last night, but more than fully avenged their earlier humiliation with a 15-2 rout of the home team (box score). It was, I confess, slightly unreal listening to the Reds struggling after the game to say nice things about the team they had just trashed on the field. How often have the Reds had more difficulty with the post-game interviews than they had with the team that they played against?
Problems at Home Continue
Last night, the Cardinal pitching staff surrendered ten or more runs for the seventh time this season at home. Four of them have occurred in the last 19 home games. Meanwhile, the hitters put fewer than 3 runs on the board for the twenty-fourth time in 75 home games (32%). Hitting in their home park is something this team has never figured out all season. In their 8 September home games so far, they have scored 22 total runs (2.75 per) while hitting .192. For the year, they have hit .249 at home with 92 home runs. They hit .257 on the road with 121 home runs.
But these struggles began before last night. Dating back to the middle game of the Colorado series, the Cardinal pitching staff has been saddled with a 7.59 ERA and a .332/.391/.556 batting line. They got six very good inning from Carlos Martinez in his start against Chicago. The other five starters have combined to pitch 16.2 innings in their starts (less than four per game) and have a 10.80 ERA combined with a .397/.455/.744 batting line. The team’s September ERA has soared to 4.88.
In pounding the Cards, Cincinnati went 9 for 17 (.529) with runners in scoring position. Going back to the middle game of the Chicago series, opposing hitters are now 23 for their last 62 with RISP, including 4 doubles, a triple, and 3 home runs – a .371 batting average with a .613 slugging percentage.
Last night’s game began with four hits and two runs off of starter Jaime Garcia before the Cards could come to bat. That was the end of Garcia’s night. Garcia, in his last 9 games, has made 7 starts (only 1 a quality start), has gone 1-5 in those games with a 7.60 ERA. He has served up a surprising 13 home runs in his last 34.1 innings. He has served up 16 in 70.1 innings since the All-Star Break, on his way to a 5.60 in those innings.
Jaime has been on the cutting edge of the home struggles. Once a starter who was dependably at his best at Busch, Garcia has made 3 starts here this month. He has totaled 6.1 innings in those starts, during which he has been hammered for 9 runs on 15 hits (5 of them home runs). The 35 batsmen that he has faced at home this month are hitting .469/.514/1.063. In the season’s second half, Garcia has taken the Busch Stadium mound 9 times, contributing only 45.1 innings and 2 quality starts. He is 3-4 with a 5.36 ERA in those games.
There haven’t been many positives lately for Garcia. He did retire both batters he faced with runners in scoring position last night (Eugenio Suarez on a fly ball and Scott Schebler on a ground out). In the 18.1 innings he’s pitched this month, Garcia has held batters to 4 for 19 (.211) with runners in scoring position.
The game, of course, really spun out of control during Michael Wacha’s 2.2 eventful innings. Wacha has made 3 bullpen appearances since returning from the disabled list. In his 5.2 innings he has allowed 10 runs on 14 hits.
Luke Weaver’s very first relief appearance was memorable in all the bad ways. It’s amazing how quickly this highly regarded prospect has unraveled. He threw 3 quality starts in his first 6 big-league starts and carried a 3.48 ERA through his first 31 innings. His last 3 games (2 starts and last night’s relief effort) have totaled 5 innings with damages of 17 runs (11 earned) on 16 hits, 4 walks and 2 hit batsmen.
Weaver’s ability to cope with runners in scoring position has also faded significantly recently. RISP batters were 3 for 4 against Luke last night, and are now 9 for their last 19 (.474).
It made no difference in the game, but when Dean Kiekhefer allowed his inherited run to score it was the eleventh of the 16 runners that Dean has inherited that have come around to score (68.8%). These totals include 8 of 10 at home.
The Reds were 1 for 3 against Dean with runners in scoring position. For his brief career, opposing batters are 15 for 28 against Kiekhefer with runners in scoring position, including 3 doubles, a triple, and a home run. It all adds up to a .536 batting average and an .821 slugging percentage.
Partially obscured by the disastrous efforts of the pitching staff was another frighteningly quiet game by the hitters as yet another rookie pitcher had a career day at their expense. In 24 September games, the Cards are now hitting just .237 and scoring 3.79 runs per game.
Matt Adams was one of many 0 for 3s in the lineup. At moments in the first half of the season, it looked like Adams was arriving. In the second half, Adams is now hitting .216 (21 for 97) and might be departing.
Of those 97 second half at bats, Matt has had 46 of them at Busch. He has only 8 hits to show for them (.174).
The background of the team-wide batting slump makes Brandon Moss’ ongoing struggles all the more painful. His 0 for 3 last night stretches his most recent hitless streak to 22 at bats, and drops him to just 6 for his last 89. He is 33 for 176 (.188) since the break.
Again, it didn’t change the outcome, but Brandon got one of only 3 Cardinal plate appearances with a runner in scoring position. The Cards were already down 14-1 at the time, but Brandon popped out with a runner at second. He is now 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position this month, and 0 for his last 19 overall. His last hit with a runner on scoring position came in the first inning on August 23 – a single against the Mets Jon Niese that scored Matt Carpenter from second.
The Cardinals have now lost the first game in 5 of their last 6 series. On pace at one time to challenge the franchises team home run record, St Louis has one home run in its last five games.
Next for the troubled Redbirds? The Cards haven’t been beaten this badly since August 8, 2012 when they were pounded on by San Francisco 15-0. This was only the fourteenth time this century that St Louis has trailed in a game by as many as 13 runs. But it was just one loss. Amazingly, this downtrodden team that can’t hit, can’t pitch, can’t field and can’t run the bases is still just one game out of the last playoff spot.
Sometimes an embarrassing loss can be a very effective wake-up call. In April, after the Cards pounded Cincy in the first game, the embarrassed Reds bounced back to win the next game 9-8. A few days ago, Philadelphia jumped out to a 10-0 lead against the Mets (the final was 10-8 as the Mets staged a nearly heroic rally). The Mets bounced back the next day with a 17-0 win.
It will be instructive to see if there is any bounce back in the Cardinals.