Long At Bats Do In Wacha and the Cards

With one out in the sixth inning last night, Cardinal rookie pitcher John Brebbia faced off against veteran Dodger first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.  Eight pitches later, Gonzalez lined out to left.  That was the Dodger’s longest at bat of the night.  On a night of long at bats that would ring out the Cardinal starter after three fairly brutal innings, the Dodgers would go on to exact 133 more pitches out of the Cardinal bullpen.  But there were no monster 12- or 13-pitch at bats.  Just a whole bunch of six- and seven-pitch at bats that added up and did their damage leading the Dodgers to a 9-4 slap-down of the Cardinals last night (box score).

Over the course of the evening, only 1 of the 47 Dodgers that came to the plate hit the first pitch.  Meanwhile 10 plate appearances lasted five pitches, 8 more went to six pitches, and 5 more ground through 7 pitches – in addition to Gonzalez’ 8-pitch at bat.  For the season, only 37.7% of the plate appearances against the Cardinals last more than four pitches.  Last night, 51.1% of the plate appearances exceeded that number.

It was all too much for starter Michael Wacha and entirely too much for the scuffling bullpen.

In five innings last night, the Dodger bullpen permitted the Cardinals 1 run on 4 hits.  As per usual, the Cardinal bullpen – overexposed a bit by Wacha’s early exit – saw the game slip out of hand when they surrendered 5 runs in 6 innings on 6 hits and 5 walks.

With the loss, St Louis has lost 10 of its last 13.  The bullpen ERA in those games is now 7.07 with a .296 batting average against.  Not helpful.  With one game left in May, the Cardinal bullpen holds a 4.20 ERA in 83.2 innings this month.

Michael Wacha

On Wednesday, April 19, Michael Wacha tossed 6.2 sparkling innings at the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He allowed 1 run on 4 hits in the third consecutive 2-1 game St Louis would win in that series (box score).  This would be the beginning of a streak of 4 quality starts in 5 games for Wacha.  It would also be the only one of those quality starts that he would win – and, if fact, he hasn’t won since.

During those five starts, Michael maintained an ERA of 2.64 and looked very much like he could be the dominant Michael Wacha from earlier in his career.  The Dodgers have put something of a dent in that narrative.  Staked twice to early 3-0 leads against Los Angeles, the Dodgers drove him from the mound before he could reach 5 innings in both of his last two starts, and have administered two straight losses.  Wacha has surrendered more runs in the 7 innings of those starts combined (10) than he allowed in the 30.2 innings combined of his previous 5 starts (9).

He finished May with only 2 quality starts in his 5 games, an 0-2 record, and a 5.40 ERA in 25 innings.  He allowed a .301 batting average against this month.

The really instructive thing about the long Dodger at bats against Wacha was that they really didn’t win most of those at bats.  They just had them.  Of the 17 batters that Wacha faced last night, three pushed the at bat to 7 pitches, and four others cost Wacha 6 pitches.  That’s 46 of his 77 pitches (about 60%) in 7 plate appearances against him.

Only one of those seven actually got a hit off Wacha (Yasmani Grandal bounced a third-inning single up the middle on a 3-2 count), and three of the seven struck out.  But two others also drew walks and all three of the runners who reached after their long at bats, scored off a fatigued Wacha in that game-changing third inning.

After Logan Forsythe worked a six-pitch walk, Wacha needed seven pitches to strike out Cody Bellinger.  Then came Grandal’s six-pitch single.  Michael is now up to 19 pitches for the inning, and 60 for the game.  Adrian Gonzalez’ sacrifice fly came on the first pitch to him, but then Chris Taylor nursed a seven-pitch walk, putting two on with two out on pitch number 27 of the inning.

It was still a 3-1 Cardinal lead at this point.  But Wacha was significantly worn down, and the remaining mistakes would come more quickly.  Chase Utley would cap a four-pitch at bat with a ground-rule double, and Enrique Hernandez would only need two pitches to produce the ground ball to second that ended in an infield hit, a throwing error, and two runs that gave the Dodgers the lead they would never relinquish.

Over his eight previous starts, less than 23% of the batters who faced Wacha managed to last past five pitches.  Last night more than 40 percent did.

Tyler Lyons

The grinding more-or-less continued against Tyler Lyons, who needed 38 pitches to navigate past 9 batters.  Five of the nine batters cost Tyler at least 5 pitches.  Unlike Wacha, Lyons lost most of his long at bats.  The five went 2 for 3 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored.

Of note, the four batters who didn’t last five pitches against Tyler were 0 for 3 with a hit batsman.  So far this year, Tyler has dispensed with 19 of the 31 batters he has faced in less than five pitches.  Those batters have managed one infield hit in 16 at bats (with 2 HBP and one sacrifice fly).

Not Much Support From the Bats

Yes, St Louis did put three quick runs on the board.  Over the last eight innings they once again achieved next to nothing.  Finishing with 8 hits for the game, St Louis is now hitting .232 over their last 13 games.

Last night, the Cards were 1 for 8 when hitting the first or second pitch of the at bat.  In the 12 games prior to that they were 41 for 133 (.308).  When Eric Fryer hit into a first-pitch double play in the eighth inning, it was the thirteenth first-pitch double play from Cardinal batsmen already this season.

Dexter Fowler

The recent trip to Colorado may have re-awakened Dexter Fowler’s bat.  Dexter had two more hits last night, and has now hit in 4 of the 5 games since the Cards opened that series against the Rockies.  Dexter is 8 of his last 21 (.381) in those games.

Coming into the game, Dexter only had 5 hits all season in at bats that stretched beyond three pitches.  He got two last night alone: He led off the first inning with a single on Kenta Maeda’s fourth pitch of the game; and later singled in the seventh after a seven-pitch at bat against Adam Liberatore.

Yadier Molina

After seeing his 16-game hitting streak evaporate on Monday afternoon, Yadi began a new one last night with two hits (including a home run) and 3 runs batted in.  Although he has hit safely in 17 of his last 18 games, he’s only done so with a .273 batting average (21 for 77).  However, he has also done so with a surprising .481 slugging percentage (the hits include 4 doubles and 4 home runs).  Yadi already has 5 home runs and 22 runs batted in this season.  His totals for last year were 8 and 58.  He has 7 RBIs in his last 6 games.

As opposed to pretty much everyone else last night, Yadi’s not really one for grinding at bats.  In his torrid second half of 2016, 20.5% of Yadi’s at bats lasted one pitch, and 83.4% were over after 5 pitches.  From last year’s All Star break to the end of the season, if Yadi found something to hit in the first four pitches, he slashed .392/.407/.568.

Last night, Yadi was 2 for 3 when his at bat lasted 4 pitches or less.  For the month of May, Yadi is a .306 hitter (19 for 62) when he is done after four pitches or less.

NoteBook

The Dodgers have scored more runs in the first two games of this series (14) than they did in all three games combined in Dodger Stadium (10) – even though one of those games went 13 innings.

St Louis has now lost the first game of six consecutive series.

Dexter Fowler – in nine previous seasons – has never grounded into more than 6 doubles plays.  He did that twice (2011 & 2014).  Last night’s double play was the fifth he has grounded into already this year.

Wheezing Cardinals No Match for Rockies’ Rookie Righthander

Since Yadier Molina capped the three-run first inning in the last game of the Dodger series, the St Louis Cardinals have labored through 17.2 innings, 60 plate appearances, and 221 pitches without scoring a run.  They are 11 for 57 (.193) – including 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position – since their last RBI.

Last night’s offensive production was 0 walks, 4 singles – which were immediately erased in double plays, and Randal Grichuk’s lead-off sixth-inning double that led to the only runner the Cards would put in scoring position on the night, the only runner the Cards would strand that night, and the only batter over the minimum that rookie right-hander Antonio Senzatela and relief pitcher Jordan Lyles would face as they coasted to a 10-0 laugher (box score).

The once impressive Cardinal offense was dominated.  Senzatela wouldn’t have had a much easier time if he were pitching to little leaguers.  He breezed through 8 innings on just 98 pitches.  Of the 25 batters he faced, only 9 managed to extend his at bat past 4 pitches.

Since the Boston Red Sox came into town as the middle set of an eight-game home stand, the Cardinals have lost 7 of 9 games – and the disappearing offense has been one of the reasons.  With this 5-hit shutout, the Cards are hitting .229/.291/.331 over their last 9 games with only 4 home runs and just 31 total runs scored (3.44 per game).  The 4 double plays from last night means that they have now hit into 13 in the course of this losing streak.

Throwing First-Pitch Strikes

For his part, Senzatela was just throwing strikes and taking his chances.  Combined with Lyles, 18 of the 28 Cardinal batters who came to the plate saw first-pitch strikes.  The 10 batters who saw ball one went 3 for 10 (including Grichuk’s double).  Only two of the other 18 put that first-pitch strike into play (Tommy Pham and Molina both had first-pitch groundouts).  The rest went 2 for 16 (both singles).  It was easy.

And it continues a fairly strong trend that has played through the Cards last 9 games.  Of the last 360 Cardinal batters, 239 (66.4%) have seen first-pitch strikes.  Those batters have gone on to hit .201/.224/.290.  The 33.6% who get ball one have responded with a .293/.421/.424 batting line.

Greg Garcia

One of the very useful bench pieces so far this year, Greg Garcia was one of several Cardinal hitters handcuffed by Senzatela.  He went 0 for 3 and grounded into the very first of the 4 double plays the Cards would hit into.  The evening continues a disappointing month for Greg, who is now 5 for 23 (.217) for May.  His 4 hits include 1 double, giving him a .261 slugging percentage this month and no runs batted in.  Garcia hasn’t had an RBI since the fifth inning of the April 18 game against Pittsburgh – 45 at bats ago.  Since then, he has gone 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

Garcia was one of the few batters that Sanzatela didn’t routinely get ahead of.  Greg took first-pitch balls in two of his three at bats.  For the season, only 56% of the first pitches thrown to Greg are strikes.  Last year, when his at bat started off with ball one, Greg went on to slash .363/.536/.463.  This year he is only 6 for 26 (.231) with 2 doubles and a .308 slugging percentage after he gets ahead 1-0 in an at bat.

Kolten Wong

Even though he finished the night 0 for 3, Kolten Wong is still looking good at the plate and probably put together the best at bats on the team.  Taking the first pitch all three times, Kolten twice got ahead in the count 1-0.  Both of these became long at bats (9 pitches and 7 pitches, respectively), and both ended with Wong lining out to center.

For the season, Wong starts off an at bat 1-0 more frequently than anyone on the team at 47.1%.  So far in May, he is getting ball one 48.1% of the time (the ML average is 39.9%).  But, like Garcia, Kolten has been unable to take advantage of these recent opportunities.  He is now hitting .241 in May (7 for 29) when his at bat begins with ball one.

Not to make this sound like the Cardinals aren’t being dominated at the plate, but some of this is bad luck, too.  I boldly predict that the Cardinals will score at least one run before they leave Colorado.

Bullpen to the Rescue?

Almost daily in this space, I try to assure the sometimes-fainthearted reader that the bullpen is getting better.  And almost every time I do, something like this happens.  This was a 3-0 game with one out in the eighth inning when the relievers went to work.  One of the most bizarre stats attached to the 2-7 streak the Cards have fallen into is the fact that through all of this the starting pitching has thrown 7 quality starts with a 2.34 ERA.  Somehow, in 29 innings over those same 9 games, the bullpen has managed to heave up 25 runs (23 earned) on 36 hits.  The resulting 7.14 ERA is punctuated by a .310/.366/.491 batting line against.  Answers here have been hard to come by.

Carlos Martinez

The humiliating 10-0 score had little, actually, to do with starting pitcher Carlos Martinez.  For the second straight season, Carlos has started the year a little hit and miss, only to find his stride as the weather heats up.

Martinez has now started twice over these last 9 games and has pitched fairly heroically in both, shutting out San Francisco on two hits over 9 innings and taking a 2-0 game into the eighth-inning against the torrid Colorado lineup in baseball’s most pitcher-unfriendly park.  In 16.1 inning in the two games, Carlos holds a 1.65 ERA and a .148 batting average against.  He has walked just three against 14 strikeouts in those efforts.  St Louis has, of course, lost both games as they didn’t score once in either game while Martinez was the pitcher of record.

For the month of May (with one start probably remaining), Carlos is 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA and a .173 batting average against in 36.1 innings over 5 starts (all quality starts).  In all, this marks six consecutive quality starts for Martinez.

Martinez threw his share of first-pitch strikes, and, through the first part of this season he has been extra-effective when he does.  Last night he threw a first-pitch strike to 20 of the 28 batters he faced, allowing only 3 hits (.167).  For the season, opposing batters carry a .197 batting average against Carlos when he throws his first pitch for a strike.  During the month of May, they are hitting .185 in those at bats.

Matthew Bowman

The game got seriously out of reach during Matthew Bowman’s brief tenure on the mound.  He faced four batters and struck out one.  The other three got hits and scored runs.  Bowman hadn’t allowed an earned run over his previous 8 games (7.1 innings).  The home run that Mark Reynolds hit was only the second all season off of Bowman.

Miguel Socolovich

When Grichuk made a nice diving spear of DJ LeMahieu’s sinking liner to end the eighth inning, it may also have ended the Cardinal career of Miguel Socolovich – who was designated for assignment this afternoon after serving up 4 pile-on runs on 5 hits before he could get his only out of the night.  Comparatively effective in limited use over the last two years (and staying on the roster because he was out of options), Socolovich was little more than a batting practice pitcher by the end.  It took him 119 pitches to navigate through his last 7 innings (during which he allowed 8 runs).  He finishes with a 15.75 ERA in four innings since the beginning of the Boston series, an 8.64 ERA in 8.1 innings during the month of May, 8.68 ERA in 18.2 innings for the season, and 3.80 in 66.1 innings during his Cardinal career.

Behind in the Count is Bad in Colorado

After Martinez spent the first part of the evening throwing strike one, Bowman and Socolovich spent the rest of the eighth inning throwing ball one and paying for it.  The Rockies were 6-6 against the two relievers when they missed with the first pitch.

NoteBook

The Cards have lost the first game of their last five consecutive series.  For the season so far, they are 5-11 in first games.

No Post on Monday

With the Cards playing an afternoon contest on Memorial Day – and with all the other stuff going on that day – I will not attempt to get a post done that day.  I intend to be back in the saddle on Tuesday.

Dodgers Win on Barrage of 1-2 Hits

The impressive run of starting pitching had to end at some point – and that some point was the fourth inning of last night’s 7-3 loss to the Dodgers (box score).  After Chase Utley got the Dodgers started with a second inning home run on a 1-2 pitch, three of his teammates followed suit with devastating hits on 1-2 pitches.

With a runner at first and two out and the Cardinals leading 3-1, Enrique Hernandez, Yasiel Puig, and starting pitcher Kenta Maeda hit successive ground balls that found holes, putting Los Angeles ahead to stay.  The at bats by Hernandez and Maeda were most impressive as they lasted 7 pitches each.

With the loss, the Cardinals have now dropped 6 of their last 8.

Michael Wacha

Mostly impressive in his return this season, Michael Wacha endured his worst start of 2017, lasting 4 innings and allowing 6 runs on 7 hits.  After an solid April, Wacha’s May has been a little ordinary.  In four starts (with one more, possibly, remaining), Wacha is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA and a .288 batting average against.

Wacha gave up a total of 5 hits on 1-2 pitches last night (including Utley’s home run).  None of those hits came off the fastball.  Perhaps batters are starting to look for that breaking pitch when they get behind in the count?

Brett Cecil

Say this for the Cardinals prize offseason acquisition, Brett Cecil.  He finds a way.  In last night’s contest, with runners at first and second and no one out, Brett uncorks two wild pitches and then serves up a double allowing all of the runs.  The game had been a one-run affair up until that point.  For the season, 11 of 23 runners Cecil has inherited have come home to roost (47.8%).  This is now three times he’s come on with two runners on and allowed all of them to score.  He has also inherited a bases-loaded jam and allowed all of those runners to score.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist turned in a good inning – albeit after the event was already decided.  In 9.2 innings this month, Kevin has a 2.79 ERA and 10 strikeouts.  He is starting to look like Kevin again.

Earlier this season, Kevin had lost the ability to get swinging strikes.  Last night, the Dodger hitters missed on 4 of the 7 swings they took against Siegrist.  All three at bats, by the way, went to 1-2 (and one of those resulted in a hit).  So far this month, 26 of the 37 batters Kevin’s faced (70.3%) have seen their at bat end before Siegrist has thrown ball two.

Anxious Offense Struggles Again

Again, last night, the offense endured another long silent stretch.  After a loud 3-run first, they didn’t score again over the last eight innings of the game.  During the 8-game slide, St Louis has hit 4 home runs and averaged just 3.88 runs per game.

When guys like Kenta Maeda shut down the Cardinal offense, they make it look so amazingly easy.  Neither Maeda nor Hyun-Jin Ryu threw with amazing velocity.  They nibbled with breaking balls on the corners of the strike zone and waited for the aggressive Cardinal hitters to get themselves out.  Throughout all of baseball (courtesy of baseball reference) only 28.4% of all at bats end before the pitcher throws ball one – and hitters usually prosper when that happens.  They slash .278/.287/.454 on those pitches.

Last night, 35.1% of the Cardinal plate appearances were over before the hitter saw ball one (this in spite of the fact that neither Dodger pitcher was really “coming after” the hitters.  St Louis slashed .182/.308/.364 in those at bats.  Over the last eight games, Cardinal batsmen are done before ball one 34.6% of the time, slashing just .257/.263/.367 when that happens.

It’s a symptom of a loss of confidence at the plate.  Hopefully, it will be temporary.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko continues to hit, even as the team fades around him.  He drove in the game’s first two runs with a double and had a later single.  Jedd has now hit safely in 22 of his last 27 games (25 of them starts).  He is 40 for 109 in those games, including 8 doubles, 2 triples and 5 home runs – a .367 batting average accompanied by a .615 slugging percentage.  He is now hitting .338 this month (27 for 80) with 3 home runs and 12 runs batted in.  He is 11 for 32 (.344) over these last 8 games.

On the double, Gyorko jumped on a first-pitch hanging curveball and drilled it just fair down the leftfield line.  Gyorko is now 11 for 23 when hitting the first pitch thrown him (.478).  He later singled on a 1-0 pitch.  Jedd is 20 for 53 (.377) this month when his at bat doesn’t make it to ball two.

That first-inning double was Jedd’s ninth of the season, tying – in 137 at bats – the total amount of doubles he hit in 400 at bats last year.  He has never hit more than 26 in any season.  He also has hit as many triples already this year (2) as he had hit in his entire career previously.

Jedd – after bouncing into 46 double plays over his first 4 seasons, has grounded into just 1 so far in 2017.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina extended his hitting streak to 14 games with two singles last night.  It hasn’t been the most torrid hitting streak on record.  This was only the third multi-hit game in the streak, and his average has been .279 (17 for 61).  He has not drawn a walk through the entire streak.

In fact, over his last 37 plate appearances, he has gone to three-ball counts only 3 times (8.1%).  For the season, only Randal Grichuk (among starters) makes it to three-balls in an at bat less frequently than Yadi (11.8% v 11.9%).  This is significantly below Molina’s 16.0% of last year.

Matt Carpenter

After getting two singles on Wednesday night, Matt Carpenter was 0-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch last night.  Matt is now 7 for his last 48 (.146).  His batting average for the season has fallen to .229 – and for the month of May he is down to .216 (16 for 74).  During the last 8 games, Carpenter is 5 for 33 (.152).

In three of his four plate appearances, Carpenter was challenged with first-pitch strikes.  He has seen strike one in 15 of his last 21 PAs (71%) and is only 4 for 19 (.211) in those resulting at bats.

The thrust of this is, I think, to keep from getting into three-ball counts against Matt.  This year, so far, Carpenter gets into three-ball counts a team-leading 36.3% of the time, and hits .333/.667/.788 once he gets there.  But if his at bat is over before ball two, he slides to just a .167 average (12 for 72).

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty’s 0-for-4 wrapped up a 1 for 13 series.  He is now hitting .158 (3 for 19) since his return from the DL, .214 (6 for 28) this month, and .224 for the year.

Piscotty hit the first pitch thrown to him twice last night.  In the first inning he flied to center on a tailing slider from Maeda.  In the sixth, he grounded to first on a changeup away from Ryu.  Over all of baseball, hitters who hit the first pitch are slashing .338/.346/.582.  Piscotty is just 3 for 13 (.231) – all singles as he is mostly disinclined to wait for a hitter’s pitch.  So far this month, 13 of his 32 plate appearances (40.6%) end before he sees ball one.  Of the regulars, the next highest is Gyorko at 36.9%.  As I noted earlier, across all of baseball, only 28.4% of PAs end before the pitcher has thrown ball one.

This number aligns with what I’ve seen from Stephen – especially since his return from the DL.  A lot of anxiety at the plate.

Leake Answers 13-Inning Loss With a Gem

Most of the time when a team needs to turn things around (as the Cardinals did last night after losses in 5 of their 6 previous games), the turnaround starts with the starting pitcher.  And as he has several times already this season, Cardinal starter Mike Leake answered the bitter 13-inning loss of the night before with his ninth quality start in 9 games.  He helped lead the Cards to a 6-1 conquest of the Dodgers (box score).

For all of that, though, St Louis is where they are on the season (23-20) because they have been largely unable to break out of significant losing streaks.  Already this season they have endured three 3-game losing streaks and, most recently, a 4-game losing streak.  Last year’s team was a modest 44-32 after a loss.  They finished with 86 wins and missed the playoffs.  The Cardinals begin 2017 with a 10-10 record in games after a loss (including a 5-4 mark in May).  There are various explanations for this struggle.  The starting pitching, though (which is suddenly starting to resemble the 2015 team an awful lot), has not been one of the issues.

Mike Leake

Last night’s dominating performance brought Mike Leake his team-leading fifth win of the season.  Mike won only 9 all of last season and has never won more than 14 in a season in his career.  But this is MikeLeake 2.0, and the rest of the National League might as well get used to it.  Last night he pitched 8 innings allowing 1 run.  It was the fifth time in 9 starts that Leake allowed fewer than 2 runs, and the eighth time that he has allowed less than three.  He walked nobody for the second straight start, and now has 0 walks in 4 of his 9 starts.  In fact, he hasn’t walked any of the last 62 batters that have faced him.  In 4 starts this month, his record sits at 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA and a .190 batting average against.

Mike Leake has been impressive.

But as good as he has been in all situations, he has been at his best when he has taken the ball after a Cardinal loss.  Four of his 9 starts have followed losses.  In the 30 innings that he’s pitched in those games, he has permitted 4 runs on 21 hits (14 singles, 5 doubles, a triple, and just 1 home run) while walking 1 batter and striking out 23.  Mike has answered those Cardinal losses with 2 wins (last night’s game against the Dodgers and another 6-1 win against Washington on April 12 that broke a 3-game losing streak), one loss (a 2-0 loss against Cincinnati on April 7), and one no decision (the May 17 game against Boston that he left after 7 with a 4-2 lead only to see bad things happen after he was gone).

His ERA in those games is 1.20 and the batting line against is .200/.206/.295.   This is outstanding.

The Rest of the Rotation in Games After a Loss

St Louis’ tepid record in wins after losses is all the more confounding when weighed against the excellence of the starting pitching.  Following the 9 losses so far in May, Cardinal starters have chalked up 8 quality starts, a 5-0 record, a 1.59 ERA, and a .193 batting average against.  For the season, the rotation has 13 quality starts, a 9-5 record, a 2.51 ERA, and a .223 batting average against when responding to the previous day’s loss.

Carlos Martinez has been the next best starter after a loss.  He has taken the ball in 5 of these games, throwing 4 quality starts with a record of 2-1 and a 2.10 ERA.  Lance Lynn has four of these starts.  He is also 2-1 with a 2.31 ERA.  Michael Wacha, starting 3 times after a loss, is 1-0, 2.50.

These four pitchers have combined to start 16 of the 20 games St Louis has played after suffering a loss.  They have combined to throw 12 quality starts and 105.2 innings with just 7 home runs allowed.  They are a combined 7-3 in those games with a 1.96 ERA and a batting line against of .190/.258/.302.

Through 43 games, one-time ace Adam Wainwright has been the “other” starter.  He has made the other 4 starts after a loss, but with less effectiveness.  He has thrown 1 quality start, and sits at 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in these games.

Always the Bullpen

As with almost every other statistical measuring tool, it is the bullpen that has been clipping the wings of the 2017 Cardinals.  While the starters are 5-0 this month after a loss, the bullpen is 0-4 with 3 blown saves and a 4.23 ERA.  For the season, the bullpen carries a 5.72 ERA in games after a Cardinal loss.

This is a trend I don’t expect to see continue.  Recently, most of the troubled bullpen arms have started to rebound and pitch as anticipated.  We’ll revisit this situation later on in the year and see how it develops.

Offense Gets By With a Little Help

Nine walks and a big error that allowed two runs to score eased the Cardinal path to victory.  With just 8 hits – 6 of them singles – the offense was less explosive than it’s been of late.  Still, it all combined for 6 runs.  Over the last 28 games, the Cards have now scored at least 4 runs in 22 of them.

Jedd Gyorko

Having had his six-game hitting streak snapped the night before, Jedd Gyorko responded with three hits last night to spark the offensive bounce back.  Jedd has now hit safely in 21 of his last 26 games – getting multiple hits in 11 of them, and three or more in five of them.  Jedd’s season average has soared to .331 on the strength of these 26 games of sustained excellence.  Jedd has hit .362 over his last 105 at bats (38 hits), and slugged .610 (7 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs).  In 18 games this month, Jedd is 25 for 76 (.329) with 3 home runs.

Jedd has now played in 8 of the 9 after-loss games the Cardinals have played this month.  He is hitting .417 (15 for 36) and slugging .750 (1 double, 1 triple & 3 home runs) in those games.  All season long, Jedd has been the most dangerous Cardinal hitter when the team had lost its previous game.  Jedd has played in 17 of the 20 games (starting 16) and has hit .358 (24 for 67) and slugged .642 in those games.  Of the 7 home runs Jedd has hit this season, 5 have come in games following a loss.

Dexter Fowler

As has been variously reported following his 0-for-4 last night, Dexter Fowler is now hitless in 20 straight at bats with 7 strikeouts.  He is now just 7 for 47 (.149) for the month.  While his overall batting average sinks to .206, his average in games after a loss is even worse – now at .149 (11 for 74), the lowest on the team.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty hasn’t come back from the DL with an especially torrid bat.  He has had one dribbling infield hit in his last 9 at bats, and is just 3 for 15 (.200) since his return.

But Stephen wasn’t especially torrid before he went down, either.  While the offense in general has done quite well since the beginning of that late April series in Milwaukee, they have done so without much contribution from Piscotty.  Playing in 16 of the last 28 games, Stephen holds a .231 average (12 for 52) with 4 extra-base hits (all doubles) and 3 RBIs.  His slugging percentage sits at .308 since late April.

Stephen’s last home run came in the ninth-inning of the April 15 game in New York against the Yankees – 81 plate appearances (and 322 pitches) ago.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk struck out three times in his 0-for-4 night.  He is 16 for 72 this month (.222).  With their combined 0-for-12 last night, the Cardinals starting outfield is now hitting .232 (Grichuk in left), .206 (Fowler in center), and .234 (Piscotty in right) respectively at slightly past the quarter-pole of the season.  Somewhat less than was hoped for.

Cards Play 13 More Innings, Count a Lot More Zeros

So, if you didn’t get enough dominant pitching in Saturday night’s Martinez-Samardzija matchup, then you would have felt right at home last night as Lance Lynn and Clayton Kershaw traded lots of zeros.  The end result is also starting to feel familiar as the Cards played their third 13-inning game in their last 5 games – losing all 3.  This one, by a 2-1 count (box score).  And this is a part of an overall skid in which the Cards have lost 5 out of 6 in spite of some world class starting pitching.

In 42.1 innings against the heavy-hitting Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers, the Cardinal rotation has contributed an astonishing 1.28 ERA with a .158 batting average against.  This dominance continues to be undone by faulty relief work (the bullpen carries a 5.79 ERA over their last 6 games) and a suddenly threadbare offense.

Where Are the Hits?

One of the strengths of the last month, the Cardinal bats are beginning to run out of steam a bit.  They scored 1 run on 4 hits in 13 innings last night, and now over the last six games, St Louis has limped home with a .227/.276/.341 batting line.  Even though the last 6 games have featured 15 extra-innings (about another game and a half), the Cards have managed 3 home runs and 3.67 runs per game.

So dominated were the Cardinal batsmen last night, that neither Kershaw nor any of the five relievers that followed him ever threw a pitch on a 3-1 count (much less a 3-0 count), and only 2 of the 42 Cardinal batters to approach the plate saw even a 2-0 pitch (Randal Grichuk grounded out in the third against Kershaw, and Jedd Gyorko fouled off a 2-0 pitch from Josh Fields in the thirteenth inning before eventually grounding out to short).

Seventeen of those Cardinal batsmen finished their at bat behind in the count – they went 0 for 17 with 8 strikeouts.  This has been something of a trend over the six-game lull.  In those games, Cardinal hitters have hit behind in the count 40.5% of the time, hitting just .186.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler was standing at the plate when Kershaw uncorked the wild pitch that permitted St Louis’ only run last night.  That was his contribution.  Other than that, Dexter was 0 for 5 with 2 strikeouts.  He is now hitless in his last 16 at bats (including 5 strikeouts) and has watched his average slide to .212.  He has also gone three games without drawing a walk.  Since returning to the lineup after his shoulder injury, Dexter is hitting .129 (4 for 31).

This has all come as a part of this distressing six-game slide.  Fowler is hitting .148 (4 for 27) over these last six games.  In 15 games, his batting average for May drops to .163 (7 for 43).

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s night was very similar to Fowler’s.  Matt was also 0 for 5 with 2 strikeouts.  His bat has also been very quiet lately – he’s hitting .115 (3 for 26) over the last six games, and .111 (4 for 36) since the beginning of the home stand.  In spite of the fact that Matt had a six-game hitting streak earlier this month, his batting average for May has sunk to .209 (14 for 67), and his overall average is down to .226.

With his patience at the plate, Carpenter hits from ahead in the count in almost half of his plate appearances (48.6%).  He worked his way ahead in the count twice last night against Kershaw – although nothing came of it.

Carpenter also hit from behind in the count once last night, grounding out in the tenth inning on a 1-2 pitch.  For the season, now, Matt is hitting .073 (3 for 41) when he trails in the count.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko saw his six-game hitting streak come to a close with his 0 for 5.  Gyorko had hit a solid .296 (8 for 27) during the streak.  However, he drew no walks in the six games and finishes the streak with 1 home run and 1 run batted in.

Lance Lynn

There are few superlatives left that can adequately describe Lynn last night as he went 8 innings allowing just 1 run and 2 hits.  Lance was really good.  But run support, again, was an issue for Lynn who was fortunate to see the Cards sneak across that ninth inning run.  In his 9 starts this season, only 3 times have the Cards scored more than 3 runs for Lynn.

While the evening featured a season-high 123 pitches from Lance, it was still the third straight game, fifth time this season that Lance has thrown more than 100 pitches, so they aren’t treating him as fragile at all.

Lance has made two starts during the losing streak.  He has pitched 14 innings in the two games with a 1.93 ERA and a .104 batting average against.  The Cards have now lost both games.  He is 1-1 for the month of May with a 2.63 ERA.

Answers in the Pen

Although the bullpen contributed notably to the recent losing skid, it is also true that – by degrees – some of the more important bullpen pieces are starting to find answers.  The bullpen ERA for the month of May is an adequate 2.91 with a .232 batting average against.  Several of them pitched very well last night in getting the game to the thirteenth inning (which I don’t think we’ll talk about).

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal pitched a 1-2-3, 14-pitch ninth inning.  Yes, Trevor gave up the tying runs in the second Boston game.  But before and after that, he has been as good as could be hoped for.  In 10 May innings, Trevor has given just 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 14 – his 1.80 ERA this month accompanies an .065 batting average against.  Trevor is looking as good as he’s ever been.

Rosenthal has excelled so far this year in an area that was a weakness for him last year.  First, he pitches ahead in the count.  Forty-six percent of the batters who have faced Trevor (31 of 67) have ended the at bat behind on the count.  And once he gets ahead, he puts them away.  Those 31 batters have 2 hits (an .065 average) and 19 strikeouts.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman walked a batter, but retired the other five men he faced.  Bowman, now, hasn’t allowed an earned run in 8 games covering 7.1 innings.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh was guilty of the first San Francisco game, but he also has been very good otherwise.  He faced five batters last night.  One walked, but the other four struck out.  Oh holds a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings this month.

Home Stand Provides No Answers

After the 2016 St Louis Cardinals finished their season with a disappointing 38-43 record at home – compared to an excellent 48-33 road record – there was a curiosity to explain why this team struggled to win at home.

One significant difference then was a bullpen that held together pretty well on the road (3.24 ERA and only 6 leads surrendered) but was decidedly inconsistent at home (3.99 ERA and 11 leads surrendered).

The most significant difference, though, was an offense that scored almost 1 run per game more on the road (5.23) than it did at home (4.38).  In terms of batting average (.257-.253) and on base percentage (.329-.322) the team’s performance on the road was only modestly better that its home numbers.  The only sizeable difference was in slugging percentage.  On the road, this team fashioned a .454 slugging percentage – significantly higher than the .431 they managed at home.  Along the way they hit more doubles (155-145), triples (21-11) and home runs (121-104) on the road than they did at home.

What the numbers hinted at was that perhaps the Cardinals – morphed, as they were, into a power hitting bunch – were now less than ideally constructed for the park they play in.

Now, 41 games into 2017, the Cards are 10-6 on the road and (on the heels of a 3-5 home stand) just 12-13 at home.  To this point, the trends seem to be pointing in the same direction.  In 16 road games, St Louis has hit 19 home runs, averaged 5.44 runs per game with a batting line of .267/.334/.440.  In 25 games in the “spacious confines” of their home park, Cardinal hitters have managed 24 home runs, 3.96 runs per game, and a batting line of .256/.334/.408.  If anything, the swing is even more pronounced, affecting not only the power numbers but batting averages as well.

Looking hitter by hitter, you’ll see that the trend isn’t absolute.  But it is pretty consistent.

Jedd Gyorko

Last year, Jedd Gyorko was one of the poster children for the Busch-is-too-big argument.  He hit 18 of his 30 home runs on the road.  To this point of the season, Jedd does actually have more home runs at home (4-3), but also has an unbalanced number of at bats (77 at home v 50 on the road).  The fact is that in the early going, Jedd’s road numbers (.400/.455/.720) are still dwarfing his home numbers (.286/.329/.506).

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia turned in an excellent home stand.  He played in 6 of the 8 games – starting 2 – and contributed 4 hits in 10 at bats and 4 walks.  For the season so far, Greg is a .281 hitter at home (9 for 32) with a .425 on base percentage (he’s drawn 8 walks).  However, Greg is 8 for 26 (.308) on the road so far this season.

Kolten Wong

Among the starters, Kolten Wong may have had the best home stand – up until he was sidelined with an elbow issue.  Wong played in 6 of the games and hit .350 (7 for 20).  In 9 home games this month, Kolten has hit a torrid .433 (13 for 30).  After hitting just .207 in front of the home fans last year, Kolten is 24 for 72 (.333) at Busch III.  He had 30 hits at home all last year.

To this point of the season, Kolten hasn’t been able to take his home success with him on the road.  In the 6-0 road trip through Atlanta and Miami, Kolten hit just .179 (5 for 28).  The hits were 4 singles and 1 double.  He drove in 1 run during that trip and slugged just .214.  For the season, Kolten takes a .212 road average (11 for 52) with him into Los Angeles.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty returned in time to get into the last 2 games of the home stand and record 2 hits in 6 at bats.

Piscotty had a forgettable April at home.  He had hit .295 here in 2016, but ended April at just .200 (7 for 35) with a .286 slugging percentage.  He had 3 doubles and 3 runs batted in.

May has suggested a bit of a rebound.  He is now 5 for 15 (.333) this month.  But only one of those hits is for extra-bases (a double).  Both of Piscotty’s home runs have come on the road, where he he’s hitting .257/.381/.457 this season.  Stephen showed no added ability to hit home runs on the road last year.  Thirteen of his 22 came at home.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk had a very nice home stand.  He hit .292 (7 for 24) with 5 of the hits going for extra bases – one of them a home run.  He drove in 5 runs and slugged .583 in the 7 games he played.  Three of Randal’s four home runs have now come at home.  He hit half of his 24 here last year.

Going on the road hasn’t been terribly good for Grichuk over the last two years.  In spite of the fact that he hit 12 road home runs last year, he hit only .227 (55 for 242) there in 2016.  So far this year, Randal is just a .219 hitter away from home (14 for 64).  During the Atlanta-Miami road trip, Randal contributed 6 hits in 29 at bats (.207).

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz hit better on the road last year (.318/.386/.552), but still hit a solid .283 at home.  Like Piscotty, Aledmys’ first month at home in 2017 fell far below expectations.  He hit .200 (11 for 55) with just 1 walk.  As the calendar has flipped, Diaz has begun to look more comfortable at home.  On the heels of a 9 for 32 (.281) home stand (that included 3 walks!), Diaz has hit .304 (14 for 46) here this month.

That being said, Diaz has still enjoyed better road success.  He was 9 for 27 (.333) during the last road trip and is now hitting .281 (18 for 64) away from home this season.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham was the hero of the Atlanta-Miami road trip.  The results of his 29 plate appearances during those six games were: 4 singles, 3 doubles, 3 home runs, 6 runs scored, 6 runs batted in, 3 walks, 2 hit-by-pitches, 1 stolen base, and no double plays grounded into.  His line for trip: .417/.517/.917.

The subsequent home stand was much less compelling.  In 31 plate appearances over the last 8 game, Tommy managed 4 singles, 1 double, no home runs, 3 runs scored, 5 runs batted in, 2 walks, 12 strikeouts, 2 sacrifice flies, 2 stolen bases, 2 caught stealings, and 3 double plays grounded into.  That line equates to .185/.226/.222.  Six of Pham’s nine home runs last year came on the road.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler has been pushing the limits of “OPS grace” this season.  “OPS grace” is the relatively recent awareness that batting average by itself doesn’t tell the whole story of a hitter’s contribution.  Dexter had only 4 hits in 26 at bats over the recently concluded home stand.  But all 4 were for extra-bases (including 2 home runs), and Dexter added in 8 walks.  His line for the home stand read .154/.343/.500.  For the season so far at Busch III, Fowler is a .250/.369/.543 hitter.  All 6 of his home runs so far have come in the “spacious confines” of Busch.

So far, Dexter has just struggled on the road.  His line there is .150/.186/.225.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter ruled supreme at Bush Stadium last year.  Even though only 9 of his 21 home runs were hit at home, he finished with a strong batting line of .296/.404/.526 at Busch.  In the early games of 2017, though, Matt hasn’t looked very “at home” at home.  He is actually reaching the fences better than last year as he already has 4 Busch Stadium home runs this year.  But not much else has gone right for Matt here.  He hit just .129 (4 for 31) on the home stand, and is just 15 for 80 (.188) hitting here this season.

On the other hand, where Matt was only a .247 hitter on the road last year, he heads out to LA carrying a .308/.471/.654 road batting line.  He tore through Atlanta and Miami during the last road trip hitting .333/.533/.857 in 30 plate appearances.

Starters Much Better at Home

If the dimensions at Busch have smothered the batters some, the starting rotation has embraced the opportunity to pitch here.  After a remarkable home stand saw the rotation throw 7 quality starts in 8 games with a 1.67 ERA and a .183 batting average against, the St Louis starters have combined to go 10-5 at home this year with a 2.37 ERA and a .224 batting average against. On the road, however, they have been much more mortal (7-6, 4.48 ERA).

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha set the tone for the heartbreaking series against the Giants.  After waiting 11 days for his start, Wacha shut San Francisco out of 4 hits through six innings – only to watch the bullpen let the game slip through their fingers.  Twice.

Wacha has now made 5 starts at home this year – 4 of them quality starts – on his way to a 2-0 record and a 2.35 ERA.  After holding the Giants to those 4 hits, opponents are hitting .217 against Wacha at Busch.

Wacha has made only two road starts this season, pitching 12 innings with an 0-1 record and a 3.75 ERA.  They have hit the same number of home runs of Wacha (2) in his 12 road innings as they have in his 30.2 home innings.

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright turned his season around on this home stand, throwing his first two quality starts of 2017.  He was 7-4 at home last year with a 3.20 ERA.  He is off to a 3-1 start with a 3.34 ERA this year at Busch III.

Adam’s start on the last road trip was on its way to being a quality start when he ran out of gas in the sixth.  For the season, Adam is 1-2 on the road with a 7.11 ERA.  Last year he managed a 6-5 record when pitching away from Busch, but with a scary 6.18 ERA.

Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez was one of the great mysteries last year – as far as his home/road splits went.  On the road, he was the dominant pitcher that his stuff indicates he should be.  He was 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA on the road, but just 7-7, 3.60 at home.

After his electric 9 innings against the Giants in that agonizing Saturday game, Martinez has reduced his home ERA to 2.40 and his batting average against to .187 in 41.1 innings.  His record, however, is just 2-1.

The question now is, what happens to that Carlos Martinez on the road.  Although he has 5 quality starts in his 6 home games, only 1 of his 3 road starts has been good enough to qualify.  Away from home, Carlos is 1-2 with a 5.51 ERA.  He has served up 3 home runs in 41.1 innings at home and 4 in 16.1 on the road.

Mike Leake

Mike Leake threw two more excellent games on the home stand. St Louis lost them both.  He allowed 2 runs in 6 innings against Chicago, but left the game trailing 2-0 on his way to a 3-2 loss.  In his start against Boston he pitched 7 innings giving just 2 runs. He left with a 4-2 lead that time, but the Red Sox ended up with the victory, 5-4 in 13 innings.

Leake continues to have no luck at Busch.  He has a 1.89 ERA here through 5 starts and 33.1 innings, but only a 1-2 record.  He was 2-7 here last year.

He has won all three of his road starts, with a 2.25 ERA.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn’s only start could well have served as a microcosm of the whole home stand.  For six innings he surrendered just three hits to the Red Sox.  But two of the hits left the park, the defense gift wrapped two additional runs, and Lynn and the Cards went home with a 6-3 loss.  Lynn’s 4 starts at home have been praiseworthy.  In 24.1 innings, Lance holds a 1.85 ERA and a .191 batting average against.  After walking just one against Boston, Lance has given up just 5 walks at home this season.  His record, though, is just 2-1.

Lynn has been solid away from home – 2-1 3.86 ERA

The Bullpen

In a word, it has not been pretty for much of the season – especially at home.  This is not to say they have done well on the road, but their 3.95 ERA and 1 blown save away from Busch would be a notable improvement.  While the starters exceeded all expectations during the home stand against three top offensive clubs, the bullpen allowed 17 runs (15 earned) in their 26 innings.  The pen was 0-3 over the home stand with 3 blown saves and a 5.19 ERA.  For the season, the pen holds a 4.69 ERA and 6 blown saves already at home.

It’s Early

It is still way too early to over-react to this.  The numbers could be slanted due to weather conditions in St Louis in April or level of competition (the teams we have played at home, so far, are perceived to be tougher than the teams we’ve played on the road).  It will be interesting to see how things level out during July and August.

It is worth noting, though, that some of these hitter’s trends are extending into a second year.  If that continues, then, perhaps, the front office will have to do some re-considering.

Game Hinges on Second Inning RISP Chances

The game was still scoreless as San Francisco immediately put Cardinal starter Adam Wainwright in a second-inning bind.  A single by Brandon Belt and a walk to Brandon Crawford gave the Giants the very first RISP (runners in scoring position) opportunity of the day.  The Cards would get the same opportunity in the bottom of that inning when Jhonny Peralta and Tommy Pham led off with singles.  But where the Cards would cash in on the chance – eventually getting a three-run double from Randal Grichuk as the highlight of a four-run inning, the Giants were left with a zero for their efforts as Wainwright defused the threat by striking out Eduardo Nunez, Nick Hundley and Mac Williamson.

With this as the tone setter, St Louis would go on to a 4-for-10 RISP performance while San Francisco would finish the afternoon 0-for-8 in that same category, resulting in an 8-3 Cardinal victory (box score).

The Cardinals have had a reputation is recent years of being one of the better hitting teams with runners in scoring position.  Even though last year was mostly disappointing, they still hit .271/.353/.472 with RISP.  They dug themselves an early season hole in 2017 for many reasons, among them an ice-cold start in these opportunities.  Their April RISP batting line read a disappointing .212/.325/.358.  But they have come out firing on many more cylinders in May.  After their performance yesterday, the May RISP line now stands at .276/.349/.436.

Pitching Staff Thriving with RISP

One of the earmarks of the superlative 2015 staff was their remarkable success when pitching with runners in scoring position (.210/.296/.322).  While they regressed a bit last year (.259/.341/.404), they have bounced back with a vengeance so far in 2017.  After holding the Giants to an 0-for-8 RISP performance, St Louis’ opponents are hitting .204 this month – and .219 for the year – with runners in scoring position.

Hitters Don’t Stay Down for Long

Yesterday also featured another bounce-back by the Cardinal offense.  Dominated the night before (scoring just once in 13 innings), St Louis drove Matt Cain from the mound under a barrage of hits.  For the first 15 games of the season, the Cardinal offense sat in a deep freeze, scoring 3.2 runs a game and being shutout twice.  In the 26 games since then (beginning with the series in Milwaukee that started on April 20), the Cards have hit .287 as a team and scored 5.52 runs per game.  For the 17 games they’ve played so far in May, those numbers are .275 and 5.12 runs per game.  They have scored five runs or more 11 times (in 17 games) this month, and 18 times in the last 26 games.

Jhonny Peralta

Peralta has returned with a little juice in his bat.  With pinch-hit singles in his first two games and a 2-for-3 game yesterday, Jhonny is 4 for 5 with a walk and no strikeouts since his re-instatement.  There is still a question of where he fits, as benching Jedd Gyorko in favor of Peralta is – for the moment, anyway – out of the question.  Peralta is still waiting for his first extra base hit and his first run batted in of the season.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz – who pushed his season average to .261 with two doubles – now has 14 multiple hit games this season.  He has had only 10 games in which he has had one hit.  Even though he has been pretty hit and miss, Aledmys is still hitting .315 (23 for 73) this month.

Diaz was one of our very best hitters with runners in scoring position last year.  He hit .337/.427/.652 in those situations in 2016.  To this point of 2017, he has struggled to find that RISP magic.  The only time they retired him yesterday was on a soft fly ball to left with runners on first and second and two out in the third.  Aledmys is now just 8 for 35 (.229) with runners in scoring position in 2017.  Of the 8 hits, 6 are singles (including one infield hit and one bunt single), 1 double and 1 home run – a .343 slugging percentage.

Randal Grichuk

Both of Grichuk’s doubles came with runners in scoring position.  Beginning with the Milwaukee series at the end of April, Grichuk’s production with runners in scoring position has been on the upswing.  Randal finished 2016 with one of the team’s better averages with runners in scoring position, when he hit .327 and slugged .579 when hitting with “ducks on the pond.” He began 2017 with just 3 hits in his first 13 RISP at bats (.231).  Since then he is 8 for 29 (.276) with 5 of the hits going for extra-base – a .517 slugging percentage.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler was the only Cardinal player to bat last night who didn’t finish the game with at least one hit.  Since hitting a triple and a late three-run homer in the first San Francisco game, Dexter is 0 for 11, watching his season average tilt back down to .220.

He is hitting just .154 (4 for 26) since returning to the lineup after his shoulder injury.  However, all 4 hits have been for extra bases, and he has sprinkled in 8 walks for a .343 on base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage since then.  His batting line for May (.184/.347/.526) shows a similar trend.  He has only 7 hits in 38 at bats this month, but with 6 extra-base hits (including 2 home runs) and 10 walks.

Adam Wainwright

The resurgent Adam Wainwright was also a big story last night.  Seven starts into his 2017 season, Adam had no quality starts, a 2-3 record, and a 6.37 ERA.  After limiting the Giants to 1 run in 6.1 innings yesterday, Adam has now allowed just that single run on 9 hits in 13.1 innings over his last two starts (wins over the Giants and Cubs) – a 0.68 ERA.  One particular area of improvement has been the bite on Adam’s curveball – making it a swing-and-miss pitch again.  Through the first seven starts, opposing batters only missed on 16% of their swings against him.  Over the last two games, the swing-and-miss percentage has been 26%.

During the month of April, Adam was mostly helpless when working with runners on base.  The 34 batters who faced him that month with RISP opportunities stung him at a .379/.438/.655 clip.  But San Francisco went 0-for-6 against Waino yesterday in RISP situations.  Opposing hitters are now just 3 for 19 (.158) this month in this situation.

Wainwright’s start continues an impressive month by the Cardinal rotation, which now has 12 quality starts, a 2.87 ERA, and a .214 batting average against in 17 games and 106.2 innings this month.  The overall team ERA for May is 2.91.

The Cardinals’ chances of contending over the entire season rest heavily on the pitching staff.  This sustained excellence in May is very encouraging.

RISP and the Rest of the Rotation

Lance Lynn, of course, was part of that productive 2015 staff – and he was one of many to perform very well with runners in scoring position (a .233 batting average against).  This year – so far – no one on the staff has been better.  Opposing batters are just 2 for 16 this month (.125) and 5 for 33 (.152) for the year when facing Lance with runners in scoring position.

Carlos Martinez was the best of the 2015 staff in this situation.  Combining his electric stuff and his native competitiveness, batters in RISP struggled to a .181 average against Carlos in 2015.  He regressed a bit last year, in what seems to have been a “growing” year for him.  In these situations in 2016 he was hit at a .244 clip.  The Carlos Martinez of 2017, so far, resembles much more the 2015 Martinez.  RISP batters are 2 for 12 (.167) this month, and 7 for 40 (.175) for the year against Carlos.

As with many other things in Mike Leake’s world, hitters with runners in scoring position thrived against him last year (.298), but have found the sledding much tougher this year.  They are 2 for 10 (.200) this month, and 6 for 38 (.158) this year against him.

2015 was also Michael Wacha’s last healthy year.  He was plenty tough in RISP situations then (.208), but declined in his injury-marred 2016 year (.297).  As with most of the rest of the staff, Wacha has returned to form so far this year.  With runners in scoring position, opposing batters are just 4 for 28 (.143) against him.

Miguel Socolovich

The trends on Miguel Socolovich are something of a mixed bag.  Through his first 7 games (accounting for 9.2 innings) Miguel served up no home runs.  The two he served up yesterday were the third and fourth in his last 6 games (7.2) innings.  On the other hand, over the 10.1 innings of his first 8 games, Miguel walked 4 batters.  He hasn’t walked anyone since (5 games, 7 innings).

Brett Cecil & Sam Tuivailala

Bonus good news from yesterday: two recently struggling relievers both regained a little balance.  Brett Cecil, who has had more than his share of turmoil recently, retired both batters he faced.

Sam Tuivailala pitched the ninth inning in 1-2-3 fashion, putting an end to a three game streak in which Sam gave up a run in each game.  Since his recall, Tuivailala has pitched 8 pretty good innings (3 runs on 7 hits and no home runs.)

NoteBook

Cardinal starters hove now strung together 4 consecutive quality starts (finally winning one of them), and have quality starts in 7 of the last 8 games.  Lance Lynn – who opens the LA series – is the only Cardinal starter not to throw a quality start in the last nine games.

With his RBI double yesterday, Wainwright is now hitting .294/.294/.529 for the season – an OPS of .824 (yes, I know it’s just 17 at bats).

The strikeout prone Cardinals fanned just once yesterday.  Twice previously they had struck out just twice in a game.  On 13 other occasions in their first 41 games, the Cards have recorded 10 or more strikeouts.

Cards Drop Second Consecutive One Run Game

A once promising home stand has turned sour in the wake of three very ugly losses – the last two by one run.  Last night offered some bonus regret as the bullpen blew two late leads on its way to a 6-5 loss (box score).

I have always looked to the record in one run games as an effective barometer of a team’s grit – and I have held in high esteem those players who perform well in the tight environment of these games.

With these last two losses, the Cards fall to 6-9 on the season in one run contests.  They have played six already in the first 14 games in May – and have now lost 4 of those.  In many ways, these last two have been representative of the group.

There has been good news, too, though – although, admittedly, you have to look a little harder to find it these days.

One constant this month continues to be excellent starting pitching.  Michael Wacha’s 6 innings of scoreless ball pushed the rotation’s ERA down to 3.25 in May with 10 quality starts in the 15 games.

If you are looking for other hopeful signs, note that even though the offense only finished with 8 hits for the game, four were extra base hits and – at the end of the day – they had still thrown 5 runs on the board.  In 24 games since the beginning of the Milwaukee series on April 20, St Louis has scored at least 5 runs 17 times, averaging 5.38 runs per game in those games.

Even so, 8 of the last 24 games have also come down to one run.  The Cards have lost 6 of them.

Dexter Fowler

In one of last night’s most encouraging signs, Dexter Fowler tripled and homered for his first multi-hit night since he went 2-for-4 against Cincinnati on April 28.  He has home runs in consecutive games for the second time this year – bringing his season total to 6 already.  His other two home runs both came in the same game (a 2-1 win against Pittsburgh on April 19) – so his home runs have come in pairs.

Since recovering enough from a shoulder sprain to return to the starting lineup, Dexter has started 5 of the last 6 games.  He has only 4 hits in those games (in 16 at bats) for an unremarkable .250 average, but all 4 hits have been for extra bases and he has walked 8 times for a .250/.500/.813 batting line.

Six of his seven hits this month have been extra-base hits (Dexter has 3 triples so far in May), raising his slugging percentage for the month to .714 (albeit in just 28 at bats).  And even though he’s missed a few of the games with his injury, Dexter Fowler has nonetheless been one of the central figures in the Cardinals’ offensive revival.  Playing in 20 of the last 24 games (and starting 16) You-Go-We-Go has had 77 plate appearances, during which he has produced 8 singles, 3 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs, 12 runs scored, 15 runs batted in, and 14 walks.  His batting line since April 20 is .290/.416/.629.

Dexter has also been the team’s most potent offensive force in their recent one run games.  In the six they’ve played this month, Dexter has been to the plate 22 times, having 1 single, 2 triples, 2 home runs, 7 runs batted in, and 6 walks to show for them – a batting line of .313/.500/.938.

Kolten Wong

The bat of Kolten Wong – who finished last night with two more hits and two more walks – has been another of the constants of the Cardinals’ recent offensive surge.  Kolten has now hit .330 (29 for 88) over his last 23 games and 104 plate appearances.

It is little surprise that Fowler and Wong would be the offensive highlights of the night.  All season long, they have been the only two providing offensive sparks in the Cardinals’ one run games.  For his part, Wong is now 15 for 47 (.319) in St Louis’ 15 one run games.  For the six played so far in May. He is 10 for 22 (.455).

After hitting just 7 doubles in 313 at bats last year, Wong already has 11 in 123 at bats this year.  He has never hit more than the 28 he hit in 2015.  His 5 intentional walks this year are already a career high.  In his four previous seasons he had been intentionally walked a total of 7 times.

Tommy Pham

With Stephen Piscotty poised to return from the disabled list, Tommy Pham has picked an unfortunate time to fall into his first noteworthy slump of the season.  Over the last four games – ever since he inherited the second spot in the order – Pham has gone 2 for 15 (.133) with 1 walk, no extra-base hits and 6 strikeouts.  This includes going 1 for his last 12.  His last extra-base hit was an RBI double off of Chicago’s Pedro Strop in the sixth-inning of last Saturday’s game – a span of 16 at bats.

Last night’s game was the fourth one run game the Cards have played in the 12 games since Pham’s return.  He is 3 for 16 (.188) with 1 walk and 7 strikeouts in those games.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter did work his way on base with another walk – his seventeenth in 15 games this month.  But his subsequent 0 for 3 pushed his batting average for May down to .231 and his season average down to .238.  Since his first-inning home run in the last game in Atlanta, Matt is 5 for 35 (.143).

Carpenter is 3 for 20 (.150) in one run games in May.  He has played in 12 of the 15 this season, hitting .214 (9 for 42).

Aledmys Diaz

In 2016, Aledmys Diaz was among the teams’ better hitters in one run games.  He played 32 of them and hit .256/.336/.402 – which is quite good, considering that most one run games are pitchers’ duels.  This year, he and Randal Grichuk (.174) have been the only regulars on the team hitting below .200 in the 15 one run games played so far.  After last night’s 0-for-4, Diaz has had 62 plate appearances in one run contests, with the following results: 8 singles, 3 doubles, 0 runs batted in, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts and 2 ground-ball double plays.  His batting line in those games is .183/.210/.233.

Michael Wacha

For the second straight start, Michael Wacha turned a lead over to his bullpen only to watch it dissolve.  The last time, in the last game of the Atlanta series, Wacha finished six innings with a 4-2 lead that lasted until Freddie Freeman’s eighth-inning home run forged a 4-4 tie (in a game St Louis won in 14 innings, 6-4).  Even though neither Wacha nor the team managed a win this time, Wacha’s outings are staring to take on an encouraging consistency.

Through seven starts, Michael has now pitched at least 6 innings in all of them, allowing fewer hits than innings pitched in 5, allowing fewer than 3 runs in 5 of them, and has yet to issue more than 2 unintentional walks in any game.  All this has led to a sparkling 2.74 ERA.

Wacha has exceeded 88 pitches only twice this season, so they are being quite cautious with Michael.

In Wacha’s first start, the offense erupted for 10 runs to help him coast to victory.  Over his last 6 games, he has been granted a total of 15 support runs, getting as many as 4 only once (in the Atlanta game).

As a result, 4 of Wacha’s last 6 starts have been decided by one run.  Michael has actually been at his best in these games.  He has pitched 24.2 innings in these starts, going 1-1 with a 2.19 ERA and a .244 batting average against, walking 8 and striking out 22.

Wacha has been as good as we could have hoped for.  It’s understandable that they want to keep him healthy.

Rotation Shines in One Run Games.

Surprisingly – or perhaps not – Wacha’s 2.19 ERA in one run games is only the fourth best of the five members of the starting rotation.  Lance Lynn has only had one of his starts end up as a one-run game.  He threw 7 innings of 3-hit shutout baseball against Pittsburgh on April 17 – ending up the winning pitcher in a 2-1 contest.

Carlos Martinez has seen three of his starts determined by one run.  The Cards have won two of the three, with Martinez contributing an 0.90 ERA in 20 innings of those starts.

Mike Leake has also started 4 one run games.  He has pitched to a 2.13 ERA in those games, but St Louis has lost 3 of the 4.

In 15 one run games through May 19, St Louis’ starters have produced 10 quality starts and a 2.34 ERA.

The only starter who has really struggled in this category is Adam Wainwright.  Three of his starts this year have ended as one run games: the season’s second game (a 2-1 loss to Chicago); the May 4 game against Milwaukee (a 5-4 loss); and the 6-5 win in Miami on May 9.  Adam has no quality starts and a 5.87 ERA in those games.

The Bullpen, Not So Much

The bullpen has been a different story.  In fact, the one run games this team has played so far have fairly consistently exposed the Cardinal bullpen – which has all too often turned comfortable wins into one run games, and one run victories into one run defeats.  In that sense, these last two games have been very much indicative of the season.

Jonathan Broxton

Over the last two games, the breakdowns have come at the expense of pitchers who seemed, finally, to be doing well.  Wednesday night it was Trevor Rosenthal.  Last night – among others – it was Jonathan Broxton, who gave hits to both batters he faced and watched them both score.  He had not allowed a run in his previous 7 games (6.1 innings).

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman – who was greatly undone by an untimely error – has now still not allowed an earned run in his last 6 games (4.2 innings) – although he has now allowed 2 unearned runs in that span.  Bowman, who had walked only 3 batters the entire season walked 2 in an inning for the first time this year.  He had stranded his previous 9 inherited runners.

Matthew only had a 4.50 ERA in the 21 one run games he worked last year.  He has participated in 11 of the 15 so far this year, holding batters to a .216 average.  He, nonetheless, has a 5.59 ERA in those games.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist, who finally got the Cards out of the seventh only one run down, has now not allowed a hit in 5 straight games (4.1 innings), nor a run in 11 straight games (9.1 innings), nor a walk in 8 straight games (7.1 innings).  Kevin has set down the last 14 consecutive batters to face him – 6 on strikeouts.

Siegrist carried an 0.96 ERA in 30 one run games last year.  He has pitched in 7 of them so far this year, allowing no runs in 6.1 innings.

Sam Tuivailala

After throwing 4 scoreless innings after his call-up, Sam Tuivailala has now allowed a run in each of his last 3 games (3 innings).

Seung-hwan Oh

The runs off Seung-hwan Oh last night were the first runs he’d allowed in seven innings, and the first earned runs he’d allowed in 15 innings.  He had converted his previous 10 saves since faltering on opening night.

Oh has pitched in 6 of the one run games so far this year, with less than optimal results.  In the 7.2 innings he covered in those games, He has given 6 runs on 11 hits – a 7.04 ERA, paired with a .324 batting average.  It’s far too few innings to be overly concerned, but it is certainly a disappointing start from the designated closer.

NoteBook

The Cardinal bullpen served up as many runs (6) in three innings last night as the entire pitching staff surrendered in the three games against the Cubs that opened this home stand.

In home game #24 tonight, the Cards will surpass the one million mark in home attendance.  If St Louis wins today, they will be 12-12 at home this year.

Last year, Yadier Molina set a career high in strikeouts with 63.  He also grounded into 22 double plays – his highest total since he bounced into 27 back in 2009.  With 2017 not quite at the quarter pole, Molina has already struck out 21 times – but has only grounded into 2 double plays.

While he should have been thrown out at second, Randal Grichuk managed to get in with his fifth stolen base of the year – tying already his career high, set last year.

Losing Leads and Other Early Trends

One of the season-long trends the 2016 edition of the Cardinals struggled with was winning the first game of a series.  In 52 first games, last year’s team went 23-29 (.442).  Thereafter, they were 63-47 (.573).  They have started off 2017 falling into the same troubling pattern.  They are 5-8 (.385) in the first games of their series so far.  After game one, they have played .640 ball (16-9).

When Matt Moore takes the mound for the Giants tonight, he will be only the eighth left-handed pitcher to start against the Cards this season.

In the first 14 games in May, the Cards have scored five runs or more 9 times (64%).  They have won 8 of the 9.  They have lost 4 of the 5 games when they failed to score at least 5 runs.

For the season, they have scored at least five runs in exactly half of their games, going 15-4 (.789) when they do.  They are just 6-13 (.316) when they can’t score at least 5 runs.

Last year’s club managed an 83-32 (.722) record when they scored at least 3 runs.  That team won only twice all year when they scored just 2 runs.  This year’s team already has 4 wins in games where they’ve scored just 2 runs – including three-straight 2-1 wins against Pittsburgh.  They, however, are only 17-12 (.586) when they score three runs or more.

Last year’s team scored the first run of the game only 80 times in 162 games (49%).  They won 69 percent of the time when they did (55-25).  So far in May, St Louis has scored the first run 9 times in 14 games (64%), going 7-2 (.778) in those games.

Last year, St Louis never held any kind of lead in 42 of their 162 games (25.9%).  So far this year there have only been 6 games the Cards have played (15.8%) in which they didn’t lead at some point.  This means that St Louis already has 11 come-from-ahead losses.  They lost only 34 such games all of last year.

Even though the Cards are 9-5 so far in May, Wednesday’s loss was the second time already this month where they lost a game that they led by 3 runs or more.  On May 4, St Louis jumped out to a 3-0 second-inning lead against Milwaukee, only to watch the Brewers come all the back for a 5-4 victory (box score).  They have already seen four leads of three runs or more turn into losses.  All of last year, they only lost 5 times where they held a lead of at three runs at one time.

On the other hand, last year’s Cards only played 43 games (26.5%) in which they never trailed.  This year’s team has done that 6 times in 14 games this month alone (42.9%)

This also means that last year’s team had 43 come-from-behind victories (something this year’s team has managed 8 time so far).  In fact, as long as the 2016 Cardinals never trailed by more than two runs they came back to win 59.3% of the time (35-24).

This year’s team has come back to win 5 of the 8 games they’ve played where they’ve trailed by no more than one run, but they are 0-5 when that deficit goes to two runs.

St Louis’ 9 May victories include two when they trailed by 4 runs at one point – back to back rallies against the Miami bullpen, 6-5 on May 9, and 7-5 on May 10.  They now have three, 4-run comebacks this season, as they also did it to Toronto (8-4 in 11 innings in the first game of that April 27 doubleheader).  For all of its firepower, last year’s club won only 5 games all year where they once trailed by four runs.

Oh, and yesterday we noted umpire Jeff Kellogg’s contributions to the two losses to Boston.  We are now 0-2 already this season when Kellogg has the plate.  He was also behind the plate for this 9-3 beating we took at the hands of the Yankees on April 16.  Last year we were also 0-2 in games when Kellogg had the plate.  Going back to 2000, St Louis is 17-18 with Jeff Kellogg behind the plate.

We are also 0-2 when Will Little and Quinn Wolcott have the plate.  From April 25, 2014 through August 14, 2015 St Louis won seven straight games when Little called balls and strikes.  Since then we have lost four straight games when he’s had the plate.  Wolcott has only has the honor of calling Cardinal games since 2015.  That year we were 0-2 in games when he had the plate.  In the 2 games he called for us in 2016, we were 2-0.

Conversely, St Louis is already 2-0 in games called by Hunter Wendelstedt.  Since the beginning of the century, the Cardinal record is 19-16 when Wendelstedt has the plate.

Cards Struggle to Prove Themselves Against Winning Teams

With two pretty ugly losses to Boston, the St Louis Cardinals fall to 3-5 during the month of May, and 8-13 for the season in games against teams that currently have winning records.  These winning teams that the Cardinals have played so far are Boston (now 21-18), Chicago (now 20-19), Milwaukee (which currently leads the division at 23-18), the Yankees (currently 24-13), and Washington (now 25-14).

Twenty-one of the season’s first 38 games is a pretty heavy dose of the better teams in baseball, and has exposed some of the early-season weaknesses that this team will need to improve on in order to compete with these better teams going forward.

From an offensive standpoint, the Cardinal team batting line isn’t that far removed from the league averages for those teams.  Against the pitching staffs of the Red Sox, Cubs, Brewers, Yankees and Nationals (these numbers courtesy of baseball reference) all of their opponents have combined to slash .250/.319/.413/.732.  The Cardinal’s slash line against these teams is .251/.328/.408/.736.  But, those teams, combined, allow an average of 4.47 runs per game.  The Cardinals are scoring just 3.95 runs per game against them.

This lingering problem was on full display last night as St Louis put four early runs on the board, but never scored again over the remaining 11 innings of the long and frustrating game that they eventually dropped 5-4 in 13 innings (box score).

From the point where Dexter Fowler walked to load the bases with one out in the second (St Louis ahead 3-0 at that point), the Cards went 7 for 38 (.184) with 10 strikeouts.  After getting three successive hits with runners in scoring position in that second inning, they went hitless in their final six such opportunities.

To this point – against these winning teams – the Cards are just 35 for 170 (.205) with runners in scoring position.  For the most part, this team has found itself overmatched by these pitching staffs in the pivotal moments of these games.  Through 21 games, the Cardinals have come through in crunch-time at bats against this list of teams just three times this season: Randal Grichuk’s opening day walk-off single that beat the Cubs 4-3; Aledmys Diaz’ seventh-inning home run that broke a 1-1 tie and helped the Birds beat Milwaukee 4-1 on April 22; and Kolten Wong’s eighth-inning infield hit that tied the May first game against Milwaukee at 4-all (a game the Birds would lose 7-5 in 10 innings).

One of the strong early impressions this team is making is that they are not mentally tough enough to beat the better teams in baseball.

Kolten Wong

Wong had the double that was in the middle of the three-run second inning.  He finished with three hits for the evening.  It was his sixth multi-hit game of the season and his second three-hit game.  Kolten has pushed his season average to .273 by hitting .291 in May (16 for 55) and .309 (29 of 94) in 25 games since April 17.  Wong has hit safely in 21 of his last 25 games.

While much of the Cardinal club has been found wanting against better competition, that is not the case with Wong.  With his 3 hits yesterday, Wong is now hitting .407 this month (11 for 27) and .317 for the year (19 for 60) when playing against teams that win more than they lose.  He is 8 for 21 (.381) against them with runners in scoring position.

The development of Kolten Wong into the player that we’ve always thought he could be is one of the best things that could happen for the future of this franchise.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko added a couple more hits last night.  Jedd is showing no signs of slowing down much in May.  He is now hitting .328 this month (19 for 58) with a .534 slugging percentage.  He has 3 doubles, 3 home runs and 10 RBIs in 13 starts this month.  He has also now hit in 18 of his last 22 games, hitting .368 in that span (32 for 87) and slugging .644.  His hits include 7 doubles, a triple and 5 home runs.  Jedd has driven in 14 runs in those games.

Gyorko has played in all 8 games this month where the Cards have faced winning teams, and acquitted himself well.  Jedd is 10 for 35 (.286) against them with 3 home runs (.543 slugging percentage).

Over the course of the season so far, Jedd has probably been our most consistent weapon against the better teams that we’ve faced. He has played in 18 of the 21 games – starting in 17 of them – and hit .309 in those contests (21 for 68).  Nine of those 21 hits have gone for extra bases.  Two doubles, one triple, and six of the seven home runs he’s hit this season have come at the expense of winning teams.  He is slugging .632 in those games.

Jedd, however, is 0 for 11 against these guys with runners in scoring position.

Magneuris Sierra

Magneuris Sierra – who has at least one hit in all seven of his major league games – had his fourth two-hit night of the season last night.  It raises his average to .367 in his short exposure to the major leagues (he is 11 for 30).

Sierra’s only exposure to over .500 teams has been this home stand when the Cards have engaged the Cubs and Red Sox.  Magneuris has played in 3 of the 5 games, going 5 for 13 (.385) at the plate (and 3 for 6 with RISP).

He certainly isn’t dazzled by it all.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s halting May continued.  Matt was the only Cardinal starter not to get a hit last night (0 for 5) but he did draw a walk – his sixteenth walk in 14 games this month.  Moreover, although he only has 12 hits this month, 7 of those hits have gone for extra-bases, including five home runs.  Matt’s batting line so far for May is .245/.424/.612.  There are very few players who could hit less than .250 and still be considered legitimate player-of-the-month candidates.  Carpenter, I think could be one of them.

His season batting line (.244/.396/.496) shows that same pattern – although not with the kind of power we’ve seen from him so far in May.  Matt has had that kind of season against winning teams, too – but without quite enough of the production to really say he’s having a good year against them.

In the 8 games he’s played against these teams in May, Matt is just 5 for 28, but with a double, 2 home runs and 7 walks – a .179/.333/.429 batting line (which still equates to a .762 OPS).  For the season, Carpenter has played in all 21 games against teams that currently have winning records (starting 20).  His 70 at bats in those games have produced just 16 hits, but 6 of those hits have been for extra-bases (4 of them home runs) and he’s walked 15 times in those games.  His 2017 batting line – so far – against winning teams is .229/.360/.429 – an OPS of .788.  Like Gyorko, Carpenter is 0 for 13 against all these guys with runners in scoring position.

Ultimately, the hope is that his strikeout totals (currently 25 in those 70 at bats) will level out in favor of a few more hits.  And, maybe, even a few with runners in scoring position.

Mike Leake

Nothing but warm fuzzies for erstwhile number four starter Mike Leake. Mike is now 8 for 8 in quality starts this season (this in spite of the fact that he has now served up 4 home runs in his last 3 games).  Mike has – of course – pitched at least six innings in every start so far, with last night being only the third time all season that he’s needed to throw over 98 pitches to achieve that. At 2.03, Mike still leads the NL in ERA.

Last night was already the second time that Mike has entrusted a lead to his bullpen, only to see it slip away.  He allowed only 1 run in 6 innings against Cincinnati on April 30, walking off with a 4-1 lead only to see the Reds take advantage of the bullpen (and Rosenthal, for that matter) for a 5-4 victory.

Making his performance even more impressive is that half of those starts have come against the winning teams that we’ve listed above.  He is 2-1 against those top offenses with a 2.08 ERA and a .200 batting average against.  In the 26 innings that he’s pitched in those 4 games, Mike has walked just 6 batters (none last night).

How Do The Other Starters Fare Against Winning Teams?

The other starters are a mixed bag.  Carlos Martinez has been very good (2-2, 2.84 in 5 starts – 3 of the quality starts), and Lance Lynn has been OK (1-2, 3.63 in 4 starts – 1 quality start).  In 6 starts against these teams, Adam Wainwright has managed 1 quality start (his last time out against the Cubs), going 2-3 with a 4.99 ERA against them.  Michael Wacha (who was skipped for both the Chicago and Boston series’) has only seen these teams twice – the Yankees on April 14 (6 innings, 4 runs, 9 hits, 2 home runs in a 4-3 loss) and May first against Milwaukee (a no decision after 6 more innings and 4 more runs).  Although they have been much better recently (2.08 in the 8 May games) the bullpen holds a 4.55 ERA against these teams so far.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal has been so good for so much of this season.  Going into last night’s eighth inning he hadn’t allowed a hit over his previous 5 games and hadn’t been scored on over his previous 7.  Those streaks came to an end when Xander Bogaerts (he of the .338 batting average so far this season) sliced an 0-2, 100-mile-per-hour fastball into the right-center field gap for the triple that set up the game-tying sequence.

Rosenthal’s season ERA is still a fine 2.93, but (and this is in a very small sample size) in his 7.1 innings against the better teams he’s faced he has been tagged for 4 runs on 7 hits (a 4.91 ERA).  A lot of veteran hitters (like Bogaerts and Joey Votto and Ryan Braun) can handle that 100-mph heat.  Especially if it’s up a bit in the zone.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh pitched multiple innings last night for the fourth time this season.  One of his innings was a little complex, but he came through not allowing a run.  Oh is now unscored on in his last 6 games, and hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last 13 games.

In 11.1 innings against winning teams this season, Seung-hwan has pitched decently well (4 of 5 in save opportunities with a 3.18 ERA).

Matthew Bowman

After enduring a little lag at the end of April through the first days of May, Matthew Bowman has righted his ship.  He pitched last night’s eleventh inning in 1-2-3 fashion with 2 strikeouts.  Matthew hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last 5 games, and his ERA for the month is 1.69 with a .176 batting average against.

Of all the relief pitchers who have risen to the occasion against the better teams, Matthew has been, perhaps, the most impressive.  He has worked in 12 of the 21 games played against them so far, pitching 10.2 innings.  In those innings, he has given just 5 hits and 1 run (on the home run that Milwaukee’s Jesus Aguilar managed against him on May 4).  He has walked 2 and fanned 9, leading to an 0.84 ERA and a .143/.184/.229 batting line against some of baseball’s toughest offenses.  He has also stranded 8 of the 10 runners he’s inherited in these games.

Next Up

San Francisco (playing better lately) is just 17-25 so far.  After that series, the Cards go on the road to face the 23-18 Dodgers and the surprising 25-15 Rockies.  That will be followed by a 4-game home series against the Dodgers again before we take our act to Wrigley.  After this upcoming Giant series, the Cards won’t play another team that currently has a losing record until they roll into Cincinnati on June 5 to play the Reds (currently 19-20).  Assuming the Cubs stay above .500, that will mean 34 of the Cardinals first 54 games this year will be against teams with winning records.

NoteBook

After winning two of three against the Dodgers, San Francisco will the first Cardinal opponent to have won its previous series since they played Pirates in mid-April.  The Cards previous 8 opponents had come in with 7 series losses and one split.

The emphasis on aggressive base-running has had mixed results.  The Cards have run into a bunch of bad outs on the base-paths.  On the other hand they are 15-5 this month in stolen base attempts.  On the extremes of this philosophy are Aledmys Diaz, who already has as many steals (4) as he had all of last year, and Tommy Pham, who in just 11 games has already set career highs in steals (3) and steal attempts (5).  Meanwhile, Fowler – who was added in part to provide some stolen base threat after stealing 13 last season – has only attempted 1 stolen base so far (a successful attempt, as it turns out).

As a footnote to this article, remember that Kellogg was the umpire at first base the night before who called a myriad of Cardinal hitters out on the kind of very slight check-swings that you almost never see called.

The Cards, I imagine, will be glad not to see Jeff Kellogg (one of baseball’s least competent umpires) for a good long while.