While the final score doesn’t necessarily suggest it (St Louis won the rubber game of their weekend series 5-0) (box score), Chicago’s Jake Arrieta made things difficult enough for the Cardinal hitters. Of the 37 batters that faced Arrieta and his relief pitcher, Brian Duensing, 23 came up with the bases empty (62.2%)
While this is usually a recipe for defeat, The Cardinal hitters – as they have for most of the month – took advantage of the few opportunities they had with runners on base to go 4 for 13 (.308) with 2 home runs, keeping their momentum going. The Cards have now won 8 of 9, 9 of 12 played in the month of May, and 18 of the last 24 since they were swept by the Yankees in mid-April. The wet-powder Cardinals of 2016 never managed more than 7 wins in any 9-game stretch or 15 wins in any 24-games stretch. However the season ends up, this year’s club has already shown more sustainability than last year’s team ever did.
The foundation of the Cardinal surge continues to be the excellent pitching – especially (these days) the bullpen. Over the 9-3 May, the Cardinal starters have chipped in with 8 quality starts and a 3.61 ERA – while the bullpen ERA so far this month has been an impressive 1.30. In the 18-6 run, the starters have thrown 17 quality starts to accompany a 3.24 ERA, while the ‘pen has backed then with a 2.58 ERA.
While the Cards continue to pitch, they will continue to contend.
Finally Hitting With Runners On Base
One of several elements of the Cardinal streak is improved hitting with runners on base. April saw them hit a disappointing .233/.322/.369 with runners on base. After yesterday’s exploits, St Louis is hitting .284/.351/.461 this month in those situations.
After a worrisome struggle against Eddie Butler on Friday night, the Cardinal offense has bounced back quite nicely. They are now hitting .283 and scoring 5.50 runs per game this month. In the 24 games since the beginning of the Pittsburgh series, they are hitting .285 and scoring 5.13 runs per game.
Randal Grichuk contributed three hits last night, two of them doubles. Both doubles came with the bases empty. Randal’s numbers have shown a mild uptick so far this month, but only when he’s batting with the bases empty. He is hitting .348 (8 for 23) and slugging .609 (3 doubles and 1 home run) with the bases empty. He is only 4 for 24 (.167) this month when batting with anyone on base.
Yadier Molina’s two home run day stretched his hitting streak to six games, during which he’s hitting .320 (8 for 25) with more extra-base punch than we’re used to seeing from Yadi. His 8 hits include 2 doubles and the 2 home runs – a .640 slugging percentage.
His first home run came in his only plate appearance with a runner on base. Yadi’s month of May has been all about taking advantage of chances to hit with runners on base. With no one on, Yadi is hitting .231 this month (6 for 26). He is now at .333 (6 for 18) when he gets to hit with runners on. He hit .345 last year with runners on base (70 for 203).
Aledmys Diaz was thrown out at second on an overly aggressive attempt to stretch a single into a double, but Diaz, nonetheless, finished with two more hits and has two hits in three of his last four games. Since moving to the sixth slot in the lineup, Aledmys has hit .364 (16 for 44).
His two hits lifted his batting average for the month of May to .340 (18 for 53). Only Tommy Pham’s .371 is better among Cardinal regulars (and Tommy qualifies as a regular during the month of May).
All of Diaz’ at bats yesterday came with the bases empty. So far this year, Aledmys has had no one on base for him in 60.7% of his plate appearances. That is the third highest rate on the team. Leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler has been up with the bases empty 67.2% of the time. Even though he has been moved to the third slot in the order, Matt Carpenter still has no one on base for him 61.8% of the time.
In putting together his first quality start of the season, Adam Wainwright still struggled keeping runners off base. In fact, his game was almost the reverse of Jake Arrieta’s. Where Arrieta rarely had runners on base, but got taken advantage of when he did, Wainwright was almost always in some flavor of trouble. He had only one clean inning out of the seven he pitched – although two double plays helped him face the minimum in two other innings.
For the game the 13 batters that faced Adam with the bases empty went 4 for 11 with 2 walks – a .364 batting average and a .462 on base percentage. For the season, when Adam has pitched with no one on base, opposing hitters have fashioned a .393/.440/.548 slash line.
Here was the difference, though. In his disappointing April, hitters went on to hit .305/.349/.492 once they did get a runner on. Yesterday afternoon, the Cubs were 0 for 12 with 2 walks and 2 double plays against Wainwright once they put a runner on base. For the month of May (in 3 starts), Adam is holding batters that hit with runners on base to a .207/.361/.310 batting line.
Trevor Rosenthal pitched his fifth consecutive hitless innings last night (he’s walked 1 and struck out 7 in those innings), and is now unscored on in his last 7 games – all one-inning appearances. His season ERA is back down to 1.88. The 23 batters who have faced Trevor this month are slashing .045/.087/.045 – that’s 1 single, 1 walk and 10 strikeouts.
He pitched on consecutive days for the third time this season yesterday.
Kevin Siegrist is the other vital part of the Cardinal bullpen that has returned to his former dominance. Siegrist pitched the ninth and, like Rosenthal, set the Cubs down in order with two strikeouts. Kevin has now thrown four consecutive perfect innings, and has set down the last 13 batters he’s faced, striking out 6 of them. Kevin is unscored against in his last 10 games, constituting 9 innings.
Walks were an early issue for Kevin. He walked no one last night for his seventh consecutive inning. He walked 10 through his first 6.1 innings.
Over his last 12 games (11 innings), Kevin holds a 1.64 ERA and a .209 opponent’s batting average.
With last night’s win, the Cards become the first team in the division to reach six-games over .500 (they are 21-15). They were also the division’s first team to fall six-games under .500 when they started 3-9.
Coming off a two-of-three series loss against Tampa Bay, the Boston Red Sox will be the sixth consecutive team the Cards will play that has lost its previous series.