It doesn’t seem to me that other teams struggle that much against pitchers that they don’t know very well. Perhaps the first time through the order, but thereafter most teams seems to adjust. And when that unknown pitcher is a lefthander, well, even after all these years and with a handful of very talented right-handed hitters in the lineup, lefties are still mostly a mystery to this team.
Take nothing away from Eduardo Rodriguez – who is a quality pitcher – but last night’s 6-3 loss to Rodriguez and the Red Sox (box score) could have been a replay of any of a number of dominating performances by various left-handers at the expense of the Cardinals over the years.
The early returns this year aren’t encouraging, either. After going 5 for 22 (.227) against Rodriguez and lefty reliever Robby Scott, the Cards are now hitting .240 this season against left-handed pitching.
Since it’s never too early to mention things like this, Tommy Pham, batting second last night, was 0 for 3. He is now 1 for 11 in his three starts hitting second. Toss in an 0-for-3 in a start where he batted sixth, and Pham is 1 for 14 (.071 batting average and slugging percentage) when he bats higher than seventh. In his 6 starts hitting seventh or eighth, Tommy is 12 for 24 (.500) with 4 doubles, 3 home runs, and 8 runs batted in (a 1.042 slugging percentage).
After getting three hits Sunday afternoon against the Cubs, Randal Grichuk suffered through another 0 for 3 last night. His average for the year is back down to .241, and his average for the month of May is right there, too, at .240 (12 for 50). He has 1 home run, 3 runs batted in, and 15 strikeouts for the month, so far.
One of the most encouraging parts of Grichuk’s promising second half last year was his proficiency at hitting lefthanders. From the All-Star Break through the end of the season, Randal was 17 for 50 (.340), with the hits including 7 doubles and 5 home runs (.780 slugging percentage) against left-handed pitching.
To this point of 2017, that punch against lefties has been absent. With his 0 for 3 last night, Grichuk is now 3 for 22 (.136) against lefties so far his season.
Pitchers Struggle Some Against Lefties As Well
Although Boston’s left-handed hitters didn’t have the success that most lefties have had against Cardinal pitching this year (they are hitting .274/.368/.452 against us), the pitching staff did continue its trend of thriving against right-handed hitters. Boston’s righties managed only 4 hits in 21 at bats (albeit one of those hits was a home run). For the season, right-handers manage just a .226/.280/.359 batting line against the Cardinal pitching staff.
Lance Lynn served up two home runs for the second straight start and now has three multiple home run games this season. It has been about the only blot on an otherwise impressive season that has seen Lance reach 4-2 on the season with a 2.78 ERA and a .205 opponents’ batting average. The home runs bring Lance’s total to 8 allowed so far this year in 45.1 innings. His career high is the 16 he allowed in 176 innings in 2012.
Jackie Bradley’s second-inning home run was the third home run this month and the sixth home run this year that Lance has given up to left-handed hitters. He also walked one lefty and hit another. For the season, left-handers have troubled Lance to the tune of a .566 slugging percentage and a .393 on base percentage. Over his three starts in May, those numbers are .680 and .438.
Right-handed batters have been another story. The righties in the Red Sox lineup were only 2 for 14 against Lynn (.143). Over his three starts in May, he is holding right-handed batters to a .147 average (5 for 34) and to a .133 average (12 for 90) on the season. Prior to Mookie Betts’ leadoff home run, Jayson Werth’s fourth-inning home run against Lance on April 11 in Washington was not only the only right-handed home run he had served up this year, but the only right-handed run batted in against Lance this season.
Jonathan Broxton pitched the seventh inning and gave up a hit. Over his last 7 appearances – totaling 6.1 innings – Broxton has allowed 11 baserunners (3 walks to go with the now 8 hits). None of them have scored. In addition, Broxton has stranded his last two inherited runners.
Bradley’s leadoff single to left makes left-handed hitters 9 for 18 (.500) against Broxton so far this season.
That being said, Broxton hasn’t allowed an extra-base hit to anyone (right or left) since Milwaukee’s Manny Pina homered off him in the ninth-inning of their April 23 game. That was 29 batters ago.
Sam Tuivailala was charged with his first run allowed since his return from Memphis. In Sam’s two previous games, all seven batters who put the ball in play against him hit the ball on the ground. Last night, the only two he faced both hit it in the air.
Sam has had issues with walking batters in his few innings this season, but that has only been a problem when facing lefthanders. He has walked 3 of the 10 lefties he’s faced, while walking only 1 of the 20 right-handers who have been up against him.
Troubles continue for Brett Cecil who came on the eighth inning of a one-run game with a runner at first and one out. He proceeded to walk the only two batters he faced (both lefthanders) to set up the final two runs of the game. Although the run charged to him was ultimately unearned, the outing marked the fifth consecutive game that Brett has allowed a run.
The 26 batters Brett has faced in his 7 games this month are slashing .476/.538/.857 against him. Eighteen of the 26 have been left-handed batters. Their slash line against him has been .538/.611/1.154. For the season 36 left-handed batters have taken their chances against Cecil, and have done OK against him (OK in this context translates into a .464/.528/.929 batting line).
I do think that Brett will figure things out eventually. He’s had a long track record of getting lefties out. But I repeat my concern about continuing to bring him into critical junctions of close games while he’s struggling.
Miguel Socolovich – who inherited the bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth inning last night did as well as could be expected. He allowed one run on a fly ball and should have had the last out of the inning on the fly that Pham dropped. After a shaky April, Socolovich has allowed only 3 hits in his 6 innings this month. He has pitched more than one inning 5 times in his 12 games this season – including his last two.
Like Tuivailala, Socolovich throws strikes to right-handed batters. Of the 30 lefties he’s faced so far, Miguel has walked 2 and hit 2. He has walked only 2 of the 41 right-handed batters he’s faced (hitting none).