Pieces Starting to Come Together

With three runs in the seventh inning and five more in the eighth, the Cardinals broke open a tight game yesterday afternoon, and finished up with a 10-4 conquest of Arizona (box score).  St Louis now finds itself the victor in 4 of its last 5 games.  While this might not be front page news, it’s enough to lighten the mood of the team and its followers, and fan the flames a bit.  In this recent turnaround, most of the mostly malfunctioning parts of the team have seemed to come together a bit.

Offensively, the team has been much more consistent all month than in April and May.  With the 10 runs last night, the Cards have scored 139 in 28 June games (4.96 per).  Thirty-five of those have now come during the last five games, in which the team has hit .275 (47 for 171).

Randal Grichuk

It may or may not be coincidental that the Cardinals’ mini-surge coincides with the day that Randal Grichuk returned from Memphis.  He did suffer through a short 0-for-9 stretch through the first two games of the Arizona series, but broke out of it decisively with 3 hits – including the game-winning three-run home run in the seventh.  He is now hitting .318 (7 for 22) since his return.  Even better, the hits haven’t been soft.  They include a double and 3 home runs – a .773 slugging percentage.  Randal has driven in 9 runs over his last 5 games.

In his first 24 post-Memphis plate appearances (yes a very small sample size), Grichuk has shown some early ability to battle deeper in an at bat.  Before his demotion, if his at bat lasted more than three pitches, his average fell to .160 (15 for 94).  He slugged just .255 with only 1 home run in those at bats.

Since his return, Randal has already stretched 13 plate appearances past the third pitch.  He is 4 for 12 (.333) with a walk.  More impressive, three of the four hits were for extra-bases – including 2 home runs.  The home run that turned yesterday’s game came on the fourth pitch of that particular at bat.

Jedd Gyorko

The Cardinal resurgence also coincides with Jedd Gyorko’s emergence from a slight slump.  Jedd had 2 hits and a walk yesterday as his contribution.  Jedd has had 20 plate appearances over the last five games, leading to 2 singles, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 8 runs batted in and 4 walks – a batting line of .400/.500/.800.  Jedd has pushed his season-long average back up to .298.

Jedd jumped on the first pitch thrown to him twice yesterday, drilling Patrick Corbin’s second-inning fastball down the left-field line for a double, and then bouncing to third on a first-pitch changeup in the sixth.  For the season, Gyorko puts the first pitch in play 16.1% of the time (among Cardinals, only Yadier Molina at 16.5% hits the first pitch more frequently), and no one on the team does it better.  Gyorko is hitting .405 and slugging .929 on the first pitch this season.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter was issued an intentional walk in front of Grichuk’s home run.  It was the only time he reached base, as he finished another 0-for-4 evening.  Matt is now 4 for 36 (.111) over his last 11 games – although those games include 15 walks, so his on base percentage is a healthy .373.  Matt’s average for the season is now down to .230, but with a .371 on base percentage and a .457 slugging percentage.  Similarly, he is now hitting .247 for the month of June (23 for 93), but with a .391 on base percentage and a .505 slugging percentage.  He has hit 5 home runs this month.

Not Just About the Runs

But more than just the offense has gotten healthy lately.  The bad base-running decisions have stopped.  The defense has been solid and sometimes spectacular.  The bullpen hasn’t been as terrible (most of the time), although it’s clearly still a worry.

And the starting pitching – the team’s albatross for most of June – is also starting to turn the corner.  Yesterday afternoon marked a full turn through the rotation with everyone throwing a quality start.  The rotation has put together a 3.26 ERA over the last five games, allowing just one home run (hit yesterday by Paul Goldschmidt).

Pitchers Surviving the First Pitch

According to baseball reference, across all of baseball batters hitting the first pitch thrown to them are hitting .349 with a .590 slugging percentage.  Whether through luck or some element of design, Cardinal pitchers have avoided first-pitch damage recently.  The Diamondbacks were only 1 for 4 yesterday when they hit the first pitch (Jake Lamb took the first pitch thrown him by Mike Mayers in the ninth over the wall).  The last 28 Cardinal opponents who have hit the first pitch thrown to them have just 4 hits (.143).  The other three hits have been singles.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn has been surprisingly good all season when batters hit his first pitch.  Arizona was 0 for 3 against his first pitch yesterday (albeit with help from a big defensive play by Stephen Piscotty in right).  This month, batters are just 1 for 10 against Lance when they hit his first pitch (Scott Schebler began Cincinnati’s comeback from a 3-0 deficit with a first-pitch home run off Lynn on June 7).  Of the now 19 home runs that Lance has given up, that is the only one hit off of his first pitch.  For the season, batters are hitting .214 (6 for 28) and slugging .321 against Lynn’s first pitch.

MatthewBowman

Matthew Bowman added a 1-2-3 seventh that included a strikeout.  Bowman – who has pitched better than his ERA all season – is wrapping up a pretty good June.  In 13 games and 12.1 innings he holds a 2.19 ERA and a .238 batting average against this month.

Bowman’s seventh was highlighted by the longest at bat against him this year, a ten-pitch struggle against Chris Iannetta. Bowman won the battle when Iannetta took a called strike three.  Yes, it was definitely a good couple of inches off the outside corner, and Chris was understandably upset.  Of course, the earlier 2-2 fastball that was called ball 3 was also clearly a strike, so the at bat evened out.

NoteBook

Yesterday’s win gave the Cardinal’s only their fifth series win in the 12 they have played on the road.  The overall road record is 17-21.

Arizona had six hits yesterday afternoon, but no singles.  And the only walk they received was intentional.  The Cards opened the fourth inning with four singles and a walk from their first five hitters of the inning.

Leadoff Production Improves with Carpenter

Let me begin by saying that I am still disappointed that Matt Carpenter didn’t stick in the third spot in the order (yes, I know, kicking a dead horse).  Even so, I do have to say that since Carpenter returned to the leadoff spot, The Cardinals have done much better at putting their leadoff men on base.

Carpenter, of course, is responsible for a lot of this.  In the month of June, Carpenter has led off 40 different innings.  He has reached base in half of them (11 hits and 9 walks).  He has then come around to score 12 runs.  And this has proved to be more than a little critical, as the Cards have had issues stringing hits together over the last week and a half, or so.  While winning 5 of their last 9 games (and starting to show a little pulse), this team is hitting just .243 in those games.

Last night’s 4-3 nail-biting victory in Arizona (box score), is a sort of microcosm of these trends.  The Cards finished with just six hits, but turned them into four runs – and Carpenter ignited both run-scoring innings.

After Arizona starter Zach Godley set down the first nine batters he faced, Carpenter opened the third drawing a walk, setting the stage for a 3-run inning.  In the eighth, after Arizona had crept back to within 3-2, Carpenter began the inning stroking a ground rule double to right-center.  He would later score on Jedd Gyorko’s double – his second run scored of the evening, and the run that would eventually make the difference.

But it hasn’t been just Carpenter.  Greg Garcia led off the fifth with a walk. That turned into a two-on two-out opportunity, although no runs scored.  Paul DeJong opened the ninth with a single that led to a bases-loaded opportunity to break the game open.  Again, nothing came of the opportunity, but getting the leadoff batter on three or four times a game is becoming more and more common.

Through April and May, the team’s on base percentage leading off an inning was a sluggish .312, with the runner subsequently scoring 45% of the times that he would reach.  In June, the OBP leading off an inning has risen to .360, with that runner scoring 49% of the time.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk returned from the minors with a bang – 4 hits (including 2 home runs) in his first 9 at bats.  After his 0-for-4 last night, Grichuk is hitless in his last 9 at bats – including 3 strikeouts and a double play grounded into.  He did hit a couple balls well last night, but also struck out twice.

Greg Garcia

Garcia did draw a walk, but went 0-for-3 for the rest of the evening.  What a difficult June it’s been for Greg, who is now hitting .077 for the month (3 for 39).

Adam Wainwright

Since the end of the Baltimore series (and all the carnage that that included), the Cardinal pitching staff has slowly been feeling its way back to health.  Adam Wainwright tossed his second consecutive quality start last night – a 6.1 inning, 2 run, no home run, 8 strikeout beauty against the torridly hot Diamondback lineup.  Waino still hasn’t seen more than three runs of offensive support since May 21, when they scored 7 for him on the way to an 8-3 conquest of the Giants.  Waino has gone 4-2 over his last 7 starts, in spite of the lack of runs.

The rotation has now tossed together 4 consecutive quality starts – its longest stretch since they cobbled together 6 consecutive QSs from May 17 through May 23.  This also makes 7 quality starts in 9 games since they left Baltimore.  They have managed a very solid 3.57 ERA over those games.

TrevorRosenthal

For one night, at least, Trevor Rosenthal was back in the closer’s role protecting a two-run lead.  Twenty-nine pitches, one single, two walks and two wild pitches later, Trevor walked off the mound with the save in what ended up being a one-run victory.

Trevor still looks broken.  In his first 15 appearances (totaling 14.1 innings), Trevor allowed 3 runs on 10 hits.  He walked 3 and struck out 25.  At that point, his ERA was 1.88 and his batting line against was .189/.232/.245.  In his last 18 appearances (totaling 15.1 innings) Trevor has been charged with 11 runs on 14 hits.  He has walked 11 and struck out 22 – a 6.46 ERA and a .250/.366/.357 batting line.

While Trevor was throwing strikes, he was back in elite form.  Unless he starts throwing strikes again, I predict his days as the closer will come to a quick end.

Brett Cecil

Meanwhile, trending in the other direction is Brett Cecil, who stretched his string of scoreless innings and appearances to 10 with a perfect eighth inning.  The last 32 batters to face Brett have achieved 2 singles, 1 double and 1 walk, with 8 strikeouts – equating to an .097/.125/.129 batting line.  He has also stranded all of his last 3 inherited runners.

For the month of June, Brett’s ERA has dropped to 3.09 with a .175 batting average against.  Brett has walked 2 batters in 11.2 innings this month.

NoteBook

The Cardinals hit 20 home runs in six games in Baltimore and Philadelphia.  In the six games since the end of that road trip, they have hit 6 – none in two games in Arizona.

Late Two-Strike Hits Burn St Louis

The first batter Trevor Rosenthal faced in the eighth inning (holding a 5-2 lead) was Jake Lamb.  Trevor got ahead quickly 0-2.  But two strikes were to be all he would manage against Lamb.  Trevor missed with his next three pitches (two of them changeups).  With the count now 3-2, and the changeup not finding the zone, Jake may well have suspected that he would get a fastball – and he did – all 98-mph of it.  But it was up a bit and Jake – not trying to do too much with it – slapped it up the middle for a leadoff hit.

After a Brandon Drury groundout moved the runner to second, Daniel Descalso came to the plate.  Again, after two pitches, the count was two strikes.  But Rosenthal missed with the next two fastballs to even the count.  To this point, Descalso had swung the bat at only 1 of the four fastballs he’d seen.  Is he waiting for the change?

If he was, he guessed correctly, because that’s what he got next – a change (elevated a bit) that he stroked into right for an RBI single.  Now it was a 5-3 game.

With Chris Iannetta up next, Trevor threw two fastballs followed by two sliders, setting Iannetta up at 2-2.  But his 2-2 slider bounced and Ianneta fouled off the next 99-mph fastball.  Chris walked when the next pitch – another slider – missed.  The Diamondbacks had the tying runs on with one out.

A hit-batsman would complicate the inning, but Trevor would work his way out of the inning allowing only one more run (could have been much worse).

Not pretty (or terribly effective) but Rosenthal did get the game to closer Seung-hwan Oh with a one-run lead.  For one batter, at least.  Oh got ahead of leadoff hitter David Peralta, 1-2.  Again, two strikes on the batter.  But Oh’s subsequent change floated on him and Peralta flicked it over the left-field wall for an opposite field, game-tying home run.

Across all of baseball, batters are hitting .176 with two strikes on them.  But in the bottom of the tenth inning, Arizona came through with its fourth crushing two-strike hit in the game’s last three innings when Chris Herrmann guided Matthew Bowman’s miss-located 3-2 fastball up the middle for the single that drove in the game-winning run in the Diamondbacks’ come-from-behind 6-5 victory (box score).

One third strike in any of these moments would have greatly enhanced the Cardinal’s chances of winning.

Arizona finished 4 for 9 against the Cardinal bullpen when they had two strikes on them.  St Louis has now lost 4 games this season where they led after seven innings.  In three of those games, the lead was at least two runs.

Over 14 games going back to Marco Gonzales’ abbreviated start against Milwaukee in the second game of the June 13 doubleheader, St Louis is 5-9 with a 5.13 team ERA with a .269 batting average allowed.

Trevor Rosenthal

Over his last 7 games, Trevor has lasted a total of 5 innings, seeing 6 runs score on 9 hits and 4 walks.  All of those hits have been singles, but that still adds up to a .391 batting average and a .483 on base percentage.

During those innings, Trevor had 20 of the 29 batters he faced in two-strike counts.  Those 20 batters have hit .438 (7 for 16) with 4 walks (a .550 on base percentage).

Seung-hwan Oh

Oh’s troubling streak stretches, now, to his last 8 games and 8 innings, during which it has rained hits (12) runs (7) and home runs (3) on the Cardinal closer.  The 36 batters he’s faced in those innings are hitting .343 and slugging .600 against Seung-hwan.  He is also seeing 71% of the balls hit against him put in the air – a strong evidence of his pitches elevating.

Oh shares Rosenthal’s recent struggles with batters in two-strike counts.  During the month of June, 66% of the batters to face Oh (31 of 47) have ended with two strikes on them.  They are hitting .323 (10 for 31 with no walks).  For the season, the batting average against Oh with two strikes on the batter is now .281.  Five of the six home runs he’s surrendered have come with the batter in a two-strike count.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil walked a batter in last night’s seventh inning – the first he’s walked in 8.2 innings – but threw an otherwise uneventful inning.  I hate to do this, because it seems like every time I point out how well a particular reliever is doing, he immediately blows up.

But, if Mike Matheny and his staff are entertaining ideas for someone who could slide into that closer’s role while Oh and Rosenthal try to figure things out, Brett might be an option.  Over 9 innings in his last 9 games, Brett has allowed no runs, last night’s walk, 2 singles and 1 double.  His 0.00 ERA is backed by .107/.138/.143 batting line against, plus he has stranded all of his last three inherited runners.  Of the last 22 batters to put the ball in play against Brett, 17 have hit it on the ground (77%).

The last 22 batters to face him that have found themselves in two-strike counts have gone 0 for 21 with one walk.

Even if Matheny and company still have utmost faith in Oh/Rosenthal (and I agree that they should – over the long haul), the fact is that no team can afford to hemorrhage games when they take leads into the late innings.  For a while these guys may have to throw in lower leveraged situations till they get things worked out.

In the interim, a guy like Cecil could be an option.

Carlos Martinez

It’s getting difficult to quantify the impact that Carlos Martinez has on the pitching staff.  He quieted the potent Arizona offense for six innings last night, striking out 10.  Ultimately, two sixth-inning walks were all that stood between Carlos and six scoreless innings.

Martinez has now thrown quality starts in 11 of his last 12 outings, his 6-3 record matched with a 2.37 ERA and a .182 batting average against.  He finished up a 2-2 June that saw him contribute 4 of the 10 quality starts the entire team has so far this month.  His ERA this month is 2.43.  The rest of the rotation checks in at 6.35 for June.

Offense Still Scoring Runs, But . . .

St Louis finished the afternoon with 6 hits – all singles – to go with 5 walks.  They went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and left 8 runners on base.  But they ended the day with 5 runs, which should be enough on most days.  Still.  With runners at second and third and one out in the first, Jedd Gyorko grounded to second.  A run scored, but . . .

Yadier Molina then ended the threat with a grounder.

St Louis pushed ahead 2-0 in the sixth, but they had the bases loaded with one out.  Paul DeJong brought in the run with a flyball, but Greg Garcia’s lineout to first closed out the potential big inning with just the one run.

When the Cards scored three in the seventh, they began the inning putting their first four batters on base – so even that inning could have been bigger.

The offense then followed by going 9 up and 9 down through the eighth, ninth and tenth innings, offering not a hint of life against the Arizona bullpen while the Diamondback hitters kept the Cardinal bullpen under constant pressure.

The Cards have averaged 4.81 runs per game this month.  But . . .

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s game kind of typifies his recent string of games – and to some extent the entire Cardinal offense.  Matt was 0 for 2 in the game (pulling his season average down to .234), but he walked twice and scored twice.  Over his last 9 games, Carpenter is 3 for 28 (.107), but has walked 13 times (a .390 on base percentage), and has scored 7 runs.

Aggressive Approach Pushes Cards Past Reds

Aggression isn’t always the answer.  Certainly, in terms of international conflict resolution, aggressive mindsets usually lead to tragedies.

On the athletic field, however, aggression is sometimes the cure for the common (and sometimes uncommon slump).  It can be a two-edged sword – any many times this year the Cardinals have let themselves become overly aggressive.  But controlled aggression will frequently pay dividends.

In last night’s 8-2 conquest of the troubled and troubling Cincinnati Reds (box score), St Louis was able to establish from the beginning an aggressive edge, offensively (especially with Tommy Pham setting the tone for the night in the first inning) and on the mound.  And the latter aggression may be more important than the first.

Michael Wacha

Still making starts is Michael Wacha.  Certainly a less patient manager would have moved him out of the rotation after Wacha had struggled through his previous six starts with a 1-2 record, an 8.17 ERA, and a .351 batting average.  And last evening, Michael rewarded Mike Matheny’s faith and patience with six excellent innings (1 run, 5 hits, 1 walk, 88 pitches).

Much of the fix was mechanical.  Michael was throwing “downhill” again.  A lot of the issue, though, was mental.  Wacha nibbled a great deal during his brownout.  Even if he wouldn’t put himself behind in the count, much, he allowed hitters to be the aggressors in the exchange – and they took advantage.  In his first four starts of the month, opposing hitters hit .382 against Wacha (21 for 55) when the at bat ended before Wacha had thrown “ball 2.”  Seven of the 21 hits were for extra-bases (three of them home runs), so these aggressive plate appearances resulted in a .636 slugging percentage against Wacha.

Last night it was a less-timid Wacha on the mound.  He threw first pitch strikes (15 to the 23 batters he faced), but he didn’t groove them.  He threw confidently to the corners of the strike zone.  Only 2 of the batters he faced reached 3-ball counts, and the batters who hit before ball-2 were only 3 for 14 (.214), all singles.

It was an outing to build on.

Early Runs Are a Blessing

And of course, first inning support runs – three of them last night – don’t hurt a pitcher’s confidence any.  While June has been a tumultuous month, the offense has been more good than not.  Two home runs and 8 runs scored last night bring the team totals to 40 home runs for the month (in 25 games), and 120 runs scored (4.8 per game).

Piscotty & Gyorko

While outfield mates Pham and Randal Grichuk will get a lot of attention over the next few games as they jockey for playing time once Dexter Fowler returns, Stephen Piscotty has been quietly going about the business of working his way out of a disappointing start to the season.  Piscotty singled and doubled last night, and is now hitting .275 in June (22 for 80) with 5 doubles and 4 home runs (.488 slugging percentage).

Jedd Gyorko also had two hits last night – his a single and a home run.  He is now also hitting .275 this month (also 22 for 80), and also, now, with 4 home runs.

NoteBook

Last night was the first time the Cardinals had won consecutive games without Philadelphia being at least one of the teams involved since May 31 – June 1 when they won consecutive games against the Dodgers 2-1 and 2-0.

Cards and Pirates Try a Little Role Reversal

Sitting on a three-game losing streak – and losers of 8 of their previous 11 – a somewhat desperate Cardinal management juggled the roster, rolled the dice a little, and saw starter Mike Leake struggle out of the gate.  Five innings into the game, St Louis found itself trailing again, 4-2.

This time, though, the end game would look a little different.  With the Pirates looking a lot like the Cardinals (with defensive issues and bullpen problems), and the Cardinals doing their best Pittsburgh impression with patient, persistent late at bats, St Louis finally broke through with two runs to tie the game in the sixth and 4 more to break it open in the seventh – on their way to an 8-4 victory (box score).

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina was riding a ten-game hitting streak when a bothersome knee forced him to the bench for a few days.  He was back yesterday, and without missing a beat.  He went 3-for-4 with a double, and all the hits were line drives – including one to right field in the seventh-inning that brought in the game-winning run.  Over his now 11-game hitting streak, Molina is batting .333 (15 for 45) and slugging .556 (his hits include 3 home runs).  After a sluggish start, Yadi enters the last week of June hitting .292 (19 for 65) for the month with some unexpected power.  His hits include 2 doubles and 4 home runs.  Molina is slugging .508 this month.

Yadi has been noticeably less aggressive this year.  Last year, Yadi came to the plate swinging – especially after the All-Star break, when he offered at 45.6% of the first pitches thrown him.  Whether he hit that pitch or not, Yadi went on to hit .410 and slug .615 in those at bats.  This season, Yadi is swinging at the first pitch thrown him much less frequently (38.2%) – and with lesser results (.258 avg).

Last night, Yadi took the first pitch in all four at bats (I don’t remember if that has ever happened before) – including two very hittable first-pitch strikes.  During July, Yadi has taken the first pitch 70.1% of the time (47 of 67 plate appearances) – and has prospered surprisingly while doing do.  Including the 3 hits last night, Yadi is hitting .326 this month (15 for 46) and slugging .609 when he takes the first pitch of an at bat.  All 4 of his home runs this month, and 1 of the 2 doubles have come in at bats where Molina has taken the first pitch.

Whether this is intentional or not, I don’t know.  But it has looked very deliberate.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham’s baby 5-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-4.  Pham hit .304 (7 for 23) during the streak, including 3 home runs.

The streak notwithstanding, Pham hasn’t had the best of June’s.  He is now hitting .232 (19 for 82) this month.

After Matt Carpenter opened the game with a single, Pham jumped all over a first-pitch fastball right down the middle and drilled it right at third-baseman David Freese for a relatively easy double play.  It’s kind of been that way all year for Tommy.  Across all of baseball, batters who swing at the first pitch of an at bat – whether they hit it or not – end up hitting .273 in those at bats (as opposed to .247 when they take that pitch).  Tommy Pham, this year, is hitting .188 in at bats when he swings at the first pitch, as opposed to .312 when he takes that pitch.

Pham entered the season having grounded into a total of 4 double plays through his first 358 major league plate appearances.  Last night he grounded into his tenth already this season in just 181 plate appearances.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty also had a small hitting streak end on him last night.  Piscotty had hit .333 (7 for 21) over his six previous games.  He hit two home runs during the streak and slugged .714.

Mike Leake

Leake elevated a couple of cutters in the three-run third inning – one a 1-2 pitch that Elias Diaz drove for a double, and the other a brutal 0-2 middle of the plate cutter that Adam Frazier stung for a 2-run triple.  Other than that, it was a very productive outing for the Cardinal right-hander.

Of the 25 batters he faced, only 7 swung at his first pitch.  This has been his MO throughout the season.  He throws that first-pitch sinker at the corners of the strike zone, and steals a little of the momentum from the at bat.  For the season, batters are taking Mike’s first pitch 71.1% of the time – and once they do, they go on to hit .213/.270/.332.

The 114 batters who have swung at Mike’s first pitch this season are hitting .300.  For the month of June, batters swinging at his first pitch are hitting .410.  Mike has had a lot of misplaced cutters early in the count this month.  Last night, the 7 batters who hacked at Mike’s first pitch were 4 for 7 with a double and Frazier’s triple.

Bullpen Pulls Together

While the 4-run seventh was the highlight, behind that was another solid outing from the beleaguered bullpen.  They went the last three, giving no runs, no walks and just one hit.  While starting pitching has been a hot button issue this month, the bullpen may be quietly coming together.  In 23 games and 81.1 June innings, the Cardinal relief corps has allowed just 72 hits and 19 walks.  The batting line against them has been a much better .238/.290/.399, and the bullpen ERA 3.54.  Their failures have still come at very critical junctures of the game – and much of the 9-15 record so far this month is on them.  But there is reason to hope that things are turning around out there.

Brett Cecil

With little fanfare, Brett Cecil is becoming, perhaps, the most dependable arm in the bullpen.  In 8 games since his heart-breaking tumble against Cincinnati, Brett has tossed 8 scoreless innings (including the eighth-inning last night) allowing only 3 hits and no walks.  Fifteen of the last 20 batters to put the ball in play against Brett have hit it on the ground.  During 10.2 innings this month, Brett has given 7 hits (.189 batting average against) and walked just 1.

Moreover, I get the feeling that most batters aren’t very comfortable stepping in against Brett.  None of the three he faced last night swung at his first pitch, and over the course of the month, 32 of the 38 batters he’s faced (84.2%) have chosen to take that first pitch.  Those 32 batters are 3 for 31 (.097) with one walk.  The six who have hacked at his first pitch have gone on to be 4 for 6 in those at bats.

Scoring Changes

If you keep statistics at home and you notice that Aledmys Diaz’ official batting average is something higher than you have calculated, then you may have missed a couple of recent scoring changes that have awarded Aledmys infield hits on plays that had originally been ruled as errors.

The first change is from the June 16 game in Baltimore.  In the seventh inning, Diaz hit that ground ball with the funny backspin.  It started well foul, but then hopped back into fair territory.  It spun off pitcher Gabriel Ynoa’s fingers and he couldn’t make a play on it.  Change that from an E1 to an infield single (and add 2 earned runs to Ynoa’s line as the change makes the runs scored on Pham’s subsequent home run – with two outs – now earned runs.

Then, four days later (June 20) in Philadelphia, during that 7-run eleventh-inning, Diaz was safe at first on what was originally ruled an E6.  That is now also an infield hit (and another earned run charged to pitcher Casey Fein as Pham again followed with a home run).

Bullpen Lets Taillon, Pirates Off the Hook

The bullpen ended up being the talking point – again.  But before the almost expected bullpen failure, the evening belonged to exceptional performances by the two starting pitchers – the Cardinals’ beleaguered Adam Wainwright, and the talented Pirate right-handed Jameson Taillon.  Neither figured in the decision, but both were particularly effective.

In Taillon’s case, that effectiveness took the form of 7 strikeouts in 6 innings.  He gave 4 hits.  Three of them were dribbly ground balls that died in the dirt before the infielder could make a play on them.  The other hit was one of only two well hit balls against Jameson all night – a line drive off the bat of Jose Martinez that just made it over the fence in left for a home run.  Martinez also hit the only other line drive off Jameson last night.  He capped an 11-pitch at bat with a liner to right that Gregory Polanco turned into a double play.

Taillon’s dominance notwithstanding, the game followed a fairly familiar trend for the Cards this month.  Three runs scored on two home runs, but there was no other offense.  St Louis finished the game with just 4 other hits.  For the month of June, the Cards have hit 36 home runs in 22 games, but are only hitting .247.

Jose Martinez

Since the beginning of the last road trip, Martinez has rediscovered a little of the magic that helped him make the roster out of spring training.  Over his last 6 games, Jose is 7 for 18 (.389) with 2 doubles and 2 home runs – an .833 slugging percentage.

All year, Jose has been an excellent fastball hitter in fastball counts.  His home run came on a 95-mph fastball on a 1-0 count.  Later he singled off Juan Nicasio on a 97-mph fastball.  That came on a 3-2 pitch after another long at bat (9 pitches).  Jose has been pretty locked in of late.

For the season, now, he is 5 for 11 (.455) when hitting in 3-2 counts, and 12 for 29 (.414) when hitting ahead in the count.

Matt Carpenter

After a brief but torrid reunion with the leadoff spot in the order, Matt Carpenter has lapsed into a slump as challenging as any he had while batting third.  He has had 1 hit in 19 at bats (.053) over his last six games.

It is thought that Carpenter spends most of his season in 3-2 counts.  That’s not exactly accurate.  He did work his way into a 3-2 count in the fifth inning last night, flying to left.  For the season, now, Carpenter has had 68 full counts in 296 plate appearances (22%) – during which he’s hitting .239/.485/.500.  As far as getting ahead in the count goes, though, Carpenter has ended almost 46% of his plate appearances this season (including 2 of last night’s 5) ahead in the count.

Adam Wainwright

As good as Taillon was, Wainwright was nearly as good.  Ninety-seven pitches pushed him through seven innings and gave him – briefly – a chance for a victory.  He was a little lucky (there were quite a few hard hit balls against him), but at game’s end he had only given up two hits and 1 earned run – and that run almost didn’t happen either.

The only earned run allowed by Adam came on a home run off the bat of Josh Bell.  Bell hit a very good cutter that ran in under his elbows.  Josh managed just enough turn to put just enough barrel on the ball to loft it just far enough to sneak it over the wall in the shortest part of the ballpark – the 335 in the extreme right-field corner.  Not that Josh needs to apologize.  If it goes out of Bush, you’ve earned it.

Still an encouraging performance from Wainwright, who stayed ahead of hitters all night.  Of the 26 batters he pitched to, only 5 finished their at bat ahead on Adam in the count.  Leadoff hitter Adam Frazier bounced to first on a 1-0 pitch. David Freese walked on a 3-0 pitch to start the fourth (that walk began the series of events that led to the unearned run).  Adam Frazier – again – led off the fifth by striking out on a 3-2 pitch.  David Freese (again) would end the sixth grounding out on a 3-2 pitch.  And Andrew McCutcheon would add a little seventh-inning excitement by walking on a 3-2 pitch.

All things considered, an excellent performance by Wainwright, who, had he not been let down by his offense, his defense and his bullpen, would surely have walked off with the victory.

Trevor Rosenthal

The hits against Trevor Rosenthal weren’t necessarily ear-ringing – a well-placed looping liner and a ground ball that made its way into right field.  But – sandwiched around a very damaging walk – they were enough to erase the 3-2 Cardinal lead and send them – eventually – on their way to a 4-3 defeat (box score).  This is happening to Trevor constantly this month.  For the month of June, Rosenthal has worked 9 innings, incurring 6 runs on 10 hits.  He has also walked 5 batters.  The 40 batters who have faced him this month are hitting .294 against him.

How does a pitcher with Trevor’s stuff have guys hitting almost .300 against him?  One part of that is that Trevor has lost the ability to get ahead of hitters.  Through April and May, Trevor finished an at bat ahead of the hitter (either an 0-1, 0-2 or 1-2 count) 44% of the time (32 of the first 73 batters he faced).  Those batters went 2 for 32 (.063) with 19 strikeouts.  This month, Trevor has only pitched from ahead against 10 of the 40 batters he’s faced (25%).  They are 2 for 10.  But the other 30 batters are hitting .333 against him (8 for 24) with 5 walks (a .433 on base percentage).

Trevor may have also lost a little confidence in his slider.  Of the 15 pitches that he threw to the three batters that hurt him last night (Frazier who singled, Josh Harrison who walked, and Freese who singled) 14 were fastballs (the only slider he threw to any of them became ball 2 to Harrison).

The other day, I pointed out that Trevor has done very well this season until he gets a runner on base.  Perhaps, for a while, Mike Matheny should have Rosenthal on a shorter leash and pull him at the first hint of trouble.  In this game, that would have been after Adam Frazier’s one-out single.

Another key for Trevor could be when he walks a batter.  In 22 of Trevor’s 30 games this season, he hasn’t walked anybody.  In those games, Rosenthal holds a 1.74 ERA, a .189/.187/.284 batting line against, and throws 72% of his pitches for strikes.  In the 8 games where he has walked a batter, his ERA soars to 9.45 with a .269/.474/.346 batting line against.  Only 55% of his pitches are strikes on those days.  Perhaps Matheny should have gotten him after he walked Harrison.

Either way, Rosenthal’s effectiveness this season has been closely tied to the use and effectiveness of his slider.  At this point of the season, Trevor is struggling mightily to work his way out of jams.

Seung-hwan Oh

All that remained, then, was for closer Seung-hwan Oh to serve up the game-winning home run in the ninth.  Oh has now given up runs – 6 of them, in total – in 4 of his last 6 games – covering 6 innings.  He has given up 10 hits (including 2 home runs) in those innings.  The last 28 batters to face Oh are hitting .370 and slugging .593.  Even if the Cardinals had played well in all other aspects of their game this month (and, of course, they haven’t), struggles late in the bullpen would have undermined all their efforts.  A baseball team can survive a lot of adversity and still compete.  No team can survive any sustained inability to pitch the ninth inning.

NoteBook

The Cardinals are now 3-13 this month against any team not named Philadelphia.

Road Home Runs Raise Questions

In the eighth-inning of yesterday’s 5-1 loss to Philadelphia (box score), rookie second baseman Paul DeJong launched the Cardinals’ twentieth – and final – home run of the 6-game road trip.  Even though St Louis finished the game with that lone marker, they averaged 6.5 runs per game in their journey through Baltimore and Philadelphia – two of the more inviting offensive ballparks in the league.

The home run notwithstanding, the Cardinals finished the game with only four hits on the afternoon – principally against Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola.  That was also a pronounced trend – not just during this road trip, but all season on the road.  They finished the road trip with just 54 hits and a .247 batting average.  Thirty-seven percent of their hits on the trip were home runs.

Earlier this month, the Cards embarked on a 7-game trip through Chicago and Cincinnati – losing all of those games.  They managed just 6 home runs – and consequently 20 total runs – on that trip, hitting .212 against two pitching staffs that have not set the world on fire this year.  This disappointing June that has seen the Cards go 8-13 so far is really a story of a team that has been 5-3 in their few home games this month, and 3-10 on the road, where they have not pitched well at all, and where they have hit only .229.

For the season, St Louis is scoring significantly more on the road (4.66 rpg v 4.03 at home), but doing it pretty much through the home run.  As we limp home, this team has now played 35 games on the road and 36 at home.  They are hitting .246 on the road, but with 51 home runs in those 35 games.  At home, the team batting average improves to .257, but with only 34 home runs (in 36 games).

This extends the pattern that lasted all last season, where the road-Cardinals hit 121 home runs and scored 424 runs (5.23 per), while the home-Cardinals managed 104 home runs and 355 runs (4.38 per).

Offensively, the numbers continue to suggest that this team is – perhaps – mismatched for the ballpark they play in.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter keeps walking.  He drew another walk yesterday and finished the road trip drawing 10 of the 23 walks St Louis had on the trip.  But after a single and a home run in the first game in Baltimore, the hits have stopped coming for the Cardinals newly re-instated leadoff hitter.  He is 1 for 15 (.067) over the last 5 games.  He was only 4 for 23 (.174) during the 0-7 road trip that proceeded this one.  During the Cardinals’ eight home games this month, Matt is hitting .419 (13 for 31) and slugging .742 (he has 7 doubles and a home run at home so far this month), so maybe the return to Busch will bring happier times for Carpenter.

Even though he is only hitting .171 on the road so far this month, he has hit 3 home runs away from home.  For the season, 8 of his 13 have come on the road.  Last year he hit .296 at home with 9 home runs, while he hit 12 homers on the road with a .247 batting average.

Jedd Gyorko

As he has started to hit more to right field, the difference in Jedd Gyorko at home and on the road is growing more pronounced.  Last year, Jedd hit .257 at Busch with 12 home runs and a .485 slugging percentage.  This year, the average at home has gone up (.269), but with a decline in power (4 home runs, .444 slugging percentage).  He hit .231 on the road last year with 18 home runs and a .502 slugging percentage.  This year, so far, Gyorko is 37 for 117 (.316) away from home, and slugging .564 on 6 doubles, a triple, and 7 home runs.

Gyorko’s name could be added to the prominent bats that have not prospered in spacious Busch.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz finished up a disappointing road trip on an 0-for-8 skid after his 0-for-3 yesterday.  He finished the trip with 3 singles and 1 walk for his 21 plate appearances – a .150/.190/.150 line.

Aledmys hasn’t had the best June either.  He is down to .242 for the month (16 for 66) with 3 walks (a .275 on base percentage).

Other Prominent Bats

Two of the most slanted home/road splits on the team belong to outfielders Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham.  These two have combined for 15 home runs this season.  All on the road.  Tommy is a .345/.439/.726 hitter on the road, and just a .200/.275/.217 hitter at home.  In 69 plate appearances this season at Busch, Tommy has one extra-base hit (a double).  In 226 career plate appearances at Busch, Tommy is a .217 hitter with 5 home runs.  The falloff in Piscotty is a little surprising.  During his first 115 games at Busch from 2015-2016, Stephen hit .311 with 18 home runs in 427 at bats.  He is hitting .244 this year at home.

Of batters going the other way, the only two of any note are Dexter Fowler (who is slashing .275/.377/.565 in his 36 games at home, while batting just .217/.294/.396 on the road), and Kolten Wong.  Wong (whose concept seems to have changed from middle infielder with pop to high batting average/high on base) is hitting .359/.443/.533 at home vs. .213/.319/.311 on the road.  Kolten had been a .239 lifetime hitter in 686 at bats at Busch before this season.

Carlos Martinez

Yesterday wasn’t the best we’ve seen Carlos Martinez, but he still managed a solid effort, going 6 innings and allowing just 3 runs (2 earned).  Even though he was tagged for the loss, Carlos extended his quality start streak to three in a row and 10 of his last 11, a stretch that has seen Carlos go 6-3 with a 2.32 ERA and a .181 batting average against.  Of his 15 starts this season, this is the sixth time that the Cardinals have scored no runs for him while he was in the game.

During his first two years in the rotation, Carlos was a dominant pitcher on the road.  He made 29 road starts over those seasons, posting a 17-5 record (one of those losses coming in relief) with a 2.50 ERA, a .215 batting average against and a .315 slugging percentage allowed.  In 187.1 road innings those years, he served up only 9 home runs.  Through 7 road starts this year, Carlos has 4 quality starts, a 2-5 record with a 4.29 ERA.  He still isn’t getting hit very often (.235 batting average against), but has been touched now for 7 home runs in 42 road innings.

Conversely, up until this season, Carlos has never truly appreciated the joys of pitching at Busch.  In his four previous seasons in St Louis, Carlos has pitched in 80 home games – 36 as a starter.  He began this year with 18 career quality starts at home, a 15-13 record, and a 3.75 ERA, featuring a .262 batting average against.  In 2017, Carlos has thrown 7 quality starts among his 8 home starts so far.  The results have been a 4-1 record and a 1.85 ERA.  Opponents are hitting just .174 against the talented right-hander at home and have managed just 3 home runs in 58.1 innings.  If these trends persist, we may start floating theories that might explain them.

Home/Road Splits of Other Starters

Martinez’ home/road splits are generally the same throughout the rotation – and most are even more dramatic.

Adam Wainwright has made 7 home starts.  Three of those have been quality starts.  In his 40.2 innings at Busch he has been reached for 2 home runs.  His record at home this season is 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA.  Adam on the road has also made 7 starts – just one a quality start.  He has combined for just 31.1 innings in those games, during which he has served up 6 home runs.  He is 2-4 on the road with a 9.48 ERA, a .356 batting average against, and a .585 slugging percentage allowed.

The schedule has tilted most of Lance Lynn’s starts to fall on the road so far this year (9 of his 14).  As with most of the rest of the staff, this hasn’t worked out all that well for him.  He has pitched just 49 innings over those 9 starts and has served up 13 home runs (2.39 per every 9 innings).  He is 2-3 with a 4.41 ERA on the road.  He is 3-1, 1.53 at home.

Eight of Michael Wacha’s 13 starts have been at home – and the results have been effective enough.  Through those 8 starts, Wacha has 5 quality starts, 43.2 innings pitched, 3 home runs allowed, while going 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA.  Only one of Wacha’s road starts was a quality start.  Through his 5 road starts, Michael has given us 24.1 innings, 5 home runs, an 0-2 record, and a 7.03 ERA.  He has been hit at a .346 clip in his road games.

Of the Cardinal starters, only Mike Leake has managed a level of home/road balance.  Leake has actually been better in his 7 road starts (4-2, 2.76) than his 7 home starts (1-4, 3.30).

The team ERA is 3.34 at home and 4.91 on the road, with the starters showing the most variance.  They have combined to go 16-8 with a 2.80 ERA at home, and 10-16 with a 5.15 ERA on the road.  It may well be true that the spaciousness of Busch works significantly against the productiveness of the offense.  It may also well be true that the spaciousness of Busch is the only thing keeping most of the Cardinal starters afloat.

Matthew Bowman

With a good seventh inning yesterday, Matthew Bowman continues to make progress.  In 10.1 innings this month, Matthew carries a 1.74 ERA and a .206 batting average against.

Opposite Field Power Defuses the Philles

Perhaps they thought they would try to pull them?

In a game highlighted by two home runs from Tommy Pham, it was the other two home runs hit by the Cardinals that turned the game.  Still leading 5-1 in the sixth, with a runner on first, Nick Pivetta threw a first-pitch fastball to Jedd Gyorko.  But he threw it up and away – a borderline pitch that might well have been called a ball had Jedd taken the pitch, and might well have been popped up had Gyorko tried to pull it.

But using that very easy right-field swing that we’ve seen so often from Gyorko this year, he flipped the pitch just over the right field wall to bring the Cards within two at 5-3.

Now it’s two innings later and Joaquin Benoit threw that same pitch to Jose Martinez – that first-pitch four-seamer right into the upper right corner of the strike zone.  Martinez – who drilled two extra-base hits to right field last night – crushed the pitch well over the right-field fence to bring St Louis within one run.

Over the last 11 games, the Cards have now hit 8 first-pitch home runs while hitting .378 and slugging .956 in the 45 times they have hit the first pitch in those games.  Overall, St Louis has 25 home runs and a .534 slugging percentage while scoring 6.55 runs per game over those last 11 games after fighting their way back from a 5-0 deficit last night for a 7-6, 10-inning win (box score).

The Cardinals have launched 33 home runs in 20 June games, scoring 4.85 runs per game and slugging .460.

Jedd Gyorko

After fading a bit, Gyorko seems to be heating up again.  His 3 for 4 yesterday has him at 6 for 18 (.333) over his last 4 games, pushing his average toward .300 again (he’s currently at .297).

Six of Jedd’s 11 home runs this year have been hit on the first pitch – one of those hit over the left field wall, while two other have been hit to straight-away center, one to right-center, and the other two to straight-away right.  Jedd is no longer that dead pull hitter.  And it’s made an impressive difference in his game.

Tommy Pham

Yes, Pham absolutely crushed his game-tying home run in the ninth inning.  With that swing, he became the first Cardinal to hit two home runs in a game twice this season.  Aledmys Diaz, Dexter Fowler, Gyorko, Yadier Molina, Martinez, and Stephen Piscotty have all hit two in a game once.

His first home run, though, might have been the most exciting thing that Pham did on the field last night (and he also threw out two runners at home), as he ground through a 12-pitch at bat before finally squaring up on the high fastball.

The second home run came on an at bat that began with ball one – as Pham refused to chase Hector Neris’ splitter off the plate.  The growth in Tommy has been his patience at the plate.  Pham has taken the first pitch of 61 of his plate appearances for ball one this year.  In those PAs, Tommy has compiled 11 singles, 3 doubles, 4 home runs, 9 runs batted in, 10 walks, and one hit by pitch.  His batting line when he takes ball one this year is .360/.475/.660

Jose Martinez

With his two extra-base hits last night, Martinez is now slugging .622 in 37 at bats this month.  Over his last 8 games, Jose has 8 hits in 25 at bats (.320).  Those hits now include 2 doubles, a triple, and 3 home runs for an .840 slugging percentage.

Surprisingly, though. Martinez hasn’t profiled as a first-pitch fastball hitter.  In fact, his drive off of Benoit was the first first-pitch home run of his career.  He does, however, do better when the pitcher is throwing first-pitch strikes.  In at bats that begin with ball one, he is hitting .167 (5 for 30).  Although he is only 2 for 9 when hitting the first pitch, in at bats that begin with strike one, Jose is 21 for 63 (.333) including all four of his home runs.  He slugs .603 in those at bats.

NoteBook

St Louis has won the first game of a series just 9 times this season, including this current series against Philadelphia.  Two of those series are incomplete (the Cincinnati series that will be completed during the next home stand, and this series that will be finished this afternoon).  Of the other seven, St Louis has swept 4 and lost the other 3.  To date, the Cardinals are 18-8 in the games of the series when they have won the first game.

St Louis is now 5-7 in series against teams that had lost their previous series, going 18-21 in the games of those series.

St Louis is now 5-0 against Philadelphia this month and 3-12 against everyone else.

It Took A While, But Cards Finally Prevail in Eleven

As would befit a game featuring two struggling teams, the St Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies combined to go 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position last night – a telling number in an eleven-inning game where any offensive pulse might have won the game for either team.

Throughout the evening, the Cardinals had had the better of the opportunities.  They had runners at first and third with one out in the second – nothing came of that.  They followed that up with runners at second and third with nobody out in the third, but they ran themselves out of that inning.  Paul DeJong led off the fifth inning with a double, but that opportunity also fell victim to bad base-running.

So, by the time Stephen Piscotty came to the plate with runners at first and second with no one out, the Cards were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.  Piscotty broke the spell with the two-run double that would prove to be the winning hit, and the Cards tacked on 5 more runs after that, ending up with an 8-1 victory (box score).  In so doing they continued one very good streak and – temporarily at least – paused a couple of pretty bad streaks.

The principle bad streak halted was a lot of recent losing.  Before last night, the Cards had lost 5 out of 6, 12 out of 17, and 22 out of 32.

The other bad streak that was temporarily halted was a run of awful pitching for the month of June.  The team began yesterday with a 5.53 ERA for the month – 6.29 from the starters.  It was only for one night – and only against the offensively struggling Phillies – but for one night anyway, the pitching staff (starters and relievers) looked like they were expected to look this season.

Mike Leake

Throughout his four previous starts, Mike Leake’s season – which had started out brilliantly – had been starting to unravel.  In starts against Los Angeles (May 29), Chicago (June 3), Cincinnati (June 8), and Milwaukee (June 14), Leake had been little more than a batting practice pitcher.  He lost all four of those games with a 6.20 ERA and a batting line against of .316/.370/.500.  Opposing batters missed on only 14% of their swings against him during that span.

But last night saw the return of the Mike Leake that began the season with 9 consecutive quality starts and a 1.91 ERA.  For 6 innings he silenced Philadelphia on 3 hits allowing 1 run.

The only real shot Philly had at Leake came in the fifth inning – an inning that began with St Louis holding a 1-0 lead.  Walks to Howie Kendrick and Aaron Altherr led to the only two at bats with runners in scoring position the Phillies would get against Leake. Tommy Joseph took much of the steam out of the inning by bouncing into a double play.  But – in what has been a recurring theme for the Leake and the starting rotation – Mike couldn’t get out of the inning unscathed.  In spite of the fact that Leake jammed the hitter, Maikel Franco managed to dribble the ball up the middle – just out of the reach of shortstop Aledmys Diaz – for the RBI single that forged the tie that would stand for the next six innings.

For the month of June, Mike has faced 22 batters with runners in scoring position.  They have achieved 4 singles, 2 doubles, one home run, 10 runs batted in, 2 walks (one intentional) and 2 batters hit by pitches.  That all adds up to a batting line of .389/.500/.667.  A little distressing.

Some of the other starters have had rough Junes when faced with runners in scoring position.  Michael Wacha is at .417/.533/.667 for the month.  Adam Wainwright has been hit at a .308/.400/.731 clip in RISP at bats in June.  Lance Lynn has been better, but still troubling at .250/.300/.625 (although that’s only facing ten batters so far this month with runners in scoring position).

Carlos Martinez, of course, has been the rock of the rotation.  In his three starts so far in June, Carlos has only faced 12 batters in RISP situations.  They are 1 for 9 with 2 walks and a sacrifice fly.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil continues to give out strong hints that he is starting to lock things in.  In 6 innings over his last 5 games, Brett has faced 19 batters and allowed 2 singles (a .105/.105/.105 batting line).  Over that span, he’s thrown 71% of his pitches for strikes, while 11 of the 14 batters that have made contact against him have hit the ball on the ground.  Brett threw a crisp 1-2-3 seventh last night.

Kevin Siegrist

This, honestly, is the kind of game that Kevin Siegrist has toppled in many times this season.  This time, however, there would be no blinking.  With his 1-2-3 tenth inning, Kevin’s ERA for the month lowers to 2.70, while his batting average against and on base percentage both fall to .240.  Siegrist is another of the important bullpen arms that just may be rounding into form.

The Continuing Good Trend

The one positive trend that continued – although it took them awhile – was the offensive production.  With 8 runs scored, 4 doubles and 3 home runs in last night’s game, the Cards are on a 10-game tear where they have scored 65 runs, while hitting 20 doubles and 21 home runs.  They are slugging .528 as a team over those games.  Even though they are only hitting a modest .256 for the month of June, they have now hit 29 home runs in the 19 games played this month, and are scoring 4.74 runs per game.

And while last night’s production with runners on base was comparatively poor (they are hitting .351 in those situations over the course of their little hitting streak) they are continuing to get extra base hits in those situations (Piscotty the double, Yadier Molina a home run).  Through the last ten games, St Louis is slugging .662 when batting with runners in scoring position.

Tommy Pham

Getting his first extended taste of playing time, Tommy Pham is already about to pass his career highs in numerous categories, including hits (41 – he already has 38), doubles (7 – he has 6 already), home runs (9 – he hit his seventh last night), total bases (73 – he already has 65), runs scored (28 – he already has 25), walks (20 – he already has 18), and runs batted in – he set a new career high last night with 20.  He had never driven in more than 18 previously.  He also has more stolen bases already this year (6) than he had in his entire previous career (4).  If he can sustain his batting line of .281/.373/.481 with an OPS of .855 throughout the season, those would also all be career highs.

Paul DeJong

Filling Kolten Wong’s shoes is a tall task these days, but in his second look at the major leagues, Paul DeJong is making an even better impression than he did his first time around.  After a 2 for 5 night that included a double, DeJong is now hitting .350 (7 for 20) in the 5 games since his recall, and slugging .700.  In addition to yesterday’s double, Paul also has two home runs.

NoteBook

After losing the first game of 8 consecutive series, the Cards have now won four consecutive opening games.  So far, it hasn’t helped turn the tables.  St Louis has gone on to lose two of the previous series.

A Little Tired, Frankly, of the Home Run Derby

If it seems to you that there have been an inordinate amount of home runs hit against the Cardinal pitching staff lately, you are not alone.  The Baltimore series ended with the Orioles bopping 9 home runs over the last two games.  It was just the fifth time this century (and the first time since 2015) that the Cards allowed 9 home runs in back-to-back games.  They have served up 16 home runs over the last 6 games for the first time since 2003.

The four hit yesterday afternoon sparked Baltimore to an 8-5 victory (box score) that sent the Cardinals to their twenty-second loss in their last thirty-two games, dropping the once-first-place Cardinals to a season-most 5.5 games behind the “high-flying” Brewers.

When Scooter Gennett touched off four home runs against this team, it began a 13-game stretch in which Cardinal pitchers have served up 25 home runs – a home run barrage that hasn’t been seen in St Louis since 2008.

For the month of June, the Cardinal starting rotation has contributed 4 quality starts in 18 games.  They have managed just 93 innings in those games, during which they have served up 19 home runs (1.84 hr per 9 innings).  This has all led to a 6.29 ERA for the month for the rotation, accompanied by a .279/.360/.510 batting line.  Subtract Carlos Martinez’ numbers out of those totals, and the rest of the Cardinal rotation has limped along in the month of June with a 7.53 ERA and a batting line against of .306/.390/.582.  Martinez has accounted for 2 of the 4 quality starts the Cardinals have this month.

Of the 10 home runs served up by Cardinal hurlers over the three games in Baltimore, 7 were solo shots.  Even at that, though, Baltimore feasted yesterday (3 for 10 including a home run), and for the series (13 for 39 with 4 doubles and 3 home runs) when they hit with runners on base.  In this, the Cardinal pitching staff continued it’s month long struggle with runners on base.  In spite of the horrific overall numbers this month, opposing batters are still hitting just .247/.310/.436 with the bases empty.  But once a runner reaches, that line rises to .300/.375/.561. Even after the carnage of the Baltimore series, St Louis pitchers have still allowed just 16 home runs this month in 393 plate appearances with the bases empty, but 14 in 265 plate appearances with at least one runner on.

Lance Lynn

From April 17 through May 5, Lance Lynn seemed well on his way to a big free-agent paycheck.  It isn’t enough to say he threw four consecutive quality starts – these were dominant starts.  He pitched 25 innings over those starts, allowing 2 runs (0.72 ERA) on 16 hits (11 singles, 4 doubles, and just 1 home run).  He was 4-0 through that run, got ground balls on 53% of the balls hit in play against him, and held opposing hitters to a .188 batting average and a .271 slugging percentage.

Beginning on May 10, everything changed for Lynn.  The Cards beat Miami that day (7-5) but Lance lasted only 4 innings serving up 4 runs on 5 hits – including 2 home runs and 4 walks.  A blip?  That’s what we thought at the time.  But over his last 8 starts beginning with that game, it has rained home runs on Lance Lynn.  With the 4 that he served up in 4.2 innings yesterday, Lance has now had 12 hit against him in his last 43 innings.  He has lost 3 of his last 4 decisions, with a 4.40 ERA.

Yesterday, 15 of the 17 batters who put the ball in play against Lance, hit the ball in the air.  Over his last 8 starts, he has seen 63% fly balls.

For the season, 12 of the 16 home runs against Lance have come with the bases empty.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist came into yesterday’s game in the fifth inning trailing by five runs.  This was both the earliest in a game and the farthest behind that Kevin has been brought in to pitch this season.  It may mark the beginning of a role re-shuffle in the bullpen.  It could also have been a decision caused by a series of short outings by the starters.

For whatever reason, Kevin Siegrist has been a recurring theme in this month-long dry spell.  Kevin has appeared in 12 of the last 32 games, and has given up his own runs in 4 of them, and allowed two inherited runners to score in another.  Yesterday’s run – considering the Cards already trailed 7-2 – was probably the least damaging of the set.

He was the loser in the thirteenth inning of the May 20 game against San Francisco that was scoreless after 12.  He came in in the seventh inning of the June 5 game against Cincinnati with the score tied at two and allowed both inherited runners to score – sending Cincinnati home with a 4-2 victory.  He allowed the last run in the June 14 game against Milwaukee that left the late rally just short, 7-6.

Since mid-May, Kevin has pitched 10 innings over 12 games, serving six runs on 14 hits.  The last 42 batters he has faced are hitting .350 against him.

The only batter Kevin faced last night with a runner on base was Manny Machado, who hit with Seth Smith at third and one out.  Machado singled sharply up the middle to drive in the run.  For the season, batters are hitting .232 against Kevin (13 for 56) when they face him with the bases empty.  They are now hitting .333 (14 for 42) when they face Siegrist with a runner on.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil pitched an efficient 13-pitch eighth inning.  He, too, has had some bad moments over the last 32 games.  But Brett has had more good moments than bad.  Cecil has pitched in 13 of the last 32 games.  Over 11.2 innings in those games, Cecil holds a 3.09 ERA with a .190 batting average against.

Keeping the bases clean is a key for Brett.  So far this year, opposing hitters are batting .245 against him with the bases empty.  But once runners get on, that average leaps to .308.

Trevor Rosenthal

“Good” Trevor Rosenthal pitched the seventh in 1-2-3 fashion, striking out 2 along the way.  Trevor has now faced 66 batters this season with the bases empty.  He has struck out 33 of them.

Matthew Bowman

Eighteen games into the month, only two members of the pitching staff have ERAs under 3.  One, of course, is Carlos Martinez (2.11).  The other?  Matthew Bowman.  At 1.93, Matthew is something of a surprising answer because – as with most other members of the pen – his moments of struggle stand out more than his solid moments.  After retiring both men he faced yesterday, Bowman has pitched 9.1 innings this month, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 7 hits with 3 walks and 8 strikeouts.  He has also stranded all four of the runners he’s inherited.

Runs Without Hits?

Through parts of this disheartening 10-22 streak, the Cardinal offense struggled profoundly to score runs.  Through the latter end of it, the offense has been more forthcoming.  Throughout, though, they haven’t managed an impressive amount of hits.  Yesterday, the Cards furnished 4 home runs of their own, but managed only 2 other hits.  Since the beginning of the Boston series in mid-May, the Cardinals have hit .244.

That number includes just a .235 batting average (155 for 659) with the bases empty.  Yesterday, they hit three home runs with the bases empty, but added only one other hit in 24 at bats (.167).  Twenty-nine of the thirty-six Cardinals who came to the plate yesterday did so with the bases empty (80.6%).

Dexter Fowler

Much improved since moving into the second slot in the lineup, Dexter Fowler has been simply scorching since last Sunday.  Hitting in 7 of his last 8 games, Dexter is 13 for his last 28 (.464) with a 1.036 slugging percentage (5 of the hits have been home runs).  In fact, after collecting a single, a home run, a walk and 2 runs batted in yesterday, Dexter now has 6 multi-hit games in his last 8, has hit a home run in four consecutive games and has driven in 9 over his last four games.  Much has been made of the fact that Fowler already has as many home runs this year (13) as he did all last year.  It is also true that after driving in 48 runs all of last year (and having never driven in more than 53 in any year), Dexter already has 35 this year.

Even while the Cardinals are doing their best to fade from contention this month, Dexter Fowler has established himself as a legitimate player of the month candidate.  Through 18 games in June, Dexter has 6 home runs, 16 runs batted in, and a .333/.433/.702 batting line.  What started out as one of his worst years may yet end up one of his best.

While batting leadoff most of the first two months of the season, Dexter was up with the bases empty 67.2% of the time.  Thus far in June, that ratio is down to 58.2%.  For the season – after his 2 for 3 yesterday – Dexter is hitting .311/.424/.608 with runners on base.  His 13 home runs include two 2-run shots and three 3-run homers.

Jedd Gyorko

Cleanup hitter Jedd Gyorko is trending the other way.  A .340 hitter as late as May 12, Jedd is hitting .241/.286/.328 for the month of June after his 0 for 4 last night.  He has 1 home run and 6 RBIs this month.

Jedd is at .182 this month (6 for 33) when batting with the bases empty – as he did in all four plate appearances yesterday.

Tommy Pham

After his 0 for 4 last night, Tommy Pham is now hitless in 7 at bats since his fourth-inning double off of Wade Miley in the second game in Baltimore.  Overall, Tommy’s numbers are still very good – he still carries a .277/.373/.462 batting line, but his June is opening the door for Randal Grichuk – reportedly heating things up, now, in AAA.  Tommy is just 12 for 55 this month (.218), with 2 doubles, 1 home run and just 4 runs batted in.  His June slugging percentage is .309.

One of the game’s turning points came in the top of the third inning.  Cards trailing 2-1 with two quick outs.  Then Matt Carpenter draws a walk and Fowler follows with a single.  This would be the only time in the game that the Cards would have a runner in scoring position – and the only time in the game they put two runners on base (except for Fowler’s two-run homer).  Swinging on 3-0, Pham rolled to second, ending the inning.  A statistical curiosity.  So far this season, Pham is hitting .297 with a .409 on base percentage when he hits with the bases empty.  He is hitting .368 (14 for 38) with a .789 slugging percentage with 1 runner on base.  Four of his six home runs have been two-run blasts.  With more than one runner on base, Tommy is 0 for 18.

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia is another hitter that June has been mostly unkind to.  After his 0 for 4 yesterday, Greg is now 1 for 19 (.053) for the month.

NoteBook

Coming off a series sweep at the hands of Arizona, Philadelphia becomes St Louis’ sixth straight opponent to have not won its previous series (5 had lost and one had split).  St Louis has lost four of those previous five series – with the first Philadelphia series being the only exception.