Beginning with two nearly perfect innings on June 13, Brett Cecil ripped off a string of 15 consecutive scoreless performances. Over those games, Brett handled 15.2 innings giving just 7 hit and 1 walk.
After Oh served up the game-winning walk-off home run in the ninth inning of Friday’s game, manager Mike Matheny finally turned to Cecil in a closing situation yesterday afternoon. Brett took the mound for the bottom of the ninth, holding a 3-2 lead.
Eleven pitched later, Brett had given up two runs on three hits and was walking off the field as the losing pitcher (box score). He hadn’t allowed a run in more than a month, but when he did, it cost the team a game.
The Cardinals are snake-bitten in the ninth inning.
Cardinal pitchers have pitched 11.1 innings in the ninth inning this year when the team trailed in the game by one or two runs. When it comes to keeping the team in the game so they have a chance in the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinal bullpen has been excellent. They hold a 1.59 ERA in those innings, with a .211 batting average against.
For 11 innings Cardinal pitchers have worked the ninth inning with the game tied. Here, they have been less proficient. In those 11 innings, their ERA jumps to 4.91 (giving up 7 runs, 6 of them earned), including 3 home runs.
Cardinal pitchers have carried a one-run ninth-inning lead for 9 innings so far this year. They have given up 5 runs on 13 hits and 3 walks while trying to protect that one-run ninth-inning lead – a 5.00 ERA and a .325 batting average against.
Cardinal pitchers have worked 34 innings this year in the ninth inning where they have been no worse off than tied, but not ahead by more than three runs. They have responded to these closer-like situations with a 5.29 ERA, a .306 batting average against, and 5 home runs. I’m sure these are not historic numbers, but they are black enough.
There are many things that the Cardinals have not done well. Hemorrhaging ninth-inning leads is arguably the worst of their sins.
Which Leads to Another One-Run Loss
Yesterday’s games was a textbook example of how a team comes to be 13-17 in one-run games. Offensively they passed up several opportunities to add runs – along with hitting into three double plays, and running into a fourth. Mix in more ninth-inning trouble and just enough bad luck (Andrew McCutchen’s first-inning RBI single hit the second base bag, and Max Moroff’s home run hit the foul pole) and you have a developing pattern.
The bullpen has now thrown 94.2 innings of relief in the 30 one-run games the Cardinals have been involved in. They have managed a 3-11 record with 12 saves, 26 holds, and 9 blown saves. The bullpen ERA in one-run games this year is 3.80. It has been a season-long issue.
Speaking of developing patterns, Carlos Martinez pitched seven excellent innings yesterday, holding the resurgent Pirates to 2 runs on 5 hits. But, it was the twelfth time in Carlos’ 19 starts that the offense failed to score four runs for him, and it was the third time already this season that Martinez had a lead squandered by his bullpen.
If one-run games are an indication of character, Carlos Martinez has been answering the bell. Seven of his 19 starts have now been decided by one-run. He has thrown quality starts in 5 of those games, fighting his way to a 2-2 record, a 2.35 ERA, and a .198 batting average against. In 46 innings, Martinez has given 34 hits – 23 singles, 8 doubles, and 3 home runs – good for a .297 slugging percentage against.
Carlos has deserved a better fate so far this season.
In his three years in the rotation, Carlos has made 28 starts in games that have been decided by one run. He is 9-3 in those games with a 2.99 ERA
Trevor Rosenthal hit a batter (Adam Frazier) in the eighth inning yesterday. Frazier thus becomes the only batter to reach base against Rosenthal over his last 6 innings. Yes, we just said this about Cecil, but Rosenthal has also pitched very well of late. Over those last six innings, Trevor has struck out 11 and thrown 67% of his pitches for strikes (57 of 85). Batters have missed on 42% of their swings against Rosenthal.
As you are probably aware, Magneuris Sierra set a Cardinal rookie record by hitting safely in each of his first 9 games. Yesterday’s 4-for-4 performance included three infield hits, but they all count. He is now hitting .444 on the season (16 for 36). All 16 hits have been singles, although he has had multiple hits in 5 of the 9 games.
Sierra has now played in 4 one-run games. He is 9 for 15 (.600) in those games. He has also struck out 5 times in those games, so, in the first four one-run games of his career, Magneuris Sierra has only been retired once when putting the ball in play.
As the second half of the season begins, Matt Carpenter’s bat has begun a bit of a revival. With 2 hits last night, Carpenter has now hit in 6 games in a row (9 for 23) for a .391 average. Through the first 12 games of July, Matt is hitting .325 (13 of 40).
Kolten Wong added two hits yesterday. Due to injuries, Wong has only played in 20 of the 30 one-run games the Cardinals have played, but he is now hitting .350 in those games (21 for 60). Up until this season, Kolten was only a .244 hitter in 140 career one-run games.
As the season’s first half has melded into the second, Jedd Gyorko has hit a bit of a dry spell. He is just 2 for 19 (.105) over his last 5 games after an 0-for-5 afternoon yesterday that included two ground-ball double plays. This drops him to just .235 for the month.
After hitting .287/.341/.590 in one-run games last year, Jedd is only hitting .239/.301/.402 in them this year.
Of the now 18 times that St Louis has lost the first game of a series, they have come back to force a rubber game 9 times. They are 4-5 in those rubber games.