On Thursday, June 1, your St Louis Cardinals fought their way past the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 2-0 victory. They were 26-25 after that game. Until last night, that was the last time they were above .500. They sat (at that point) just 1.5 games behind the division leading Brewers, but were about to embark on what would be the defining road trip of the first half – 3 games in in Chicago and 4 more in Cincinnati. They lost all 7 games, limping home at 26-32 and now 4.5 games out of the division lead and in fourth place.
Beginning with the subsequent series against Philadelphia, St Louis began the long, slow process of recovering their season. It hasn’t been anything nearly resembling a straight line, but since that lost road trip, St Louis has fashioned a 31-24 record (.564). The only better records in the National League since that date belong to the Dodgers (43-8, .843) and the Pirates (30-23, .566).
Much has changed for the Cards over the last 55 games, but one of the most surprising is how suddenly lethal this team has been against left-handers.
Ever since forever left-handed pitchers – especially the soft-tossing type that they ran into last night – have mostly owned this team. At the point that they limped home from that 0-7 road trip, they were 6-8 on the season, scoring 3.36 runs per game when lefties started against them.
Then, after sweeping Philadelphia, they welcomed Milwaukee and left-hander Brent Suter. Brent didn’t last 5 innings, as the Cards rolled to a 6-0 win (box score). And suddenly lefties held no special mystery for this team. Beginning with that game, St Louis won 9 of the next 12 games when left-handers started against the them – with St Louis averaging 6.17 runs per game in those contests.
Prior to that watershed moment, this team was hitting .233 against lefties. Over the last 55 games, they have been spanking them to the tune of .270/.353/.513. Against the two lefties they saw last night – soft-tossing Jason Vargas and hard-throwing Mike Minor – the birds went 11 for 26 with 2 doubles, 3 home runs, 4 walks, and a hit-by-pitch. This added up to a batting line of .423/.516/.846 as the Cards bullied their way to a 10-3 win (box score).
With the outburst, the Cards have now scored – yes, 34 runs in their last three games – but more than that, 285 runs over their last 55 games. That’s 5.18 runs per game over more than a third of the season.
The resurgence of Matt Carpenter continues with a single, double, walk, and hit by pitch last night. Carpenter is a .309 hitter during the season’s second half (25 of 81). He has also waited out 13 walks and 2 HBPs, for an on-base percentage of .417.
After beginning the season 7 for 45 (.156) against lefthanders, Matt (who was 1 for 2 against them last night with the walk and HBP) has gone 9 for his last 31 (.290) against them with a .465 on base percentage.
In this resurgence, Matt hasn’t neglected the right-handed pitchers who have faced him. He doubled home a run against the only right-hander he faced last night, and carries a .309/.405/.515 batting line against them since the All-Star Break.
After being given a day off, Paul DeJong has left his slump well in the rearview mirror. He has hit in all five games since then. Last night’s game was the third of the five that he’s had multiple hits in. He is hitting .375 (9 for 24) with 2 home runs during the streak.
DeJong has been a very significant part of the turnaround in the Cardinal season. At the point where they returned from that winless road trip, DeJong had only played in 12 games. In 48 games (46 starts) since then, Paul has hit .294 (55 for 187). He has hit 15 home runs in those games – almost one every three games over almost a third of the season.
Both of last night’s hits came against the lefthanders. Paul has been one of the forces in the lineup against lefties. He is now 14 for 44 (.318) against them with 2 doubles and 5 home runs (.705 slugging percentage).
He flew out in his only at bat against a right-hander last night. In the season’s second half, DeJong is only 20 for 82 (.244) when facing right-handed pitching.
Since it is after the All-Star Break, it must mean Yadier Molina is heating up again. Last night was his third straight two-hit game. Yadi has hit safely in 10 of his last 14 games. He is 19 for 49 (.388) in those games, with 4 doubles and 3 home runs. Over those 14 games, Yadi has scored 12 runs and slugged .653.
Molina is now hitting .329 (26 for 79) in the season’s second half.
Yadi was 2-2 with the home run and the two-run single while Vargas was in the game. He began the season just 10 for his first 40 against left-handers (.250), but he has personally led the charge against them over the last 55 games. Yadi is now 13 for his last 35 (.371) against left-handers, with 4 home runs.
As the Cards limped home from the 0-7 road trip, among the more frustrated players at that point was Dexter Fowler, who carried a .222 average into that series with Philadelphia. While injuries have kept him out of the lineup for much of the succeeding turnaround (he has played in only 29 of the last 55 games, starting 27), Dexter has been a notable contributor when he has been in there. With his 2 doubles last night, Fowler is hitting .291 (30 for 103), and slugging .544 (6 doubles, 1 triple, 6 home runs) over those last 29 games.
After doing all of his damage against Vargas, Fowler struck out against Neftali Feliz in the seventh and drew a walk from Brandon Maurer in the eighth. In the season’s second half, Fowler is just 8 for 35 (.229) against right-handers, but he has drawn 8 walks against them – so his on base percentage against them is still .372.
Seung-hwan Oh gave us a perfect seventh. His season reached its nadir in the first game after the All-Star Break. Entering a 2-2 game in the ninth, the Pirates made short work of the former closer. Adam Frazier began the frame with a double. Then, after a flyout from Josh Harrison and an intentional walk to Andrew McCutchen, Josh Bell looped a three-run walk-off homer over the left field wall.
Since that moment, Oh has allowed no earned runs on over his last 9 games (9 innings), during which he has given just 7 hits – all singles – and no walks. He has thrown 112 of his last 149 pitches for strikes (75%). Oh hasn’t given an unintentional walk since he walked Corey Seager in the eleventh inning of the May 23 game in LA. That was 28.1 innings and 118 batters ago.
All three batters Seung-hwan faced last night were right-handers. That has been his strong suit. Lefties have hit .352 against him this year (32 for 91) with 7 of the 8 home runs he’s served up. Righties, however, have hit .202/.246/.257 against Oh.
As with Oh, all three batters that John Brebbia faced in his 1-2-3 ninth were right-handed. Righties are 12 for 65 (.185) against John this season.
Jedd Gyorko broke the game open with his big three-run home run. He also drew 3 walks last night, and has now walked 39 times this season. While this isn’t a stunning number of walks, it does establish a new career high for Jedd, whose previous best was the 37 walks he drew last year.
His home run, by the way, was career hit number 501 for Jedd.