The anticipation was over early. For ten consecutive games, Cardinal pitching had served up at least 5 runs – something that had happened only once previously to this proud franchise in this century. With the fading Mike Leake on the mound for the Cards, it seemed likely that the streak would continue – and after he served up 3 in the very first inning, the odds seemed even more likely. Taking full advantage of Leake’s presence, the Pirates tacked three more runs on him in the third, holding on from there for a 6-3 win (box score). This team now stands alone with the forgettable 2003 edition, which strung together 13 consecutive games from June 3 through June 16 allowing 98 total runs – at least 5 in each game.
That team also had a plucky offense that managed to win 7 of the 13 games (as this year’s team has won 6 of their last 11), but asking even a good offense to score six or seven runs every night just to be competitive is a sure formula for disaster. The 2003 team finished with a 4.60 team ERA that was the primary element in the disappointing 85-77, third-place season. This year’s team is now also in third place (63-61). The 2017 team ERA is still barely under 4.00 (3.97), but over the last 11 games has taken a 6.11 ERA hit, with a .321 batting average against. Over those games, the starters have managed just 4 quality starts, with a 6.96 ERA and a .354 batting average against.
It’s a free-fall that will doom this team’s chances the same way the pitching struggles of 2003 doomed that team if it goes unresolved.
Mike Leake reigns as the enduring symbol of the recent pitching futility. He began the slide with five uninspiring innings against Kansas City on August 9 (5 runs on 11 hits), and truly imploded against Boston on August 15 – allowing the Red Sox 8 runs on 9 hits in 4.1 innings before Mike Matheny could get him out of there. Last night, Mike only made it through the three innings, being tagged for the six runs on 8 more hits.
Over his last three efforts, Leake has managed 12.1 eventful innings that have seen a deluge of runs (19 – 18 of them earned) and hits (28). His 13.14 ERA over those last starts is paired with a rather stunning .452 batting average against. Over his last 9 starts, Leake is 1-6 with a 7.24 ERA and a .380 batting average against. Since beginning the season with 7 consecutive quality starts, Mike has only 5 in his 16 starts since then. He is 2-10 with a 5.78 ERA and a .331 batting average against in those games.
It has been a long time since Leake has been good. And the Cardinals do have promising pitchers at Memphis who are progressing toward the majors.
Leake has also struggled inexplicably when pitching ahead in the count. He gave hits to 2 of the 5 batters he was ahead of last night. This month, batters hitting behind in the count against Mike are hitting .455 (10 of 22). Since the All-Star Break, batters are hitting .419 (13 of 31) when they are behind in the count against Leake.
Yadier Molina continues to hit. He was a bright spot last night with 2 singles and a double. Yadi now has 6 hits in his last 3 games, raising his August average to .313 with 4 home runs. Yadi is up to .299 in the season’s second half.
Up in several opportunities to provide the big hit, Paul DeJong instead went 0-for-5, ending his 9 game hitting streak. Over the 9 games, DeJong was about as hot as can be imagined, hitting .472 (17 for 36), and slugging .917 (4 doubles and 4 home runs). Over the 9 games, DeJong scored 8 runs and drove in 12.
Elimination Season Begins
With their 5-2 loss to Philadelphia, San Francisco becomes baseball’s first team to be eliminated from its division race. Now 50-76, the Giants sit 39 games behind division leading Los Angeles (87-35). San Francisco has only 36 games left in its season, while the Dodgers will play 40 more. The Giants aren’t totally eliminated from playoff contention just yet, although trailing Arizona by 18 games for the last wildcard spot doesn’t exactly make their playoff chances rosy.
Cardinal pitchers issued only one walk last night – to Pirate relief pitcher A.J. Schugel, enjoying just his second plate appearance of the season.