On the last day of August, Cardinal right-hander Michael Wacha put an end to an unsettling month with six excellent innings, leading St Louis to a 5-2 conquest of the San Francisco Giants (box score). Both for Michael personally, and for the entire pitching staff, last month could not have ended fast enough. Wacha hadn’t made it past the fourth inning in any of his previous three starts – a span that featured 24 hits in 12.1 innings, including 4 home runs. He was 0-3 with a 10.22 ERA and a .414/.453/.690 batting line against. The team finished the month with just 13 quality starts and a 4.62 ERA.
For Wacha it was a needed boost, as he was in complete control. He threw more than 11 pitches in only two of his six innings, and more than 20 only in the nettlesome fifth inning when the Giants scratched across their only run against him.
Even when he has struggled in the game as a whole, Wacha’s first innings have been excellent all year. In his 9 starts in the second half, he has given no runs and only 5 hits in his first innings. Through his 25 starts for the season, Michael carries a 1.08 ERA with a .187/.253/.231 batting line against him in the first. Of the 15 home runs he’s allowed this season, only one has been hit in the first inning – and that came back on April 14 in New York.
Tyler Lyons needed only 10 pitches to dispatch San Francisco in the eighth – securing his nineteenth consecutive scoreless appearance covering 17.2 innings, during which he has allowed just 3 hits. He finished August allowing just 1 hit in 11.1 innings with 14 strikeouts.
Moreover, Tyler has flourished late in games. This season in 11.1 innings before the seventh, Tyler’s ERA is an uninspiring 7.15 with a .292/.382/.500 batting line against. In 31.2 innings from the seventh inning on, Lyons’ ERA is a microscopic 0.85 with a dominating batting line against of .147/.244/.186.
Also Nettlesome – The Ninth Inning
It didn’t cost them the game, but the ninth inning continues to be a concern. San Fran plated a run on back-to-back doubles – the second of which would have been a two-run home run but for a curious replay overturn. The Cardinals thus finished August with a 6.53 ninth-inning ERA. Since the All-Star Break, St Louis has scuffled along with a 5.67 ninth-inning ERA – pushing the ERA in that inning for the season to 4.05.
Late-game effectiveness out of the pen continues to be a concern.
John Brebbia allowed the doubles and the run (and almost two runs) last night. After what has really been an excellent rookie season, John hit a little speed bump in August. He finished the month with a 3.95 ERA in 13.2 innings. Batters hit only .176 against him, but 8 of the 9 hits he gave up were for extra bases – including 3 home runs.
Since the All-Star Break, John has pitched 20 innings before the eighth inning and 20 innings in the eighth and ninth. Before the eighth inning, Brebbia has allowed no runs and only 3 hits. His second-half ERA in the eighth and ninth innings is 5.40.
Offense Finishes Month Strong
As they did for the most part over the entire month, the Cards finished August scoring 5 more runs. In 28 August games, St Louis scored 162 runs (5.79 per game). Since the All-Star Break they have scored 229 runs in 45 games (5.09 per game).
Leading 2-0, the Cardinals almost opened the game up in the “magic” fourth inning. A leadoff single from Yadier Molina and a one-out double from Kolten Wong put runners at second and third. Giant starter Matt Cain wriggled out of trouble by striking out Randal Grichuk and getting Wacha to bounce out.
Even so, the events continued the team’s strange affinity for the fourth inning. Throughout the month of August, St Louis hit .358/.432/.650 in the fourth inning, while scoring 35 runs. All of those totals were the highest of any inning last month. Since the All-Star Break, those figures are .346/.397/.602 with 46 runs scored. Of those only the on base percentage isn’t the highest of any inning (St Louis has been reaching base at a .443 clip in the eighth inning since the break).
For the season, St Louis has scored 101 runs in the fourth inning – 21 more than in any other inning. The team is hitting .306/.370/.516 in that inning.
Tommy Pham continues to be front and center as an offensive force for the Cards. He added 3 more hits last night including an opposite-field double high off the right-field wall that would have been a home run in most other parks. Tommy’s hitting streak now stretches to six games, during which he is hitting .476 (10 for 21), slugging 1.000 (2 doubles and 3 home runs), getting on base at a .577 clip (4 walks and a hit by pitch), scoring 6 runs and driving in 8.
In 123 plate appearances in 28 games last month, Tommy finished August with 20 singles, 6 doubles, 5 home runs, 21 runs scored, 19 walks, 3 hit-by-pitches, and 1 sacrifice bunt. This added up to a batting line of .310/.434/.520. Tommy’s line is now .327/.433/.537 with 8 home runs since the All-Star Break.
Tommy Pham is having the time of his life.
After grounding out in the first, Tommy reached base in his last four plate appearances. He singled in the third, doubled in the fifth, drove in a run with a seventh-inning single, and drove in another with a hit-by-pitch in the eighth inning. Since the All-Star Break, Tommy is hitting .300 in the first four innings (24 for 80) with 2 home runs. From the fifth inning on, Tommy has had 103 plate appearances that have led to 19 singles, 4 doubles, 6 home runs, 18 runs batted in, 18 walks, and 2 hit-by-pitches – a batting line of .349/.476/.614.
For the season, Tommy is a .282 hitter through the first four innings with 5 home runs. From the fifth inning on, Pham’s line is .335/.435/.594 with 14 home runs.
Grichuk added two hits including a home run. He homered in the last game in Milwaukee and almost tied the game with a ninth inning home run. Since the All-Star Break, Grichuk is carrying a .282 batting average (37 for 131) and a .580 slugging percentage (8 doubles, 2 triples, and 9 home runs). That will play.
Four of those home runs have now been hit in the second inning, and 7 of the 9 have come before the sixth. Since the break, Grichuk is a .358 hitter before the sixth inning (24 for 67) with a .791 slugging percentage. Thereafter, he hits .203 (13 for 64).
After coming smoking-hot off the disabled list, Dexter Fowler is starting to cool off. With his 0 for 5 last night, Fowler is now hitless in his last ten at bats, and 2 for 19 (.105) over his last 5 games. He has 8 strikeouts in those games.
Dexter struck out with Matt Carpenter at second base to end the first inning. Dexter just has never bonded with the first inning this year. Since the break, Fowler is now 4 for 17 (.235), and 15 for 74 (.203) for the year in the first inning.