The inches were spectacularly against the St Louis Cardinals through the first five innings of last night’s game, where – unlike the Indians – the Cards winning streak (a modest four games) came to a sour end, 6-0 (box score). Jesse Winker’s leadoff home run was just barely fair down the right field line. In the bottom of the first, Yadier Molina had runners at first and third with two out, when he floated a fly ball into short right-center that had just enough carry on it to allow Winker to make an excellent catch that both saved a run and ended the inning.
Then there was the fifth inning. Jose Peraza just barely safe at first on an infield hit. The ground ball back to the mound that just oozed out of Jack Flaherty’s grip. Tyler Mahle just fractionally safe at second on another infield dribbler. Things unraveled from there. It’s baseball.
More concerning is the fact that St Louis finished the night with only 5 hits – all singles. The offense has been pretty consistently good at putting runs on the board (last night excepted) but the hits are becoming more scare. Twelve games into September, and the Cards have only 94 hits. They are still scoring 5.00 runs per game, but are hitting just .239.
Among the shards of good news from last night was 2 more hits from Jose Martinez. Jose has now hit in 13 of his last 14 games, hitting .435 (20 for 46) during the streak. His average is up to .356 in the second half 37 for 104).
Tommy Pham contributed a walk and a hit by pitch – so he is still getting on base. But his is one of the batting averages that is starting to fade in September. Pham is just 1 for 12 over his last 6 games, and is down to .158 (3 for 19) for the month – albeit with a .407 on base percentage.
Kolten Wong has also seen a noticeable dip in September. A stiff back during the early days of the month didn’t help, but Wong hasn’t been really hot since getting back on the field. He was 0 for 2 last night, and is now just 5 for 23 (.217) this month. Like Pham, though, Wong has still been getting on base. He drew his fifth walk of the month last night, pushing his on base percentage to .357.
Gravity may also be catching up with touted prospect Harrison Bader. His 0-for-4 yesterday leaves him just 2 for 17 (.118) over his last 5 games.
At this time of year, relief innings can be a little hard to come by. With a bullpen crowded with September call-ups, the middle relievers may have to wait for a while before their number comes up.
That is what is happening to Sam Tuivailala. Sam has made it into only 3 of the first 12 games this month, and has had 5 days in between each of his last two games. Rather than get rusty, though, Sam has become hyper-efficient. He retired 3 batters last night on four pitches – all strikes. Each batter he faced swung the bat once, and got himself out.
It’s an exceedingly small sample size – just the 11 batters he has faced this month – but 7 of those batters never saw a pitch out of the strike zone, and all 11 combined have only cost Tui 31 pitches (2.8 pitches per). Along the way, Sam has thrown 25 of the pitches for strikes (81%!) with only one of those strikes being a swing and a miss. On September first in San Francisco, Sam was finishing up the ninth inning of an 11-6 Cardinal win. With two-out, Brandon Crawford swung through Tuivailala’s 1-1 pitch. He ended the game by grounding out on the next pitch.
It’s too few batters and too few pitches to mean anything, but this is pitching to contact on steroids.
Matthew Bowman is another arm that seems to be profiting from extra rest in September. Having pitched in 65 games through the end of August, Bowman looked a little frayed. He has been better of late. He is unscored on over his last six games (4.2 innings), during which he has allowed just one hit. He has had at least four days of rest in between 3 of the 6 games.