All posts by Joe Wegescheide

Martinez Masterful in Desert, Wins His Fourth 8-2

Carlos Martinez was in charge again last night, with eight much-needed scoreless innings of three-hit ball, and the offense exploded late (again).  A five-run fifth-inning pushed St Louis to an 8-2 win in Arizona.

Martinez authored his fourth quality start of the season (in his fourth start).  With Michael Wacha (who is 3-for-4 in quality starts), the Cardinals have seven in these eight starts.  The rest of the starters combined have managed 3 over the course of the other 12 games.

Last season, Martinez threw first-pitch strikes to 63% of the batters he faced.  Through his first three starts this year, 71% of the batters he faced saw first-pitch strikes.  Last night, he missed with his first pitch to 16 of the 28 batters he faced.  It didn’t seem to matter.  The 16 batters who started off 1-0 went 1-for-16 against Martinez.

During Stephen Piscotty’s rookie campaign, the first pitch thrown him would mostly set the tone for the at bat.  If you were an opposing pitcher, throwing him strike one was usually a very good thing.  After a first-pitch strike, Piscotty hit only .265 (40-for-151) with just 3 walks.  But, if you fell behind him 1-0, Piscotty slashed .378/.480/.622 (31-for-82 with 4 home runs).

During the early part of this season, that aspect of Stephen’s game has been missing.  Going into last night’s contest, Piscotty was hitting just .192 (5-for-26) when he begins the at bat ahead 1-0.

Last night, however, four of his five at bats began with a first-pitch ball.  Stephen went 3-for-4 with a walk in those at bats.  He most closely resembled his 2015 self in his seventh-inning at bat as he let Dominic Leone fall behind 2-0 before he teed off on the 2-1 cutter, sending it soaring over the wall in dead-center.  By degrees, Piscotty is looking closer and closer to the weapon he was last year.

After his big series against San Diego, Jedd Gyorko has started the Arizona series 0-for-8.  In three of his five at bats last night, Diamondback pitchers threw him first-pitch fastballs for strikes, but kept them on the corners.  It’s playing with fire a bit, but if you can get ahead of Gyorko with the first pitch, you’re better off.  In at bats that begin with a first-pitch strike, Jedd is hitting .192 (5-for-26).  He hits .300 (6-for-20) when the at bat starts off 1-0.

With two more doubles, two more home runs, and eight more runs scored, the Cardinals hit the twenty game mark of the season scoring 6.30 runs per game and carrying a .504 team slugging percentage.  In 705 at bats they have hit 32 home runs.  They now have multiple home runs in four straight games, and have done this in ten of the twenty games played so far this season.  It took 39 games and 1,346 at bats last year for the Cardinals to hit their 32nd home run.  Mark Reynolds authored the “dinger” in the fourth-inning of St Louis’ May 19th game against the Mets’ Jon Niese in New York.  The solo shot upped St Louis’ lead to 4-0 in a game they would go on to win 10-2.  Their tenth multi-homer game came last year in game number 58. St Louis managed the feat only 36 times all last year.

Bullpen Falters, but Hazelbaker Impresses

I’m not really sure what to say about this game.  The 9-run, sixth-inning meltdown certainly left an array of numbers in its wake, but I hesitate to assign them much significance.  For the most part, Jaime Garcia, Matt Bowman and Kevin Siegrist have been very effective.  This was just one of those days.  And Siegrist’s struggles with the flu is all the more reason to dismiss last night’s loss as an anomaly.

On the not-so-anomalous side of last night’s game was Jeremy Hazelbaker.  Yesterday, we examined what the numbers suggested about Jedd Gyorko and Aledmys Diaz.  Last night was kind of a microcosm of Hazelbaker’s season so far.

Jeremy entered yesterday’s game in the fourth inning.  In the fifth inning, Jeremy got a 1-0 fastball a little away from him and floated it over the left field wall.  Then in the seventh, he jumped a 1-0 changeup that floated back over the heart of the plate, stroking it into right-center for a triple.  That was Jeremy’s night at the plate.  Four pitches, two mistakes, two extra-base hits.

For the season, 64% of Hazelbaker’s at bats are over before the pitcher throws ball two.  And that’s where he thrives.  In those 37 plate appearances, Jeremy is hitting .353 (12-for-34) with four of his five home runs, 12 of his 13 RBIs and a .824 slugging percentage.  When the at bat extends to the second or third ball, his effectiveness diminishes (a .222 average on 4-for-18 hitting).  Hazelbaker has only extended seven at bats long enough to see ball three.  During Hazelbaker’s 16 hits this season, he sees an average 2.94 pitches.  During his 43 outs (counting 2 sacrifice flies), Jeremy sees an average of 3.53 pitches.  During his 0-for-17 streak that brought him back to earth, Hazelbaker saw an average of 3.61 pitches per plate appearance, hitting the first pitch in only three of those at bats.

Nineteen games into Jeremy Hazelbaker’s career, he reads like a guy who comes to the plate with a clear idea of what’s he’s looking for and ready to jump it when it comes.  But as the at bat extends and Jeremy is forced to guess with the pitcher, the experience gap between Hazelbaker and the league begins to show.  How quickly he can catch up to the league will be one of the summer’s compelling stories.

Of the curious numbers from last night’s pitching meltdown, I leave you with these.  1) Arizona finished with an astonishing 23 at bats with runners in scoring position.  They had seven hits.  2) Through the first 18 games of the season, the bullpen had allowed only 4 of the 17 runners they inherited to score.  Last night, all five inherited runners scored – all in one inning.

On the offensive side, with three triples and two home runs, the team slugging percentage has pushed itself back over the .500 mark (to .501).  The home runs were numbers 29 and 30 on the season in 19 games and 670 team at bats.  Last year, it took the Cardinals 36 games and 1234 at bats to hit 30 home runs.  Jhonny Peralta did the honors in the sixth inning of that May 16th game against David Price of the Tigers.  Jhonny’s blast was the third and final solo home run the Cards hit against Price that day in a game Detroit would win 4-3 in ten innings.

Cardinals Worked the Count and Work Over San Diego, 8-5

Twenty-three of the 46 Cardinals who came to the plate last night worked the count into their favor, and with good effect.  Those 23 batters hit .526 (10/19) with two triples, a home run and an .895 slugging percentage.  For the season, the team hits .326 (61/187) when ahead in the count with 14 of their 28 home runs and a .626 slugging percentage.  Over the course of the season so far, though, Cardinal hitters have only managed to get into hitters counts 35% of the time.  Last night their discipline and execution provided another evening of offensive highlights.

If you’ve been watching Jedd Gyorko’s at bats so far in his initial season in St Louis, how would you classify him as a hitter?  Yesterday he hit two first-pitch fastballs, collecting a single and a ground out.  In his three other at bats, though, he took pitches – including fastballs for strikes – as he waited for the pitcher to fall behind in the count so he could pounce on the expected fastball.  The results: a triple on a 3-2 pitch (in an at bat that began 3-0 before Jedd took two fastball strikes); a home run on a 2-0 fastball; and a fly-out on a 3-1 pitch.  These at bats suggest someone who is more of a cripple hitter (and who is patient enough to get himself into favorable counts).

His first 41 plate appearances in a Cardinal uniform seem to suggest the same thing.  To this point, Jedd has hit behind in the count in just eight of those plate appearances (19.5%), while he has worked the count into his favor an impressive 46% of the time (19 of the 41).  Once ahead, Jedd is hitting .375 (6 for 16) good for 17 total bases, as those hits include 3 homers and a triple.  His early season slugging percentage when ahead in the count is an acceptable 1.063.  This is an approach that looks like it will work for him.  By demonstrating that he is more than willing to jump on the first fastball he likes, pitchers – wary of his considerable pop – are less likely to throw him that first pitch fastball.  This gives them every opportunity to fall behind with their breaking pitches.

Behind in the count isn’t usually a comfortable place for a hitter to be.  So far this year, the Cardinals are hitting .211 when behind in the count.  This is more-or-less consistent with the rest of the league.  Being able to hit behind in the count is generally a mark of a disciplined and (usually) veteran hitter.  It also suggests someone comfortable hitting breaking pitches (which you are more likely to see when behind in the count).

Yadi Molina, of to a great start this year, has the team’s second highest batting average when behind in the count, hitting .409 (9/22) in those at bats.  The top average on the team in this category, though, belongs to Aledmys Diaz.  In his only plate appearance last night in which he fell behind in the count, he jumped an 0-1 curve ball and drilled it way over the left field wall.  Diaz is now 5-for-10 (.500) when backed up in the count.  Aledmys, who worked the count into his favor the rest of his three-hit night, combines a very quick, aggressive swing with surprisingly good control.  He is also seeing the breaking pitch very well right now.

In the third inning last night, Randal Grichuck chased a Colin Rea fastball in off the plate, fouling it off to put him behind in the count 1-2.  Grichuck then fouled out to the catcher on the next pitch (a curveball).  Randal is now 0-for-17 (with 10 strikeouts) when batting behind in the count.  If he can stay even in the count – as he did when he doubled on an 0-0 pitch in the eighth, he becomes a .280 hitter with a .480 slugging percentage.  Ahead in the count (as he was the rest of the night, going 2-for-3), Randal hits .462 (6/13) with 2 home runs, 6 runs batted in, and a 1.000 slugging percentage.  To this point of the season, Randal hasn’t been able to recover when he misses that pitch early in the at bat.

Unlike Gyorko and Diaz, Stephen Piscotty has had difficulty seeing and laying off the breaking ball early in the count.  When he ended the second by rolling a 1-0 pitch to first, it was the only one of his five at bats that he actually worked the count into his favor.  So far this season, Piscotty is a .400 hitter when ahead in the count, but has managed to put himself in that position just ten times in his first 76 plate appearances.

Among the bullpen appearances, Seung-hwan Oh’s deserves recognition.  Previous to last night, Oh had faced 38 batters, pitching behind 16 of them (42%).  Even thought these batters had worked the count into their favor, they have only 2 hits in 9 at bats to show for their efforts, as Oh has been tough to square up on, even behind in the count.  But he has also walked 6 of the 16, setting up more drama than necessary.  But not last night.  In his spotless sixth inning, he got a flyout on a 1-2 pitch, a strikeout on a 2-2 pitch and another flyout on a 1-2 pitch.  When even in the count, opposing batters are only 1-for-12 against Oh (.083), and when they bat from behind against him, they are 0-for-13.

With three home runs on Saturday and two more yesterday, the St Louis Cardinals have produced 28 home runs in 635 at bats over 18 games.  In 2015, their 28th home run flew off the bat of Matt Carpenter as he turned on a 2-2 pitch from David Price that tied the Cardinals’ May 16th game against Detroit at 1-run each in the bottom of the first inning of team game number 36 (exactly twice as many games as it has taken this year).  Carpenter’s swing would conclude the team’s 1216th at bat.

After a Loss in San Diego, Cards at .500

After last night’s disappointing loss in San Diego, the St Louis Cardinals now stand 8-8 on the season.  This evening they will be presented with their eighth opportunity to respond to a loss the game before.  They have won only four of the first seven, but have overall played better than that, losing one-run games in extra-innings in Pittsburgh and at home against the Cubs.

They will give the ball to talented right-hander Michael Wacha.  It will be Wacha’s fourth start of the season and his third following a Cardinal loss, and the results, so far, have been mixed.  He was shaky in Pittsburgh, surrendering five runs on ten hits through just 4 1/3 innings.  He was decidedly better against Cincinnati, allowing just one earned run over six innings.  Michael didn’t really embrace the role of stopper when he had those opportunities last year.  Fourteen of his starts followed Cardinal losses, and, although his record was a solid 7-3 in those starts, his ERA of 3.98 was the highest of any of the Cardinal starters when pitching after a loss.

Last season’s top starter after a loss was Jaime Garcia, who was 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA in five starts and one relief appearance when given the opportunity to end a losing streak.  So far this year all three of his starts have followed Cardinal defeats.  He is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA and the team is 2-1 in those games.

Among the hitters, the two rookies – Aldemys Diaz and Jeremy Hazelbaker – have been the most productive.  Diaz has played in six of the seven, although he’s started only three.  He has only had 12 at bats in games after a loss, but has 4 hits (.333) including a double and a pinch-hit home run in Atanta.

Hazelbaker’s star has fallen a bit in recent days, but he has had his best moments so far while trying to keep St Louis out of losing streaks.  He has played in all seven of these games – although he also has only started three – hitting .313 in these opportunities (5/16) with a double and all three of his home runs so far.  Albeit in limited opportunities, his slugging percentage in games after a loss is .938.

Among the regulars, Yadi Molina has lead the way after his team has suffered a loss.  He has 7 hits in his first 24 such at bats (.304).

On the downside, the Cards have three regulars and one semi-regular batting below .200 after a loss.  Matt Carpenter is hitting just .185 (5/27), Matt Holliday just .167 (4/24), Randal Grichuk is at .125 (3/24), and Brandon Moss has saved his worst games while trying to rebound from a loss.  He is just 1-for-16 (.063) with 8 strikeouts in those games.  Interestingly enough, Carpenter was our best hitter last year in games after a loss.  He slashed .306/.407/.550 with 10 home runs and 32 runs-batted-in in 56 such games in 2015.

Martinez Pitches Cardinals Past Cubs, 5-3

Carlos Martinez quieted the Cubs with this third consecutive quality start to end the season’s first home stand on a high note.  The 5-3 victory allowed the Cards to escape with a mostly uninspiring 5-4 stand.  But, inside that 5-4 record were the first hints of the pitching staff we are hoping to see.  And Martinez has been a substantial contributor to the turnaround.

Carlos Martinez

Martinez became the third Cardinal starter to make two starts on the home-stand while recording an ERA less than three runs a game.  In his starts, Carlos allowed 4 runs over 14 innings (2.57 ERA) to join Michael Wacha (0.75) and Jaime Garcia (1.29) in that category.  Martinez (.176) and Garcia (.106) both held opposing batters under .200 during their starts, and for the entire home-stand opposing batters hit just .217 against the home team.  The overall ERA over the last nine games (even with allowing 6 runs once to Milwaukee and 9 runs once to Cincinnati) was an excellent 3.22.

The Cubs didn’t send a whole lot of right handed batters to the plate against Carlos, but he retired all nine that did come to the plate against him.  In his last two starts (against the Cubs and Reds), right handers are hitting just .136 against Martinez (3 singles in 22 at bats).  The totals include no walks, no RBIs, and 7 strikeouts.  Chicago’s right handers combined were 0-for-12 yesterday against Martinez, Seung-hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal.

Martinez never faced a batter yesterday with 2 runners on base, but ten of the 27 he faced yesterday came to the plate with one runner on base.  They went 0-for-10 against Carlos.  Over his last two games, opposing batsmen are just 1-for-16 against Carlos (.063) with one runner on base.  Through his last 14 innings, Martinez has faced only one batter with two runners on base – Cincinnati’s Joey Votto, who took full advantage of that opportunity.  Rizzo’s eighth-inning, RBI single against Oh was the only hit the Cubs had in 14 at bats with a runner on base.

One common thread that Martinez shares with Garcia is they are both trouble to face when they get two strikes on you.  During the home-stand, opposing hitters went 1-for-28 (.036) against Garcia when he got 2-strikes on them.  The Cubs yesterday were 0-for-12 against Martinez in 2-strike opportunities and the Cubs and Reds combined managed just 2 hits in 24 at bats against Martinez with two strikes on them.

Overall

St Louis played four games on the home stand after having lost the previous game.  Including yesterday’s win, they went 3-1 in those games with a 1.50 ERA.

Rizzo’s RBI single in the eighth came on a 3-2 count.  In 18 such at bats, it was the Cubs’ only 2-strike hit during the game.  Over the entire home stand, opposing hitters managed a feeble .110 batting average (17/154) once the Cardinal pitching staff got two strikes on them.

Playing Winning Teams

While losing the first two games of the Cub series, the media was quick to point out that the Cards had lost their first five games against the teams (Pittsburgh and Chicago) who are expected to contend with them for the division title.  The intent of this was to essentially dismiss the success the Cardinals had against the “lesser” teams.

Setting aside, for the moment, the statistical insignificance of five games among the 38 the Cardinals will play against these rivals, it’s also unfair to dismiss the Brewers and Reds so blithely.  Yes, neither team is expected to hang in the race for very long, but both have been playing pretty good baseball in the early going.  In fact, as of this morning, the Reds, courtesy of a 6-5 win over Colorado, are 8-7 while Pittsburgh has fallen below .500 at 7-8.  The Reds, in fact, are 7-2 so far when playing someone other than the Cardinals or Cubs.

Again, this is not to suggest that either Cincinnati or Milwaukee is a juggernaut.  But however they will end the season, both of these teams are currently playing very competitive baseball.  The Cardinals stand – at the moment – at 3-3 against winning teams this season.  Dismissing their successes against the Reds and Brewers is disingenuous.

Cubs Douse Cardinals Opening Home Stand

However this afternoon’s match-up turns out, the Cubs have effectively dampened the season-opening home stand.  If the Cardinals can manage to salvage the last game, the home stand that began so promisingly (think 6 home runs in a game and Garcia’s 13-strikeout, 1-hit shutout) would end at just 5-4.  Moreover, the team that entered the home stand just 2 games behind Chicago will be fortunate to hit the road again trailing by just three.

If the home stand has been largely disappointing, it has, at least, given Matt Adams an opportunity to get his name back in the mix at first base.  Adams hit .329 at Busch last year (albeit in just 73 at bats), and after a 2-for-3 night last night is 5-for-11 (.455) during the home stand, including a double and a home run.  He’s played in all eight games – although he’s started only two – but carries an .818 slugging percentage into the home stand’s final game.

Yadier Molina has been one of the few Cardinals to sustain his hot streak through the entire home stand.  He had 2 hits last night, driving in the only run for the Cardinals, and is now hitting .444 (12-for-27) with one game to play.  His RBI was his fifth of the home stand.

Kolten Wong managed six hits in the season-opening, six-game road trip.  He arrived home carrying a decent .261 average (albeit with no runs batted in).  But his has been one of the principle missing bats over the last eight games.  After his 0-for-2 last night, Kolten is just 2-for-17 (.118) on the home stand.  His season batting average has fallen to an even .200.

Jaime Garcia’s second start of the home stand wasn’t as dominant as his first, but he did add seven more strikeouts in his five innings, giving him 20 over 14 innings in those two starts.

Although there have been a few pitching hiccups over the home stand, overall the pitching is beginning to look a little more like the staff we were hoping to see.  After scuffling through the season-opening road trip with a 4.39 team ERA (featuring a 6.25 ERA from the starters), the home stand has produced a 3.25 team ERA, including 3.51 from the starters.  Opposing teams hit .304 against our starters on the road, but just .236 against them at home.

St Louis was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position last night.  Since Brandon Moss’ 2-run homer that pulled the Cards to within one run of Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon, St Louis is 0 for its last 19 RISP opportunities.

Lackey Quiets Cardinal Offense 5-0

As the offense submitted quietly to John Lackey last night, among the many missing aspects of the heretofore dynamic offense was their proficiency at hitting with runners on base.  Before last night, the Cards carried a team .258 (57/221) batting average with the bases empty, while hitting .296 (61/206) with at least one runner on base.  Twenty-eight of the 61 hits had gone for extra-bases, including 11 of the 21 home runs they have hit so far this season.

Last night, in spite of Lackey’s dominance, St Louis still had 13 plate appearances with at least one runner on base.  Aledmys Diaz’ double that set up the only real scoring opportunity of the night was the only hint of success the Cardinals enjoyed in those at bats.

St Louis had been almost other-worldly, so far, when they have put two runners on base.  They already have hit 6 3-run homers (they had only 15 of those all last year) and were 20 for 60 (.333) with a .683 team slugging percentage with two runners on before last night.  Lackey was very effective at diffusing the offense before things got to that point.  He faced only two Cardinal batters all night with two on, striking out both Leake and Carpenter to strand the runners.

St Louis, at the 13 game mark, has played 9 games against presumptive also rans in Atlanta, Milwaukee and Cincinnati, battering them for 78 runs in the 9 games.  They have now played 4 games against presumed contenders in Pittsburgh and Chicago and have scored 7 runs in those games.  These are far too few games to make any sweeping observations over, but it does underline the scrutiny that the Cardinal offense is under this year.  After two unremarkable offensive seasons during which they have averaged 3.91 runs per game – and following a less-than-spectacular offseason – the offensive concerns of Cardinal Nation can’t quite be assuaged by pushing around second division teams.  As the season wears on, this team will have to show at some point that they can score a few runs against the contending teams as well.

Mike Leake and Tyler Lyons invited plenty of trouble throughout the game.  With the bases empty, the Cubs hit .316 (6/19) against the pair, including both their doubles and their home run.  Leake and Lyons, however, responded solidly to these threats.  With a runner on base, Chicago was held to just 3 of 15 (.200), grounding into two double plays.  Subtract Diaz’ error on a potential third double play ball, and the last two innings of this game would have a much different energy.

Cardinals Fight Past Cincinnati, 4-3, to Win Seventh of Last Nine

With Jedd Gyorko, Greg Garcia and Eric Fryer all starting, yesterday’s lineup looked like it was getaway day.  Continuing an early-season meme, the Cardinals’ bench players led the way.

Eric Fryer

Eric Fryer – thrust into the backup catcher role by Brayan Pena’s injury – put together a 3-for-3 afternoon and has started his Cardinal career with six hits in six at bats.

His second inning double that gave the Cardinals a short-lived 2-1 lead came on a 2-2 pitch.  He is now 3-for-3 in the early going with two strikes on him.  Fryer was also 2-for-2 yesterday and is 3-for-3 on the year with 2 outs.

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia had the “other” pinch home run the night the Cardinals became the first team ever to hit three pinch hit home runs.  While there has been substantial attention paid to Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz (who have pushed their way into the starting lineup), Garcia has quietly been a part of the recent Red Surge.  He has 5 hits in his last 8 at bats, including that home run.

Matt Adams

All three of Matt Adams at bats yesterday came with the bases empty.  With his 0 for 3, Adams is now hitless in 7 at bats this season with the bases empty.  He is four for 12 with at least one runner on base.

Matt also lined out to right on a 1-2 pitch in the fourth.  Adams, now 0 for 12, is still looking for his first 2-strike hit this season.

Three pitches continues to be the dividing line in Adams’ at bats.  Hitless in 2 four-pitch at bats yesterday, Adams is now 0 for 13 this season in all plate appearances that have lasted more than three pitches.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty’s 0-for-4 day included three at bats with no one on base and one with one runner on.  Over the last 9 games, Stephen is 5 for 27 with less than 2 runners on base (.185).  He is 4 for 7 including a home run with 2 runners on base.

Stephen, of course, had the big series in Atlanta (5 for 13 with a home run and 4 RBIs).  He hasn’t quite found the range during the home stand.  Playing in 5 of the 6 games so far, Stephen is 4 for 21 (.190) although he did hit a three-run homer against Cincinnati on Saturday that briefly gave the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.

He was also 0-for-2 hitting with 2-strikes on him yesterday.  Stephen is 1 for his last 15 (.067) once he gets two strikes on him.

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha added a second consecutive quality start since he struggled at Pittsburgh.  In beating Milwaukee and taking a no decision against Cincinnati, Wacha has been touched for one earned run over 12 innings (0.75 ERA).  Even with Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake still struggling, the Cardinals’ team ERA is still 3.56 since leaving Pittsburgh.

Jay Bruce’s infield single was the only hit that Wacha allowed to a left-handed batter yesterday.  Over his starts against the Brewers and Reds, lefties have managed 2 hits (both singles) in 12 at bats (.167).  Overall, Cincy’s left-handed batters went 1 for 9 against Cardinal pitching yesterday.  Since the Pittsburgh series, left-handers are hitting just .207 (24/116) against the Cardinal pitching staff.

Wacha has also excelled with two outs over his last two starts.  Cincinnati was 1 for 7 with two outs yesterday and over the two starts opposing hitters are 2 for 13 once Wacha gets two outs.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist retired all three right-handed batters that faced him yesterday.  Always a difficult at bat for righties, Kevin has held the 14 right-handers he’s faced so far this year to 0 for 14 with 8 strikeouts.

Siegrist has also been death to hitters once he gets them in 2-strike counts, which he did to all four batters he faced yesterday (and to 14 of the 19 he’s faced so far this year).  They went 0-for-4 yesterday and are 0-for-13 so far this season (with 9 of them striking out).

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal is also unsolved when he gets two strikes on a batter this year.  They are 0 for 12 with 11 strikeouts after he struck out two more in yesterday’s game.

Overall

With two more home runs yesterday, the Cardinals now sit at 21 through 12 games and 427 at bats.  Home run #21 in 2015 came in the third inning of the Cardinals’ 29th game – an 8-5 win in Pittsburgh on May 8.  Matt Holiday broke a 1-1 tie with a 3-run drive against Francisco Liriano.  It was the Cardinals’ 982nd at bat of the season.  Over the 9 games since they left Pittsburgh, the Cardinals are scoring 8.67 runs per game, with a team-wide slash line of .310/.391/.583.  They have 13 in the first 6 games of this home stand after hitting 6 in three games in Atlanta.

In losing 3 games in Pittsburgh, the Cardinals were just 3 for 24 (.125) – all singles – with runners in scoring position.  Since then (and in spite of the fact that they were 0 for 5 in RISP situations last night), the Cardinals have 38 hits (18 for extra-bases) in 99 at bats with runners in scoring position,  Over the last 9 games, the Cardinals RISP slash line is a jaw-dropping .384/.436/.758.

After a Six-Homer Night, Cards Face a Lefty

Ten games into the season, the Cards have been held to less than four runs just twice.  Last year this happened 79 times (48.8%) last season.

With 6 more home runs yesterday, your St Louis Cardinals have now drilled 17 in their first 10 games and 357 at bats.  The team slugging percentage now sits at .521.  In 2015 they didn’t manage their 17th home run until game #25 – Mark Reynolds first inning grand slam off of Travis Wood that trimmed a 5-0 Cub lead to 5-4 in a game St Louis would eventually win 10-9.  This was May 4th occurring on the Cardinals’ 839th at bats of the season.  That was also the first home run hit by a Cardinal against a left-handed pitcher last year.

Brandon Finnegan’s start today is the first by a left-hander since the first two games of the season.  Left-handed pitching has long been a soft-form kryptonite for this organization.  Last year, we made some progress against lefties, going 25-18 against left handed starters, but only managed a .230 team batting average against them.

Much of the difficulty has been finding right-handed batters that can solve lefties.  Last year, only one right-handed batter (Randal Grichuk) with more than 100 at bats against lefties managed a batting  average north of .250 – Grichuk hit a “robust” .265 against leftie that included 6 home runs and a .522 slugging percentage.  Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham came along later to hit .322 and .278 against lefties respectively, but all the rest of the Cardinal right-handed bats managed just a .226/.312/.365 slash line against lefties.

In the early going, we haven’t done too badly.  Three home runs and a .256/.347/.430 slash line isn’t record-breaking, but pretty good for us.  Among the right-handers having early success against lefties are Aledmys Diaz, 3 for 7 with a home run; Jedd Gyorko, 2 for 5 with a home run; Piscotty, 3 for 8; and Ydier Molina, 3 for 9.  Our other homer against lefties belongs to lefty Jeremy Hazelbaker (who is 3 for 5 against them).

Finnegan, the Cincinnati lefty that we’ll see today, isn’t of the caliber of the Kershaws and Bumgarners that we will face later on this year, but it will be instructive nonetheless to see how they manage against him.

Garcia Dominates Milwaukee

In the best game of his career (a 7-0 domination of Milwaukee), Jaime Garcia pitched the Cardinals to their fifth win in the last six games.  A look at some of the numbers from the hot streak.

Matt Carpenter

While much credit for the recent surge in offense has deservedly gone to Hazelbaker and Diaz, let’s not overlook the turnaround from Matt Carpenter in the leadoff spot.  Billed in the offseason as baseball’s most dynamic leadoff man, Carpenter has been among the many to thrive since the team left Pittsburgh.  With two more doubles yesterday (and another hit by pitch), Matt is 8 for 23 (.348) in his last 6 games.  5 of the hits have been for extra-bases (3 doubles, a triple, and one home run).  Add in 3 walks and 3 HPB, and Carpenter’s slash line for his last 29 plate appearances is .348/.483/.696 with 8 runs batted in.

With his RBI double, Carp is now 5 for his last 7 with runners in scoring position.  Four of the five hits are for extra-bases.

Jeremy Hazelbaker

The league hasn’t quite caught up with Jeremy Hazelbaker yet.  With two more hits yesterday (including a home run), Jeremy now has hits in 11 of his last 22 at bats (.500), with 5 of them being extra-base hits (including 2 home runs).  He now has 6 RBIs in his last six games and a .955 slugging percentage since the team left Pittsburgh.  After going 7 for 12 with 4 extra-base hits and 3 RBIs in his first home series, the Brewers, for one, will be glad to be rid of him for a while.

Jeremy’s home run came on a 1-0 pitch.  Over the last six games, Jeremy is 9 for 12 (.750) when he hits one of the first three pitches thrown to him.  He is just 2 for his last 10 when the at bat stretches beyond 3 pitches.  The home run also came in the seventh inning.  Jeremy is 4 for his last 7 (including 2 home runs) in the seventh or eighth innings.

Randal Grichuk

It’s good to see the ball jumping off Grichuk’s bat.  Lucky two ways on his home run yesterday (lucky it wasn’t caught and lucky he wasn’t called out for passing Brandon Moss on the bases) Randall was nonetheless 2 for 3 and hit the ball hard.  He is now 3 for his last 4 with runners on base, and is 5 for 10 with a home run and 5 RBIs on the home stand so far.

Randal’s hits came in the second and third innings.  So far this year, Grichuk is 4 for 8 before the fourth inning and 2 for 16 thereafter.

With another walk yesterday, Randal Grichuk is now second on the team with 6, behind only Steven Piscotty, who has 7.  Randal hits mid-April with a .387 on base percentage and an .827 OPS.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina stayed hot with another 2 for 4 yesterday.  He is now 9 for 26 (.346) since the end of the Pirate series.  Molina was also 7 for 12 in the Milwaukee series.

Both of hits came with a runner on base.  Over the last 6 games, Yadi is 2 for 11 with the bases empty and 7 for 15 with at least one runner on.

Yadi’s seventh-inning single came on the first pitch thrown to him.  He is now 4 for his last 5 when hitting the first pitch.  That hit, coming with 2 outs, left Yadi 1 for 2 with 2-outs yesterday, and 5 for his last 10 when hitting with 2 outs.

Matt Holliday & Kolten Wong

Combining to go 0 for 6 yesterday, Matt Holliday and Kolten Wong haven’t prospered as much as the rest of the team has in these post-Pittsburgh days.  Holliday is now 5 for his last 22 (.227) with a .261 on base percentage, and Wong is 4 for 21 (.190) with a .190 on base percentage.  Kolten went 0 for 7 against Milwaukee.

Especially glaring for Holliday has been his recent struggles with runners in scoring position.  After ending the fourth inning by popping out with runners at first and third, Matt is now just 1 for his last 10 in RISP situations.

Kolten Wong did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly, but also flew out to end the seventh with runners on the corners.  He is now 0 for 11 this season with RISP and 0 for 16 with any runner on base.  He was 0 for 2 with 2-outs yesterday and just 1 for his last nine while trying to extend an inning.

Jaime Garcia

Twenty-four of the 29 batters that Garcia faced yesterday hit right-handed.  They went one for 23.  For the season, so far, righties (who hit only .218 against him last year) are just 5 for 39 (.128) – all singles – against Jaime.

Only 6 of Jaime’s starts last year came after a Cardinal loss.  He gave us 5 quality starts, a 3-0 record, and a 1.11 ERA in those games.  He is 1-0, 2.40 so far this year, as both of his starts so far this year have come after losses.

Only 3 of the 29 batters that Jaime faced extended the at bat for more than 5 pitches (they all struck out).  Through his first two starts, batters hitting his first pitch are 3 for 13 (.231).  Anyone who hasn’t hit Jaime’s first pitch is just 3 for 38 resulting in a slash line of .079/.163/.079 with 19 strikeouts.

Garcia, of course, had that rugged third inning in Atlanta when he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits and a walk.  In the 14 other innings that he’s pitched so far this year, he has allowed 1 single in 44 at bats (.023).  He has struck out 18 for the 47 batters he faced in those innings.

Overall

During their series’ against Atlanta and Milwaukee, the Cardinals have combined to hit .327, slug .576, reach base at a .404 clip, and score 8.67 runs per game.  After a 3 for 8 day with runners in scoring position, St Louis has punctuated its 5-1 run by hitting .375 (27/72) and slugging .639 with RISP.

Nine of the 11 Cardinal hits came in the 15 at bats that lasted 3 pitches or fewer (.600).  This included 5 of the 6 extra-base hits.

The late inning hitting continued yesterday as well.  With 3 hits in the seventh inning and another in the ninth, the Cards have a team slash line of .378/.459/.757 after the sixth inning of their last six games, scoring 20 runs in those innings.

With two more home runs yesterday, St Louis now has 11 for the season in 318 team at bats.  Their eleventh home run last season didn’t happen until game #15 (April 24), a sixth inning shot by Peralta against Garza in the team’s 501st at bat.  The Cards also added 4 more doubles (they now have 24 for the season), to push their team slugging percentage to .481.