Category Archives: Baseball

Opposite Field Power Defuses the Philles

Perhaps they thought they would try to pull them?

In a game highlighted by two home runs from Tommy Pham, it was the other two home runs hit by the Cardinals that turned the game.  Still leading 5-1 in the sixth, with a runner on first, Nick Pivetta threw a first-pitch fastball to Jedd Gyorko.  But he threw it up and away – a borderline pitch that might well have been called a ball had Jedd taken the pitch, and might well have been popped up had Gyorko tried to pull it.

But using that very easy right-field swing that we’ve seen so often from Gyorko this year, he flipped the pitch just over the right field wall to bring the Cards within two at 5-3.

Now it’s two innings later and Joaquin Benoit threw that same pitch to Jose Martinez – that first-pitch four-seamer right into the upper right corner of the strike zone.  Martinez – who drilled two extra-base hits to right field last night – crushed the pitch well over the right-field fence to bring St Louis within one run.

Over the last 11 games, the Cards have now hit 8 first-pitch home runs while hitting .378 and slugging .956 in the 45 times they have hit the first pitch in those games.  Overall, St Louis has 25 home runs and a .534 slugging percentage while scoring 6.55 runs per game over those last 11 games after fighting their way back from a 5-0 deficit last night for a 7-6, 10-inning win (box score).

The Cardinals have launched 33 home runs in 20 June games, scoring 4.85 runs per game and slugging .460.

Jedd Gyorko

After fading a bit, Gyorko seems to be heating up again.  His 3 for 4 yesterday has him at 6 for 18 (.333) over his last 4 games, pushing his average toward .300 again (he’s currently at .297).

Six of Jedd’s 11 home runs this year have been hit on the first pitch – one of those hit over the left field wall, while two other have been hit to straight-away center, one to right-center, and the other two to straight-away right.  Jedd is no longer that dead pull hitter.  And it’s made an impressive difference in his game.

Tommy Pham

Yes, Pham absolutely crushed his game-tying home run in the ninth inning.  With that swing, he became the first Cardinal to hit two home runs in a game twice this season.  Aledmys Diaz, Dexter Fowler, Gyorko, Yadier Molina, Martinez, and Stephen Piscotty have all hit two in a game once.

His first home run, though, might have been the most exciting thing that Pham did on the field last night (and he also threw out two runners at home), as he ground through a 12-pitch at bat before finally squaring up on the high fastball.

The second home run came on an at bat that began with ball one – as Pham refused to chase Hector Neris’ splitter off the plate.  The growth in Tommy has been his patience at the plate.  Pham has taken the first pitch of 61 of his plate appearances for ball one this year.  In those PAs, Tommy has compiled 11 singles, 3 doubles, 4 home runs, 9 runs batted in, 10 walks, and one hit by pitch.  His batting line when he takes ball one this year is .360/.475/.660

Jose Martinez

With his two extra-base hits last night, Martinez is now slugging .622 in 37 at bats this month.  Over his last 8 games, Jose has 8 hits in 25 at bats (.320).  Those hits now include 2 doubles, a triple, and 3 home runs for an .840 slugging percentage.

Surprisingly, though. Martinez hasn’t profiled as a first-pitch fastball hitter.  In fact, his drive off of Benoit was the first first-pitch home run of his career.  He does, however, do better when the pitcher is throwing first-pitch strikes.  In at bats that begin with ball one, he is hitting .167 (5 for 30).  Although he is only 2 for 9 when hitting the first pitch, in at bats that begin with strike one, Jose is 21 for 63 (.333) including all four of his home runs.  He slugs .603 in those at bats.

NoteBook

St Louis has won the first game of a series just 9 times this season, including this current series against Philadelphia.  Two of those series are incomplete (the Cincinnati series that will be completed during the next home stand, and this series that will be finished this afternoon).  Of the other seven, St Louis has swept 4 and lost the other 3.  To date, the Cardinals are 18-8 in the games of the series when they have won the first game.

St Louis is now 5-7 in series against teams that had lost their previous series, going 18-21 in the games of those series.

St Louis is now 5-0 against Philadelphia this month and 3-12 against everyone else.

It Took A While, But Cards Finally Prevail in Eleven

As would befit a game featuring two struggling teams, the St Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies combined to go 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position last night – a telling number in an eleven-inning game where any offensive pulse might have won the game for either team.

Throughout the evening, the Cardinals had had the better of the opportunities.  They had runners at first and third with one out in the second – nothing came of that.  They followed that up with runners at second and third with nobody out in the third, but they ran themselves out of that inning.  Paul DeJong led off the fifth inning with a double, but that opportunity also fell victim to bad base-running.

So, by the time Stephen Piscotty came to the plate with runners at first and second with no one out, the Cards were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.  Piscotty broke the spell with the two-run double that would prove to be the winning hit, and the Cards tacked on 5 more runs after that, ending up with an 8-1 victory (box score).  In so doing they continued one very good streak and – temporarily at least – paused a couple of pretty bad streaks.

The principle bad streak halted was a lot of recent losing.  Before last night, the Cards had lost 5 out of 6, 12 out of 17, and 22 out of 32.

The other bad streak that was temporarily halted was a run of awful pitching for the month of June.  The team began yesterday with a 5.53 ERA for the month – 6.29 from the starters.  It was only for one night – and only against the offensively struggling Phillies – but for one night anyway, the pitching staff (starters and relievers) looked like they were expected to look this season.

Mike Leake

Throughout his four previous starts, Mike Leake’s season – which had started out brilliantly – had been starting to unravel.  In starts against Los Angeles (May 29), Chicago (June 3), Cincinnati (June 8), and Milwaukee (June 14), Leake had been little more than a batting practice pitcher.  He lost all four of those games with a 6.20 ERA and a batting line against of .316/.370/.500.  Opposing batters missed on only 14% of their swings against him during that span.

But last night saw the return of the Mike Leake that began the season with 9 consecutive quality starts and a 1.91 ERA.  For 6 innings he silenced Philadelphia on 3 hits allowing 1 run.

The only real shot Philly had at Leake came in the fifth inning – an inning that began with St Louis holding a 1-0 lead.  Walks to Howie Kendrick and Aaron Altherr led to the only two at bats with runners in scoring position the Phillies would get against Leake. Tommy Joseph took much of the steam out of the inning by bouncing into a double play.  But – in what has been a recurring theme for the Leake and the starting rotation – Mike couldn’t get out of the inning unscathed.  In spite of the fact that Leake jammed the hitter, Maikel Franco managed to dribble the ball up the middle – just out of the reach of shortstop Aledmys Diaz – for the RBI single that forged the tie that would stand for the next six innings.

For the month of June, Mike has faced 22 batters with runners in scoring position.  They have achieved 4 singles, 2 doubles, one home run, 10 runs batted in, 2 walks (one intentional) and 2 batters hit by pitches.  That all adds up to a batting line of .389/.500/.667.  A little distressing.

Some of the other starters have had rough Junes when faced with runners in scoring position.  Michael Wacha is at .417/.533/.667 for the month.  Adam Wainwright has been hit at a .308/.400/.731 clip in RISP at bats in June.  Lance Lynn has been better, but still troubling at .250/.300/.625 (although that’s only facing ten batters so far this month with runners in scoring position).

Carlos Martinez, of course, has been the rock of the rotation.  In his three starts so far in June, Carlos has only faced 12 batters in RISP situations.  They are 1 for 9 with 2 walks and a sacrifice fly.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil continues to give out strong hints that he is starting to lock things in.  In 6 innings over his last 5 games, Brett has faced 19 batters and allowed 2 singles (a .105/.105/.105 batting line).  Over that span, he’s thrown 71% of his pitches for strikes, while 11 of the 14 batters that have made contact against him have hit the ball on the ground.  Brett threw a crisp 1-2-3 seventh last night.

Kevin Siegrist

This, honestly, is the kind of game that Kevin Siegrist has toppled in many times this season.  This time, however, there would be no blinking.  With his 1-2-3 tenth inning, Kevin’s ERA for the month lowers to 2.70, while his batting average against and on base percentage both fall to .240.  Siegrist is another of the important bullpen arms that just may be rounding into form.

The Continuing Good Trend

The one positive trend that continued – although it took them awhile – was the offensive production.  With 8 runs scored, 4 doubles and 3 home runs in last night’s game, the Cards are on a 10-game tear where they have scored 65 runs, while hitting 20 doubles and 21 home runs.  They are slugging .528 as a team over those games.  Even though they are only hitting a modest .256 for the month of June, they have now hit 29 home runs in the 19 games played this month, and are scoring 4.74 runs per game.

And while last night’s production with runners on base was comparatively poor (they are hitting .351 in those situations over the course of their little hitting streak) they are continuing to get extra base hits in those situations (Piscotty the double, Yadier Molina a home run).  Through the last ten games, St Louis is slugging .662 when batting with runners in scoring position.

Tommy Pham

Getting his first extended taste of playing time, Tommy Pham is already about to pass his career highs in numerous categories, including hits (41 – he already has 38), doubles (7 – he has 6 already), home runs (9 – he hit his seventh last night), total bases (73 – he already has 65), runs scored (28 – he already has 25), walks (20 – he already has 18), and runs batted in – he set a new career high last night with 20.  He had never driven in more than 18 previously.  He also has more stolen bases already this year (6) than he had in his entire previous career (4).  If he can sustain his batting line of .281/.373/.481 with an OPS of .855 throughout the season, those would also all be career highs.

Paul DeJong

Filling Kolten Wong’s shoes is a tall task these days, but in his second look at the major leagues, Paul DeJong is making an even better impression than he did his first time around.  After a 2 for 5 night that included a double, DeJong is now hitting .350 (7 for 20) in the 5 games since his recall, and slugging .700.  In addition to yesterday’s double, Paul also has two home runs.

NoteBook

After losing the first game of 8 consecutive series, the Cards have now won four consecutive opening games.  So far, it hasn’t helped turn the tables.  St Louis has gone on to lose two of the previous series.

A Little Tired, Frankly, of the Home Run Derby

If it seems to you that there have been an inordinate amount of home runs hit against the Cardinal pitching staff lately, you are not alone.  The Baltimore series ended with the Orioles bopping 9 home runs over the last two games.  It was just the fifth time this century (and the first time since 2015) that the Cards allowed 9 home runs in back-to-back games.  They have served up 16 home runs over the last 6 games for the first time since 2003.

The four hit yesterday afternoon sparked Baltimore to an 8-5 victory (box score) that sent the Cardinals to their twenty-second loss in their last thirty-two games, dropping the once-first-place Cardinals to a season-most 5.5 games behind the “high-flying” Brewers.

When Scooter Gennett touched off four home runs against this team, it began a 13-game stretch in which Cardinal pitchers have served up 25 home runs – a home run barrage that hasn’t been seen in St Louis since 2008.

For the month of June, the Cardinal starting rotation has contributed 4 quality starts in 18 games.  They have managed just 93 innings in those games, during which they have served up 19 home runs (1.84 hr per 9 innings).  This has all led to a 6.29 ERA for the month for the rotation, accompanied by a .279/.360/.510 batting line.  Subtract Carlos Martinez’ numbers out of those totals, and the rest of the Cardinal rotation has limped along in the month of June with a 7.53 ERA and a batting line against of .306/.390/.582.  Martinez has accounted for 2 of the 4 quality starts the Cardinals have this month.

Of the 10 home runs served up by Cardinal hurlers over the three games in Baltimore, 7 were solo shots.  Even at that, though, Baltimore feasted yesterday (3 for 10 including a home run), and for the series (13 for 39 with 4 doubles and 3 home runs) when they hit with runners on base.  In this, the Cardinal pitching staff continued it’s month long struggle with runners on base.  In spite of the horrific overall numbers this month, opposing batters are still hitting just .247/.310/.436 with the bases empty.  But once a runner reaches, that line rises to .300/.375/.561. Even after the carnage of the Baltimore series, St Louis pitchers have still allowed just 16 home runs this month in 393 plate appearances with the bases empty, but 14 in 265 plate appearances with at least one runner on.

Lance Lynn

From April 17 through May 5, Lance Lynn seemed well on his way to a big free-agent paycheck.  It isn’t enough to say he threw four consecutive quality starts – these were dominant starts.  He pitched 25 innings over those starts, allowing 2 runs (0.72 ERA) on 16 hits (11 singles, 4 doubles, and just 1 home run).  He was 4-0 through that run, got ground balls on 53% of the balls hit in play against him, and held opposing hitters to a .188 batting average and a .271 slugging percentage.

Beginning on May 10, everything changed for Lynn.  The Cards beat Miami that day (7-5) but Lance lasted only 4 innings serving up 4 runs on 5 hits – including 2 home runs and 4 walks.  A blip?  That’s what we thought at the time.  But over his last 8 starts beginning with that game, it has rained home runs on Lance Lynn.  With the 4 that he served up in 4.2 innings yesterday, Lance has now had 12 hit against him in his last 43 innings.  He has lost 3 of his last 4 decisions, with a 4.40 ERA.

Yesterday, 15 of the 17 batters who put the ball in play against Lance, hit the ball in the air.  Over his last 8 starts, he has seen 63% fly balls.

For the season, 12 of the 16 home runs against Lance have come with the bases empty.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist came into yesterday’s game in the fifth inning trailing by five runs.  This was both the earliest in a game and the farthest behind that Kevin has been brought in to pitch this season.  It may mark the beginning of a role re-shuffle in the bullpen.  It could also have been a decision caused by a series of short outings by the starters.

For whatever reason, Kevin Siegrist has been a recurring theme in this month-long dry spell.  Kevin has appeared in 12 of the last 32 games, and has given up his own runs in 4 of them, and allowed two inherited runners to score in another.  Yesterday’s run – considering the Cards already trailed 7-2 – was probably the least damaging of the set.

He was the loser in the thirteenth inning of the May 20 game against San Francisco that was scoreless after 12.  He came in in the seventh inning of the June 5 game against Cincinnati with the score tied at two and allowed both inherited runners to score – sending Cincinnati home with a 4-2 victory.  He allowed the last run in the June 14 game against Milwaukee that left the late rally just short, 7-6.

Since mid-May, Kevin has pitched 10 innings over 12 games, serving six runs on 14 hits.  The last 42 batters he has faced are hitting .350 against him.

The only batter Kevin faced last night with a runner on base was Manny Machado, who hit with Seth Smith at third and one out.  Machado singled sharply up the middle to drive in the run.  For the season, batters are hitting .232 against Kevin (13 for 56) when they face him with the bases empty.  They are now hitting .333 (14 for 42) when they face Siegrist with a runner on.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil pitched an efficient 13-pitch eighth inning.  He, too, has had some bad moments over the last 32 games.  But Brett has had more good moments than bad.  Cecil has pitched in 13 of the last 32 games.  Over 11.2 innings in those games, Cecil holds a 3.09 ERA with a .190 batting average against.

Keeping the bases clean is a key for Brett.  So far this year, opposing hitters are batting .245 against him with the bases empty.  But once runners get on, that average leaps to .308.

Trevor Rosenthal

“Good” Trevor Rosenthal pitched the seventh in 1-2-3 fashion, striking out 2 along the way.  Trevor has now faced 66 batters this season with the bases empty.  He has struck out 33 of them.

Matthew Bowman

Eighteen games into the month, only two members of the pitching staff have ERAs under 3.  One, of course, is Carlos Martinez (2.11).  The other?  Matthew Bowman.  At 1.93, Matthew is something of a surprising answer because – as with most other members of the pen – his moments of struggle stand out more than his solid moments.  After retiring both men he faced yesterday, Bowman has pitched 9.1 innings this month, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 7 hits with 3 walks and 8 strikeouts.  He has also stranded all four of the runners he’s inherited.

Runs Without Hits?

Through parts of this disheartening 10-22 streak, the Cardinal offense struggled profoundly to score runs.  Through the latter end of it, the offense has been more forthcoming.  Throughout, though, they haven’t managed an impressive amount of hits.  Yesterday, the Cards furnished 4 home runs of their own, but managed only 2 other hits.  Since the beginning of the Boston series in mid-May, the Cardinals have hit .244.

That number includes just a .235 batting average (155 for 659) with the bases empty.  Yesterday, they hit three home runs with the bases empty, but added only one other hit in 24 at bats (.167).  Twenty-nine of the thirty-six Cardinals who came to the plate yesterday did so with the bases empty (80.6%).

Dexter Fowler

Much improved since moving into the second slot in the lineup, Dexter Fowler has been simply scorching since last Sunday.  Hitting in 7 of his last 8 games, Dexter is 13 for his last 28 (.464) with a 1.036 slugging percentage (5 of the hits have been home runs).  In fact, after collecting a single, a home run, a walk and 2 runs batted in yesterday, Dexter now has 6 multi-hit games in his last 8, has hit a home run in four consecutive games and has driven in 9 over his last four games.  Much has been made of the fact that Fowler already has as many home runs this year (13) as he did all last year.  It is also true that after driving in 48 runs all of last year (and having never driven in more than 53 in any year), Dexter already has 35 this year.

Even while the Cardinals are doing their best to fade from contention this month, Dexter Fowler has established himself as a legitimate player of the month candidate.  Through 18 games in June, Dexter has 6 home runs, 16 runs batted in, and a .333/.433/.702 batting line.  What started out as one of his worst years may yet end up one of his best.

While batting leadoff most of the first two months of the season, Dexter was up with the bases empty 67.2% of the time.  Thus far in June, that ratio is down to 58.2%.  For the season – after his 2 for 3 yesterday – Dexter is hitting .311/.424/.608 with runners on base.  His 13 home runs include two 2-run shots and three 3-run homers.

Jedd Gyorko

Cleanup hitter Jedd Gyorko is trending the other way.  A .340 hitter as late as May 12, Jedd is hitting .241/.286/.328 for the month of June after his 0 for 4 last night.  He has 1 home run and 6 RBIs this month.

Jedd is at .182 this month (6 for 33) when batting with the bases empty – as he did in all four plate appearances yesterday.

Tommy Pham

After his 0 for 4 last night, Tommy Pham is now hitless in 7 at bats since his fourth-inning double off of Wade Miley in the second game in Baltimore.  Overall, Tommy’s numbers are still very good – he still carries a .277/.373/.462 batting line, but his June is opening the door for Randal Grichuk – reportedly heating things up, now, in AAA.  Tommy is just 12 for 55 this month (.218), with 2 doubles, 1 home run and just 4 runs batted in.  His June slugging percentage is .309.

One of the game’s turning points came in the top of the third inning.  Cards trailing 2-1 with two quick outs.  Then Matt Carpenter draws a walk and Fowler follows with a single.  This would be the only time in the game that the Cards would have a runner in scoring position – and the only time in the game they put two runners on base (except for Fowler’s two-run homer).  Swinging on 3-0, Pham rolled to second, ending the inning.  A statistical curiosity.  So far this season, Pham is hitting .297 with a .409 on base percentage when he hits with the bases empty.  He is hitting .368 (14 for 38) with a .789 slugging percentage with 1 runner on base.  Four of his six home runs have been two-run blasts.  With more than one runner on base, Tommy is 0 for 18.

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia is another hitter that June has been mostly unkind to.  After his 0 for 4 yesterday, Greg is now 1 for 19 (.053) for the month.

NoteBook

Coming off a series sweep at the hands of Arizona, Philadelphia becomes St Louis’ sixth straight opponent to have not won its previous series (5 had lost and one had split).  St Louis has lost four of those previous five series – with the first Philadelphia series being the only exception.

Carlos Martinez Plays Stopper – With Some Help From His Friends

Over the last two days, we have looked at character games – one run games and games against winning teams.  Thus far in 2017, St Louis has struggled notably in both of those situations.  Today, we’ll look at my third category of character games – games after a loss.  As you might expect, considering this club has already suffered through 5 three-game losing streaks, a four-game losing streak and a seven-game losing streak, the record in games after a loss is also fairly dismal (14-21).

For the first half of the month of June, it has been the starting pitching that has been most responsible for keeping this club in losing streaks.  In nine previous opportunities this month to answer the previous night’s loss, the rotation has managed 1 quality start (surprisingly from Michael Wacha against Philadelphia on June 9), a 1-5 record (the win, again, belonging to Wacha), a 7.47 ERA with a batting line against of .302/.383/.497.

But last night, Carlos Martinez played stopper.  In 92 pitches over 6 innings – and with a rare shower of offensive support – Martinez retired the Cardinals’ latest three-game losing streak with a convincing 11-2 victory over the floundering Baltimore Orioles (box score).

Carlos Martinez

Carlos’ effort last night was his second consecutive quality start, and his ninth in his last ten games.  Through his first four starts of the season, Martinez may not have completely lived up to expectations (he was 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA at that point), but has certainly played the part of the ace since.  He is 6-2 over his last 10 games with a 2.26 ERA and a .173 batting average against.  While the team has struggled to right itself this month, Carlos Martinez has been one of the few pillars of excellence.  He is 2-1 in June with a 2.11 ERA and a soft .169 batting average against.  Of the 12 hits he has allowed in 21.1 June innings, only 3 have been for extra bases – all doubles.  The slugging percentage against Martinez by the 78 batters he has faced so far this month is a negligible .211.

Carlos has been warming to the stopper’s role.  With a lot of losing going on, 9 of Martinez’ 14 starts have followed a loss.  Carlos has come through with quality starts in 7 of the 9 games, with a 2.47 ERA.  His record in those games is 4-3 (and the team is 5-4), but that speaks more to lack of run support.  Last night was only the third time in those 9 games that St Louis has scored more than 2 runs.

Since he became a member of the rotation beginning in 2015, Martinez has made 34 starts in games after a Cardinal loss.  He has responded with 22 quality starts and 220.2 innings during which he has allowed 189 hits (including 14 home runs) while striking out 219.  He is 17-8 in those games (with three other potential wins lost by the bullpen) with a 2.94 ERA.

The fiery, passionate Martinez seems a good fit for the stopper role.

The Other Starters as Stopper

Lance Lynn has had five opportunities to halt Cardinal losing streaks.  Although St Louis has only won two of those, Lynn has pitched very well in his opportunities as the stopper.  He is 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA.  Mike Leake has made 8 starts after a Cardinal loss.  Leake is 2-5 as the stopper (and the team is 2-6 having lost the last four), but his 3.46 ERA in games after a loss suggests that Mike has pitched better than that record indicates.  Michael Wacha (2-1, 5.09 in 7 starts) and Adam Wainwright (3-3, 6.16 in six starts) have struggled most as stoppers thus far.  St Louis is 2-5 when Wacha starts after a loss.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil got off to a bad start in his relationship with Cardinal fans.  Recently, he spit up a 3-run, seventh inning lead in a June 7 loss to Cincinnati.  In spite of that slip, Brett has been starting to resemble the pitcher we had hoped to see this year.  He threw a spotless seventh last night (yes, I know he had a 9-run lead at the time), and that difficult inning in Cincinnati was the only time in his last 12 games that he allowed an earned run.

Lots of Help From His Friends

After seeing infrequent offensive support for much of the season – and Martinez has already made three starts this year where he has pitched at least 7.1 innings without allowing a run, but has only won one of those games – Carlos has become the most recent beneficiary of the resurgent Cardinal offense.  The aroused offense tallied 11 runs on 14 hits that included a double and 5 home runs.  Since the second game of the Philadelphia series (the game Nick Pivetta started against them), the Cards have been averaging 6.43 runs per game, while slashing .288/.366/.515.  It’s very encouraging, but there haven’t been an abundance of elite pitchers included in the barrage.

Paul DeJong

Rookie Paul DeJong played igniter last night with 3 hits, 3 runs scored and 3 runs batted in.  Of the 14 major league games he’s played in, 11 have followed Cardinal losses – so this is starting to be business as usual for him.  Paul is now 11 for 40 (.275) in those games.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s hitting streak reached ten games with 2 more hits last night.  It was his fourth consecutive game with at least two hits.  He is 17 for 38 (.447) during the streak, with 7 doubles and 4 home runs – a .947 slugging percentage.

The streak raises Carpenter’s June batting average up to .333 (19 for 57), and his slugging percentage up to .667 for the month, with 11 runs batted in – all driven in over the last 10 games.

Carpenter has always hit very well in games after a loss.  He has now played in 356 such games over his career, hitting .294/.390/.480 with 41 home runs.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler also singled and homered, driving in 2 runs last night.  Dexter now has hits in 6 of his last 8 games, during which he is hitting .423 (11 for 26) and slugging .846 (2 doubles and 3 home runs).  He has driven in 9 runs in his last 6 games, and now has 30 for the year – 11 of them in June, where he is now hitting .306/.414/.612 for the month with 4 home runs.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham was one of the many offensive contributors – he also had a single and a home run.  Tommy has now played in 21 games after a Cardinal loss – games in which he is hitting .313 (20 for 64) with 3 home runs and 11 runs batted in.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty was the lone starter not to join in the fun last night.  Stephen’s difficult season continues.  After his 0 for 4 last night, Stephen is hitting just .167 over his last 9 games (5 for 30) with just 1 extra-base hit (a double).  He is down to .243 for the year.

Winning Teams – Like the Brewers – Still Own the Cards

After a comfortable win in the first game of the Milwaukee series, the Cardinals engaged the Brewers in three very tightly contested games – games that weren’t decided until the seventh inning or later.  All three games were eventually won by Milwaukee – the last one by a 6-4 score last night (box score).  You could say that the results of these games were less important than the fact that the Cards were “in” every game (even a game they trailed 6-0 at one point).  But the truth is that this recent series fits neatly into the predominant pattern of the Cardinal season.  They are still the team that blinks.  Now just 10-19 against teams that currently have a winning record (a list that does not at the moment include the defending champion Cubs), the statistical message they are loudly sending is that they are simply are not good enough.  That, at least, is the testimony of the season’s first 65 games.

What is curious about this (so far) disappointing team, is the difficulty we have determining its strengths and weaknesses.  Of all the question marks coming into the season, one area of assumed strength was the bullpen – which has been mostly disastrous this season.  Not that there haven’t been other issues, but I think it’s accurate to say that if the Cardinal bullpen had managed to be just average, this team could very well be in first place.  They certainly would be over .500.

Meanwhile, for the season’s first two months the starting rotations ranked among the elite rotations in baseball while the offense did all it could to undermine their efforts.  As May has faded into June, the offense is beginning to find itself while the rotation has been dutifully melting down.

Michael Wacha’s abbreviated four-inning start last night leaves the rotation with only 3 quality starts and a 5.36 ERA through the first 15 games of June – 10 of which have been losses.

Michael Wacha

On May 19, Wacha walked off the mound having thrown 6 innings of 4-hit shutout ball against the San Francisco Giants.  Even though the bullpen turned his 2-0 lead into an eventual 6-5 loss, optimism was high that the Cardinals had revived the career of the talented but oft-injured right-hander.  At that point, Wacha had pitched 42.2 innings over 7 starts (5 of them quality starts).  He held a 2-1 record (with two other potential wins lost by the bullpen), a 2.74 ERA and a .242 batting average against.

Since that moment, Wacha has mostly unraveled.  In the 5 starts he has made since then, Wacha has lasted at least five innings only once.  He has lasted only 21.1 innings total – during which it has rained hits (30 including 4 home runs) and runs (22 – 21 of them earned).  He is 1-2 with an 8.86 ERA, a .333 batting average against, and a .567 slugging percentage against since May 19.  It’s starting to be quite a while since Michael has been good.

Wacha is one of the pitchers that winning teams have taken advantage of all season.  This was his fifth start against teams that have won more than they’ve lost.  He has no quality starts against them, going 0-3 with a 7.83 ERA, lasting just 23 innings in those starts.  Serving up 35 hits – including 5 home runs – in those games, Michael is seeing the league’s better teams hit .361 and slug .588 against him.

Needless to say, the early season enthusiasm over Michael has cooled considerably.

Winning Teams v the Other Cardinal Starters

While the rotation has hit on some collective rough times this month, over the whole season, when faced with winning teams, most of the Cardinals starters have been appreciably competitive.

Carlos Martinez has been the best, his 2-3 record notwithstanding.  He has produced quality starts in 3 of his 5 games with a 3.00 ERA and a .203 batting average against.  From 2015 when Carlos became a member of the rotation, he has made 31 starts and 2 relief appearances against winning teams, providing a 14-12 record, a 3.29 ERA, and a .226 batting average against.  Twenty of those 31 starts have been quality starts.

Lance Lynn (2-3, 3.09 ERA) and Mike Leake (3-2, 3.29 ERA) have also pitched very well against the better teams they’ve faced.  Lynn has held these clubs to a .176 average.  Leake (who was only 1-8, 4.84 ERA against winning teams last year) has held these teams to a .223 batting average.  He has also walked just 6 in 41 innings over 6 starts.

Adam Wainwright has made 6 such starts so far this year, managing a 3-2 record in spite of a 4.26 ERA and a .328 batting average against.

Seung-hwan Oh

The previous night, it was Kevin Siegrist who surrendered the seventh inning run that would give Milwaukee just enough margin to hold onto the 7-6 victory.  Kevin pitched a flawless seventh last night.  The night before it had been Trevor Rosenthal surrendering 3 eighth-inning runs that served up the second game of the doubleheader to the Brewers by an 8-5 score.  Trevor pitched the eighth again last night, allowing a hit but no damage.

So last night it was Seung-hwan Oh’s turn.  Again.  Entering in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game, Oh served up a single and the two run home run that sealed the three-game losing streak.

Before he came into last Sunday’s ninth inning against Philadelphia, Oh seemed to be the one member of the Cardinal bullpen who looked like he was starting to figure things out.  He had a modest six-game streak of not giving up a run, holding batters to a .174/.208/.217 batting line.  In addition, he had struck out 11 batters in those 6.1 innings.

He picked up that save on Sunday, although not before he allowed 4 hits and turned a 6-3 lead into a 6-5 nail-biter.  Summoned in the eighth-inning in game two of the Brewer series with the bases loaded and facing a 1-run deficit, Seung-hwan gave a hit and a sacrifice fly to let 2 of the 3 runners score.  After last night, the last 16 batters to face him have 7 hits (including a home run) and a sacrifice fly – a .467 batting average and a .667 slugging percentage.  Seung-hwan doesn’t look so fixed anymore.

John Brebbia

If the name John Brebbia meant nothing to you before the season started, you were not alone.  His promotion from Memphis in late May didn’t occasion hordes of media types descending to witness his major league debut.  But there has been little not to like about Brebbia as he continues to get outs in an otherwise out-challenged bullpen.  Brought in yesterday in perhaps his most crucial situation yet (tie game, bases loaded, fifth inning, no one out), John did a very capable job defusing the situation while allowing just one of the runners to score.  He then added a scoreless sixth.

It’s only a total of 8.2 innings over 8 games, but John’s numbers are encouraging – two runs allowed on three hits – a 2.08 ERA and a .103 batting average against.  Serving up one of the Scooter Gennett home runs in Cincinnati on June 6 has been the only blemish on his record so far.

Five of Brebbia’s first eight games have come against winning teams.  They haven’t been terribly high leveraged situations, but he has, nonetheless, thrown 5.2 innings of one-hit scoreless ball in those games.

Matt Carpenter

If you are looking for positives to take away from this game – and in fact this series – you pretty much have the top of the batting order: Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler.

Famously re-inserted into the top of the order nine games ago, Carpenter has responded with a 9 game hitting streak during which he has hit .429 (15 of 35) and slugged .886 (7 doubles and 3 home runs).  All 7 of the doubles have come in the last six games after Matt had hit only 5 doubles through his first 55 games.  Carpenter has also gone 5 games without striking out.

After beginning the month just 2 for his first 19 (.105), Carpenter may have put himself in the player of the month conversation.  He is now hitting .315 and slugging .611 this month.  His June OPS is currently .994.

Dexter Fowler

As Carpenter is starting to make things happen in the leadoff spot, Fowler has been heating up in the second position as well.  In the nine games since Carpenter was switched, Fowler has hit .357 (10 for 28) and slugged .679 (3 doubles and 2 home runs).  He added a home run and a single last night.  After a rough start, Fowler’s June batting line is starting to look very healthy.  In 54 plate appearances this month, Dexter has 7 singles, 3 doubles, 3 home runs, 7 runs scored, 9 runs batted in, and 8 walks – a .283/.389/.543 line that adds up to a not-so-shabby .932 OPS.

Jose Martinez

The Brewers series (in which he started all four games) started on a very high note for Jose Martinez.  He hit two home runs in the first game, drove in another run with a ground ball in the second game, and then added two more RBIs with a triple in the third game.  It finished on a much lower note, as he went hitless in his last seven at bats – including the deflating double play that ended the eighth.

The three extra-base hits from the Milwaukee series notwithstanding, Martinez is just 5 for 26 (.192) this month.

NoteBook

Tonight’s opponent – the Baltimore Orioles – come into the series having lost three of four to the White Sox.  Earlier this season, St Louis played a streak of six straight opponents that had lost their previous series (Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago & Boston).  This was immediately followed by a streak of four straight opponents that had won their previous series (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Colorado & Los Angeles again).  The Orioles will now be St Louis’ fifth straight opponent since LA not to have won its previous series (Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia – which split a four game series, Milwaukee and Baltimore).

Rally Falls One Run Short Again

If May was characterized by a sluggish offense that made a habit of wasting outstanding starting pitching, the 5-9 (so far) June of this strangely symmetrical season has been characterized by a fading rotation wasting some substantial offense.  Last night, the Cards lost their second 7-6 game this month (box score) after Mike Leake dug them a 6-0 hole in the first two innings.  To his credit, Mike battled back to finish six innings with no more damage – giving the Cards a chance to get back in the game.  In the end, though, this was yet another tight game that the Cards could have won, but didn’t.

Winning one-run games has been one of many struggles for this team.  Teams with high character will – over the course of the season – win most of their one-run games.

Now 9-13 on the season, the Cards have fallen to 2-3 in the 5 one-run contests played already this month – games in which the starting pitchers have managed just 1 quality start with a 6.08 ERA.  In just 26.2 innings, the rotation has served up 28 hits (including 7 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs) while walking 14 other batters in games this month that have ended up as one-run games.

The rotation has now not put together a quality start since Carlos Martinez tossed his shutout against Philadelphia.  Fourteen games into the month of June, the rotation has managed 3 quality starts and holds a 5-5 record with a 5.17 ERA.  They have combined to serve up 11 home runs in 76.2 innings.

Mike Leake

Through his first nine starts, Mike Leake took baseball by storm.  With quality starts in all 9 games, Mike was 5-2 with a league leading 1.91 ERA.  In 4 starts since then, Mike has no quality starts, an 0-4 record, and a 6.20 ERA.  His batting line has fallen from the .210/.242/.339 of those early starts to .316/.370/.500 these last 4 times out.

This was the fifth of his 13 starts that ended as a one-run game, and the first of the five that Mike didn’t contribute a quality start to.  He is 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA in those games.  The Cards are 1-4 in those games.

Other Starters in One-Run Games

Michael Wacha is the starter most frequently involved in one-run games.  Six of his eleven starts have been decided by one run (with St Louis winning only 2 of them).  These include both of his starts this month, a 7-6 loss to Chicago and a 3-2 win against Philadelphia.  Wacha has pitched well enough in these 6 games, with 4 quality starts, a 2-1 record, and a 3.60 ERA.

Carlos Martinez has been the rotation’s best in one-run games so far this year.  Only 4 of his starts have ended in one-run differentials, but the Cards have won 3 of them (4-3 vs Chicago, 2-1 wins against Milwaukee and Los Angeles).  Carlos has 3 quality starts in those games, a 2-1 record and a 0.96 ERA.

Lance Lynn has started three of these games.  He is 1-0 with a 1.33 ERA in 20.1 innings in them.  St Louis has lost his two non-decisions – including his duel with Clayton Kershaw that wasn’t decided until the thirteenth inning.

Adam Wainwright has started 4 of the one-run games.  He is 1-1 in these games while the team is 2-2.  In those four starts, Adam has no quality starts and a 5.31 ERA.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist pitched the seventh inning and – of course – allowed the run that eventually decided the game.  This was the sixth time this season that Kevin has pitched on consecutive days.  These appearances have totaled 5.1 innings, during which Siegrist has been touched for 6 runs on 10 hits – a 10.13 ERA and a .400 batting average against.  Perhaps a trend to keep an eye on.

Siegrist has been – over his career – one of the team’s best performers in one-run games.  During his first four years, he had appeared in 98 of them, going 9-7 with 30 holds and 2 saves while letting go of a lead just 8 times.  His career ERA in one-run games was 2.35 with a .203 batting average against.  He was especially good last year with an 0.96 ERA and a .160 batting average against in 30 one-run games (28 innings).

In 2017, Kevin has now pitched in 8 one-run games, accounting for 7.1 innings.  This was the first run he has allowed in any of those games.

Offense Starting to Find Its Way

Although the Phillies and Brewers don’t boast elite pitching staffs, the Cards are starting put together a little bit of offensive consistency over their last five games.  With the 6 runs last night, St Louis is now at 30 runs over these games – although they haven’t always done it with an over-abundance of hits.  Last night they had a 4-run second and a two-run homer in the eighth, but finished with only 7 hits on the night.  For the month of June, the team batting average slips to .249.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter hit leadoff for the eighth straight game last night, and ran his corresponding hitting streak to eight games.  He singled, doubled (his fifth straight game with a double), walked, was hit by a pitch and drove in his ninth run of the hitting streak.  Carp is now 13 for his last 31 (.419), with 8 of the hits for extra bases (including 3 home runs) – an .871 slugging percentage.

The streak pushes his overall average for the month of June to .300 (15 for 50) and his slugging percentage to .580.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz hit the two-run eighth-inning home run that narrowed what had been a 6-0 lead to what would be a 7-6 final.  Aledmys also had a single and ended up scoring two runs on the night.  He has 3 hits in his last six at bats, and is now back over .260 for the season (.262), but is at .279 for the month of June (12 for 43) with a .512 slugging percentage (he has 4 doubles and 2 home runs this month).

Aledmys didn’t contribute much offensively during the 17 one-run games played in April and May (he slashed .182/.217/.242 in 66 at bats in those games), but he has been a driving force in the five played so far in June.  In games that have ended up as 3-2 and 7-6 losses against Chicago, 3-2 and 6-5 wins against Philadelphia, and last night’s 7-6 loss to Milwaukee, Diaz is 8 for 19 (.421) with 5 extra-base hits and an .895 slugging percentage.  In the second half of last season (after returning from the disabled list), Diaz hit .349 in the team’s final 11 one-run games.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty slides to 0 for his last 8 after last night’s 0 for 4.  He hasn’t driven in a run – and in fact has only one extra-base hit – in his last 5 games – a span during which he is hitting .188 (3 for 16) and slugging .250.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko got things rolling with a two-run double against Nick Pivetta in the middle game of the Philadelphia series.  He hasn’t had a hit since then – a streak that has now reached 11 at bats following his 0-for-3 last night.  Gyorko has fallen back under .300 to .296 for the season, and is slashing .244/.289/.293 for the month of June, so far.

One of the interesting things about the recent offensive surge is that the Cards have done it with little contribution from their third and fourth place hitters.  And just to be clear, here, a 3-for-16 skid or an 0-for-11 isn’t anything to be overly concerned about.  It’s the kind of lull that attaches itself to everybody at some point during the long season.  Gyorko’s 10 for 41 July (which includes no home runs and only 2 doubles) is more cause for concern, but even that is nothing to panic over.  If the guys who are hot keep doing what they’re doing until Piscotty and Gyorko come around, this offense will be just fine.

From the All-Star break through the end of the season, St Louis was 17-8 in one-run games.  A principle factor in this success was the bat of Jedd Gyorko, who hit .286/.348/.631 with 9 home runs in those games.  Jedd has played in 18 of St Louis’ first 22 one-run games of 2017, hitting just .215 (14 for 65) with just one home run (hit off of CC Sabathia in the eighth inning in New York on April 15 as the Cards scored two late runs to trim a 3-0 deficit to a 3-2 final).

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia took over for Kolten Wong, who left the game with tightness in his forearm (and has since returned to the disabled list).  Greg has been a very useful role player, but he has also struggled at the plate this month.  He is now 1 for 14 in June (.071) after his 0-for-2 last night.

Last year, Greg hit a solid .268 in 30 one-run games (19 for 71).  He is now 1 for 19 (.053) in 16 one-run games in 2017.

Cards Beat Brewers Lefty, But Only Manage Split

As the Cardinals rarely see left-handers (only 14 had started against them in the season’s first 61 games – and none since Jon Lester on June 3) – and seeing that the Cards typically don’t do terribly well against left-handed pitching (a .233/.317/.347 batting line going into yesterday’s matchup), it was interesting to see how they would respond to a surprise start from the unheralded lefty Brent Suter – who got the ball when a tight hamstring sidelined presumed starter Brandon Woodruff.

What followed would be mostly predictable.  Brent set down the first 8 he faced before walking the pitcher, and made it through the fourth allowing just one hit.  But then a surprising thing happened.  The lefty didn’t make it through the fifth, as the Cardinals cycled him in that inning.

Beginning with a jolt off the bat of Jose Martinez (the first of his two home runs on the afternoon), followed quickly by a triple from Chad Huffman, a double from Matt Carpenter and a flared single from Dexter Fowler, the Cards went into the sixth with a 3-0 lead that would eventually stand as a 6-0 victory (box score).

The home run by Martinez was only the ninth hit by a Cardinal off a lefty all year.

Once Suter departed, the Cards found better success against the right-handers that finished that game and pitched the night-cap of the doubleheader.  After scoring 6 runs in the first game, St Louis added 5 more on 12 hits in the nightcap, but it wasn’t enough as they fell 8-5 (box score).  The Cards finished the day 15 for 47 (.319) against Milwaukee’s right-handers.

Although he didn’t take the loss, the Cards also gave the ball to a lefty starter (Marco Gonzales) in the second game, who – paralleling Suter’s start pretty closely – threw two very good innings before being knocked out in the fourth.  Both lefty starters also got their first base hits of the year.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler seems to have found himself a bit batting second.  Since the switch there six games ago, Dexter has hit safely in 4 of the 6 games, going 7 for 19 (.368).  Three of the hits are for extra-bases – including a home run – so he is slugging .632 in those games.

He was 3 for 5 in the doubleheader, and is now up to .289 (11 for 38) for the month of June.  Dexter has gone 5 games without striking out.

Matt Carpenter

I am still not convinced that Matt Carpenter can only hit when he’s batting leadoff.  Hitters can hit.  That being said, Carpenter was moved back into the leadoff spot in the order 7 games ago and has responded with a 7-game hitting streak.  Nothing about the streak has been soft.  He went 4 for 8 in the doubleheader yesterday, with 2 doubles and a home run.  He is now 11 for 28 (.393) during the streak with an .857 slugging percentage (he has 4 doubles and 3 home runs during the streak).  He scored 3 and drove in 3 yesterday, giving him 6 runs scored and 8 driven in over his last seven games.

This little run brings Carpenter up to .277 for the month (13 for 47) with a .553 slugging percentage.  If this keeps up, we may have to start thinking about batting the pitcher eighth and putting Kolten Wong in the ninth spot.  (Although, for all we know that my jinx the leadoff magic.  Perhaps Matt can only hit if he follows the pitcher in the lineup?)

Carpenter did most of his damage after the lefty departed from game one.  He was 3 for his last 5 with a double and a home run.  Eleven of his twelve home runs this season have come off of right-handers.  Thirty-seven of the forty-nine home runs that Carp hit in the previous two seasons also came off of righties.  For the month of June, Matt is hitting .286 (12 for 42) and slugging .571 against them.

Kolten Wong

Another element in the little uptick in offense has been the return of Kolten Wong.  Certainly a spark-plug type of player, Kolten has played in five games since his return and hit in all five of them – getting 2 hits in 3 of the games.  He is 8 for 18 (.444) since his return.

Wong was 0 for 2 while the lefty was in there, but perked up against Milwaukee’s succession of right-handers.  He went 3 for 6 against them, and is now 8 for 16 against them since his return.  For the season, Kolten Wong carries a .301 batting average against right-handed pitchers (37 for 123).  Before this season, he was a .249 lifetime hitter against right-handers.

Jose Martinez

In the few games he played at the end of 2016, Jose Martinez did show a little ability against left-handed pitching (he was 6 for 12 against lefties).  Whether that factored into Mike Matheny’s thinking as he filled out the lineup card for game one, we don’t know.  But it may factor into his thinking going forward.  With the first of his 2 home runs yesterday afternoon, Jose raised his average against left-handers to .400 (8 for 20) this year.  With three of the other hits being doubles, Jose is now slugging .700 against left-handed pitching in his few opportunities so far.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham has cooled considerably since his torrid start.  His doubleheader featured one infield hit in 8 at bats, dropping him to .231 for the month (9 for 39) with just 1 double and 2 runs batted in.

Tommy Pham didn’t hit very much against right-handers last year – he batted just .206 against them.  But he did draw 9 walks against them.  He was just 1 for 6 against the right-handed arms he faced yesterday – and is now down to .212 against them this month.  But he was also hit by a pitch, keeping his on base percentage at .366 for the month, and .373 for the year against righties.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko is now 0 for his last 8 after an 0-for-4 doubleheader.  Jedd has never hit higher than .249 in any previous season, so every time he goes into a little spin, it will cause people to wonder if he’s reverting back to the expectations of his previous seasons.  Jedd’s last home run came in Colorado – 16 games, 49 plate appearances, and 185 pitches ago.

Jedd started the first game against the lefty, going 0 for 2 against him.  Jedd has now been to the plate against left-handed pitching 47 times this season and has drawn 2 walks.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn doesn’t have a quality start yet in three starts this month.  He lasted five yesterday afternoon, throwing 95 pitches, walking 4 and striking out 8.  But he gave no runs and got the win in the opener.  That has kind of been the story of Lance’s month.  Three starts, 15.1 innings, 10 walks, 18 strikeouts, only 3 runs.  No quality starts, but a 1-0 record, a 1.76 ERA, and a .151 batting average against.

Lance has been particularly devastating against right-handers this year.  The Brewer righties were 1 for 9 against him (a first-inning single from Hernan Perez) with 5 strikeouts.  For the season, righties are hitting .135/.201/.218 against him.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal re-wrote my narrative for the day.  For most of the evening, the story line today was going to be about the beleaguered bullpen rising up to throw a combined 8.2 innings of shutout baseball while leading the team to a doubleheader sweep.  It was a great story line – and absolutely true.

Right up to the moment that Trevor Rosenthal took the mound for the eighth inning of a 5-5 second game.  Four batters and 25 pitches later, Milwaukee had a 6-5 lead with the bases loaded and no one out.  And Rosenthal was gone.  Closer Seung-hwan Oh came on to try to wiggle out of the mess, but before he could get through, two more runs had scored and the game had gotten away.

When Trevor has been good, he’s been remarkable.  His consistency, though, is underwhelming at the moment.  Rosenthal has not allowed runs in consecutive appearances yet this year, but seems to regularly leak every third or fourth outing.  He has allowed runs in 7 of his 26 games, and has thrown fewer than 60% of his pitches for strikes in 8 of the 26 – including 5 of the last 9.  Last night – throwing almost all fastballs – Trevor could only find the plate with 11 of his throws (44%).

Here’s the problem with the Cardinal bullpen.  In a situation like this, it would be easy to say that Rosenthal should be moved to lower leveraged situations until he finds some consistency.  Unfortunately, that’s true for everyone in the bullpen.  They have all consistently – almost rhythmically – blown up about every third or fourth outing.  The only true constant of the Cardinal season thus far has been late inning bullpen drama – and it hasn’t seemed to matter who is on the mound in the seventh or eighth inning.

With 99 games left in the season, it’s a problem that there still isn’t an answer for.

Three-Run Leads and Other Random Trends Through 61 Games

By the time today’s doubleheader plays out (assuming both games get played), there will be fewer than 100 games left in the season.  We are past the one-third mark, and about a month away from the All-Star Break.  Still, any real understanding of this team remains elusive.

While the sweep of the Philles has lightened the mood, the Cardinals enter their four-game series against division-leading Milwaukee just 4-7 this month.  There have been issues scoring runs.  To this point, St Louis has failed to score at least 4 runs in 7 of the first 11 games this month.  There have also been pitching and defensive issues.  In those same 11 games, 5 or more runs have been scored against St Louis 6 times.

For the season, they have only been held under 4 runs 27 times (44%).

Six has been a serious number 18 times so far this season (30% of the games).  Once they get to six runs, they are 16-2.  When scoring less than 6 runs, they are 13-30.  They have given up 6 or more runs 17 times so far this season, losing all of those games.

Stalwarts of the early season, Mike Leake and Lance Lynn have combined to make 4 starts so far in June.  The Cards have lost all 4.  The Cards are 8-5 this season in Adam Wainwright’s starts and 4-7 when Michael Wacha takes the ball.

The Cards have endured a sub .500 June so far in spite of the fact that they have scored first in 6 of the 11 games.  They are only 2-4 this month when scoring the first run.  At 2-3, their record is actually better when they don’t score first.  For the season they are 20-15 when they score first, and 9-17 when they don’t.  Last year, they were 55-25 (.688) when scoring first and 31-51 (.378) when they allowed the game’s first run.

St Louis has led at some point in 5 of their 7 losses this month.  With the month not yet half over, the Cards have already blown 3 two-run leads and 2 three-run leads.

For the season, St Louis has lost 19 games that they led at some point.  These losses include 6 two-run leads, 6 three-run leads, and 2 four-run leads.

Once last year’s team got a lead of at least three runs, they were 64-5.  This year’s edition (20-8 with at least a three-run lead) has already squandered more four- and three-run leads than last year’s team did all year.

Conversely, the Cards have only 10 come from behind wins – but 3 of those have been from 4-run deficits.

Tuesday might be the worst day for the Cards to have scheduled this double-header.  They are 3-7 so far on Tuesday – their worst record on any day.

St Louis opens the series against the Brewers just 6-14 in opening games of series.  After game one, they are 23-18 (.561).

Wainwright, Offense, Secures Sweep of Phillies

From the beginning it was a struggle.  With single runs in the first two innings, the Philadelphia Phillies took the early lead.  It was a struggle at the end, as well, as an almost comfortable lead nearly disappeared.  But this time St Louis had just enough.  Just enough grit from Adam Wainwright.  Just enough runs from the offense.  And just enough luck to hold on for the 6-5 win that swept the three game weekend series (box score).

Adam Wainwright

Admittedly without his fine command, Adam Wainwright battled through five innings to earn his seventh victory in his last 8 decisions.  After yielding 7 hits in 3.2 innings in his previous starts, Adam has now given 13 hits over his last 8.2 innings.  For the month of June, Adam is allowing opponent’s to hit .288 against him (although he is 2-1 so far this month).

The Phillies hacked at 39 of the 84 pitches that Adam spun in their direction.  They only missed with 5 of those swings.  Swing-and-miss stuff may be a little over-rated (Mike Leake has the rotation’s lowest swing-and-miss ratio at just 17.6%, with Waino second at 18.4%), but you would think that Adam with that curveball should have a few more misses.  Among rotation members, Carlos Martinez gets the most misses on swings against his pitches.  Batters come up empty 25.1% of the time against Carlos.

With the five inning effort by Adam, the rotation has managed just 3 quality starts through the first 11 games of the month.

Surviving the Bullpen

St Louis finished the sweep of the struggling Philadelphia club, but to do so had to once again overcome shakiness from the bullpen.  A prime contributing factor to the seven-game losing streak that opened this month, the bullpen continues to be a sore spot – allowing more runs yesterday (3) in four innings than the starter gave up (2) in five.

Through the first 11 games in June, the St Louis bullpen carries a 4.85 ERA and a .523 slugging percentage against.  They have now allowed as many home runs in 29.2 innings this month (7) as the starters have served up in 62.1 innings.

Tyler Lyons

Tyler Lyons has been taking advantage of most hitter’s normal inclination to take the first pitch, by throwing first pitch fastballs for strikes.  Since no one will ever confuse Tyler’s fastball for Trevor Rosenthal’s, it’s a risky strategy that so far has worked more than not.  Three of the four batters that Tyler faced in the sixth-inning last night got first pitch fastballs.  The one he bounced to Freddy Galvis was the only one that wasn’t a strike.  Michael Saunders took one right down the middle for a strike – on his way to a strikeout.  Maikel Franco swung at his and singled to right.

Ten of the thirteen batters to face Lyons this month have seen first pitch strikes.  No Cardinal pitcher this month facing at least 10 batters throws a higher percentage of first-pitch strikes (76.9%).  So far, most batters have been taking the pitch.  Franco was just the seventh batter (out of 44 faced) this season to swing at Tyler’s first pitch.

Still, it’s more than a little risky.  Joey Votto was sitting on that first-pitch fastball from Lyons last Thursday in Cincinnati when he scorched it for a game-icing two run home run.

Be careful, Tyler.

Three of the six swings taken against Lyons last night put the ball in play.  This has been a consistent issue for Tyler this year.  To this point of 2017, 47.5% of the swings taken against Lyons have put the ball in play – the highest percentage on the staff.  That percentage has risen to 56.3% this month.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman faced four batters in the seventh-inning yesterday, and threw first-pitch fastballs to all four.  None of the fastballs ended up over the plate, but all ended up as strikes.  Three of the batters (Andres Blanco, Odubel Herrera, and Howie Kendrick) chased after that enticing fastball, and home plate umpire Tom Woodring did Matthew a favor with a generous strike call on an outside pitch against Daniel Nava (who hit the next pitch – a hanging splitter – over the wall in right).  Among the 24 batters that Bowman has faced this month, 10 have chased the first pitch (41.7%).

Trevor Rosenthal

Speaking of Rosenthal. He faced three batters in the eighth inning and struck them all out.  He has now fanned 41 of the 92 batters he’s faced this season, holding them to a .171 batting average.  Trevor has really been better than ever this year.  Except when he hasn’t.

Possibly because Trevor is getting very, very proficient at throwing that slider for strike three (and 2 of his 3 last night took third-strike sliders), batters have begun to be more aggressive on the first pitch – which is still usually a fastball.  In April and May, only 27.4% of the batters he faced chased his first pitch.  So far this month 42.1% have gone for Rosenthal’s first offering (including two of the three last night).  Last year, only 14 of his 56 strikeouts (25%) came on called third strikes.  This year he already has 14 called strikeouts among his first 41 (34.1%), including 5 of the 10 so far in June.

Philadelphia offered at 9 of Trevor’s 15 pitches (60%).  Everybody loves to chase that fastball.  The 19 batters he has faced so far in June have chased 54.4% of Rosenthal’s pitches.  For the season, 50.2% of his offerings have been swung at.  The only higher ratio on the club belonged to the since-departed Jonathan Broxton, who drew swings on 51.7% of his pitches.

Rosenthal finished with almost as many swinging strikes in his one inning (4) as Wainwright had in 5 innings (5).  Trevor leads the pitching staff in swing-and-miss percentage, both for the year (33.0%) and for the month (40.8%).  As a result, batters are putting the ball in play on just 20.6% of their swings this year and 14.3% of their swings this month against Rosenthal.

Strikeout pitchers, of course, do run the risk of elevated pitch counts.  It cost Trevor 15 pitches to retire his three batters last night.  He averages more pitches per batter faced than anyone else on the staff (4.52). In the month of June, he’s been throwing 4.74 pitches per plate appearance.

Seung-hwan Oh

Closer Seung-hwan Oh had a string of six consecutive scoreless appearances (6.1 innings) snapped as Philadelphia came back to make a game of it with 4 singles and 2 runs in last night’s ninth inning.

The string of singles gave Oh 4 opportunities to get a double play grounder.  He didn’t.  For the season, Oh has faced 35 batters in double play situations.  He has gotten that double play just once (Giancarlo Stanton bounced into a 6-4-3 with runners on first and second and nobody out in the ninth inning on May 10, helping to preserve a 7-5 Cardinal win).

For the game – although 16 batters came to the plate with an opportunity to ground into a double play – the Cards could get only one of them to comply.  Tommy Joseph – the last batter Wainwright faced – ended the fifth by grounding into a double play.

Oh is another pitcher who throws a lot of first-pitch fastballs.  But he puts most of them on the edge of the strike zone, so his first pitch is infrequently swung at.  Only 2 of the 7 he faced last night offered.  Of the 18 batters faced this month, only 4 (22.2%) have wanted Oh’s first pitch.  For the season, just 28.5% offer at Seung-hwan’s first delivery.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler hit the fifth-inning home run that flipped a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead.  Dexter also led off the game with a double.  With 4 hits in his last 9 at bats, Dexter has looked better at the plate, lately.

Fowler is still hitting just .242 for the month (8 for 33), but 5 of those hits have been for extra bases (2 of them home runs) – giving him a .515 slugging percentage this month.

Kolten Wong

Sparkplug Kolten Wong returned to the lineup just in time to face Philadelphia.  He went 5 for 10 in the series, scoring 3 runs.  St Louis won all three, but how much of that was Kolten Wong and how much was the Phillies?  As the Brewers begin a four-game series tomorrow, we will begin to find out.  It is nonetheless true that the sometimes maligned Wong is now hitting .294/.393/.434 for the year, and has been a sparkplug.

Position Wars After 59 Games

Periodically throughout the year, we look at team performance based on who is playing which defensive position.  We look and assess position by position.

For all of the considerable upheaval through the first third of the season – and whether for good or for bad – the plan the team left Spring Training with is still pretty much in place.

Position – Catcher

Yadier Molina was removed from the lineup last night due to back stiffness.  Yadi has caught 51 of the 59 games so far.  Interestingly, St Louis is 21-30 when Molina has started.  In those games, they have scored an average of 3.84 runs per game with a team ERA of 4.01.

Eric Fryer – back in St Louis as the backup catcher – has the team at 6-2 when he starts.  Even though Eric is hitting less than .200, the team is scoring 4.63 runs per game in his starts, while the team ERA is 3.73.  This is not to suggest that the team is better without Molina, but it does give us some confidence when Yadi takes a day off.  In the second half of last year, St Louis was 1-9 in games that Molina didn’t start.

Mike Leake has made 3 starts pitching to Fryer.  He has gone 3-0 in those starts with a 2.25 ERA and a .145 batting average against.  In the 9 games that Yadi has caught him, Mike is 2-5, 2.85 ERA and a .260 batting average against.

Lance Lynn has also been caught by Fryer 3 times in his 9 starts.  His results are more even: 1-1, 2.65 with Fryer; 3-2, 2.96 with Molina.

Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright have only had Fryer behind the plate once each so far this season.  For Wacha, that was last night as Molina’s back took him out of the lineup.  Michael threw six fine innings (2 runs 5 hits) to Eric.

Fryer’s only turn at catching Wainwright came on April 27 against Toronto.  Adam took the win that night (6-4) after giving 4 runs on 9 hits over 6.1 innings.

Carlos Martinez has not pitched to anyone but Molina this season (although that will apparently change this afternoon).

Position – First Base

The offseason plan was to move Matt Carpenter to first and leave him there.  That has been – more or less – how it’s gone.  Carpenter has started 51 of the 59 games, seeing the team go 23-28 in those games.  His most frequent backup has been Jose Martinez, who has made 5 starts at first, with the team losing 3 of those.

Position – Second Base

Another part of the offseason plan was to commit to Kolten Wong at second.  Again, this they have mostly done.  He sat a couple games early when he got off to a struggling start, and then missed a few more games recently as he spent time on the disabled list.  But mostly – for 38 of the 59 games – it has been Kolten Wong at second base.  And for the most part this has worked out quite well.  While the team is five games below .500 for the season, they are 21-17 when Wong starts at second.  The offense perks up (4.55 runs per game) and the defense stabilizes (3.52 ERA).  Kolten is having a breakout season, becoming now the player we always thought he could be.  Now, if they would just put him back in the leadoff spot.

In Kolten’s recent absence, Paul DeJong ascended from Memphis to hold the fort at second base.  Not that DeJong hasn’t looked good defensively and had his moments offensively – and not to blame Paul for the losing streak – but the main part of the team collapse did happen while Wong was away.  In the 10 games that DeJong started at second, the Cards were 2-8 with a 4.61 ERA while scoring just 2.8 runs per game.

Position – Shortstop

Aledmys Diaz has started here 53 times in 59 games this season – making shortstop the most stable position on the team through the first third of the season.  St Louis, however, is only 23-30 in those games.  Greg Garcia has been the primary backup there this season.  In the 5 starts he’s made, St Louis is 4-1.  The offense has been notably better when Aledmys starts (4.08 rpg v 3.60 rpg), but the team ERA responds to Garcia (3.48 v 3.84).  There have also been 20 unearned runs scored in Diaz’ 53 games.  In Garcia’s 5 there have been no unearned runs scored against the Cardinals.

I don’t think I’m campaigning for Garcia to take over the position.  I am pointing out that he’s maybe more capable than some might suspect.  And that Diaz, so far this season, hasn’t played up to his potential (something you could say about a lot of Cardinals thus far).

Position – Third Base

Coming out of Spring Training, this was going to be the home of the since departed Jhonny Peralta.  The elements and the hot bat of Jedd Gyorko conspired against him.  He made a total of 14 starts at third this season, with the team losing 11 of the 14.

That being said, I’m going to express my opinion that releasing Jhonny may have been a mistake.  Jedd Gyorko has clearly claimed the position.  He’s now made 40 starts there, leading the team to a 19-21 record, so I’m not floating the idea that Peralta could or should reclaim the position – or even that he would get significant playing time.  But the upshot of the decision is that Paul DeJong now sticks on the major league roster, where he will watch a lot of baseball from the bench instead of returning to Memphis where he can play and develop (and there is still some development that needs to happen there).

Meanwhile, at some point of the season some contender will lose a third baseman to injury, slump or some other random situation, and they will be looking for a third baseman – preferably some veteran who has experience in a playoff hunt.  I don’t think the Cardinals would have gotten three elite prospects for him, or anything like that.  But if they had held onto him until there was a need, they likely could have gotten something for him.  I look on this as a missed opportunity both for DeJong and the Cardinal farm system.

Position – Left Field

Tommy Pham has now almost caught Randal Grichuk for the team lead in starts in left field.  Grichuk started there 25 times.  Pham has now been there for 24 starts.  The team went 11-14 for Randal, and 11-13 for Tommy.  This even though both the runs per game metric (3.96 – 3.83) and the team ERA (3.57 – 4.35) favor Grichuk.

Position – Center Field

Dexter Fowler was brought in this offseason to be the center fielder.  And he has, starting 50 of the first 59 games.  After last night’s victory, St Louis is 19-31 when Fowler starts in center, with a 4.18 ERA.  Offensively, the team has scored 3.58 runs per game.

The small sample size hero of center field is rookie spark plug Magneuris Sierra.  During the spell when Fowler was nursing a shoulder injury, Sierra got 5 starts in center field, leading the team to a 5-0 record and a 33-18 scoring differential.

Position – Right Field

Again, the offseason plan has remained mostly intact.  Stephen Piscotty entered camp as the right fielder and has remained so – this in spite of any number of challenges he’s faced so far this season.  He has made 37 of the 59 starts, with the team playing 15-22 baseball under his watch.  When it hasn’t been Piscotty, it’s usually been Grichuk. The team is 8-7 in his starts in right.

Analysis

The team has scuffled through the first third of the season, and a lot of that shows in these records.  Fowler, Carpenter, Grichuk, Diaz (even, to an extent, Molina) – a lot of Cardinals have underperformed so far.  We could add a lot of bullpen names to that list as well.  I don’t believe that all of these players have suddenly become bad players (although some of these may end up having bad years).  There is just too much baseball left to entirely scrap that plan that has been in place from the beginning.  That point may come later on, but for now a lot of these guys deserve the opportunity to play their way out of it.

With that said, the first third of the season has included two fairly seismic shifts in the way this team sets up.  First is the emergence of Gyorko, who has been a much more complete player this year than anyone could have predicted.  Second is the emergence of Tommy Pham.  Sent back down to Memphis to start the season, Pham has – for the moment, anyway – pushed his way into a starting outfield spot.

Neither of these players have ever played at this level for a full season, so it will be interesting to see them in the second half.  But for now, they have earned their playing time.

Among the most gratifying developments so far is the quality of depth that the Cards have now on the bench.  If nothing else, players like Fryer, Garcia and Sierra have shown that they can step in and still give the team an excellent chance to win the game.

NoteBook

Of note in last night’s 3-2 win (box score).  They won the first game of a series, won a game at home, and won a one-run game.  All three of those conditions have been challenging to this team so far this year.  Yes, yes, it was just Philadelphia – and the Phillies are having a poor year.  So this would mean more if it had come against Chicago.  But at this point, we’ll take the win.

Sufficient to the day are the challenges thereof.