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Cards Exposed Again by Winning Teams

One of the beautiful things about the 162-game marathon that is the major league baseball season, is that by the time it has run its course it will answer all questions.  Heading into the big series in Wrigley, I asked some questions about the mental edge the Cubs have had over the Cards for the last couple of years.  In three sunny afternoons in Chicago’s Northside, those questions were resoundingly answered.

While the Cardinals will continue to fight for a playoff spot – as they should – the three-game sweep by the Cubs that culminated with yesterday’s 4-3 loss (box score) has left their playoff hopes mostly untenable.  Left for the Cardinals is to sift through the pieces and begin to plan for next season.

One of the glaring realities of the Cardinal season is that they are decidedly lacking when faced with teams that win more than they lose.  They are now 25-39 for the season, and 8-12 since the All-Star Break, against winning teams.

Since the point where a 10-2 run positioned them just 2 games behind (with 18 to play at that time) they have lost 4 of 5 games.  The Cards have scored just 11 runs in their last 5 games.

Offensive Deficiencies

One of the constants in the Cardinals’ matchups with winning teams has been scarcity of runs.  They scored all of 6 in the 3 games in Wrigley.  They have averaged 3.95 runs per game in the 20 second half games they’ve played against winning teams, and are averaging 3.92 against them for the season.  They average 5.31 runs per game against sub-.500 teams.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham certainly had opportunities to do more damage, but you couldn’t have realistically asked much more from him.  With 3 hits yesterday, Tommy kept giving the Cards opportunities to fight their way back into the game.  During the 5 games during which the Cardinal season has mostly faded away, Pham has been one of the few beacons.  Over his last 22 plate appearances, Tommy has 3 singles, a double, 2 home runs, 3 walks, and a hit-by-pitch – a .333/.455/.722 batting line.  In 57 games in the season’s second half, Pham is hitting .315/.431/.533 with 10 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and 44 runs scored.

Tommy has also been one of the few driving forces against winning teams, as well.  After finishing the Cub series 4 for 12, Tommy is up to .295 on the season (46 for 156) against winning teams, with 7 home runs.  Since the All-Star Break, he is 25 for 73 (.342) with a .548 slugging percentage.

Tommy’s breakthrough season withstands all levels of scrutiny.

Dexter Fowler

It’s good to have Dexter Fowler back.  Only activated before the Saturday game, Dexter was 4 for 8 in his two games, tying yesterday’s game once with a three-run homer and almost hitting another game-tying home run in the ninth.  Dex has only played in 7 games this month, but he’s hitting .304 (7 for 23) and slugging .609 (2 triples to go with yesterday’s home run).

In 27 games since his most recent return from the disabled list, Fowler is hitting .322/.438/.567.   He has only been healthy enough to play in 38 of St Louis’ 61 second half game, but he is hitting .285 (37 for 130) with a .403 on base percentage.

With the home run, Fowler set a new career high in runs batted in.  He now has 55 for the year, even though he has only been healthy enough to play in 108 of the 149 games so far.  His previous high was the 53 he drove in with Colorado in 143 games in 2012.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong did draw a walk and was hit by a pitch.  But hits have been few and far between for Kolten.  Having the best season of his career, Wong’s last 16 games have seen him go 9 for 50 (.180).  Recurring back issues may very well be part of the cause.

In the season’s second half, Wong has played in 19 of the 20 games St Louis has played against winning teams.  He is hitting .206 in those games (13 for 63).

Pitching Falters

With 11 more hits – including 5 against starter Lance Lynn in just 4 innings – The Cubs wrapped up the series hitting .296 against what had been a sturdy Cardinal staff coming into the series.  Especially vulnerable were Cardinal starters, who managed to survive only 15 innings through the 3 games, being stung for 13 runs (a 7.80 ERA).  They also walked 12 Cubs during the 15 innings – leading to a .411 on base percentage.

Needless to say, the Cardinals were hoping for better.

Starters Against Winning Teams

Even though his afternoon was disappointing, Lynn continues to be the best of the Cardinal starters facing winning teams.  He is 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA for the season, including 1-0 with a 2.86 ERA against these teams in the second half.

Michael Wacha is only 2-5 with a 5.73 ERA in 11 starts against winning teams for the year.  However, in 4 such second half games, Wacha has been much better (1-2, 3.74).

Luke Weaver’s closing starts against the Cubs and Brewers will be instructive.  To this point he has started against only 3 winning teams.  He is 2-1 in those games, but with a 4.24 ERA.

Carlos Martinez is 4-7 in 14 starts against winning teams with 4.29 ERA.  He is 1-3 with a 6.43 ERA since the All-Star Break

Before going down with an injury, long-time ace Adam Wainwright had made 10 starts against winning teams, throwing 5 quality starts against them.  He is 5-3 with a 3.28 ERA in those games.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia is still getting pretty highly-leveraged opportunities, and is doing mostly well with them.  He was given the sixth inning yesterday in a tied game – giving a hit, but no runs.  John’s season long ERA still sits at 2.35, including 2.67 in 27 second-half innings.  He has 13 strikeouts in 7 innings this month.

Intriguing with Brebbia is that he is one of the few Cardinals who has been much better against winning teams.  He pitched 2 scoreless innings in the Cub series – stranding all 3 runners he inherited.  Since the All-Star Break, he has allowed just 2 runs over 8.2 innings, and holds a 1.20 ERA in 16 innings against winning teams for the season.  He has done this with a .196/.237/.339 batting line against.

Tyler Lyons

After being so good for so much of the season, Tyler Lyons is starting to return to earth a bit.  He allowed runs in both games against the Cubs, and has allowed runs in 3 of his last 7 games (5.2 innings).  He was lucky not to give up a run against Cincinnati in the game before that.  The last 25 batters he has faced are hitting .409 with a .636 slugging percentage.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman allowed only 9 of the first 40 runners he inherited this season to score.  Four of the five that he inherited in the Cub series came home to roost.

Bowman may be one of those bullpen links that is being exposed against the better competition.  Matthew carries a 4.97 ERA in 25.1 innings against winning teams.

NoteBook

The Cardinals took the field Sunday needing a win to avoid a sweep.  This was the sixth different road series this year where the Cards needed a last game win to avoid a sweep.  They have now managed to dodge the sweep only once.  That lone exception occurred in the Cardinals’ very first road series of the year (April 10-12).  After losing their first two games in Washington, they won the series finale 6-1 behind the arm of Mike Leake and the bat of Stephen Piscotty (how long ago April must seem to those two).

The Cubs were also the nineteenth team St Louis has faced this year that won its previous series (Cincinnati will be the twentieth).  With the loss, St Louis is 5-10-4 in those series, going 27-32 against teams coming off series victories.

Inches Betray Cardinals as Winning Streak Ends

The inches were spectacularly against the St Louis Cardinals through the first five innings of last night’s game, where – unlike the Indians – the Cards winning streak (a modest four games) came to a sour end, 6-0 (box score).  Jesse Winker’s leadoff home run was just barely fair down the right field line.  In the bottom of the first, Yadier Molina had runners at first and third with two out, when he floated a fly ball into short right-center that had just enough carry on it to allow Winker to make an excellent catch that both saved a run and ended the inning.

Then there was the fifth inning.  Jose Peraza just barely safe at first on an infield hit.  The ground ball back to the mound that just oozed out of Jack Flaherty’s grip.  Tyler Mahle just fractionally safe at second on another infield dribbler.  Things unraveled from there.  It’s baseball.

More concerning is the fact that St Louis finished the night with only 5 hits – all singles.  The offense has been pretty consistently good at putting runs on the board (last night excepted) but the hits are becoming more scare.  Twelve games into September, and the Cards have only 94 hits.  They are still scoring 5.00 runs per game, but are hitting just .239.

Jose Martinez

Among the shards of good news from last night was 2 more hits from Jose Martinez.  Jose has now hit in 13 of his last 14 games, hitting .435 (20 for 46) during the streak.  His average is up to .356 in the second half 37 for 104).

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham contributed a walk and a hit by pitch – so he is still getting on base.  But his is one of the batting averages that is starting to fade in September.  Pham is just 1 for 12 over his last 6 games, and is down to .158 (3 for 19) for the month – albeit with a .407 on base percentage.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong has also seen a noticeable dip in September. A stiff back during the early days of the month didn’t help, but Wong hasn’t been really hot since getting back on the field.  He was 0 for 2 last night, and is now just 5 for 23 (.217) this month.  Like Pham, though, Wong has still been getting on base.  He drew his fifth walk of the month last night, pushing his on base percentage to .357.

Harrison Bader

Gravity may also be catching up with touted prospect Harrison Bader.  His 0-for-4 yesterday leaves him just 2 for 17 (.118) over his last 5 games.

Sam Tuivailala

At this time of year, relief innings can be a little hard to come by.  With a bullpen crowded with September call-ups, the middle relievers may have to wait for a while before their number comes up.

That is what is happening to Sam Tuivailala.  Sam has made it into only 3 of the first 12 games this month, and has had 5 days in between each of his last two games.  Rather than get rusty, though, Sam has become hyper-efficient.  He retired 3 batters last night on four pitches – all strikes.  Each batter he faced swung the bat once, and got himself out.

It’s an exceedingly small sample size – just the 11 batters he has faced this month – but 7 of those batters never saw a pitch out of the strike zone, and all 11 combined have only cost Tui 31 pitches (2.8 pitches per).  Along the way, Sam has thrown 25 of the pitches for strikes (81%!) with only one of those strikes being a swing and a miss.  On September first in San Francisco, Sam was finishing up the ninth inning of an 11-6 Cardinal win.  With two-out, Brandon Crawford swung through Tuivailala’s 1-1 pitch.  He ended the game by grounding out on the next pitch.

It’s too few batters and too few pitches to mean anything, but this is pitching to contact on steroids.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman is another arm that seems to be profiting from extra rest in September.  Having pitched in 65 games through the end of August, Bowman looked a little frayed.  He has been better of late.  He is unscored on over his last six games (4.2 innings), during which he has allowed just one hit.  He has had at least four days of rest in between 3 of the 6 games.

First-Pitch Command Eludes Lynn, Cardinals

Riding a streak of eight consecutive quality starts, Lance Lynn was in a battle from the very beginning last night.  With his four-seamer lacking its usual zip (he averaged only 92.5 mph on 26 four-seam fastballs, according to Brooks Baseball), and without his usual command of his bread and butter sinker, Lance found himself in lots of trouble.

To his credit, he almost wriggled his way out of all of it.  But, in the third inning, after hitting two batters with that misbehaving sinker, he faced Yangervis Solarte with the bases loaded and only one out.

Solarte saw four sinkers – the first three sailing wide of the plate to the left-handed batter.  Lance tried to bring the fourth back into the strike zone and left it spinning too much over the middle.  Beginning a career night, Solarte drilled it into the right-centerfield gap to drive in the first 3 runs of the game.

Lance would battle through six, allowing four runs.  Solarte would go on to hit two more extra-base hits to finish with 6 runs batted in, as San Diego pulled away late against the shaky Cardinal bullpen in a 12-4 win (box score).

Of the 27 batters that Lynn faced, only 14 saw first-pitch strikes.  Those batters finished only 2 for 12 (.167) with a hit batter and a sacrifice bunt.  But the 13 that got ahead of him 1-0 were 4 for 11 (.364) with a walk and another hit batter.

This has become a re-curing theme with the Cardinal pitching staff.  For the month of August, opposing batters are hitting .335/.437/.543 when a Cardinal pitcher misses with that first pitch.  Opposing hitters are hitting .312 since the All-Star Break against St Louis when their at bat begins with ball one.

And, of course, this effort runs to 12 the string of consecutive games in which the Cardinal pitching staff has allowed at least 5 runs.  In this century (as noted here) only the 2003 edition of the Cardinals had a comparable streak – eventually going 13 games before holding an opponent to less than 5 runs.

Over the last 12 games, the team ERA sits at a disturbing 6.62, nearly evenly distributed between the starters (6.86) and relievers (6.29).  The last 484 batters to face the Cards are hitting .319.  The streak pushes the team ERA for the month of August to 5.18.  Troubling indeed.

During this streak, 197 opposing batters saw first-pitch balls.  They have gone on to hit .374/.477/.620.

Lance Lynn

Of all of the recent disappointment with the pitching staff, Lance doesn’t fall in line for any of the blame.  Last night wasn’t his sharpest performance, but in his eight previous games he had gone 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA.

Lance’s success has come in spite of the fact that he doesn’t really have breaking pitches that he can rely on (98 of his 108 pitches last night were some flavor of fastball).  If he falls behind 1-0, he has to come back with a fastball that he may have to guide into the strike zone.  Since the All-Star Break, Lance has fallen behind 92 batters, who have gone on to hit .347/.457/.560.  He has gotten ahead of 107 other batters, who have finished .144/.192/.165 in those at bats.

Matthew Bowman

At the point of the season when the Cardinals most need heroes in the bullpen, Matthew Bowman is starting to take on water.  Scored on in three of his last four games, Matthew has given up 6 runs in his last 2 innings.

Zach Duke

Not to make excuses for him, but it’s possible that Zach Duke is getting too much rest.  From the moment when he last appeared on consecutive days (August 8 & 9), he had one day off, and then pitched again on August 11.  During those games, he retired 10 of 11 batters.

But then, Zach didn’t pitch again until August 16.  He faced 2 batters that night in Boston, striking out 1 and walking another – who came around to score after Zach had left.  Two nights later he faced one batter – who walked – and then he didn’t pitch again until last night.

Coming off last year’s Tommy John surgery, Duke didn’t get a spring training and had only a few rehab games.  Zach’s game is his slider.  But he needs to throw it to maintain command of it.

Yadier Molina

Add the name of Yadier Molina to the list of several Cardinal hitters who have been thriving at the plate of late.  Yadi walked, doubled and homered last night, pushing his baby hitting streak to 5 games.  During the five games, Yadi is hitting .450 (9 for 20) and slugging .800 (4 doubles and 1 home run).  Molina has scored 6 runs in those last 5 games.  Molina is hitting .333 this month (22 for 66) with 5 home runs and a .652 slugging percentage.  He is now hitting .311 in the season’s second half.

Stephen Piscotty

Another positive from the game were the at bats by Stephen Piscotty, who walked, singled and drilled a home run.  Stephen has returned from his Memphis exile with 4 hits in two games, raising his batting average for the month of August to .292 (7 for 24).

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter drew another walk last night – that makes 16 in the 19 games he’s played this month.  But he finished hitless again in 3 at bats.  His on base percentage for the month is still an excellent .384.  Nonetheless, he is only 13 for 66 (.197).  After briefly pushing his season’s average back over .250, Carpenter has now slid back to .245.

Tommy Pham

The Cards ended the day with 4 runs on the strength of 3 home runs – a better yield than one might expect.  Padre starter Clayton Richard kept the hot Cardinal hitters mostly frustrated all evening.  Of the 23 batters that faced him, 17 saw first-pitch strikes – 12 of them called strikes.  He seemed to be able to find the black of that outside corner all night.

In Tommy Pham’s third-inning at bat, Richard threaded the needle with his first pitch slider.  Then, after showing Pham the high fastball, he popped another fastball right on the black.  Down in the count 1-2, Tommy was then vulnerable to Richard’s slider dropping out of the zone on strike three.

This has been happening quite a bit to Pham recently.  As Tommy likes to take a lot of first pitches, he has been giving away command of a lot of at bats.  In 88 August plate appearances, Tommy has taken first-pitch balls 37 times.  He is hitting .360/.568/.680 in those plate appearances.  In the 51 plate appearances where he has been thrown first-pitch strikes, he is slashing just .234/.280/.255.

NoteBook

The three Cardinal relievers combined to face 18 batters.  Only 10 of them put the ball in play, as the relievers issued 3 walks and hit a batter, while striking out 4.  Of the 10 that put the ball in play, 8 hit ground balls and only 2 managed to get the ball in the air.  But 3 of the 8 ground balls found holes, and the only two fly balls they allowed both left the ballpark.

On consecutive Tuedays, St Louis faced the American League’s losingest pitcher (Rick Porcello) and one of the pitchers tied for the National League lead in losses (Clayton Richard).  The Cardinals lost both games.

Eleven Runs Is Enough – Barely – In One-Run Victory

For the fifth time in their last 12 games, the St Louis Cardinals scored in double figures in a razor-thin 11-10 victory over Pittsburgh (box score).  It’s only the sixteenth time this century that the Cardinals scored ten or more runs and were still involved in a one-run game.  They are now 12-4 in those games.  This was the first such game since May 4, 2015, when they edged the Cubs 10-9.

Admittedly, they haven’t been battering the best of pitching staffs – a lot of the runs have been scored against Cincinnati, Atlanta and Pittsburgh – but the streak has been impressive.  And even though they didn’t throw up a lot of runs in the two games against Boston, they still put together grinding at bats and ended up with a lot of hits. These days the offense goes about its business with a lot of confidence.

Over the last 12 games they have scored 97 runs (8.08 per game) with a .325 team batting average and a .561 team slugging percentage.  With 3 more home runs last night, the Cards have drilled 18 in the last 12 games.  For the month, now, St Louis is scoring 6.53 runs per game and hitting .297.  In 34 games since the All-Star Break, St Louis averages 5.24 runs per game with a .279 batting average.

This is all very encouraging.  Still, one-run games present an on-going struggle.  Even with last night’s win, this team is 3-4 in August, 6-7 in the second half, and 19-23 for the season in one-run games.

Paul DeJong

If memory serves me correctly, Paul DeJong began the season as the Cardinals’ eleventh-rated prospect.  He didn’t make his big league debut until game number 47.  Last night was his sixty-sixth start of the season – now, exactly half of the Cardinal games.

I point this out to add some context to the fact that (after 3 more hits including a home run last night) DeJong is now sixth on the team in hits (81); tied for sixth in doubles (17); leading the team (by three) in home runs (19); and seventh in runs batted in (46) – all while spotting the rest of the team half a season’s head start.

Paul has been especially torrid of late.  With the hits last night, DeJong will carry an eight-game hitting streak into this afternoon’s contest, during which he has gone 16 for 33 (.485), with 4 doubles and 3 home runs (.879 slugging percentage).  He has also now hit in 13 of his last 14.  During this streak, Paul is 25 for 62, including 4 doubles and 5 home runs.  He is hitting .403, slugging .710, and has driven in 14 runs in his last 14 games – 10 of them over the last 8.  DeJong is now hitting .352 (and slugging .620) this month, and is up to .297 since the All-Star Break with 10 home runs.

I sincerely hope prospects 1 through 10 prosper as well as Mr. DeJong.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk chimed in with two hits for the second straight game, and scored two runs last night.  Grichuk has been very much a factor in the recent scoring binge.  Over the last 12 games, Grichuk is now 16 for 48, with 3 doubles, 2 triples and 2 home runs. He has hit .333 in those games, with a .604 slugging percentage, 9 runs batted in, and 10 runs scored.  Since the All-Star Break, Randal is 30 for 97 (.309) with 6 home runs.

Greg Garcia

With the red-hot Kolten Wong being given a day off, the Cards turned to Greg Garcia.  Garcia did hit best Wong impersonation, as he responded with 2 singles, 2 runs scored and a terrific play on a ground ball over the second base bag.

It’s hard, really, to tell how good Garcia could be if he got every day at bats.  Mike Matheny, though, has sought opportunities to get him starts.  With this start at second, and five starts at third, Garcia has started half of the last 12 games, and has contributed as consistently as anyone in the lineup.  He is 6 for 20 with 7 walks over the last 12 games – a .300 batting average and a .481 on base percentage.  Greg is hitting .302 in the season’s second half (13 for 43) with 9 walks – leading to a .423 on base percentage.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko’s second half slump continues to eat him alive.  After his 0 for 5 last night, Jedd has hit only .222 in 27 at bats over the last 12 games (of which he has played in 8 and started just 7).  Jedd is only 9 for 46 in August (.196), and has now fallen to .188 (19 for 101) in the second half.

Jedd has now played in 6 of the 7 one-run games this month.  He has three singles in 23 at bats, with 1 walk and no runs batted in – a .130/.167/.130 batting line.  Since the break, Jedd has hit just .154 (6 for 39) in 12 one-run games.  He has just one extra-base hit in those at bats (a double), and has just 2 runs batted in.  For the season, he is a .222 hitter (28 for 126) in one-run games.

Pitching Concerns

All of the recent offense has masked – to some extent – a pitching staff that is in a little bit of a free fall.  With last night’s extra excitement, the Cards have now given up at least 5 runs in each of the last 7 games.  The ERA for the month now sits at 4.60 with a .281 batting average against.

In the seven one-run games this team has played in August, the bullpen has now pitched 19.1 innings with a 5.59 ERA.  Over the course of the season, the Cardinal bullpen has a 4.00 ERA in the 42 one-run games they’ve played.  That kind of performance will almost always guarantee a losing record in one-run contests.

Matthew Bowman

Of all of last night’s pitching struggles, the most concerning may have been Matt Bowman’s.  Brought in in the ninth to protect a three-run lead, Matthew – whose command is one of his strengths – loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batsman.  Two of those runners ended up scoring as Pittsburgh nearly tied the game in the ninth without benefit of a hit.

Matthew has been fading a bit lately.  In the season’s second half his ERA is hovering at 3.75 through 12 innings, during which he has walked 5 and hit two.

Perhaps more troubling is the fact that last night was the sixth one-run game that Bowman has worked in since the All-Star Break.  He has lasted only 2.1 innings in those 6 games while serving up 4 runs on 3 hits (including a home run), 3 walks and 2 hit batsmen.  These batters have combined for a .300/.533/.600 batting line.  For the season Matthew’s ERA in 26 one-run games (covering 20.1 innings) is a concerning 5.75.

With Trevor Rosenthal out for a while, Mike Matheny will be turning to Bowman in the late innings of close games.  He will almost certainly get save opportunities.  This can’t be a situation he continues to struggle in.

NoteBook

With 22 runs, the Cardinals have already scored more runs in the first two games of this series than they have scored in any series since they scored 26 runs in four games against Miami from July 3 through 6.  This is, of course, if you consider the Kansas City series to be two, 2-game series.  The Cards scored 37 runs in those four games – 21 in the two played in KC, and 16 in the two played at home.

With 17 runs, the Cardinals have also allowed more runs scored against them in the first two games of this series than they have allowed in any series since that Miami series.  The Marlins scored 23 over those four games.

Cardinals Answer Sunday’s Loss With Another Loss

Stinging from a disappointing loss in the last game of the home stand, the semi-hot Cardinals invaded Boston last night, hoping to make a statement.  They did, with a humbling 10-4 beating at the hands of the Red Sox (box score).  At the end of the fifth inning, the Cards were already behind 9-0 and had grounded into a triple play.

For the season, St Louis is still 28-29 in games after a loss – something hard for an over-.500 team to do, although fairly consistent for a team that has already suffered through 8 losing streaks of at least 3 games.

With that being noted, it should also be pointed out that this team has been much better lately about responding after a loss.  In twelve such opportunities since the All-Star Break, St Louis is now 8-4.

More concerning is the continuing slide of the pitching staff.  With last night’s 10-run, 15-hit pounding in just 8 innings, the Cards are holding a 5.60 ERA over their last 6 games.  The starters have contributed just 2 quality starts, and have borne the brunt of the assault with a 6.32 ERA over those games.  The team ERA for the month of August swells to 4.13.

The offense has shown a bit of a spark recently, but any real hope that the Cardinals have of being significant in October depends on the pitching staff being the strength that we anticipated it would be in April.

Mike Leake

Mike Leake has been a little bit in the epi-center of the recent pitching downturn.  This was the second of the six games that Mike has started.  He has now been slapped for 13 runs (12 earned) in his last 9.1 innings.  In 3 August starts Mike is 0-2 with an 8.80 ERA.  He now has just 2 quality starts in his last 8 trips to the mound.  His ERA over those starts sits at 6.39 with a .371 batting average against.  He has lost 9 of his last 11 decisions.

It has been a long time since Mike has been good.

Leake is also now 3-8 in 14 starts this season in games after a loss – although in fairness he’s pitched better in these games than that record would suggest.  He has made 8 quality starts in those games, and his 4.00 ERA isn’t that bad.  It should be pointed out that last night was the fifth time in Mike’s 24 starts that his offense scored no runs for him while he was in the game.

Other Starters After a Loss

Lance Lynn will take the mound tonight with the Cardinals riding a two-game losing streak.  Lance has absolutely thrived in this role in the season’s second half.  Since the All-Star Break, Lance has made 4 starts following a Cardinal loss.  He has thrown quality starts in all four games, going 3-0 with a 1.48 ERA.  He is 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA this year in 11 starts after a loss.  Over his career, Lance has pitched in 84 games after a Cardinal loss (69 of them starts).  He is 39-21 lifetime with a 3.47 ERA in those games.

While he has had intermittent struggles, Carlos Martinez has also excelled in the stopper’s role.  He has taken the mound 10 times this year following a Cardinal loss.  Carlos is only 4-3 in those games, but with 8 quality starts, a 2.51 ERA and a .196 batting average against.  Over the last two years, Carlos has had 24 opportunities to pitch after a Cardinal loss.  He has produced 16 quality starts, a 12-6 record, a 2.67 ERA, and a .212 batting average against.

They haven’t all been works of art (he has a 4.84 ERA in 11 such starts), but Adam Wainwright does lead the staff in victories after a defeat.  He is 7-3 after a loss this year, and 71-34 in that situation over his career.

Overall, Michael Wacha hasn’t pitched as well in these games as he has following a victory.  He has started ten times following a loss, with only 4 quality starts and a 4.58 ERA.  He is, however, 4-2 in those games.  Over his career, Wacha is 19-11 after a loss, albeit with only a 4.47 ERA.

Matthew Bowman

The game really got away when Matthew Bowman couldn’t minimize the damage in the fifth inning.  The ground-ball specialist came in with the Cards already trailing 5-0, with the bases loaded and one out.  Bowman had only allowed 1 of his previous 17 inherited runners to score.  But he gave three straight hits, allowed all of the inherited runners to score, and added a run of his own.  By the time he did get that last out, the deficit had grown to 9-0.

Brett Cecil

Pitching now exclusively in low leveraged situations, Brett Cecil continues to search for answers.  After serving up another run and 3 hits, Brett’s second half ERA rises to 7.07 in 14 innings with a .391 batting average against.

Fewer Runs, But Good At Bats

Only four runs – and all of them after the game had been decided – is little to get excited about.  St Louis, however, collected 10 more hits before all was said and done.  The team batting average rises to .289 for the month, and .274 in the second half.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler continues to drive this offense.  He supplied 3 hits last night, scoring one of the Cardinals 4 runs and driving in two others.  He has been pretty scorching since his return from the disabled list.  Over these last 8 games, Dexter has had 33 plate appearances, during which he has provided 4 singles, 5 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 8 runs scored, 8 runs batted in, 9 walks and a stolen base.  That translates into a batting line of .458/.606/.875.  He is now hitting .297 in the season’s second half.

Luke Voit

Luke Voit has only made one start so far this month, but he may be starting to adjust to life on the bench.  He went 2-2 in the late innings last night, and his now 6 for 16 (.375) this month.

While these are all small sample sizes, Luke has been particularly effective in games after a loss.  He is 5 for 7 this month, 7 for 23 (.304) since the All-Star Break, and 13 for 39 (.333) for the season in games after a loss.

Paul DeJong

Paul DeJong added two more hits last night, driving in a run.  He now has a baby 5-game hitting streak, during which he has had multiple hits in all five games.  He is 11 for his last 20 (.550).  He has also now hit in 10 of his last 11 (.408 on 20 for 49 hitting).

After a slow start to August, Paul is now hitting .345 this month (20 for 58) and slugging .603 (he has 3 doubles and 4 home runs).  He is up to .288 since the All Star Break (36 for 125).

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina has as rough an offensive day as could be imagined – given how short it was.  Yadi had only 2 at bats last night, but accounted for 5 outs as he grounded into both a double play and a triple play.  Yadi is now 0 for 12 over his last 4 games.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong’s 8-game hitting streak came to an end last night.  With his 0 for 4, Kolten has hit just .188 (6 for 32) in games after a loss in the season’s second half.

Randal Grichuk

While Randal Grichuk’s numbers have been on the rise overall lately, he could still be a bit more of a force in games after a loss.  With his 0 for 3 last night, Randal is now 0 for 9 this month, 6 for 28 (.214) in the second half, and 27 for 127 (.213) for the year in games after a loss.

NoteBook

Boston’s first inning run marked the third consecutive game – and the twelfth of the last fifteen – that the Cardinals have allowed the first run of the game to be scored against them.

Sorting Out the Cardinal Bullpen

A great deal of attention was focused on the rally cat (some truly adorable video, by  the way – especially the part where the kitty tries to claw the grounds person that’s escorting it off).  Considerable attention is being paid to the aroused Cardinal offense that has scored 42 runs in the last 4 games.  This offense has averaged 5.23 runs per game over the last 56 games.

But at this point, some attention needs to be paid to the Cardinal bullpen.  Disastrous for most of the year, this unit came to the rescue again last night with five relievers combining for four scoreless innings as the Cards put away Kansas City 8-5 for their fifth win in a row (box score).

That bullpen now has a 2.38 ERA, a .222 batting average against, and has stranded 18 of 22 inherited runners since the All-Star Break.  Even amidst this success, the roles are still sort of evolving.  Promising right-handers John Brebbia and Sam Tuivailala are still searching for consistent opportunities.  Among the four lefties, Kevin Siegrist is trying to resolve health issues, and Brett Cecil has struggled some recently.  Their situations are also in a bit of flux.

But the five who pitched last night are starting to carve out defined roles, and their success is driving the success of the relief corps, and of the team.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman came in to pitch the sixth inning.  He has most frequently been pitching in the seventh or eighth innings, but with starter Mike Leake lasting only 5 innings – and with the right-handed batters coming up in the sixth, Bowman’s opportunity came earlier than usual.  He gave a couple of hits (unusual for him), but escaped with no damage.

Matthew has now made six consecutive appearances (4.2 innings) without allowing a run.  In 13 games in the second half, he has surrendered just 2 runs in 8.2 innings, and in 19.1 innings over his last 27 games, Matthew has a 1.86 ERA, a .221 batting average against, and has stranded 13 of 14 inherited runners.

Zach Duke

Zach Duke came in to pitch the seventh – particularly to face lefty Eric Hosmer (who grounded out), switch-hitter Melky Cabrera (who also grounded out), and lefty Mike Moustakas (who flew to right).

I think this is the role that manager Mike Matheny has for Duke.  A late inning lefty specialist that Mike isn’t afraid to let face the occasional right-hander.  It gets confusing, because the Cards right now have two lefthanders that hold about that same job description.

For Duke, coming off Tommy John surgery that was supposed to cost him the entire year, a significant milestone was passed as he pitched on consecutive days for the first time this season, needing only 10 pitches to wrap up his inning.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh opened the eighth, retiring 2 of the 3 that he faced.  Since being moved into the primary setup role, Oh has allowed no earned runs in 10 games (covering 9.2 innings).

Oh has now appeared in 21 games this season as the Cardinal closer and 28 games in a setup function.  His ERA as a closer was a shaky 4.09 with a .309 batting average against.  His ERA is 2.83 in those other games, with a .239 batting average against.  As a closer, Oh threw 67% of his pitches for strikes.  In non-closing situations, Oh throws strikes 72% of the time.  Eight of his eleven throws last night were strikes.

Some small part of the improvement might be that setup pitchers generally work more regularly than closers.  So far this year, 35 of Oh’s games have come with at least one day of rest.  His ERA in those games is a not-terrible 3.50.  Only 13 times – including last night – has Oh pitched with no rest in between games.  He has a 1.38 ERA in those games.

Tyler Lyons

Very quietly and with minimal fanfare, Tyler Lyons has become as good at his job as anyone in the Cardinal bullpen, and is evolving into one of baseball’s elite specialists.  When Alex Gorden came off the bench to pinch-hit in last night’s eighth inning, Lyons came out of the pen to get him – and of course he did.  I grant you the fly ball was struck a considerable distance to center field.  But there was never any danger of it leaving.

With the out, Lyons now has a scoreless streak of 11 games (9 innings) under his belt.  During that streak he has allowed 2 hits, 1 walk, and 14 strikeouts.  These are Clayton Kershaw type numbers.

Tyler is in a similar role as Duke.  They are looking specifically to use him against a left-hander in a critical late-game situation, with no great concern if a right-hander ends up facing him.  Lyons’ breaking pitches are pretty devastating most evenings.

Trevor Rosenthal

Turning a season-long liability into a strength was as simple putting the right man on the mound in the ninth inning.  A bullpen is built from the back forward, and as soon as the closer is found, the other pieces will usually slot in.  Without dispute, the best thing that happened to the Cardinal bullpen all year was the return to prominence and dominance by Trevor Rosenthal.  Now balancing his 100-mph heat with a sharp slider and effective change, Trevor has re-emerged as the man with the ball at the end of the game.

Since the All-Star break, Trevor has pitched in 10 games (12 innings) with a 0.75 ERA and a .167 batting average against.  He has 20 strikeouts in those 12 innings.

Last night was the tenth time this season that Rosenthal came into the game as the closer.  He now holds a 1.64 ERA in those games.  His ERA in 37 games as a setup man was 3.67.

Mike Leake

For Leake – who started last night – his April groove remains elusive.  He lasted just 5 last night, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) to a good Kansas City offense.  Mike has managed quality starts only twice in his last seven games.  He is 1-4 with a 5.08 ERA over that slide.

Jose Martinez

Yadier Molina hit the famous home run last night, but Jose Martinez also gave the Cards a lead with a home run.  Martinez has simply hit his way into more playing time.  Jose has now played in 9 of the last 10 games, starting 8 of them.  He has hit safely in 6 of them – getting 2 hits in three of the last four.  Since his playing time started becoming more regular, Jose is 10 for 28 (.357).  He has hit 3 home runs, driven in 8 runs, and is slugging .714 in his last 9 games.  Jose has 8 home runs in his last 91 at bats.

Cardinal lineup plans have been enormously complicated by a couple of fourth outfielders (Martinez and Tommy Pham) who simply refuse to stop hitting.  With Dexter Fowler and Randal Grichuk both showing signs of life, the Cards have four outfielders who need to be in the lineup – and, of course, space for only three.

Randal Grichuk

Grichuk added a couple of hits last night – he now has back to back two-hit games.  Grichuk has been a bit up and down since his return from Memphis, but the ups have been more than the downs.  In the season’s second half, Randal is a .299 hitter (20 for 67) with 4 doubles and 5 home runs (.582 slugging percentage).

Cards Get Weeks Worth of RISP Hits in Rout of Reds

By the time Yadier Molina came to the plate in the second inning with Jose Martinez standing at second (and no one out), St Louis was already down 3-0.  They were also riding an 11-game streak of hitting .193 (17 for 88) in RISP opportunities (RISP = Runner(s) In Scoring Position).

Beginning with Molina’s single, St Louis would string together 4 straight hits with runners in scoring position as they sprinted into the lead, 4-3.  In the recent nine-run inning against Chicago, they had five consecutive RISP hits – mixed in with several walks.

But as it turned out, they were just getting started. Two innings later, they succeeded in 5 of 6 RISP chances – including Jose Martinez’ first career grand slam, as the Cards put up another nine-spot in a surprising flash-flood of offense – on their way to a convincing 13-4 victory (box score).

By game’s end, St Louis had put together their season high in both RISP at bats (19 – previously they had managed 18 in an 8-1 win against Washington on June 30) and hits (9 – previously they had managed 8 such hits against Miami in a 14-6 win on July 3).

In the aftermath, the Cardinal clubhouse exuded more confidence than we’ve seen recently.  But before we consider the offensive woes cured, let’s see how they manage against a more legitimate pitching staff in Kansas City over the next four days.

Still, even if only for one afternoon, it was nice to have a laugher.

Paul DeJong

After a recent downturn, Paul DeJong was given a day off.  He has rebounded strongly. He went 3 for 5 yesterday, and has hits in 6 of his last 12 at bats.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong was in the middle of both big innings, as he also finished the afternoon 3 for 5.  Kolten has now hit safely in 6 of his last 7 games, going 10 for 27 (.370) in those games.

Kolten was 1 for 2 in his RISP at bats yesterday.  He has been one of the club’s best in these opportunities, hitting .293 (17 for 58) in these moments.  He is 5 for 13 (.385) since the break with ducks on the pond.

Jose Martinez

Martinez’ grand slam was the centerpiece of the offensive evening.  His other hit may actually have been more important.  He began that second inning with the double that ignited the four-run inning that gave the team the lead.

Jose has been a second half fire-plug.  He has only played in 12 of the last 23 games – making just 6 starts and getting only 32 plate appearances.  But he’s turned those plate appearances into 3 singles, 1 double, 3 home runs, 6 runs scored, 8 runs batted in, 9 walks and 1 sacrifice fly – a batting line of .318/.500/.773.  That kind of production will keep your name on the lineup card.

Yadier Molina

Molina was also a central figure in both big innings, on his way to a solid 2-for-4 afternoon.  Yadi has hit in 5 of his last 7 games, hitting .409 (9 for 22) in those games and slugging .727 (1 double and 2 home runs).  Yadi is having another very profitable second half, hitting .310 with 3 home runs since the All-Star break.

As mentioned earlier, Yadi had the first of the team’s 9 hits with runners in scoring position yesterday.  Of all regulars, Molina leads the team, hitting .311 (23 for 74) in RISP opportunities.

Pitchers in RISP Situations

In contrast to the Cardinal success, Cincinnati was just 1 for 6 in RISP situations (that one hit, of course, being Joey Votto’s three-run homer).  Since the All-Star break (3 starts) that is the only hit Adam Wainwright has allowed in 14 RISP at bats (.071).

Lance Lynn has been even better.  The 18 second half batters to have RISP at bats against Lance have 1 single to show for their efforts (.056).  For the season, batters are hitting .156 (12 for 77) against Lance in RISP situations.

Michael Wacha has had similar success, holding batters to just 3 for 19 (.158) with runners in scoring position since the break.  His season batting average against in these situations is a very good .233 (21 for 90).

Having less success in the second half with ducks on the pond are Carlos Martinez (6 for 21 – .286) and Mike Leake (12 for 26 – .462).  This is unusual for Martinez, who usually excels in these moments.  For the year, his average against in RISP situations is .189 (20 for 106).  For Leake, this has been kind of a year-long struggle.  Batters are now hitting .300 against him (30 for 100) with runners in scoring position.

Matthew Bowman

After a couple of shaky outings, Matthew Bowman is getting back on the beam.  After pitching yesterday’s ninth inning, Matthew has put together five consecutive scoreless outings (3.2 innings) during which he has surrendered just 1 hit.  He has pitched in 12 games in the second half (7.2 innings) with a 2.35 ERA and a .222 batting average against.

NoteBook

St Louis has now gone seven straight games since the last time they scored first in one of their contests.

When we lost on Friday, it marked the twenty-first time this season that the Cards had lost the opening game of a series.  Eleven times, now, the team has fought back to force a rubber game.  With last night’s victory, they are 5-6 in those games.

Yadier Molina ended the Cardinal fifth by swinging through a 1-2 pitch from Lisalverto Bonilla.  Leading off the bottom of the eighth inning, Scooter Gennett swung and missed a 2-0 pitch from John Brebbia.  In between those two swings, there were no swinging strikes.  There were 7 called strikes, and 19 pitches fouled off, but the next 22 consecutive batters saw 72 consecutive pitches without one being swung at and missed.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before.

Three First-Inning Runs Hold Up for Milwaukee

First-inning runs almost never hold up.  In fact, one of the Cardinals favorite patterns from earlier in the season was to put two or three first-inning runs on the board and then shut down, waiting until their opponent wore through the lead and – eventually earned the victory.

Given the shaky recent nature of the Milwaukee bullpen, I felt all along that if the pitching staff could hold them there, our chances of eventually winning were pretty good.  Alas, it came not to pass.  Three first-inning runs were all they got.  And three first-inning runs were all they needed, as Milwaukee held off the Cards by a 3-2 score (box score).

The first run scored on a ground out from Ryan Braun, but after starter Carlos Martinez struck out Travis Shaw, the Cards were presented with a golden opportunity to get out of an inning that began with runners at second and third and no one out, allowing just the one run.  A two-out single from Domingo Santana made it 2-0.  That hurt.  But catcher Manny Pina delivered the clinching hit – launching Martinez’ two-out, two-strike, 100-mph fastball over the head of center-fielder Tommy Pham – delivering the third and final run of the inning.

As disappointing as that first inning was, the game ended with Milwaukee scoring just those three runs on only 5 hits.  Kudos, still, to the pitching staff.  Since the All-Star break, the team has maintained a 3.04 ERA.  Over the last 20 games, that ERA is only 2.78 with a .228 batting average against.

Carlos Martinez

While most of the rest of the pitching staff has been flourishing since the last two games before the All-Star break, presumptive ace Carlos Martinez has been more stumbling block than support.  Over his last six starts, Carlos is now just 1-3 (part of a 1-4 streak for the talented right-hander), with a 5.82 ERA.  He was 1-2 with a 5.90 ERA in July.

Martinez’ first inning struggles are beginning to gain some attention.  After yesterday, Carlos holds a 6.55 first-inning ERA.  During this inning, batters are slashing .284/.402/.519 against him.  Twenty-six percent of all the runs he’s allowed, twenty percent of all the hits he’s allowed, twenty-nine percent of the home runs he’s served up, and twenty-eight percent of the walks he’s given have come in that first inning.

From the second through the fifth, his ERA is a solid 2.35 with a .211 batting average against.  He begins to tail off again in the sixth.

These trends have been worsening lately.  In his four starts since the All-Star break, Martinez has been stung for 8 first inning runs (18.00 ERA) and a .429/.478/.810 slash line against him.  After that first inning, his ERA has held at 1.80.

Last night’s loss was Carlos’ ninth of the season, tying (already) his career high set last year when he was 16-9 (he is 7-9 so far this year).  Carlos’ career record is 41-30.

Moreover, the three runs allowed last night brings Martinez’ season total to 61.  His career high is the 68 he allowed last year.

Lack of any kind of consistent offensive support hasn’t helped Martinez.  Last night was the thirteenth time in his 22 starts that his offense failed to score as many as three runs for him.

More Good Bullpen Work

After posting a cumulative 2.17 ERA in July, the sometimes troublesome bullpen began August with four shutout innings last night, holding the game where the offense could still have a chance.  They gave one hit and two walks in those four innings.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia’s current scoreless streak (after his scoreless sixth inning last night) is 7 games (8.1 innings).  He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 14 games (15.2 innings).  His season ERA is down to 1.37.  Coming into the sixth inning of a one-run game is a fairly highly leveraged responsibility.  Little by little, the impressive Mr. Brebbia is earning more and more important innings.

In 13 innings this season before the seventh inning, John is unscored on, allowing just 3 hits.  Even though all the runs scored against him have come from the seventh inning on, his ERA in those innings is a still excellent 2.70.

Tyler Lyons

The evening featured another fine performance from Tyler Lyons, who seems to be very locked in.  He threw an inning and a third last night, giving no runs or hits – although he did walk his first batter in 10 games.  Tyler has not allowed a run in his last 9 appearances (7.2 innings), and has given only 2 hits in that span (.087 batting average), while striking out 11.  Tyler has struck out 9 over his last 5 innings with a swing-and-miss ratio of 30% of the swings taken against him.

Tyler pitched the seventh and got the first out of the eighth last night.  He has been very, very good in those innings this year.  He has totaled 16.1 innings in the seventh and eighth innings, with a 1.62 ERA, a .214 batting average against, and a .268 slugging percentage against.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman ran into a little more difficulty than usual closing out the eighth, allowing a hit and a walk.  But no runs came in.   Bowman held a 2.00 ERA in July and picked up in August where he left off.

The eighth has been Matthew’s most difficult inning to date.  In six “eighth innings” Matthew has been cuffed for 2 of the 4 home runs he’s allowed, and 9 earned runs – an 18.00 ERA.  To go along with a .387/.444/.645 batting line against.

Runs A Little Scarce Lately.

The impressive recent efforts of the pitching staff would normally be enough to push this team into a surge that would carry them into the division lead.  Unfortunately, a concurrent offensive brown-out has limited the good the club has realized from the good pitching.  St Louis is only 11-9 in their last 20 games.  The offense has managed more than three runs only 3 times in the last 13 games, and, in the 18 games since the All-Star break, they are averaging just 3.83 runs per game.

Except for the Fourth Inning

Last night’s fourth inning could have been better.  Pham led it off with a single and went to second on a ground ball.  With the four, five and six hitters coming up, the Cards were setting up for an inning.  The big inning never materialized (neither in the fourth nor any other inning last night), but the Cards did get the one run on a single from Yadier Molina.

Curiously, the fourth inning has been one of the team’s consistently best innings this year.  In the 18 games since the All-Star break, the Cards are hitting .329 in that inning (24 for 73), scoring 12 runs.  The only inning in those games that they’ve scored more runs in is the eighth (17 runs), and that was only on the strength of one 9-run inning against the Cubs.  Over the course of the entire season, the 67 runs scored in that inning and the .291 batting average in that inning are both the highest of any of the innings.

The Summer of Pham

Not much good happened offensively for the Cards last night, but Tommy Pham keeps on keeping on, with two more hits.  He scored one of the runs and drove in the other run.  Tommy has hit safely in all of his last 7 starts, going 10 for 25 (.400) in those games.  He led the team in batting average last month, hitting .344 (32 for 93) and slugging .591 (he finished with 6 doubles, a triple, and 5 home runs).  In 26 July games (24 starts), Pham scored 19 runs and drove in 19 runs.

Tommy’s RBI came on a fifth-inning single.  Pham (who singled and scored in the fourth) has done well as a part of the Cardinal fourth-inning surge – he is hitting .333 in the fourth.  But the fifth is his inning.  He is now hitting .419 in the fifth (13 for 31) and is now 5-for-5 in that inning since the All-Star break.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong had hits in the third and fifth innings.  He grounded out in the seventh and struck out in the ninth.  Kolten is a .333 hitter (44 for 132) before the seventh inning.  From the seventh inning on, his average drops to .208 (15 for 72).

Jedd Gyorko

The long slump of Jedd Gyorko continues.  Jedd was 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts last night, and looked more than a little lost.  Over his last 19 games, the Cardinal cleanup hitter is batting just .152 (10 for 66) and slugging just .227.  Jedd hasn’t hit a home run since the first game after the All-Star break – 58 at bats ago.

Paul DeJong

Wonder rookie Paul DeJong is tailing off a bit.  He was also 0-for-4 last night.  Since the All-Star Break, Paul is hitting .225 (16 for 71) – albeit with 5 home runs.  Still, he’s gone 5 games without an extra-base hit, driving in just one run in those games.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter opened the game with a fly out.  He came up again in the third and struck out before walking in both the fifth and eighth innings.  For a leadoff hitter, Matt is curiously slow out of the gate.  He is only hitting .229 in the first inning this year (19 for 83) and just .215 in the first three innings (31 for 144), albeit with a .339 on base percentage and a .417 slugging percentage.  From the fourth inning on, he slashes .278/.409/.473.

NoteBook

Yadier Molina’s strike out last night was his fifty-fifth of the season.  In his previous 13 years, he has only struck out more than 55 times twice – 59 strike outs in 2015, and his career high 63 strike outs last year.

On the other hand, Molina has only grounded into 6 double plays so far this season.  Four times in his career he has bounced into at least 20 double plays – including 22 last year.  His career low for a full season is 10, which he achieved in 2005 and again in 2012.

First Pitch Fastball Watchers?

As former Cardinal Mark Reynolds stood in to lead off the fifth inning, Cardinal starter Lance Lynn fired him a four-seam fastball that Reynolds fouled off.  In six-plus innings last night, Lynn faced 21 batters.  Reynolds was the only one all night to swing at his first pitch.  Even Matt Carpenter doesn’t take that many first pitches.

Lance faced only 13 batters as he sailed through the first four innings.  Twelve of those batters saw first-pitch fastballs.  None of them swung at them.  Five of the twelve were out of the strike zone.  Three of the other seven were very inviting.  Beginning in the third inning, five consecutive batters – including Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado – took first-pitch fastballs for strikes.  Thirteen of the 21 batters took the first two pitches from Lynn.

If this was strategy, it didn’t work very well. Lance didn’t get the win, but he stopped Colorado on one run on three hits over his six-plus innings and set the Cards up for a 3-2 walk-off win (box score).

In so doing, Lance added another strong starting effort to the team’s latest streak.  Over the last 14 games, Cardinal starting pitchers have thrown 10 quality starts.  In the 87.1 innings they’ve pitched during those games, they have surrendered just 77 hits, including only 8 home runs and 15 walks (1 intentional).  It works out to a 2.27 ERA, a .231 batting average against, and a .266 opponent’s on base percentage.

The best hope that Cardinals have of being significant before the season ends is a continued string of strong starts.  And, hopefully, at some point a bullpen that can hold a late-inning lead.  St Louis is only 8-6 in its last 14 games, in spite of the excellence of its starting pitching.

Lance Lynn

Lance – who I am hoping will survive the trade deadline and remain with the team for the rest of the season – has been a pillar of the great recent run of starting pitching.  He has started 4 of the last 14, all of them quality starts.  He is 2-0 with an 0.71 ERA and a .193/.228/.273 batting line against.  After previously allowing 8 home runs over a 4 game span, Lance has allowed just 1 in his last 4.

Last night was the fourth time this season that Lynn left a game with a lead, only to watch his bullpen give it up.

For the game, Lance didn’t throw a lot of first-pitch strikes.  He threw ball one to four of the first five batters he faced, and ended his evening missing with the first pitch to each of the last six batters he faced.  At the end of the evening, only 9 of the 21 batters he faced saw strike one.  But when he did throw that first pitch strike, those batters finished 0-for-8 with 4 strikeouts and 1 walk.

Throughout this month, Lance has only thrown first-pitch strikes to 61 of the 114 batters he’s faced (54%).  But when he does get that first pitch in, he has held batters to a .138 average (8 for 58).

Over the last 14 games, batters getting a first-pitch strike from a Cardinal pitcher have gone on to hit just .199 (56 for 281).

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist pitched for the second consecutive day for the first time since he came off the disabled list.  That might be a reason he wasn’t quite as dominant as he had been in his first four games (he walked a batter and got no strikeouts).

He was plenty good enough though, considering the situation.  Kevin came on in the seventh, with Rockies at second and third and no one out while clinging to a precarious 2-0 lead.  One run scored on a fly ball, but Kevin successfully de-fused what could have been a damaging inning.  Siegrist has thrown 4.2 innings since his return and has allowed only one hit.

Matthew Bowman

It wouldn’t be a Cardinal game without a blown save.  The honors, last night, fell to Matthew Bowman.  Recently, Matthew had pitched 11 straight games without allowing a run.  After serving up the game tying home run to Trevor Story in the eighth inning (lately the blown save has come in the eighth inning, instead of the ninth), Bowman has now allowed runs in both of his last two games, getting blown saves in both of them.

For the month of July, batters facing Bowman are 6 for 20 (.300) in the at bat if Matthew throws them a first-pitch strike.  Story’s home run came on such an at bat.

Trevor Rosenthal

Yes, I admit it.  When Colorado blooped two hits with two out in the ninth inning against Trevor Rosenthal – working his second inning – I pretty much assumed that all was lost.  That’s just the way it’s gone lately.  But this time, Rosenthal wrote a happier ending by striking out Story to end the inning.

Trevor was in a little trouble there, but again, no walks from Rosenthal.  That seems to be the key.  As long as he is forcing them to hit the ball to beat him, Trevor does all right.

And, his lapse against Chicago aside, Trevor has been throwing the ball much better.  His July shows 9.1 innings with a 1.93 ERA and 13 strikeouts.

Don’t Fall Behind the Cardinal Hitters

Colorado pitchers did a better job of throwing first-pitch strikes to the Cardinal hitters.  Twenty-two of the thirty-six Cardinal batsmen saw strike one.  It didn’t bother them too much – those 22 went on to go 7 for 20 (.350) with 2 sacrifice hits.  But the 14 batters who saw ball one had an even better time.  They went 5 for 13 (.385).  For the month of July, the Cards are hitting .307/.418/.582 when the opposing pitcher starts them off with ball one.

Paul DeJong

The runs didn’t hold up, but Paul DeJong got the offense started with a two-run, first-inning homer – his thirteenth in just 178 big league at bats.  Paul added a single later.  DeJong has now put together a five-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .381 (8 for 21) and slugging .857 (1 double & 3 home runs).  Paul has driven in at least one run in all five games, and has 7 for the streak.  Paul also has two hits in each of the last 3 games.

For the month of July, DeJong’s average has risen to .312 (24 or 77) and his slugging percentage to .688 (8 doubles and 7 home runs).

His home run came on the first pitch thrown him by Rockie starter Jon Gray.  His single cam in an at bat that began with Paul fouling off the first pitch.  The two times that he took the first pitch for a ball, he struck out and flied out.

I suspect that pretty soon pitchers will stop challenging him with first-pitch strikes.  For the season, Paul is a .311 hitter (33 for 106) and a .613 slugger (5 doubles and 9 of his 13 home runs) when pitchers throw him first-pitch strikes.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina added two hits for the second straight game.  He is now up to .275 (19 for 69) for the month.

Kolten Wong

Although neither hit made it through the infield, Kolten Wong pushed his season average back up to .303 with a 2 for 4 night.  With his second consecutive two-hit game, Kolten is now up to .313 (10 for 32) since returning from the disabled list.

The only time Wong saw a first-pitch strike last night, he fell behind Gray 0-2 in the fourth.  He ended up with an infield hit.  For the season, Kolten hits .324 (36 for 111) when he is thrown a first-pitch strike.

Cards’ Big Inning Includes Five Hits with Runners in Scoring Position

As the season resumed following the All-Star break, the Cardinals began a ten-game road trip with swings through Pittsburgh and New York, losing four of the seven games – three in walk off fashion.  Among the many areas they came up short in during those games, the hitting with runners in scoring position (RISP) could definitely have been better.  Seven games into the second half of the season, the Cards had gone 13 for 55 (.236) in those situations.

Through the first seven innings yesterday in Chicago not much seemed to change.  They were just 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position at that point, and just 4 for their last 27.

So, as Tommy Pham came to the plate with Matt Carpenter at second and nobody out in the eighth, you might have thought that the Cardinals were overdue to make a little noise with runners in scoring position.  It is doubtful that anyone could have forseen the correction that followed.  The next ten batters all reached base (5 walks, 3 singles and 2 doubles), and before the inning had ended, St Louis had chalked up 9 runs on their way to an 11-4 victory (box score).  They finished the game 6 for 12 with 3 doubles and 6 walks with “ducks on the pond.”  The mini-explosion pushes the team average to .281 for the month, and .264 for the year with runners in scoring position.

They are now hitting a decent .268 for the month of July, scoring 4.76 runs during the 17 games played so far this month.

Dexter Fowler

It was encouraging to see a few hits from Dexter Fowler yesterday.  He returned from his latest DL stint on July 7, and marked the event with a home run. Since that game, Dexter had no extra base hits, no runs scored, and no runs batted in.  He broke all of those zeros last night, as his 3 for 4 night included an RBI double and a walk that turned into a run in that eighth inning.  The outburst pushed his average to .275 (11 for 40) since his return.

Dexter had been 0 for 14 since his return in RISP opportunities before he drove in Pham with a third-inning double.  Over the course of the season, Dexter has been one of the team’s better performers with runners in scoring position.  His 2 RISP opportunities yesterday bring him to 76 for the year, during which Dexter has contributed 10 singles, 3 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 26 RBIs, 13 walks (2 intentional) and 2 sacrifice flies.  This adds up to a batting line of .279/.395/.590.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter had no hits yesterday until he came up in the eighth inning as the lead-off hitter.  He finished the inning with two hits to round out a 2 for 5 night.  For the most part, things have been falling into place for Matt in July.  He is now hitting .345 this month (20 for 58) and .389 (7 for 18) since the team left Pittsburgh.

In Carpenter’s second at bat in the inning, he came up with the bases loaded and singled to drive in a run.  Carpenter is now 4 for 10 in July with runners in scoring position.

Tommy Pham

The summer of Pham continued unabated as Tommy Pham added a double and a single to yesterday’s mix. Tommy has now hit in 5 straight games going 8 for 21 (.381) with 2 doubles and 2 home runs (.762 slugging percentage).  He has also now hit in 9 of his last 10 – going 17 for 39 (.436).  He has scored 10 and driven in 10 in those games.  He is hitting .375 for July (24 of 64) and slugging .688 (6 doubles, 1 triple, and 4 home runs).  He has driven in 17 runs in 17 games this month.

Tommy’s 2 RBIs yesterday came on a single in that 9-run eighth.  Tommy is now 7 for 19 (.368) this month in RISP opportunities.

Jedd Gyorko

A revelation in April and May, Jedd Gyorko is scuffling in July.  He drew an important walk in that eighth inning (one of two walks on the day for Jedd), but otherwise went 0 for 3.  Jedd is hitting just .135 (5 for 37) over his last 10 games, and has no extra-base hits in his last 7.  He is now just 11 for 52 (.212) this month.

Jedd lined out in the third inning in his only RISP at bat yesterday.  Jedd is now hitting .133 (2 for 15) this month with runners in scoring position.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong has been back, now, for 8 games – 6 of them starts – and 21 at bats after yesterday’s 0 for 3.  Kolten walked twice yesterday – the first times he’s walked since his return from the DL.  He still has no extra-base hits and no runs batted in since his return.

Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez wasn’t at his absolute best – and the Cubs have always battled him pretty well – but he did fight his way through six innings allowing only 2 earned runs – this in spite of the fact that they finished with 10 hits in Carlos’ 6 innings.

But one thing Carlos can do – usually, even when he isn’t razor sharp – is pitch with runners in scoring position.  Yesterday Chicago had 11 shots at Martinez with runners in scoring position.  They finished just 2 for 10 with a walk.  For the season, batters with runners in scoring position hit just .173 (17 for 98) against Carlos.

Carlos didn’t get yesterday’s win, due – in part – to the offense’s continued neglect with their ace on the mound.  Yesterday was the twelfth time in Carlos’ 20 starts that the offense scored fewer than 3 runs while he was the pitcher of record.

Matthew Bowman

Here’s a surprise.  I pointed out in yesterday’s post how well Matthew Bowman has been pitching of late, and when he came in during the seventh-inning of a tight game, he didn’t immediately serve up a bunch of critical runs.  Granted, the only batter he faced tried to lay down a bunt, and bunted it right to him.  Still that makes 11 consecutive scoreless games from Bowman during which he has held batters to a .197 average and a .214 slugging percentage.  Of the last 30 batters he has faced, 57% have hit the ball on the ground, and only 1 of the last 41 batters to stand in against him has walked.

Kevin Siegrist

It’s only been three games since Kevin Siegrist has returned to the bullpen, but he has looked razor sharp.  In three nearly perfect innings, Kevin has allowed only 1 single and 1 walk.  Seven of the nine outs he’s recorded have come as strikeouts.  Batters have missed on 56% of the swings they have taken against him since his return.