Tag Archives: Carlos Martinez

When Carlos Trusts His Stuff

Carlos Martinez has these days where he looks every inch the elite pitcher that St Louis believes he is and will be.  He has those other days, too.  But last night he played hard ball with one of baseball’s more dangerous lineups and came away the victor in an 11-3 conquest (box score).  Carlos went 8 of those innings, striking out 7 and allowing just 2 runs on 7 hits (that would have been only 4 hits had Carlos simply gotten out of the way of a few infield grounders).

What was different last night from his previous start when he gave three first-inning runs to Milwaukee?  The easy answer would be command.  In Milwaukee he threw strikes with only 55 of his 102 pitches.  Last night he also threw 102 pitches, but with 70 of them being strikes.  He gave no walks last night.

But the deeper answer is that last night Carlos trusted his stuff – and it worked out for him.  It’s a fine line.  There are games when he doesn’t trust his stuff.  There are games when he trusts his stuff and gets beaten up a bit.  But when the fastball runs – and it was darting a lot last night – Carlos Martinez can be a handful.  Last night, 23 of the 31 batters he faced saw some flavor of fastball on the first pitch.  Overall, 58 of his 102 pitches were either the four-seam (47) or two-seam (11).  According to Brooks Baseball who tracks such things (here), Carlos never quite reached 100 mph, although he came exceedingly close (his top speed weighed in at 99.9), but he threw with great confidence and great movement at 96-98.

His attacking mindset – and the Kansas City Royals’ willingness to chase that fastball – allowed Carlos to keep his pitch count low enough to finish 8.  For the game, 18 of the 31 batters he faced lasted 3 pitches or less – including 3 of the 4 he faced in the eighth.

As you watch Martinez walk 5 batters in 5 innings, as he did in Milwaukee, you might get the feeling that Carlos’ is less pitch-efficient than the other starters in the rotation.  In actuality, for the season, Carlos is dealing with batters at just 3.66 pitches per.  Only Mike Leake (3.57) expends fewer pitches per batter.  When you throw a lot of fastballs and don’t nibble, the at bats cycle through pretty quickly.  Last night, Carlos’ 31 batters in 102 pitches worked out to 3.29 pitches per.  That will usually get you deep into a game.

And Oh Yes, There Was Some Offense Last Night, Too

On July 26, your St Louis Cardinals took their baseball wood to the Colorado Rockies by a 10-5 score.  In the nine games that followed, those same Cardinals totaled 19 runs.  Now they have scored 24 over the last two games, featuring big innings of 4, 6 and 9 runs.

With the outburst comes hope of a more sustainable offensive situation over the season’s last 50 games.  There are certainly a number of Cardinal players who are overdue for an extended hot streak.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter capped off the 6-run fourth inning with the 3-run home run that opened up the game.  Matt is one of those who have suffered through a less-than-expected season.  Even with his two hits last night, his season average still sits at .249.  However, he is now hitting .295 (23 for 78) with a .396 on base percentage (12 walks) since the All-Star Break.

As per usual, Matt Carpenter saw more pitches than anyone else on the team.  In his 4 plate appearances, he cost Kansas City pitchers 21 pitches – 5.25 per appearance.  For the season, he leads the team with 4.37 pitches per PA.

Jose Martinez

Jose Martinez did less damage last night than the night before.  Still, he contributed two more hits and is now at .333 in the second half.  Mike Matheny really can’t bench him while he’s getting two hits a night, can he?

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina pushed his second half batting average to .320 with two more hits (24 for 75). He has now hit safely in 6 of his last 8 games, during which he is 11 for 26, including 2 doubles and 2 home runs – a .423 batting average and a .731 slugging percentage.  With two runs scored last night, Molina has scored 8 runs in his last 8 games.

Ever aggressive, Yadi swung at half of the 12 pitches thrown him last night.  Molina is swinging at 53.6% of the pitches thrown his way this season.  Of the regulars and semi-regulars, the only higher percentage belongs to rookie Paul DeJong, who swings at 54.7% of the pitches thrown to him.

When Yadi came up in the second, he did so with Jose Martinez at first and no one out.  It is likely that Kansas City viewed this as a double play opportunity – as Molina has grounded into many double plays over the years.  Things have been very different in that regard for Molina so far this year.  Yadi hit the ground ball – but it shot down the left-field line for the double that set up the big inning.

Molina still hasn’t grounded into a double play in the second half, and has bounced into only 6 in 74 opportunities this year (8.1%).

Tommy Pham

Not much disappointing news from last night, but one down note was the end of Tommy Pham’s most recent hitting streak – a six-gamer during which he hit .333 (8 for 24).

One of the biggest differences in the new Tommy Pham is swing and miss percentage.  Last year, Tommy missed 34.8% of the pitches he swung at.  That was the highest rate of any non-pitcher on the team (higher even than Brandon Moss’ 33.7%).  He is down to just 20.6% this season, and in the season’s second half Tommy has only missed on 28 of the 179 swings he’s taken.  Of all players with at least 25 plate appearances in the second half, only Matt Carpenter (15.3%) misses with fewer swings than Pham’s 15.6%.  He swung the bat 8 times last night, and only missed with one of the swings.

However, Tommy also seems to feel that just because he can finally see, that means that everyone else (like the umpires) can as well.  Pham was called out twice last night on close pitches – the first of which was clearly inside (and probably high, as well), but ultimately too close to take.  Tommy frequently seems mystified by the fact that the same umpires that miss calls on everyone else also miss calls on him.  Of the 84 times he has struck out so far this season, 34 (40.5%) have been on called strike threes.

NoteBook

Kolten Wong’s second-inning sacrifice fly gave the Cards a brief 1-0 lead.  It was the first time in 8 games that St Louis had scored first.

Before last night, the Cards had trailed at some point in eight straight games, and 10 of their last 11.

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.

Control Issues Help Doom Colorado

In a lot of ways, it was just the Cardinals night last night.  Four of the 15 hits didn’t make it out of the infield, and Harrison Bader’s eighth-inning double was looped into right.  For a team that finished with ten runs, there wasn’t an awful lot of hard contact.

Compounding the issue for the Rockies was the general inability of their pitchers to throw strikes. In all, four pitchers combined to hurl 185 pitches at Cardinal hitters.  Of the 107 that those hitters didn’t offer at, only 28 were called strikes (26%).  Of the first pitches thrown to the 46 Cardinals who came to the plate, only 12 were close enough to invite the Cards to swing at them.  This takes some doing, as St Louis is about as willing to swing at a first pitch as team in baseball.

But on a night when Colorado didn’t have the best of luck, their pitchers kept adding fuel to the fire.  The result was a convincing 10-5 Cardinal victory (box score).

With the 10 runs and 15 hits, St Louis approaches the last four games of July hitting .275 as a team and scoring 4.86 runs per game.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk had two of the infield hits awarded the Cards last night – part of a surprising 4-for-5 night that included no extra-base hits.  Grichuk has now hit in all 6 games since his return from the DL, going 11 for 24 (.458) with 4 home runs (.958 slugging percentage).  He has scored 6 runs and driven in 7 in those six games.

Randal is now 15 for 53 this month (.283) with 1 double and 6 home runs (.642 slugging percentage).

Grichuk was able to lay off the first pitch in 4 of his 5 at bats – and was rewarded with 3 hits in those at bats.  For the month of July, Grichuk has laid off the first pitch a surprising (for him) 69.6% of the time.  He has gone on to hit .361 in those at bats (13 for 36) and slug .889 as all of his extra-base hits this month have come in at bats where he has taken the first pitch.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s 2 for 5 evening pushed his season average up to .250.  Folks should be aware (especially those thinking he should be traded – and yes I saw a blog where that was suggested) that Carpenter is now hitting .319 in July (23 for 72).

In six plate appearances last night, Matt only swung at the first pitch once, fouling off Jeff Hoffman’s first-pitch fastball in the fifth.  That at bat would end with the two-run double that would give the Cards a 6-4 lead.  For the season, Matt is swinging at that first pitch just 15.9% of the time.  During the month of July, that ratio is even lower – just 12.8% of the time.  But when he does, good things usually happen.  Carp is 7 for 11 (.636) so far this month in at bats where he swings at the first pitch.

Tommy Pham

It’s rare that we talk about a Cardinal game and don’t mention Tommy Pham – who was 2-for-2 last night with 2 walks.  He now has 5 hits in his last 8 at bats, and 6 walks in his last 15 plate appearances.  Tommy is coming down the stretch in July hitting .363 this month (29 for 80) and slugging .650 (6 doubles, 1 triple, and 5 home runs).  In 22 July games, Tommy has scored 18 runs and driven in 19.

Tommy took the first pitch thrown to him 3 times in his 5 plate appearances – ending up with a single and both walks.  For the season, Tommy has been taking that first pitch 73.9% of the time and hitting .346/.450/.593 when he does.  Eleven of his fourteen home runs have come in at bats where Tommy has taken the first pitch.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina is now 21 for 73 (.288) in July after his third straight two-hit game.  Even the notoriously aggressive Molina took the first pitch thrown him three of four times last night.

Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez entered July riding a streak of 11 quality starts in 12 outings.  This month, though, has been decidedly choppy for the colorful young right-hander.  He picked up the win last night (his only one of the month) in spite of the fact that he gave up 5 runs in 6 innings.  He gave 7 hits, including a home run – his seventh this month in just 29 innings.

Carlos has already set a career high this year, allowing 17 home runs before the end of July.  His totals for the month are a 1-2 record, 5.90 ERA, .308 batting average against, and a .556 slugging percentage allowed.  With Carlos’ stuff, you wouldn’t think you would see opponents’ batting .308 against him over a 29 inning stretch.

Of the 25 batters that Carlos faced last night, 17 took his first pitch.  Two of those batters went on to walk, while the other 15 managed 2 singles (.133) and 7 strikeouts.  The 8 that offered at his first pitch ended up 5 for 8 with a double, a home run, and all 5 runs batted in.  For the month of July, batters swinging at Martinez’ first pitch are hitting .372 (16 for 43) and slugging .698 (2 doubles and 4 home runs).  These are the kinds of results you would see if Martinez was either becoming too predictable, or if he was tipping his pitches.

For what it’s worth, Nolan Arenado‘s certainly looked like he was expecting the pitch that he homered on.

A Bullpen Note

The pen wrapped up the game with three scoreless innings.  It is surprising to note that the bullpen has a 2.09 ERA so far this month – surprising because they’ve also blown four leads in July.  They haven’t done well in pressure situations, but they have pitched very well this month when behind or way ahead.

NoteBook

With last night’s win, St Louis has completed a series sweep in 5 of its 7 opportunities to sweep.

Coming off a 10-3 victory over Atlanta, Arizona will be the fifth consecutive team the Cards have played that will have won its previous series.

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.

Ninth Inning Disasters Continue

Beginning with two nearly perfect innings on June 13, Brett Cecil ripped off a string of 15 consecutive scoreless performances.  Over those games, Brett handled 15.2 innings giving just 7 hit and 1 walk.

As Cecil was putting together this impressive streak of scoreless innings, Seung-hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal took turns serving up games in the eighth and ninth innings.

After Oh served up the game-winning walk-off home run in the ninth inning of Friday’s game, manager Mike Matheny finally turned to Cecil in a closing situation yesterday afternoon.  Brett took the mound for the bottom of the ninth, holding a 3-2 lead.

Eleven pitched later, Brett had given up two runs on three hits and was walking off the field as the losing pitcher (box score).  He hadn’t allowed a run in more than a month, but when he did, it cost the team a game.

The Cardinals are snake-bitten in the ninth inning.

Cardinal pitchers have pitched 11.1 innings in the ninth inning this year when the team trailed in the game by one or two runs.  When it comes to keeping the team in the game so they have a chance in the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinal bullpen has been excellent.  They hold a 1.59 ERA in those innings, with a .211 batting average against.

For 11 innings Cardinal pitchers have worked the ninth inning with the game tied.  Here, they have been less proficient.  In those 11 innings, their ERA jumps to 4.91 (giving up 7 runs, 6 of them earned), including 3 home runs.

Cardinal pitchers have carried a one-run ninth-inning lead for 9 innings so far this year.  They have given up 5 runs on 13 hits and 3 walks while trying to protect that one-run ninth-inning lead – a 5.00 ERA and a .325 batting average against.

Cardinal pitchers have worked 34 innings this year in the ninth inning where they have been no worse off than tied, but not ahead by more than three runs.  They have responded to these closer-like situations with a 5.29 ERA, a .306 batting average against, and 5 home runs.  I’m sure these are not historic numbers, but they are black enough.

There are many things that the Cardinals have not done well.  Hemorrhaging ninth-inning leads is arguably the worst of their sins.

Which Leads to Another One-Run Loss

Yesterday’s games was a textbook example of how a team comes to be 13-17 in one-run games.  Offensively they passed up several opportunities to add runs – along with hitting into three double plays, and running into a fourth.  Mix in more ninth-inning trouble and just enough bad luck (Andrew McCutchen’s first-inning RBI single hit the second base bag, and Max Moroff’s home run hit the foul pole) and you have a developing pattern.

The bullpen has now thrown 94.2 innings of relief in the 30 one-run games the Cardinals have been involved in.  They have managed a 3-11 record with 12 saves, 26 holds, and 9 blown saves.  The bullpen ERA in one-run games this year is 3.80.  It has been a season-long issue.

Carlos Martinez

Speaking of developing patterns, Carlos Martinez pitched seven excellent innings yesterday, holding the resurgent Pirates to 2 runs on 5 hits.  But, it was the twelfth time in Carlos’ 19 starts that the offense failed to score four runs for him, and it was the third time already this season that Martinez had a lead squandered by his bullpen.

If one-run games are an indication of character, Carlos Martinez has been answering the bell.  Seven of his 19 starts have now been decided by one-run.  He has thrown quality starts in 5 of those games, fighting his way to a 2-2 record, a 2.35 ERA, and a .198 batting average against.  In 46 innings, Martinez has given 34 hits – 23 singles, 8 doubles, and 3 home runs – good for a .297 slugging percentage against.

Carlos has deserved a better fate so far this season.

In his three years in the rotation, Carlos has made 28 starts in games that have been decided by one run.  He is 9-3 in those games with a 2.99 ERA

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal hit a batter (Adam Frazier) in the eighth inning yesterday.  Frazier thus becomes the only batter to reach base against Rosenthal over his last 6 innings.  Yes, we just said this about Cecil, but Rosenthal has also pitched very well of late.  Over those last six innings, Trevor has struck out 11 and thrown 67% of his pitches for strikes (57 of 85).  Batters have missed on 42% of their swings against Rosenthal.

Magneuris Sierra

As you are probably aware, Magneuris Sierra set a Cardinal rookie record by hitting safely in each of his first 9 games.  Yesterday’s 4-for-4 performance included three infield hits, but they all count.  He is now hitting .444 on the season (16 for 36).  All 16 hits have been singles, although he has had multiple hits in 5 of the 9 games.

Sierra has now played in 4 one-run games.  He is 9 for 15 (.600) in those games.  He has also struck out 5 times in those games, so, in the first four one-run games of his career, Magneuris Sierra has only been retired once when putting the ball in play.

Matt Carpenter

As the second half of the season begins, Matt Carpenter’s bat has begun a bit of a revival.  With 2 hits last night, Carpenter has now hit in 6 games in a row (9 for 23) for a .391 average.  Through the first 12 games of July, Matt is hitting .325 (13 of 40).

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong added two hits yesterday.  Due to injuries, Wong has only played in 20 of the 30 one-run games the Cardinals have played, but he is now hitting .350 in those games (21 for 60).  Up until this season, Kolten was only a .244 hitter in 140 career one-run games.

Jedd Gyorko

As the season’s first half has melded into the second, Jedd Gyorko has hit a bit of a dry spell.  He is just 2 for 19 (.105) over his last 5 games after an 0-for-5 afternoon yesterday that included two ground-ball double plays.  This drops him to just .235 for the month.

After hitting .287/.341/.590 in one-run games last year, Jedd is only hitting .239/.301/.402 in them this year.

NoteBook

Of the now 18 times that St Louis has lost the first game of a series, they have come back to force a rubber game 9 times.  They are 4-5 in those rubber games.

Nationals Come After Martinez Early

One of baseball’s axioms about dealing with elite pitchers is that if you don’t get to them early, you might not get to them at all.  There are several variables that the starting pitcher will have to adjust for as he begins the game.  Mounds are apparently all different.  The strike zone of each individual umpire is quite different.  Usually, the hitters will come to the plate with some kind of approach or game plan which may not be anticipated and may lead to early success.  So, there are some adjustments to be made in that first inning or so – which opens a window of opportunity for the hitters.

The spectrum of this axiom was on full display last night in the finale of the season series between the Cardinals and the Washington Nationals.  The Cardinal offense didn’t come close to getting Washington ace Max Scherzer early.  He struck out the first four batters he faced and five in the first two innings.   And as it turned out, they never did get him – Scherzer finished his evening after 7 innings and 100 pitches, giving St Louis no runs on only 2 hits, while striking out 12.

Washington, on the other hand, jumped Cardinal starter Carlos Martinez for 2 first inning runs, and kept him out of kilter for the rest of an uncommonly short five inning outing, on its way to a relatively easy 7-2 victory (box score).

Carlos Martinez

Coming off of an excellent June, when he posted a 2.43 ERA in 5 starts – and riding an even longer streak of 11 quality starts in 12 games, Martinez gave 5 runs in 5 innings.  His evening, though, really fell on two pitches to National’s superstar outfielder Bryce Harper that most hitters would had turned into easy fly outs.  Harper got a little more of them than might be expected, sailing both into the right-field seats for two-run home runs.

Last night’s game marks the seventh time in Carlos’ 17 starts that the Cards were shutout while Martinez was on the mound.  Carlos has gotten fewer than 3 support runs 11 times in his 17 games.

Over the course of what has looked at times like a break-out season, Carlos has shown a tendency to wilt in the sixth (6.75 ERA) and seventh (7.71 ERA).  But he has been mostly terrific before those innings – if he can make it through the first inning unscathed.  From the second through the fifth innings (even after giving up three runs in last night’s third inning), Carlos has a 1.99 ERA and a .192 batting average against in those innings.  Harper’s second home run was the first Carlos has surrendered in the third inning all season.

On the other hand, Bryce’s first inning home run was the third first-inning home run off of Carlos (in 17 first innings).  His first-inning ERA now sits at 3.71.

John Brebbia

If you waited until the ninth inning, you would have seen John Brebbia out there mopping up.  He gave a hit and a walk (intentional), but got through the inning – his first appearance in five days – unscathed.  Over his last 4 games, batters are 2 for 16 (.125) against him.  For the season, John has a 2.35 ERA over 15.1 innings, during which batters are hitting .148 against him.

As the back of the bullpen was shuffled over the last two series – and while Seung-hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal are still struggling – and their role reversals haven’t resolved their struggles – I was hoping that Brebbia might get higher leveraged opportunities.  Instead, he seems to have been buried deeper in the depth chart.

Yadier Molina

So, Max Scherzer probably isn’t the pitcher you want to see on the mound when you are riding a 16-game hitting streak.  Yadier Molina finished his evening – as did many of the Cardinals – 0 for 4, bringing an end to his streak.  Over the course of the 16 games, Yadi hit .333 (21 for 63) with 3 home runs and 12 runs batted in.

Randal Grichuk

Hot off his three-hit, five RBI game in the finale of the Arizona series, Randal Grichuk finished up his 1 for 13 (.077) series against Washington with an 0-for-4 night.  He struck out 3 times last night, and 6 times during the series.  Since his hot start after his recall, Grichuk is now hitting .229 (8 for 35) in his post-Memphis appearances.

NoteBook

All season, the Cardinals have been less than dynamic in the first inning.  While last night’s three-up, three struck out was an extreme example, those strikeouts did leave the Cards with a .217 team batting average in the first inning.  Dexter Fowler (11 for 55) and Matt Carpenter (12 for 60) are both batting .200 for the season in the first inning – although with 13 walks, Carpenter’s on base percentage is .342 in that inning.

In the eighth inning, Tommy Pham completed the scoring by flicking Enny Romero’s up-and-away fastball over the right-field wall.  The home run was Pham’s tenth of the season – a career high.  It was also (after 26 games and 101 plate appearances) his first home run at Busch this season.  He carries a .218/.307/.264 batting line at home.  He is at .344/.435/.688 in 108 plate appearances on the road.  For his career, in 257 plate appearances at home, Tommy has 5 home runs and a .219/.307/.335 batting line.  He has been to the plate 310 times on the road, where he has hit 19 home runs with a .293/.382/.574 batting line.

Pham’s home run leaves Stephen Piscotty (121 PA) and Greg Garcia (74 PA) as the only Cardinals with 50 or more plate appearances at home who have yet to reach the fences at Busch.  Piscotty has 6 road home runs and Garcia 1.

Late Two-Strike Hits Burn St Louis

The first batter Trevor Rosenthal faced in the eighth inning (holding a 5-2 lead) was Jake Lamb.  Trevor got ahead quickly 0-2.  But two strikes were to be all he would manage against Lamb.  Trevor missed with his next three pitches (two of them changeups).  With the count now 3-2, and the changeup not finding the zone, Jake may well have suspected that he would get a fastball – and he did – all 98-mph of it.  But it was up a bit and Jake – not trying to do too much with it – slapped it up the middle for a leadoff hit.

After a Brandon Drury groundout moved the runner to second, Daniel Descalso came to the plate.  Again, after two pitches, the count was two strikes.  But Rosenthal missed with the next two fastballs to even the count.  To this point, Descalso had swung the bat at only 1 of the four fastballs he’d seen.  Is he waiting for the change?

If he was, he guessed correctly, because that’s what he got next – a change (elevated a bit) that he stroked into right for an RBI single.  Now it was a 5-3 game.

With Chris Iannetta up next, Trevor threw two fastballs followed by two sliders, setting Iannetta up at 2-2.  But his 2-2 slider bounced and Ianneta fouled off the next 99-mph fastball.  Chris walked when the next pitch – another slider – missed.  The Diamondbacks had the tying runs on with one out.

A hit-batsman would complicate the inning, but Trevor would work his way out of the inning allowing only one more run (could have been much worse).

Not pretty (or terribly effective) but Rosenthal did get the game to closer Seung-hwan Oh with a one-run lead.  For one batter, at least.  Oh got ahead of leadoff hitter David Peralta, 1-2.  Again, two strikes on the batter.  But Oh’s subsequent change floated on him and Peralta flicked it over the left-field wall for an opposite field, game-tying home run.

Across all of baseball, batters are hitting .176 with two strikes on them.  But in the bottom of the tenth inning, Arizona came through with its fourth crushing two-strike hit in the game’s last three innings when Chris Herrmann guided Matthew Bowman’s miss-located 3-2 fastball up the middle for the single that drove in the game-winning run in the Diamondbacks’ come-from-behind 6-5 victory (box score).

One third strike in any of these moments would have greatly enhanced the Cardinal’s chances of winning.

Arizona finished 4 for 9 against the Cardinal bullpen when they had two strikes on them.  St Louis has now lost 4 games this season where they led after seven innings.  In three of those games, the lead was at least two runs.

Over 14 games going back to Marco Gonzales’ abbreviated start against Milwaukee in the second game of the June 13 doubleheader, St Louis is 5-9 with a 5.13 team ERA with a .269 batting average allowed.

Trevor Rosenthal

Over his last 7 games, Trevor has lasted a total of 5 innings, seeing 6 runs score on 9 hits and 4 walks.  All of those hits have been singles, but that still adds up to a .391 batting average and a .483 on base percentage.

During those innings, Trevor had 20 of the 29 batters he faced in two-strike counts.  Those 20 batters have hit .438 (7 for 16) with 4 walks (a .550 on base percentage).

Seung-hwan Oh

Oh’s troubling streak stretches, now, to his last 8 games and 8 innings, during which it has rained hits (12) runs (7) and home runs (3) on the Cardinal closer.  The 36 batters he’s faced in those innings are hitting .343 and slugging .600 against Seung-hwan.  He is also seeing 71% of the balls hit against him put in the air – a strong evidence of his pitches elevating.

Oh shares Rosenthal’s recent struggles with batters in two-strike counts.  During the month of June, 66% of the batters to face Oh (31 of 47) have ended with two strikes on them.  They are hitting .323 (10 for 31 with no walks).  For the season, the batting average against Oh with two strikes on the batter is now .281.  Five of the six home runs he’s surrendered have come with the batter in a two-strike count.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil walked a batter in last night’s seventh inning – the first he’s walked in 8.2 innings – but threw an otherwise uneventful inning.  I hate to do this, because it seems like every time I point out how well a particular reliever is doing, he immediately blows up.

But, if Mike Matheny and his staff are entertaining ideas for someone who could slide into that closer’s role while Oh and Rosenthal try to figure things out, Brett might be an option.  Over 9 innings in his last 9 games, Brett has allowed no runs, last night’s walk, 2 singles and 1 double.  His 0.00 ERA is backed by .107/.138/.143 batting line against, plus he has stranded all of his last three inherited runners.  Of the last 22 batters to put the ball in play against Brett, 17 have hit it on the ground (77%).

The last 22 batters to face him that have found themselves in two-strike counts have gone 0 for 21 with one walk.

Even if Matheny and company still have utmost faith in Oh/Rosenthal (and I agree that they should – over the long haul), the fact is that no team can afford to hemorrhage games when they take leads into the late innings.  For a while these guys may have to throw in lower leveraged situations till they get things worked out.

In the interim, a guy like Cecil could be an option.

Carlos Martinez

It’s getting difficult to quantify the impact that Carlos Martinez has on the pitching staff.  He quieted the potent Arizona offense for six innings last night, striking out 10.  Ultimately, two sixth-inning walks were all that stood between Carlos and six scoreless innings.

Martinez has now thrown quality starts in 11 of his last 12 outings, his 6-3 record matched with a 2.37 ERA and a .182 batting average against.  He finished up a 2-2 June that saw him contribute 4 of the 10 quality starts the entire team has so far this month.  His ERA this month is 2.43.  The rest of the rotation checks in at 6.35 for June.

Offense Still Scoring Runs, But . . .

St Louis finished the afternoon with 6 hits – all singles – to go with 5 walks.  They went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and left 8 runners on base.  But they ended the day with 5 runs, which should be enough on most days.  Still.  With runners at second and third and one out in the first, Jedd Gyorko grounded to second.  A run scored, but . . .

Yadier Molina then ended the threat with a grounder.

St Louis pushed ahead 2-0 in the sixth, but they had the bases loaded with one out.  Paul DeJong brought in the run with a flyball, but Greg Garcia’s lineout to first closed out the potential big inning with just the one run.

When the Cards scored three in the seventh, they began the inning putting their first four batters on base – so even that inning could have been bigger.

The offense then followed by going 9 up and 9 down through the eighth, ninth and tenth innings, offering not a hint of life against the Arizona bullpen while the Diamondback hitters kept the Cardinal bullpen under constant pressure.

The Cards have averaged 4.81 runs per game this month.  But . . .

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s game kind of typifies his recent string of games – and to some extent the entire Cardinal offense.  Matt was 0 for 2 in the game (pulling his season average down to .234), but he walked twice and scored twice.  Over his last 9 games, Carpenter is 3 for 28 (.107), but has walked 13 times (a .390 on base percentage), and has scored 7 runs.

Road Home Runs Raise Questions

In the eighth-inning of yesterday’s 5-1 loss to Philadelphia (box score), rookie second baseman Paul DeJong launched the Cardinals’ twentieth – and final – home run of the 6-game road trip.  Even though St Louis finished the game with that lone marker, they averaged 6.5 runs per game in their journey through Baltimore and Philadelphia – two of the more inviting offensive ballparks in the league.

The home run notwithstanding, the Cardinals finished the game with only four hits on the afternoon – principally against Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola.  That was also a pronounced trend – not just during this road trip, but all season on the road.  They finished the road trip with just 54 hits and a .247 batting average.  Thirty-seven percent of their hits on the trip were home runs.

Earlier this month, the Cards embarked on a 7-game trip through Chicago and Cincinnati – losing all of those games.  They managed just 6 home runs – and consequently 20 total runs – on that trip, hitting .212 against two pitching staffs that have not set the world on fire this year.  This disappointing June that has seen the Cards go 8-13 so far is really a story of a team that has been 5-3 in their few home games this month, and 3-10 on the road, where they have not pitched well at all, and where they have hit only .229.

For the season, St Louis is scoring significantly more on the road (4.66 rpg v 4.03 at home), but doing it pretty much through the home run.  As we limp home, this team has now played 35 games on the road and 36 at home.  They are hitting .246 on the road, but with 51 home runs in those 35 games.  At home, the team batting average improves to .257, but with only 34 home runs (in 36 games).

This extends the pattern that lasted all last season, where the road-Cardinals hit 121 home runs and scored 424 runs (5.23 per), while the home-Cardinals managed 104 home runs and 355 runs (4.38 per).

Offensively, the numbers continue to suggest that this team is – perhaps – mismatched for the ballpark they play in.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter keeps walking.  He drew another walk yesterday and finished the road trip drawing 10 of the 23 walks St Louis had on the trip.  But after a single and a home run in the first game in Baltimore, the hits have stopped coming for the Cardinals newly re-instated leadoff hitter.  He is 1 for 15 (.067) over the last 5 games.  He was only 4 for 23 (.174) during the 0-7 road trip that proceeded this one.  During the Cardinals’ eight home games this month, Matt is hitting .419 (13 for 31) and slugging .742 (he has 7 doubles and a home run at home so far this month), so maybe the return to Busch will bring happier times for Carpenter.

Even though he is only hitting .171 on the road so far this month, he has hit 3 home runs away from home.  For the season, 8 of his 13 have come on the road.  Last year he hit .296 at home with 9 home runs, while he hit 12 homers on the road with a .247 batting average.

Jedd Gyorko

As he has started to hit more to right field, the difference in Jedd Gyorko at home and on the road is growing more pronounced.  Last year, Jedd hit .257 at Busch with 12 home runs and a .485 slugging percentage.  This year, the average at home has gone up (.269), but with a decline in power (4 home runs, .444 slugging percentage).  He hit .231 on the road last year with 18 home runs and a .502 slugging percentage.  This year, so far, Gyorko is 37 for 117 (.316) away from home, and slugging .564 on 6 doubles, a triple, and 7 home runs.

Gyorko’s name could be added to the prominent bats that have not prospered in spacious Busch.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz finished up a disappointing road trip on an 0-for-8 skid after his 0-for-3 yesterday.  He finished the trip with 3 singles and 1 walk for his 21 plate appearances – a .150/.190/.150 line.

Aledmys hasn’t had the best June either.  He is down to .242 for the month (16 for 66) with 3 walks (a .275 on base percentage).

Other Prominent Bats

Two of the most slanted home/road splits on the team belong to outfielders Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham.  These two have combined for 15 home runs this season.  All on the road.  Tommy is a .345/.439/.726 hitter on the road, and just a .200/.275/.217 hitter at home.  In 69 plate appearances this season at Busch, Tommy has one extra-base hit (a double).  In 226 career plate appearances at Busch, Tommy is a .217 hitter with 5 home runs.  The falloff in Piscotty is a little surprising.  During his first 115 games at Busch from 2015-2016, Stephen hit .311 with 18 home runs in 427 at bats.  He is hitting .244 this year at home.

Of batters going the other way, the only two of any note are Dexter Fowler (who is slashing .275/.377/.565 in his 36 games at home, while batting just .217/.294/.396 on the road), and Kolten Wong.  Wong (whose concept seems to have changed from middle infielder with pop to high batting average/high on base) is hitting .359/.443/.533 at home vs. .213/.319/.311 on the road.  Kolten had been a .239 lifetime hitter in 686 at bats at Busch before this season.

Carlos Martinez

Yesterday wasn’t the best we’ve seen Carlos Martinez, but he still managed a solid effort, going 6 innings and allowing just 3 runs (2 earned).  Even though he was tagged for the loss, Carlos extended his quality start streak to three in a row and 10 of his last 11, a stretch that has seen Carlos go 6-3 with a 2.32 ERA and a .181 batting average against.  Of his 15 starts this season, this is the sixth time that the Cardinals have scored no runs for him while he was in the game.

During his first two years in the rotation, Carlos was a dominant pitcher on the road.  He made 29 road starts over those seasons, posting a 17-5 record (one of those losses coming in relief) with a 2.50 ERA, a .215 batting average against and a .315 slugging percentage allowed.  In 187.1 road innings those years, he served up only 9 home runs.  Through 7 road starts this year, Carlos has 4 quality starts, a 2-5 record with a 4.29 ERA.  He still isn’t getting hit very often (.235 batting average against), but has been touched now for 7 home runs in 42 road innings.

Conversely, up until this season, Carlos has never truly appreciated the joys of pitching at Busch.  In his four previous seasons in St Louis, Carlos has pitched in 80 home games – 36 as a starter.  He began this year with 18 career quality starts at home, a 15-13 record, and a 3.75 ERA, featuring a .262 batting average against.  In 2017, Carlos has thrown 7 quality starts among his 8 home starts so far.  The results have been a 4-1 record and a 1.85 ERA.  Opponents are hitting just .174 against the talented right-hander at home and have managed just 3 home runs in 58.1 innings.  If these trends persist, we may start floating theories that might explain them.

Home/Road Splits of Other Starters

Martinez’ home/road splits are generally the same throughout the rotation – and most are even more dramatic.

Adam Wainwright has made 7 home starts.  Three of those have been quality starts.  In his 40.2 innings at Busch he has been reached for 2 home runs.  His record at home this season is 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA.  Adam on the road has also made 7 starts – just one a quality start.  He has combined for just 31.1 innings in those games, during which he has served up 6 home runs.  He is 2-4 on the road with a 9.48 ERA, a .356 batting average against, and a .585 slugging percentage allowed.

The schedule has tilted most of Lance Lynn’s starts to fall on the road so far this year (9 of his 14).  As with most of the rest of the staff, this hasn’t worked out all that well for him.  He has pitched just 49 innings over those 9 starts and has served up 13 home runs (2.39 per every 9 innings).  He is 2-3 with a 4.41 ERA on the road.  He is 3-1, 1.53 at home.

Eight of Michael Wacha’s 13 starts have been at home – and the results have been effective enough.  Through those 8 starts, Wacha has 5 quality starts, 43.2 innings pitched, 3 home runs allowed, while going 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA.  Only one of Wacha’s road starts was a quality start.  Through his 5 road starts, Michael has given us 24.1 innings, 5 home runs, an 0-2 record, and a 7.03 ERA.  He has been hit at a .346 clip in his road games.

Of the Cardinal starters, only Mike Leake has managed a level of home/road balance.  Leake has actually been better in his 7 road starts (4-2, 2.76) than his 7 home starts (1-4, 3.30).

The team ERA is 3.34 at home and 4.91 on the road, with the starters showing the most variance.  They have combined to go 16-8 with a 2.80 ERA at home, and 10-16 with a 5.15 ERA on the road.  It may well be true that the spaciousness of Busch works significantly against the productiveness of the offense.  It may also well be true that the spaciousness of Busch is the only thing keeping most of the Cardinal starters afloat.

Matthew Bowman

With a good seventh inning yesterday, Matthew Bowman continues to make progress.  In 10.1 innings this month, Matthew carries a 1.74 ERA and a .206 batting average against.

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.

No Lead is Safe – As Long As Its the Cardinals Who Hold the Lead

When the Cardinals broke through last night with two second inning runs, I really wanted to believe.  Surely it wouldn’t happen again.  Not with Carlos Martinez on the mound.  Not against Cincinnati.  And yet, although they held the lead again after six innings, the Cardinals were batting in the eighth, trailing.  And that, as they say, would be that.

Throughout this disappointing losing streak – which now totals 14 losses in the last 19 games – one of the constants has been that once the Cards fall behind, they stay behind.  Over the course of the 19 games, the Cards have had a lead at some point in 14 of them. They have managed to lose 9 of those games.  Including last night’s 4-2 come from ahead loss to the Reds (box score).  St Louis has now scored 60 runs in the 19 games (3.16 per), and have scored less than 3 runs in 8 of them.

On the other hand, 19 times over the last 19 games, the Cards have surrendered a lead and only 5 times have they fought back to tie or re-take the lead.  In all of those games, St Louis ended up losing.  The only 5 wins they have over the last 3 weeks or so have been in games in which they have never trailed.

Once they have fallen behind during this rough patch, they have hit a microscopic .198/.269/.335.  Last night the 7 batters (yes, there were only seven) who had plate appearances after the Cardinals fell behind were 0 for 6 with a walk (and 3 strikeouts).

Almost Never Behind

One of the strange patterns developing is that St Louis – in the midst of their 5-14 skid – have almost never trailed in the games.  Of the last 708 Cardinals to come to the plate, 273 (39%) have batted with his team ahead, 215 (30%) have batted with the game tied, and only 220 (31%) have come to the plate with the Cardinals trailing.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina may be starting to heat up.  He singled, doubled, stole a base and scored a run last night.  He has four hits in his last nine at bats – including a home run in Chicago.  That home run, by the way, was his sixth of the season.  He hit only 8 all of last year.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko – still having a fine year – looked as lost last night as he has in recent memory.  He struck out three times in five at bats in a game where he took strikes and went swinging at pitches well out of the zone.  Jedd has now gone 5 games without drawing a walk, and has hit 2 home runs over his last 26 games.

His strikeouts included one against Raisel Iglesias leading off the ninth, with his team trailing 4-2.  Over these last 19 games, Gyorko is only 1 for 17 (.059) when he hits with the Cards trailing in the game.  He is now 13 for 53 (.245) for the season when his team is behind.

Aledmys Diaz

After his 0 for 3 last night, Aledmys Diaz is hitting .246 (16 for 65) since the beginning of the Boston series (which was the start of this tailspin).  He has played in 18 of the last 19 games and has driven in 1 run.

About six games ago, he was moved to the eighth spot in the order.  He is 4 for 18 (.222) since the move.

Last year, Aledmys was one of the team’s most productive hitters when the score was tied.  In 138 such at bats, he slashed .316/.409/.513.  This year Aledmys has had a much harder time generating offense in tied games.  He is 13 for 64 (.203) and has drawn just 4 walks for a .250 on base percentage.  Over his last 15 at bats in tie games (including his third-inning strikeout last night), Diaz has two infield hits (.133).

Carlos Martinez

All season long, Carlos Martinez has struggled once he’s been given a lead.  I know it’s hard to tell since he almost never has a lead (the 2 support runs scored for him last night – one of which he drove in himself – bring to 4 the total number of support runs he has been given over his last 4 starts), but last night has followed something of a pattern for Carlos that transcends the recent losing skein.  He was brilliant for 6 innings (4 of them when there was no score and 2 when he held a lead) and then he didn’t survive the seventh as he gave it all back up.

For the season, Carlos has pitched 38.2 innings in which the score has been tied.  In those innings, Carlos has a 1.86 ERA and a .162/.216/.269 batting line against.  He has now worked 19.2 innings with a lead.  In those innings, Martinez has seen his ERA leap to 5.49 with a batting line of .247/.289/.429 against.

Carlos’ struggles are a reflection of the entire staff.  Through the last 19 games, the team ERA is 2.08 with a .202/.271/.323 batting line against over 56.1 innings while the score is tied.  Over the 67.1 innings the pitching staff has worked once the offense has provided a lead, the team ERA jumps to 4.95 and the batting line against rises to .242/.304/.389.  For the season, those numbers are 2.78 ERA, .229/.298/.374 when the game is tied; 419 ERA, .252/.308/.408 once they’ve been given a lead.

Kevin Siegrist

Long time bullpen stalwart, Kevin Siegrist has been a significant contributor to the recent struggles.  He retired two of the three batters he faced last night to get out of the seventh inning without giving up a run charged to him.  But he also served up the big double to Scooter Gennett that drove in the deciding runs of the game.

Kevin has now pitched in 7 of the last 19 games, totaling 5.1 very exciting innings that have featured 4 runs on 9 hits (including a home run), and 2 walks.  He carries a 6.75 ERA over those recent outings, with a .409 batting average and a .636 slugging percentage against him.

Last year, Kevin was as dependable as anyone when pitching in a tie game.  He worked 15 such innings in 2016 with a 1.80 ERA and a .170 batting average against.  With Gennett’s game-winning double, Kevin has now served up the winning hit twice over the last 19 games (he also allowed the two-run double from San Francisco’s Christian Arroyo that broke up the 13-inning scoreless tie on May 20).  The last 9 batters that Kevin has faced with the game tied have cashed in with 4 singles and 2 game-winning doubles.  For the season, pitching in tie games, Kevin has served up 8 hits in 14 at bats (.571).

NoteBook

The Cardinals scored the game’s first run for the sixth time in their last seven games.  They are 2-5 in those games.

On May 8 the Cards won 9-4 in Miami.  That was the last time they have won the opening game of a series.  Last night was the eighth consecutive first game of a series they have lost.

Tommy Pham has never driven in more than 18 runs in any major league season.  He drove in 17 last year.  Last night he drove in his fifteenth already this year.