Every so often we see a glimpse of the team that the organization thought we would be this year. We got one such glimpse last night, as a resilient offense erased two deficits – one a four-run deficit – to pull out a one-run, extra-inning victory. These kinds of efforts, though, have been much more the exception than the rule. St Louis is only 5-8 in extra innings, and 21-28 in one-run games (8-12 in the second half).
Although the run-scoring has slowed a little recently, the runs scored in the 8-7 victory (box score) kept the average at 4.97 since the All-Star Break. That’s good, but increasingly this team is struggling to get hits. They scored their 8 runs yesterday on just 8 hits through 10 innings. During the month of September, the team batting average has fallen to just .235.
Dexter Fowler has come back ready to hit. He drove the team to last night’s victory, tying the game with an eighth-inning home run and giving the team the lead with a double in the tenth. Dexter finished with 3 hits, and has had 7 in the three games since he’s returned to the lineup. He has driven in 5 runs over the last 2 games, and almost had 3 home runs and 6 runs batted in over those games.
Fowler has only been healthy enough to play in 8 games so far this month, but is hitting .370 (10 for 27) and slugging .778 (5 extra base hits) when he has. Fowler is hitting .340/.453/.617 in 28 games since coming off the disabled list. After a forgettable first half, Fowler is hitting .299/.415/.500 in the second half – albeit in only 39 games.
Fowler’s tenth-inning double stood up as his tenth game-winning run batted in of the season. He trails only Yadier Molina – who has 11 – for the team lead. His two late, game-changing hits were his seventh and eighth such hits of the season. No other Cardinal has more than 4.
If one-run games are considered character games – and I consider that they are – then Dexter is one of the few Cardinals who has consistently shown up in these games. The Cards have played in 4 this month. Fowler is 7 for 16 (.438) with a double, a triple, and 2 home runs (1.000 slugging percentage) in those games. In those 4 games, he has scored 5 runs and driven in 6.
He has played in 13 of the Cardinals’ 20 one-run games since the break, hitting .353 (18 for 51) and slugging .588 (4 doubles, 1 triple, and the 2 home runs). Even after his uneven first half, Fowler is hitting .277 (39 for 141) and slugging .596 in 37 one-run games this season. Ten of his 17 home runs have come in games decided by one run.
Since most one-run games are fairly dominated by the pitchers, this kind of offense is impressive, indeed.
Troubles continued for Kolten Wong, now hitless in his last 11 at bats after his 0 for 4 last night. Wong did get hit by a pitch, steal a base, and score the game deciding run in the tenth. Even while struggling to hit, Kolten is still reaching base.
In his 8 games since being sidelined by a stiff back, Wong is only 3 for 20 (.150), but has 6 walks and 2 hit-by-pitches for a .393 on base percentage. He is down to just .156 for the month (5 for 32) – although with a .341 on base percentage.
Jedd Gyorko is back in the lineup, but perhaps a little rusty from his layoff. The hamstring injury has been just another complication in what has been trying second half. With his 0 for 4 yesterday, Jedd is hitting .203 (27 for 133) since the All-Star Break.
Jedd has played in 40 of the Cards 49 one-run games. He is hitting just .216 in those games (29 for 134) with 3 home runs and 16 runs batted in.
One-run games have come with particular difficulty for Stephen Piscotty – especially since the All-Star Break. Overall, Stephen has hit much better since his return from Memphis. Unless the game is decided by one run.
After his 0 for 4 last night, Piscotty is 0 for 7 in 3 one-run games this month, and .042 (1 for 24) in 9 one-run games since the break. For the season, Piscotty has played in 34 one-run games, hitting .190 (19 for 100) with 2 home runs and just 7 runs batted in.
After two excellent innings in relief, Brett Cecil was asked to pitch a third inning when he went out for the sixth with the Cards clinging to a 5-4 lead. A walk and a double set the stage for a couple runs to score. With the damage, Brett’s ERA popped back over 4 for the season (4.04) and back up to an even 5.00 in 27 second half innings.
At the end of the game, it was Tyler Lyons securing the last two outs and claiming the save. In recent games, Lyons hasn’t been as dominant as he has been during most of the season. Still, his ERA sits at 2.68 for the season – and 1.11 in 24.1 innings in the season’s second half.
Relief pitching is, perhaps, the most critical factor in winning one-run games. Certainly much of the Cardinal’s futility in these games can be traced to the bullpen’s 4.10 ERA in the 49 one run games.
Lyons, however, has been one of the strongest bullpen links in these games. He holds a 2.16 ERA and a .160 batting average against in 8.1 innings in the second half, and a 1.80 ERA with a .212 batting average against in 15 innings for the year in one-run games.
In falling behind 4-0, the Cardinals have gone three straight games without scoring first, and have done so only once in their last seven games (Tommy Pham’s first inning home run in the first game in Chicago).
Last night’s win gives the Cards opening game wins in 6 of their last 7 series – all except the series in Chicago.
Jack Flaherty’s abbreviated start brings to four the number of consecutive games without a quality start from the rotation. They have only 2 in the last 8 games. No Cardinal has thrown a quality start since Luke Weaver’s last start.
One day after I noted in passing the ongoing struggles this team has had in games where Chris Segal is calling balls and strikes, guess who will be behind the plate tonight? He is likely to be the only umpire who will call five games for the Cards this season.