Tag Archives: Cecil

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.

Relentless Pirates Finally Prevail

For eight and a half grueling innings last night, the Cardinals hung with the Pirates.  Continually on the verge of having the game blown open, they managed escape after escape.  When Josh Bell hit the inevitable home run that provided Pittsburgh with its 5-2 walk-off victory (box score), he became the eighteenth Pirate to reach base that night (12 hits and 6 walks).  By contrast – although they hit a lot of line drives – the Cardinals finished their evening having put just 6 runners on base (6 hits and no walks).

The Cards went down in order five times in their nine innings.  The Pirates went down in order only twice.  Eventually, the sheer weight of the Pirates relentless pressure (and the Cardinals’ inability to sustain anything like offense) was enough to do the Cardinals in.  St Louis jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, but never scored again.  It was yet another first game of a series lost, and yet another loss in which St Louis held a lead at some point.  These were items from yesterday’s installment.

And, of course, another late miss-step from the bullpen.

Tommy Pham

With outfielders dropping around him like flies, Tommy Pham continues prove himself as an everyday contributor.  Tommy finished the night with two hits, and hit another ball hard.  He is now hitting .371 (13 for 35) and slugging .657 (2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs) for the month of July.  In the ten games played so far, Tommy has scored 8 runs and driven in 9.  Pham has also hit in 12 of his last 15 games (although he has started only 13 of them), hitting .392 (20 for 51).  He has scored 15 runs over those 15 games, and driven in 12.

A statistical oddity: Pham came to the plate in the eighth inning with runners at first and second and one out.  He lined out to right.  For the season, Pham is a .295/.397/.420 hitter when up with the bases empty.  Four of his eleven home runs have been solo shots.  With one runner on base, Pham is a terror.  He is 27 for 65 (.415) with 5 doubles, a triple, and his other 7 home runs (.846 slugging percentage).  He has been up 3 times with the bases loaded, getting a single and a double and driving in 5.

But he is now 1 for 28 on the season when batting with two runners on base.

Stephen Piscotty

Before leaving the game with an injury in the ninth inning, Stephen Piscotty suffered through another 0 for 4 with two more strikeouts.  It’s been that kind of season for Piscotty.  He is now 0 for his last 8, and hitting .120 (3 for 25) over his last 7 games.  He hasn’t scored a run in any of those 7 games, and hasn’t had an extra base hit in his last 8 games.  For the month of July, Piscotty has had 37 plate appearances, with the following results: 5 singles, 1 double, 2 runs scored, 3 runs batted in, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts, once hit by a pitch, and 1 double play grounded into.  It works out to a batting line of .171/.216/.200.  Hitless in three at bats last night, Stephen is now 1 for 15 this month (.067) when batting with the bases empty.

What could happen now?  Well, Stephen’s injury has sent him back to the DL.  After a period of recovery, he could spend some time with Diaz (and maybe Grichuk) in Memphis, re-working his swing.  Being optioned to the AAA club after his injury clears might be a good thing for him.

In the meantime, Magneuris Sierra has made his way back to the big club, and should see some regular playing time.  That might be a good thing, too.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong returned to the lineup with an 0-for-3 night that snapped his 6-game hitting streak.  During the streak, Wong hit .450 (9 for 20), and slugged .650 (4 doubles).  He scored 5 runs in the 6 games.

Mike Leake

Mike Leake has now made two starts in July – last night and July 5 against Miami.  In those two starts, Mike has fought his way through 8.2 innings, allowing 23 baserunners (17 hits and 6 walks).  “Only” 10 of them have scored – and “just” 5 of those runs were earned.  It has cost Mike 156 pitches to clear those 8.2 innings.

Last night was the better of the two games, as Leake gutted his way through five innings, allowing just 2 runs although he dealt with 12 baserunners.  Of the 25 batters he faced, only 8 came to the plate with the bases empty (and 5 of those reached).

His evening was a study in frustration.  The third inning run he allowed resulted when he attempted to snare Gerrit Cole’s grounder and deflected it into an infield hit.  His fifth was even more frustrating.  After getting a double play to mostly ease him out of the inning, Leake walked the next three hitters and gave up the game tying single.

Over those last two games, 29 of the 47 batters he has faced have come to the plate with at least one runner on base.  He has pitched to only 18 batters with the bases empty, and 9 of those have reached.

Matthew Bowman

While some pieces of the bullpen are still lagging, others are starting to achieve sustained effectiveness.  Matthew Bowman pitched the sixth and gave a couple of hits, but got a double play and ended the inning with no damage taken.  Matthew is unscored on over his last 7 games (5 innings), and over his last 19 games (16.1 innings), Matthew holds a 1.65 ERA and a .246 batting average against.  He has also stranded all 11 inherited runners.

Matthew has always pitched very well with runners on base – this season he has held batters to a .221/.267/.324 batting line when they hit against him with runners on base.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil turned in his fifteenth consecutive scoreless appearance (15.2 innings) with his scoreless seventh inning.  He gave up a two-out double, but no damage.  In his 15.2 scoreless innings, Brett has given just 7 hits and 1 walk.  The batting line against him in those innings has been .137/.154/.176.

Trevor Rosenthal

Add Trevor Rosenthal to the list of relief pitchers who seem to be turning things around.  He had the Pirates three-up-and-three down with two strikeouts in the eighth.  He has now strung together 4 consecutive perfect outings of one inning each, striking out 7 of the 12 he’s faced.  Sixty-eight percent of his pitches (36 of 53) have been strikes – usually the defining issue for Trevor, and batters have missed on 41% of their swings (9 of 22).

This year Trevor has been absolutely golden until a runner gets on.  Hitting against him with the bases empty, batters are .167/.244/.218.  Once a runner reaches, though, batters improve to .277/.373/.383 against him.  Half of the 16 walks he’s allowed this year have come with at least one runner already on base.

Still, most of the bullpen has been coming around.  Through the first 10 games (and 30 innings) of July, everyone other than the closer has combined for an 0.90 ERA, no home runs allowed, and a .236/.306/.291 batting line against.  Now if they could only fix that ninth inning.

Seung-hwan Oh

So, it’s a pretty bad thing when your closer comes into a tie game in the ninth inning, and you get that sinking feeling in your stomach.  Such is the season for Seung-hwan Oh.  A double, a fly ball, an intentional walk, a three-run walk-off home run.  I tried to be surprised, but . . .

Heroic last year, Seung-hwan has now allowed runs in 7 of his last 14 games.  Over his last 13 innings, he has given 11 runs on 20 hits – 5 of them home runs.  He carries a 7.62 ERA over those games, while opponents are hitting .351 and slugging .632 against him.

With the home run, Oh has now allowed 22 runs (19 earned) this year in 41 innings.  He surrendered 20 runs (17 earned) all of last year in 79.2 innings.

The home run was the eighth against him in 2017 (only 5 were hit off of him all last year).  He is now on pace to serve up 15 home runs for the season.  In 2001, Dave Veres saved 15 games.  He served up 12 home runs in 66.2 innings.  That is the most home runs allowed by any Cardinal reliever in this century who saved at least 10 games that season.  At 20 or more saves, the record goes to Jason Motte, who saved 45 games in 2012 while serving up 10 home runs in 80.1 innings.  Oh is already in that neighborhood.

Sixty-one batters have now reached base against Oh in just 41 innings.  The only batter he faced last night with the bases empty doubled to left.  In the 6 games he’s pitched in July, batters up with the bases empty are 6 for 11 (.545) with a double and a home run (.909 slugging percentage).  For the season, Seung-hwan (who, by the way, turned 35 today) has a .333/.349/.536 batting line against with the bases empty.

Cards Rise and Fall with the Rotation

In a 24-game span from May 28 in Colorado through June 21 in Philadelphia, the Cardinal starting rotation managed just 6 quality starts.  Not surprisingly, the Cardinals won only 9 of the 24.

From June 22 until July 1 against Washington, that same rotation provided 9 quality starts in 10 games.  St Louis won 6 of the 10.

They have now failed to provide a quality start in any of the last 4 games – and any suspense as to whether they would interrupt the streak was over early as the Miami Marlins poured on 7 runs in the first 3 innings.  The pesky Cardinal offense kept fighting back, and the semi-refitted Cardinal bullpen helped St Louis creep back into the game (it was an 8-6 game heading into the ninth), but the deficit was too steep, and the Cards fell to Miami, 9-6 (box score).

They have now lost 3 of the last 4.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia started the evening for the bullpen by finally ending the trouble in the fourth.  It marks, now, six consecutive scoreless appearances for John – totaling 6 innings.  His walk yesterday was intentional.  He hasn’t given an unintentional walk in 11 games (covering 12.1 innings).  During his six-game scoreless streak, John is throwing 71% of his pitches for strikes (58 of 82).

Brett Cecil

Like Brebbia, Brett Cecil just keep doing his job.  His perfect eighth inning gives Brett 12 consecutive scoreless games (12 innings).  During these innings, Brett has allowed 3 hits and 1 walk – a .081/.105/.108 batting line.  Since Freddy Galvis grounded a double into left field in the ninth inning of the June 21 game in Philadelphia, batters have gone 0 for 16 with 1 walk against Cecil.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh – who is still one of the trusted late inning relievers – killed a lot of the comeback buzz with a brutal hanging curveball that Justin Bour flicked over the wall in right-center.  I suspect that Mike Matheny and his staff want to believe that Oh is fixed.  He has now been scored on in 6 of his last 11 games.  In the 10.2 innings he has pitched in those games, it has rained hits (14) runs (8) and home runs (4) on Oh, whose ERA since June 11 is 6.75, with a .311/.304/.578 batting line against.

Only 32% of the last 37 batters to hit the ball in play against Seung-hwan have hit the ball on the ground.

Tommy Pham

In spite of his four strikeout day on Tuesday, Tommy Pham is still 6 for his last 13 (.462) after slapping two doubles and driving in three runs last night.  He has driven in 7 runs in his last 4 games.

Jose Martinez

In his four at bats last night, the hardest ball that Jose Martinez hit was a line drive back to the mound that David Phelps gloved to end the seventh inning.  Martinez, nonetheless, finished the night 2 for 4, as he beat out a couple of dribblers to third.  Up as a pinch-hitter the day before, Jose floated a single into short right-center field.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky.

Greg Garcia

With his dismal June behind him, hits are starting to fall in for Greg Garcia.  Greg had two hits last night, and has hit safely in each of the last 5 games that he has had an at bat in.  He is hitting .438 (7 for 16) during this baby hitting streak.

Luke Voit

Going back to his strikeout in the eighth-inning on Tuesday, Luke Voit is now hitless in his last 5 at bats – the first time in his brief major league career that he has gone five at bats without a hit.  The 0-for-5 includes a 5-pitch at bat, a 6-pitch at bat, and the 10-pitch at bat he ended the game on last night.  Luke has also drawn an 8-pitch walk during this streak.  Voit is still taking very good at bats.

Leadoff Production Improves with Carpenter

Let me begin by saying that I am still disappointed that Matt Carpenter didn’t stick in the third spot in the order (yes, I know, kicking a dead horse).  Even so, I do have to say that since Carpenter returned to the leadoff spot, The Cardinals have done much better at putting their leadoff men on base.

Carpenter, of course, is responsible for a lot of this.  In the month of June, Carpenter has led off 40 different innings.  He has reached base in half of them (11 hits and 9 walks).  He has then come around to score 12 runs.  And this has proved to be more than a little critical, as the Cards have had issues stringing hits together over the last week and a half, or so.  While winning 5 of their last 9 games (and starting to show a little pulse), this team is hitting just .243 in those games.

Last night’s 4-3 nail-biting victory in Arizona (box score), is a sort of microcosm of these trends.  The Cards finished with just six hits, but turned them into four runs – and Carpenter ignited both run-scoring innings.

After Arizona starter Zach Godley set down the first nine batters he faced, Carpenter opened the third drawing a walk, setting the stage for a 3-run inning.  In the eighth, after Arizona had crept back to within 3-2, Carpenter began the inning stroking a ground rule double to right-center.  He would later score on Jedd Gyorko’s double – his second run scored of the evening, and the run that would eventually make the difference.

But it hasn’t been just Carpenter.  Greg Garcia led off the fifth with a walk. That turned into a two-on two-out opportunity, although no runs scored.  Paul DeJong opened the ninth with a single that led to a bases-loaded opportunity to break the game open.  Again, nothing came of the opportunity, but getting the leadoff batter on three or four times a game is becoming more and more common.

Through April and May, the team’s on base percentage leading off an inning was a sluggish .312, with the runner subsequently scoring 45% of the times that he would reach.  In June, the OBP leading off an inning has risen to .360, with that runner scoring 49% of the time.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk returned from the minors with a bang – 4 hits (including 2 home runs) in his first 9 at bats.  After his 0-for-4 last night, Grichuk is hitless in his last 9 at bats – including 3 strikeouts and a double play grounded into.  He did hit a couple balls well last night, but also struck out twice.

Greg Garcia

Garcia did draw a walk, but went 0-for-3 for the rest of the evening.  What a difficult June it’s been for Greg, who is now hitting .077 for the month (3 for 39).

Adam Wainwright

Since the end of the Baltimore series (and all the carnage that that included), the Cardinal pitching staff has slowly been feeling its way back to health.  Adam Wainwright tossed his second consecutive quality start last night – a 6.1 inning, 2 run, no home run, 8 strikeout beauty against the torridly hot Diamondback lineup.  Waino still hasn’t seen more than three runs of offensive support since May 21, when they scored 7 for him on the way to an 8-3 conquest of the Giants.  Waino has gone 4-2 over his last 7 starts, in spite of the lack of runs.

The rotation has now tossed together 4 consecutive quality starts – its longest stretch since they cobbled together 6 consecutive QSs from May 17 through May 23.  This also makes 7 quality starts in 9 games since they left Baltimore.  They have managed a very solid 3.57 ERA over those games.

TrevorRosenthal

For one night, at least, Trevor Rosenthal was back in the closer’s role protecting a two-run lead.  Twenty-nine pitches, one single, two walks and two wild pitches later, Trevor walked off the mound with the save in what ended up being a one-run victory.

Trevor still looks broken.  In his first 15 appearances (totaling 14.1 innings), Trevor allowed 3 runs on 10 hits.  He walked 3 and struck out 25.  At that point, his ERA was 1.88 and his batting line against was .189/.232/.245.  In his last 18 appearances (totaling 15.1 innings) Trevor has been charged with 11 runs on 14 hits.  He has walked 11 and struck out 22 – a 6.46 ERA and a .250/.366/.357 batting line.

While Trevor was throwing strikes, he was back in elite form.  Unless he starts throwing strikes again, I predict his days as the closer will come to a quick end.

Brett Cecil

Meanwhile, trending in the other direction is Brett Cecil, who stretched his string of scoreless innings and appearances to 10 with a perfect eighth inning.  The last 32 batters to face Brett have achieved 2 singles, 1 double and 1 walk, with 8 strikeouts – equating to an .097/.125/.129 batting line.  He has also stranded all of his last 3 inherited runners.

For the month of June, Brett’s ERA has dropped to 3.09 with a .175 batting average against.  Brett has walked 2 batters in 11.2 innings this month.

NoteBook

The Cardinals hit 20 home runs in six games in Baltimore and Philadelphia.  In the six games since the end of that road trip, they have hit 6 – none in two games in Arizona.

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.

Cards and Pirates Try a Little Role Reversal

Sitting on a three-game losing streak – and losers of 8 of their previous 11 – a somewhat desperate Cardinal management juggled the roster, rolled the dice a little, and saw starter Mike Leake struggle out of the gate.  Five innings into the game, St Louis found itself trailing again, 4-2.

This time, though, the end game would look a little different.  With the Pirates looking a lot like the Cardinals (with defensive issues and bullpen problems), and the Cardinals doing their best Pittsburgh impression with patient, persistent late at bats, St Louis finally broke through with two runs to tie the game in the sixth and 4 more to break it open in the seventh – on their way to an 8-4 victory (box score).

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina was riding a ten-game hitting streak when a bothersome knee forced him to the bench for a few days.  He was back yesterday, and without missing a beat.  He went 3-for-4 with a double, and all the hits were line drives – including one to right field in the seventh-inning that brought in the game-winning run.  Over his now 11-game hitting streak, Molina is batting .333 (15 for 45) and slugging .556 (his hits include 3 home runs).  After a sluggish start, Yadi enters the last week of June hitting .292 (19 for 65) for the month with some unexpected power.  His hits include 2 doubles and 4 home runs.  Molina is slugging .508 this month.

Yadi has been noticeably less aggressive this year.  Last year, Yadi came to the plate swinging – especially after the All-Star break, when he offered at 45.6% of the first pitches thrown him.  Whether he hit that pitch or not, Yadi went on to hit .410 and slug .615 in those at bats.  This season, Yadi is swinging at the first pitch thrown him much less frequently (38.2%) – and with lesser results (.258 avg).

Last night, Yadi took the first pitch in all four at bats (I don’t remember if that has ever happened before) – including two very hittable first-pitch strikes.  During July, Yadi has taken the first pitch 70.1% of the time (47 of 67 plate appearances) – and has prospered surprisingly while doing do.  Including the 3 hits last night, Yadi is hitting .326 this month (15 for 46) and slugging .609 when he takes the first pitch of an at bat.  All 4 of his home runs this month, and 1 of the 2 doubles have come in at bats where Molina has taken the first pitch.

Whether this is intentional or not, I don’t know.  But it has looked very deliberate.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham’s baby 5-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-4.  Pham hit .304 (7 for 23) during the streak, including 3 home runs.

The streak notwithstanding, Pham hasn’t had the best of June’s.  He is now hitting .232 (19 for 82) this month.

After Matt Carpenter opened the game with a single, Pham jumped all over a first-pitch fastball right down the middle and drilled it right at third-baseman David Freese for a relatively easy double play.  It’s kind of been that way all year for Tommy.  Across all of baseball, batters who swing at the first pitch of an at bat – whether they hit it or not – end up hitting .273 in those at bats (as opposed to .247 when they take that pitch).  Tommy Pham, this year, is hitting .188 in at bats when he swings at the first pitch, as opposed to .312 when he takes that pitch.

Pham entered the season having grounded into a total of 4 double plays through his first 358 major league plate appearances.  Last night he grounded into his tenth already this season in just 181 plate appearances.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty also had a small hitting streak end on him last night.  Piscotty had hit .333 (7 for 21) over his six previous games.  He hit two home runs during the streak and slugged .714.

Mike Leake

Leake elevated a couple of cutters in the three-run third inning – one a 1-2 pitch that Elias Diaz drove for a double, and the other a brutal 0-2 middle of the plate cutter that Adam Frazier stung for a 2-run triple.  Other than that, it was a very productive outing for the Cardinal right-hander.

Of the 25 batters he faced, only 7 swung at his first pitch.  This has been his MO throughout the season.  He throws that first-pitch sinker at the corners of the strike zone, and steals a little of the momentum from the at bat.  For the season, batters are taking Mike’s first pitch 71.1% of the time – and once they do, they go on to hit .213/.270/.332.

The 114 batters who have swung at Mike’s first pitch this season are hitting .300.  For the month of June, batters swinging at his first pitch are hitting .410.  Mike has had a lot of misplaced cutters early in the count this month.  Last night, the 7 batters who hacked at Mike’s first pitch were 4 for 7 with a double and Frazier’s triple.

Bullpen Pulls Together

While the 4-run seventh was the highlight, behind that was another solid outing from the beleaguered bullpen.  They went the last three, giving no runs, no walks and just one hit.  While starting pitching has been a hot button issue this month, the bullpen may be quietly coming together.  In 23 games and 81.1 June innings, the Cardinal relief corps has allowed just 72 hits and 19 walks.  The batting line against them has been a much better .238/.290/.399, and the bullpen ERA 3.54.  Their failures have still come at very critical junctures of the game – and much of the 9-15 record so far this month is on them.  But there is reason to hope that things are turning around out there.

Brett Cecil

With little fanfare, Brett Cecil is becoming, perhaps, the most dependable arm in the bullpen.  In 8 games since his heart-breaking tumble against Cincinnati, Brett has tossed 8 scoreless innings (including the eighth-inning last night) allowing only 3 hits and no walks.  Fifteen of the last 20 batters to put the ball in play against Brett have hit it on the ground.  During 10.2 innings this month, Brett has given 7 hits (.189 batting average against) and walked just 1.

Moreover, I get the feeling that most batters aren’t very comfortable stepping in against Brett.  None of the three he faced last night swung at his first pitch, and over the course of the month, 32 of the 38 batters he’s faced (84.2%) have chosen to take that first pitch.  Those 32 batters are 3 for 31 (.097) with one walk.  The six who have hacked at his first pitch have gone on to be 4 for 6 in those at bats.

Scoring Changes

If you keep statistics at home and you notice that Aledmys Diaz’ official batting average is something higher than you have calculated, then you may have missed a couple of recent scoring changes that have awarded Aledmys infield hits on plays that had originally been ruled as errors.

The first change is from the June 16 game in Baltimore.  In the seventh inning, Diaz hit that ground ball with the funny backspin.  It started well foul, but then hopped back into fair territory.  It spun off pitcher Gabriel Ynoa’s fingers and he couldn’t make a play on it.  Change that from an E1 to an infield single (and add 2 earned runs to Ynoa’s line as the change makes the runs scored on Pham’s subsequent home run – with two outs – now earned runs.

Then, four days later (June 20) in Philadelphia, during that 7-run eleventh-inning, Diaz was safe at first on what was originally ruled an E6.  That is now also an infield hit (and another earned run charged to pitcher Casey Fein as Pham again followed with a home run).

It Took A While, But Cards Finally Prevail in Eleven

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Leake

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brett Cecil

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

Kevin Siegrist

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

The Continuing Good Trend

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

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

Tommy Pham

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

Paul DeJong

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

NoteBook

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

A Little Tired, Frankly, of the Home Run Derby

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

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

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

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

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

Lance Lynn

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

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

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

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

Kevin Siegrist

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

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

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

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

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

Brett Cecil

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

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

Trevor Rosenthal

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

Matthew Bowman

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

Runs Without Hits?

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

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

Dexter Fowler

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

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

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

Jedd Gyorko

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

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

Tommy Pham

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

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

Greg Garcia

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

NoteBook

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

Carlos Martinez Plays Stopper – With Some Help From His Friends

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

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

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

Carlos Martinez

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

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

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

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

The Other Starters as Stopper

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

Brett Cecil

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

Lots of Help From His Friends

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

Paul DeJong

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

Matt Carpenter

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

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

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

Dexter Fowler

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

Tommy Pham

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

Stephen Piscotty

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

Dodgers Win on Barrage of 1-2 Hits

The impressive run of starting pitching had to end at some point – and that some point was the fourth inning of last night’s 7-3 loss to the Dodgers (box score).  After Chase Utley got the Dodgers started with a second inning home run on a 1-2 pitch, three of his teammates followed suit with devastating hits on 1-2 pitches.

With a runner at first and two out and the Cardinals leading 3-1, Enrique Hernandez, Yasiel Puig, and starting pitcher Kenta Maeda hit successive ground balls that found holes, putting Los Angeles ahead to stay.  The at bats by Hernandez and Maeda were most impressive as they lasted 7 pitches each.

With the loss, the Cardinals have now dropped 6 of their last 8.

Michael Wacha

Mostly impressive in his return this season, Michael Wacha endured his worst start of 2017, lasting 4 innings and allowing 6 runs on 7 hits.  After an solid April, Wacha’s May has been a little ordinary.  In four starts (with one more, possibly, remaining), Wacha is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA and a .288 batting average against.

Wacha gave up a total of 5 hits on 1-2 pitches last night (including Utley’s home run).  None of those hits came off the fastball.  Perhaps batters are starting to look for that breaking pitch when they get behind in the count?

Brett Cecil

Say this for the Cardinals prize offseason acquisition, Brett Cecil.  He finds a way.  In last night’s contest, with runners at first and second and no one out, Brett uncorks two wild pitches and then serves up a double allowing all of the runs.  The game had been a one-run affair up until that point.  For the season, 11 of 23 runners Cecil has inherited have come home to roost (47.8%).  This is now three times he’s come on with two runners on and allowed all of them to score.  He has also inherited a bases-loaded jam and allowed all of those runners to score.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist turned in a good inning – albeit after the event was already decided.  In 9.2 innings this month, Kevin has a 2.79 ERA and 10 strikeouts.  He is starting to look like Kevin again.

Earlier this season, Kevin had lost the ability to get swinging strikes.  Last night, the Dodger hitters missed on 4 of the 7 swings they took against Siegrist.  All three at bats, by the way, went to 1-2 (and one of those resulted in a hit).  So far this month, 26 of the 37 batters Kevin’s faced (70.3%) have seen their at bat end before Siegrist has thrown ball two.

Anxious Offense Struggles Again

Again, last night, the offense endured another long silent stretch.  After a loud 3-run first, they didn’t score again over the last eight innings of the game.  During the 8-game slide, St Louis has hit 4 home runs and averaged just 3.88 runs per game.

When guys like Kenta Maeda shut down the Cardinal offense, they make it look so amazingly easy.  Neither Maeda nor Hyun-Jin Ryu threw with amazing velocity.  They nibbled with breaking balls on the corners of the strike zone and waited for the aggressive Cardinal hitters to get themselves out.  Throughout all of baseball (courtesy of baseball reference) only 28.4% of all at bats end before the pitcher throws ball one – and hitters usually prosper when that happens.  They slash .278/.287/.454 on those pitches.

Last night, 35.1% of the Cardinal plate appearances were over before the hitter saw ball one (this in spite of the fact that neither Dodger pitcher was really “coming after” the hitters.  St Louis slashed .182/.308/.364 in those at bats.  Over the last eight games, Cardinal batsmen are done before ball one 34.6% of the time, slashing just .257/.263/.367 when that happens.

It’s a symptom of a loss of confidence at the plate.  Hopefully, it will be temporary.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko continues to hit, even as the team fades around him.  He drove in the game’s first two runs with a double and had a later single.  Jedd has now hit safely in 22 of his last 27 games (25 of them starts).  He is 40 for 109 in those games, including 8 doubles, 2 triples and 5 home runs – a .367 batting average accompanied by a .615 slugging percentage.  He is now hitting .338 this month (27 for 80) with 3 home runs and 12 runs batted in.  He is 11 for 32 (.344) over these last 8 games.

On the double, Gyorko jumped on a first-pitch hanging curveball and drilled it just fair down the leftfield line.  Gyorko is now 11 for 23 when hitting the first pitch thrown him (.478).  He later singled on a 1-0 pitch.  Jedd is 20 for 53 (.377) this month when his at bat doesn’t make it to ball two.

That first-inning double was Jedd’s ninth of the season, tying – in 137 at bats – the total amount of doubles he hit in 400 at bats last year.  He has never hit more than 26 in any season.  He also has hit as many triples already this year (2) as he had hit in his entire career previously.

Jedd – after bouncing into 46 double plays over his first 4 seasons, has grounded into just 1 so far in 2017.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina extended his hitting streak to 14 games with two singles last night.  It hasn’t been the most torrid hitting streak on record.  This was only the third multi-hit game in the streak, and his average has been .279 (17 for 61).  He has not drawn a walk through the entire streak.

In fact, over his last 37 plate appearances, he has gone to three-ball counts only 3 times (8.1%).  For the season, only Randal Grichuk (among starters) makes it to three-balls in an at bat less frequently than Yadi (11.8% v 11.9%).  This is significantly below Molina’s 16.0% of last year.

Matt Carpenter

After getting two singles on Wednesday night, Matt Carpenter was 0-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch last night.  Matt is now 7 for his last 48 (.146).  His batting average for the season has fallen to .229 – and for the month of May he is down to .216 (16 for 74).  During the last 8 games, Carpenter is 5 for 33 (.152).

In three of his four plate appearances, Carpenter was challenged with first-pitch strikes.  He has seen strike one in 15 of his last 21 PAs (71%) and is only 4 for 19 (.211) in those resulting at bats.

The thrust of this is, I think, to keep from getting into three-ball counts against Matt.  This year, so far, Carpenter gets into three-ball counts a team-leading 36.3% of the time, and hits .333/.667/.788 once he gets there.  But if his at bat is over before ball two, he slides to just a .167 average (12 for 72).

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty’s 0-for-4 wrapped up a 1 for 13 series.  He is now hitting .158 (3 for 19) since his return from the DL, .214 (6 for 28) this month, and .224 for the year.

Piscotty hit the first pitch thrown to him twice last night.  In the first inning he flied to center on a tailing slider from Maeda.  In the sixth, he grounded to first on a changeup away from Ryu.  Over all of baseball, hitters who hit the first pitch are slashing .338/.346/.582.  Piscotty is just 3 for 13 (.231) – all singles as he is mostly disinclined to wait for a hitter’s pitch.  So far this month, 13 of his 32 plate appearances (40.6%) end before he sees ball one.  Of the regulars, the next highest is Gyorko at 36.9%.  As I noted earlier, across all of baseball, only 28.4% of PAs end before the pitcher has thrown ball one.

This number aligns with what I’ve seen from Stephen – especially since his return from the DL.  A lot of anxiety at the plate.