Tag Archives: Diaz

Beware the Birds of Ambush

In claiming their third consecutive victory, the Cardinals are making a bit of a habit of “the ambush inning.”

Wednesday night, it was the fourth inning.  After Arizona’s Zack Godley set down the first 9 Cardinals to face him that night, St Louis ambushed him in the fourth.  The first five batters to face him that inning reached – three of them scoring.  The Cards would play from ahead all day, winning finally by a 4-3 score as Arizona’s ninth-inning rally came up short.

Thursday, it was the fourth, again.  Diamondback starter Patrick Corbin faced one over the minimum through the first three innings, but the Cardinals jumped him in the fourth.  Again, the first five batters reached, although this time only two managed to score.  That game ended up a 10-4 Cardinal victory, although it was much more back and forth than that score would indicate.

Then, last night, after missing a big opportunity in the first, the Cardinals ambushed struggling National’s right-hander Tanner Roark in the third.  This time, only the first four batters reached, but three of them scored.  The Cards never looked back on their way to a comfortable 8-1 victory (box score).

From time to time this season, the Cardinals have been a good on-base team.  Getting runners on base puts pressure on everybody.  Getting runners on with nobody out is even better, as it gives the offense many more options in getting that runner home.

I don’t have numbers league-wide for this, but charting the Cardinals and their opponents, runners that reach base with no one out end up scoring between 45-50% of the time.  Over the recent little surge, where St Louis has won 5 of the last 6, they have excelled at this aspect of the game.  Cardinals batting with nobody out are reaching base at a .443 clip, and after they reach, they are scoring 56% of the time.

Last night, 7 of the 15 Cardinals who came to the plate with no one out reached base, and 4 of them scored.

This has certainly helped open up the offense, which – thanks to the late surge – finished June scoring 147 runs in 29 games (5.07 runs per game).  They have scored 7.17 runs per game over the last 6 games (43 runs) during which time they have hit .282 as a team, with a .380 on base percentage.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina has been very much in the middle of the offensive turnaround.  He has played in 5 of the last 6 games, hitting .400 (8 for 20) with 7 runs batted in.  This, of course, is part of a longer stretch of success for Molina, who pushed his hitting streak to 15 games with his two hits last night.  During the streak, Molina is hitting .328 (20 for 61), with 3 home runs and 12 runs batted in.  He finished June with a .296 batting average.

His third-inning two-run single that started the scoring held up as the game-winning hit.  It is Yadi’s fifth game-winning hit this season.  Among Cardinals, only Dexter Fowler has more – Dexter has 7.

Molina was 1-for-1 batting with no one out, and 1 for 2 batting with one out.  The only time he hit with two out last night, he lined out to center to end the first.  Over the course of the season, Yadi is hitting .320 (56 for 176) when batting with less than two outs.  He is now 12 for 76 (.158) when hitting with two outs.  Of his 35 runs batted in this season, only 6 have come with two out.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko had what is starting to become a typical night for him.  He singled, doubled, walked, drove in a run and scored twice.  Jedd has now hit safely in 6 of his last 7 games (getting 2 hits in 3 of them).  During this stretch, Jedd has come to the plate 28 times, collecting 4 singles, 4 doubles, 1 home run, 9 runs batted in, six walks, 1 sacrifice fly, and only 1 strikeout.  That is a .429/.536/.762 batting line.  Gyorko’s season average is back over .300 (.302) as he finished June with a .290 average (27 for 93) with 4 home runs and a team-leading 18 runs batted in.

While striking out only once over his last 7 games, Jedd has now drawn a walk in 5 straight contests, and in 9 of his last 10 games.  All of this – the hitting the ball with authority to right field, the patience at the plate – this is a different Jedd Gyorko than we saw last year.

Gyorko singled off of Roark’s hand as part of that ambush third inning – it was his only at bat of the game with nobody out.  He is now hitting .318 this year with no one out (35 for 110).  That is the best average among season-long regulars.  Kolten Wong is hitting .407 with no one out, but he has missed a good chunk of the season with injuries.  Paul DeJong also doesn’t have a starter’s quantity of at bats, but he is hitting .342 with nobody out.

Tommy Pham

Another one of the igniters of the offense recently is Tommy Pham.  He brought the crowd to its feet with a stellar defensive play on the first hitter of the game, and followed going 2 for 4 with a walk and a run scored.  Tommy has a .350 batting average and a .480 on base percentage over the last six games.  Moreover, Pham has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games, hitting .326 in that span (14 for 43) with 3 home runs, 7 runs batted in, 3 stolen bases, 11 runs scored and a .535 slugging percentage.

I would hate to be the one filling out the lineup card that doesn’t include Tommy Pham’s name.

It took a review to confirm it, but Pham beat out a two-out, seventh-inning infield hit that loaded the bases.  Pham now has a .414 on base percentage this year when batting with two outs.

Another Quality Start

Mike Leake’s excellent 8 innings (1 run 5 hits), gave the Cardinals six consecutive quality starts for the first time since mid-May, and 8 in the last 9 games.  Entering tonight, St Louis has yet to string together seven consecutive quality starts.

In winning 5 of the last 6, the starting rotation has contributed a 4-0 record, a 2.82 ERA, and a .235 batting average against.  As much fun as it’s been watching the offense of late, St Louis’ long-term success is tied to the effectiveness of its starters.

Mike Leake

After a four-start dry spell, Mike Leake has put together three excellent starts in a row.  At the point where you might have begun to wonder if the early season Leake was a mirage, he has given the team 20 innings over these three starts, allowing 5 earned runs on 14 hits – a 2.25 ERA with a .215/.284/.292 batting line against.  Of the 20 batters who put the ball in play against Mike last night, 17 hit it on the ground (4 of them into double plays).

The double plays proved to be quite important, as Mike is still showing a tendency to walk batters with no one out.  Last night, two of his three walks came with no one out.  Over his shaky month of June, 8 of his 12 walks came with no one out.   Five of the 8 ended up scoring.  For the season, Mike has only issued 13 no-out walks – with 8 of those coming home to roost.

As Aledmys Diaz Plays in Memphis

I suppose that it is possible that many Cardinal fans aren’t sure what to make of the demotion of Aledmys Diaz.  Several columnists and bloggers attending on the Cardinals have treated this event as some kind of watershed moment in Diaz’ career as it relates his future as a Cardinal.

And I can understand the reaction.  Most times in most organizations the demotion of a player who had been an All Star the year before would be a fairly catastrophic event.  But not in St Louis.  What Cardinal management has done over the last couple of years – and what they are seemingly becoming more comfortable doing – is a kind of re-definition of how the minor leagues have been traditionally used in the past.

In the past, the minor leagues have been a kind of finishing school.  A raw talent comes out of high school or college that is not quite ready to succeed against major league competition.  So he is sent to one of the myriad of minor league teams to get regular playing time and learn his craft.

And then, at some point, he “graduates,” if you will, from the minors.  It may take him a few trips back and forth as he makes the adjustment, but at the point where he becomes a regular on the big league team, he has become a “major league” ballplayer and ceases to be known as a “minor league” player.

At this point, it is assumed that the minors have no more to teach him, and that he has nothing left to prove there.  So, at this point, for this player to be sent back to the minors for anything other than a rehab assignment would commonly be viewed as a humiliating moment, signaling an absolute loss of confidence in that player and a permanent change of direction by the organization.

Last year, when the Cardinals did this to both Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk at the same time, that’s how it read to me.  The Cardinals had finally given up on two talented by frustratingly inconsistent players, and were moving forward with other options at second base and center field.  As it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth.  Both players were – and are – very much a part of the Cardinals’ future plans.

The change in philosophy was even more evident earlier this spring when Grichuk was sent down again.  He wasn’t being removed from the scene and dumped in the minors in the hopes that maybe he would figure things out.  He worked with a specialist – a strategist, I think they called him – a bat whisperer, if you will – to try to unlock the star player that was encumbered by the collection of bad habits and overthinking that Randal Grichuk had become.

I don’t know if there are other organizations out there that are doing this, but what the Cardinals have figured out is that the minor league system is good for more than just teaching prospects on the way up.  It can also serve as a kind of clinic for major league players.  It’s a place where they can get specialized, individualized attention.  Where areas of weakness can be addressed and where performance can be enhanced away from the glare of the major leagues.  A demotion like this isn’t something I think you’d see in response to a little slump (0 for 12 or something).  But if a player becomes lost, it becomes a viable option.

And lost is an apt description of Diaz.  In all facets of his game, he was not himself.  I expect that, like Wong and Grichuk, Aledmys is still very much a part of the Cardinal future.  But not the way he was playing now.  My expectation is that people will now work with Aledmys – rebuild him, even – and that sometime before August he will be back at shortstop, and looking more like the Diaz we remembered from 2016.

The broader message to the rest of the Cardinal roster is that if you start to struggle and you still have options left, you won’t necessarily continue to struggle at the major league level.  This management is becoming more and more comfortable with writing you a prescription for the Memphis Clinic.

This kind of attention and work can’t possibly be given by the major league team.  The season won’t stop and wait for this.  But the minor league setup is structured to do this very thing.  Kolten Wong came back a better player.  The sample size on Randal Grichuk is still pretty small, but it looks like he may have made a breakthrough as well.

There is no reason not to expect similar improvement from Diaz.

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.

Rally Falls One Run Short Again

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

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

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

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

Mike Leake

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

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

Other Starters in One-Run Games

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

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

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

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

Kevin Siegrist

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

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

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

Offense Starting to Find Its Way

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

Matt Carpenter

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

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

Aledmys Diaz

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

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

Stephen Piscotty

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

Jedd Gyorko

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

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

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

Greg Garcia

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

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

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.

Game Hinges on Second Inning RISP Chances

The game was still scoreless as San Francisco immediately put Cardinal starter Adam Wainwright in a second-inning bind.  A single by Brandon Belt and a walk to Brandon Crawford gave the Giants the very first RISP (runners in scoring position) opportunity of the day.  The Cards would get the same opportunity in the bottom of that inning when Jhonny Peralta and Tommy Pham led off with singles.  But where the Cards would cash in on the chance – eventually getting a three-run double from Randal Grichuk as the highlight of a four-run inning, the Giants were left with a zero for their efforts as Wainwright defused the threat by striking out Eduardo Nunez, Nick Hundley and Mac Williamson.

With this as the tone setter, St Louis would go on to a 4-for-10 RISP performance while San Francisco would finish the afternoon 0-for-8 in that same category, resulting in an 8-3 Cardinal victory (box score).

The Cardinals have had a reputation is recent years of being one of the better hitting teams with runners in scoring position.  Even though last year was mostly disappointing, they still hit .271/.353/.472 with RISP.  They dug themselves an early season hole in 2017 for many reasons, among them an ice-cold start in these opportunities.  Their April RISP batting line read a disappointing .212/.325/.358.  But they have come out firing on many more cylinders in May.  After their performance yesterday, the May RISP line now stands at .276/.349/.436.

Pitching Staff Thriving with RISP

One of the earmarks of the superlative 2015 staff was their remarkable success when pitching with runners in scoring position (.210/.296/.322).  While they regressed a bit last year (.259/.341/.404), they have bounced back with a vengeance so far in 2017.  After holding the Giants to an 0-for-8 RISP performance, St Louis’ opponents are hitting .204 this month – and .219 for the year – with runners in scoring position.

Hitters Don’t Stay Down for Long

Yesterday also featured another bounce-back by the Cardinal offense.  Dominated the night before (scoring just once in 13 innings), St Louis drove Matt Cain from the mound under a barrage of hits.  For the first 15 games of the season, the Cardinal offense sat in a deep freeze, scoring 3.2 runs a game and being shutout twice.  In the 26 games since then (beginning with the series in Milwaukee that started on April 20), the Cards have hit .287 as a team and scored 5.52 runs per game.  For the 17 games they’ve played so far in May, those numbers are .275 and 5.12 runs per game.  They have scored five runs or more 11 times (in 17 games) this month, and 18 times in the last 26 games.

Jhonny Peralta

Peralta has returned with a little juice in his bat.  With pinch-hit singles in his first two games and a 2-for-3 game yesterday, Jhonny is 4 for 5 with a walk and no strikeouts since his re-instatement.  There is still a question of where he fits, as benching Jedd Gyorko in favor of Peralta is – for the moment, anyway – out of the question.  Peralta is still waiting for his first extra base hit and his first run batted in of the season.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz – who pushed his season average to .261 with two doubles – now has 14 multiple hit games this season.  He has had only 10 games in which he has had one hit.  Even though he has been pretty hit and miss, Aledmys is still hitting .315 (23 for 73) this month.

Diaz was one of our very best hitters with runners in scoring position last year.  He hit .337/.427/.652 in those situations in 2016.  To this point of 2017, he has struggled to find that RISP magic.  The only time they retired him yesterday was on a soft fly ball to left with runners on first and second and two out in the third.  Aledmys is now just 8 for 35 (.229) with runners in scoring position in 2017.  Of the 8 hits, 6 are singles (including one infield hit and one bunt single), 1 double and 1 home run – a .343 slugging percentage.

Randal Grichuk

Both of Grichuk’s doubles came with runners in scoring position.  Beginning with the Milwaukee series at the end of April, Grichuk’s production with runners in scoring position has been on the upswing.  Randal finished 2016 with one of the team’s better averages with runners in scoring position, when he hit .327 and slugged .579 when hitting with “ducks on the pond.” He began 2017 with just 3 hits in his first 13 RISP at bats (.231).  Since then he is 8 for 29 (.276) with 5 of the hits going for extra-base – a .517 slugging percentage.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler was the only Cardinal player to bat last night who didn’t finish the game with at least one hit.  Since hitting a triple and a late three-run homer in the first San Francisco game, Dexter is 0 for 11, watching his season average tilt back down to .220.

He is hitting just .154 (4 for 26) since returning to the lineup after his shoulder injury.  However, all 4 hits have been for extra bases, and he has sprinkled in 8 walks for a .343 on base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage since then.  His batting line for May (.184/.347/.526) shows a similar trend.  He has only 7 hits in 38 at bats this month, but with 6 extra-base hits (including 2 home runs) and 10 walks.

Adam Wainwright

The resurgent Adam Wainwright was also a big story last night.  Seven starts into his 2017 season, Adam had no quality starts, a 2-3 record, and a 6.37 ERA.  After limiting the Giants to 1 run in 6.1 innings yesterday, Adam has now allowed just that single run on 9 hits in 13.1 innings over his last two starts (wins over the Giants and Cubs) – a 0.68 ERA.  One particular area of improvement has been the bite on Adam’s curveball – making it a swing-and-miss pitch again.  Through the first seven starts, opposing batters only missed on 16% of their swings against him.  Over the last two games, the swing-and-miss percentage has been 26%.

During the month of April, Adam was mostly helpless when working with runners on base.  The 34 batters who faced him that month with RISP opportunities stung him at a .379/.438/.655 clip.  But San Francisco went 0-for-6 against Waino yesterday in RISP situations.  Opposing hitters are now just 3 for 19 (.158) this month in this situation.

Wainwright’s start continues an impressive month by the Cardinal rotation, which now has 12 quality starts, a 2.87 ERA, and a .214 batting average against in 17 games and 106.2 innings this month.  The overall team ERA for May is 2.91.

The Cardinals’ chances of contending over the entire season rest heavily on the pitching staff.  This sustained excellence in May is very encouraging.

RISP and the Rest of the Rotation

Lance Lynn, of course, was part of that productive 2015 staff – and he was one of many to perform very well with runners in scoring position (a .233 batting average against).  This year – so far – no one on the staff has been better.  Opposing batters are just 2 for 16 this month (.125) and 5 for 33 (.152) for the year when facing Lance with runners in scoring position.

Carlos Martinez was the best of the 2015 staff in this situation.  Combining his electric stuff and his native competitiveness, batters in RISP struggled to a .181 average against Carlos in 2015.  He regressed a bit last year, in what seems to have been a “growing” year for him.  In these situations in 2016 he was hit at a .244 clip.  The Carlos Martinez of 2017, so far, resembles much more the 2015 Martinez.  RISP batters are 2 for 12 (.167) this month, and 7 for 40 (.175) for the year against Carlos.

As with many other things in Mike Leake’s world, hitters with runners in scoring position thrived against him last year (.298), but have found the sledding much tougher this year.  They are 2 for 10 (.200) this month, and 6 for 38 (.158) this year against him.

2015 was also Michael Wacha’s last healthy year.  He was plenty tough in RISP situations then (.208), but declined in his injury-marred 2016 year (.297).  As with most of the rest of the staff, Wacha has returned to form so far this year.  With runners in scoring position, opposing batters are just 4 for 28 (.143) against him.

Miguel Socolovich

The trends on Miguel Socolovich are something of a mixed bag.  Through his first 7 games (accounting for 9.2 innings) Miguel served up no home runs.  The two he served up yesterday were the third and fourth in his last 6 games (7.2) innings.  On the other hand, over the 10.1 innings of his first 8 games, Miguel walked 4 batters.  He hasn’t walked anyone since (5 games, 7 innings).

Brett Cecil & Sam Tuivailala

Bonus good news from yesterday: two recently struggling relievers both regained a little balance.  Brett Cecil, who has had more than his share of turmoil recently, retired both batters he faced.

Sam Tuivailala pitched the ninth inning in 1-2-3 fashion, putting an end to a three game streak in which Sam gave up a run in each game.  Since his recall, Tuivailala has pitched 8 pretty good innings (3 runs on 7 hits and no home runs.)

NoteBook

Cardinal starters hove now strung together 4 consecutive quality starts (finally winning one of them), and have quality starts in 7 of the last 8 games.  Lance Lynn – who opens the LA series – is the only Cardinal starter not to throw a quality start in the last nine games.

With his RBI double yesterday, Wainwright is now hitting .294/.294/.529 for the season – an OPS of .824 (yes, I know it’s just 17 at bats).

The strikeout prone Cardinals fanned just once yesterday.  Twice previously they had struck out just twice in a game.  On 13 other occasions in their first 41 games, the Cards have recorded 10 or more strikeouts.

Cards Drop Second Consecutive One Run Game

A once promising home stand has turned sour in the wake of three very ugly losses – the last two by one run.  Last night offered some bonus regret as the bullpen blew two late leads on its way to a 6-5 loss (box score).

I have always looked to the record in one run games as an effective barometer of a team’s grit – and I have held in high esteem those players who perform well in the tight environment of these games.

With these last two losses, the Cards fall to 6-9 on the season in one run contests.  They have played six already in the first 14 games in May – and have now lost 4 of those.  In many ways, these last two have been representative of the group.

There has been good news, too, though – although, admittedly, you have to look a little harder to find it these days.

One constant this month continues to be excellent starting pitching.  Michael Wacha’s 6 innings of scoreless ball pushed the rotation’s ERA down to 3.25 in May with 10 quality starts in the 15 games.

If you are looking for other hopeful signs, note that even though the offense only finished with 8 hits for the game, four were extra base hits and – at the end of the day – they had still thrown 5 runs on the board.  In 24 games since the beginning of the Milwaukee series on April 20, St Louis has scored at least 5 runs 17 times, averaging 5.38 runs per game in those games.

Even so, 8 of the last 24 games have also come down to one run.  The Cards have lost 6 of them.

Dexter Fowler

In one of last night’s most encouraging signs, Dexter Fowler tripled and homered for his first multi-hit night since he went 2-for-4 against Cincinnati on April 28.  He has home runs in consecutive games for the second time this year – bringing his season total to 6 already.  His other two home runs both came in the same game (a 2-1 win against Pittsburgh on April 19) – so his home runs have come in pairs.

Since recovering enough from a shoulder sprain to return to the starting lineup, Dexter has started 5 of the last 6 games.  He has only 4 hits in those games (in 16 at bats) for an unremarkable .250 average, but all 4 hits have been for extra bases and he has walked 8 times for a .250/.500/.813 batting line.

Six of his seven hits this month have been extra-base hits (Dexter has 3 triples so far in May), raising his slugging percentage for the month to .714 (albeit in just 28 at bats).  And even though he’s missed a few of the games with his injury, Dexter Fowler has nonetheless been one of the central figures in the Cardinals’ offensive revival.  Playing in 20 of the last 24 games (and starting 16) You-Go-We-Go has had 77 plate appearances, during which he has produced 8 singles, 3 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs, 12 runs scored, 15 runs batted in, and 14 walks.  His batting line since April 20 is .290/.416/.629.

Dexter has also been the team’s most potent offensive force in their recent one run games.  In the six they’ve played this month, Dexter has been to the plate 22 times, having 1 single, 2 triples, 2 home runs, 7 runs batted in, and 6 walks to show for them – a batting line of .313/.500/.938.

Kolten Wong

The bat of Kolten Wong – who finished last night with two more hits and two more walks – has been another of the constants of the Cardinals’ recent offensive surge.  Kolten has now hit .330 (29 for 88) over his last 23 games and 104 plate appearances.

It is little surprise that Fowler and Wong would be the offensive highlights of the night.  All season long, they have been the only two providing offensive sparks in the Cardinals’ one run games.  For his part, Wong is now 15 for 47 (.319) in St Louis’ 15 one run games.  For the six played so far in May. He is 10 for 22 (.455).

After hitting just 7 doubles in 313 at bats last year, Wong already has 11 in 123 at bats this year.  He has never hit more than the 28 he hit in 2015.  His 5 intentional walks this year are already a career high.  In his four previous seasons he had been intentionally walked a total of 7 times.

Tommy Pham

With Stephen Piscotty poised to return from the disabled list, Tommy Pham has picked an unfortunate time to fall into his first noteworthy slump of the season.  Over the last four games – ever since he inherited the second spot in the order – Pham has gone 2 for 15 (.133) with 1 walk, no extra-base hits and 6 strikeouts.  This includes going 1 for his last 12.  His last extra-base hit was an RBI double off of Chicago’s Pedro Strop in the sixth-inning of last Saturday’s game – a span of 16 at bats.

Last night’s game was the fourth one run game the Cards have played in the 12 games since Pham’s return.  He is 3 for 16 (.188) with 1 walk and 7 strikeouts in those games.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter did work his way on base with another walk – his seventeenth in 15 games this month.  But his subsequent 0 for 3 pushed his batting average for May down to .231 and his season average down to .238.  Since his first-inning home run in the last game in Atlanta, Matt is 5 for 35 (.143).

Carpenter is 3 for 20 (.150) in one run games in May.  He has played in 12 of the 15 this season, hitting .214 (9 for 42).

Aledmys Diaz

In 2016, Aledmys Diaz was among the teams’ better hitters in one run games.  He played 32 of them and hit .256/.336/.402 – which is quite good, considering that most one run games are pitchers’ duels.  This year, he and Randal Grichuk (.174) have been the only regulars on the team hitting below .200 in the 15 one run games played so far.  After last night’s 0-for-4, Diaz has had 62 plate appearances in one run contests, with the following results: 8 singles, 3 doubles, 0 runs batted in, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts and 2 ground-ball double plays.  His batting line in those games is .183/.210/.233.

Michael Wacha

For the second straight start, Michael Wacha turned a lead over to his bullpen only to watch it dissolve.  The last time, in the last game of the Atlanta series, Wacha finished six innings with a 4-2 lead that lasted until Freddie Freeman’s eighth-inning home run forged a 4-4 tie (in a game St Louis won in 14 innings, 6-4).  Even though neither Wacha nor the team managed a win this time, Wacha’s outings are staring to take on an encouraging consistency.

Through seven starts, Michael has now pitched at least 6 innings in all of them, allowing fewer hits than innings pitched in 5, allowing fewer than 3 runs in 5 of them, and has yet to issue more than 2 unintentional walks in any game.  All this has led to a sparkling 2.74 ERA.

Wacha has exceeded 88 pitches only twice this season, so they are being quite cautious with Michael.

In Wacha’s first start, the offense erupted for 10 runs to help him coast to victory.  Over his last 6 games, he has been granted a total of 15 support runs, getting as many as 4 only once (in the Atlanta game).

As a result, 4 of Wacha’s last 6 starts have been decided by one run.  Michael has actually been at his best in these games.  He has pitched 24.2 innings in these starts, going 1-1 with a 2.19 ERA and a .244 batting average against, walking 8 and striking out 22.

Wacha has been as good as we could have hoped for.  It’s understandable that they want to keep him healthy.

Rotation Shines in One Run Games.

Surprisingly – or perhaps not – Wacha’s 2.19 ERA in one run games is only the fourth best of the five members of the starting rotation.  Lance Lynn has only had one of his starts end up as a one-run game.  He threw 7 innings of 3-hit shutout baseball against Pittsburgh on April 17 – ending up the winning pitcher in a 2-1 contest.

Carlos Martinez has seen three of his starts determined by one run.  The Cards have won two of the three, with Martinez contributing an 0.90 ERA in 20 innings of those starts.

Mike Leake has also started 4 one run games.  He has pitched to a 2.13 ERA in those games, but St Louis has lost 3 of the 4.

In 15 one run games through May 19, St Louis’ starters have produced 10 quality starts and a 2.34 ERA.

The only starter who has really struggled in this category is Adam Wainwright.  Three of his starts this year have ended as one run games: the season’s second game (a 2-1 loss to Chicago); the May 4 game against Milwaukee (a 5-4 loss); and the 6-5 win in Miami on May 9.  Adam has no quality starts and a 5.87 ERA in those games.

The Bullpen, Not So Much

The bullpen has been a different story.  In fact, the one run games this team has played so far have fairly consistently exposed the Cardinal bullpen – which has all too often turned comfortable wins into one run games, and one run victories into one run defeats.  In that sense, these last two games have been very much indicative of the season.

Jonathan Broxton

Over the last two games, the breakdowns have come at the expense of pitchers who seemed, finally, to be doing well.  Wednesday night it was Trevor Rosenthal.  Last night – among others – it was Jonathan Broxton, who gave hits to both batters he faced and watched them both score.  He had not allowed a run in his previous 7 games (6.1 innings).

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman – who was greatly undone by an untimely error – has now still not allowed an earned run in his last 6 games (4.2 innings) – although he has now allowed 2 unearned runs in that span.  Bowman, who had walked only 3 batters the entire season walked 2 in an inning for the first time this year.  He had stranded his previous 9 inherited runners.

Matthew only had a 4.50 ERA in the 21 one run games he worked last year.  He has participated in 11 of the 15 so far this year, holding batters to a .216 average.  He, nonetheless, has a 5.59 ERA in those games.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist, who finally got the Cards out of the seventh only one run down, has now not allowed a hit in 5 straight games (4.1 innings), nor a run in 11 straight games (9.1 innings), nor a walk in 8 straight games (7.1 innings).  Kevin has set down the last 14 consecutive batters to face him – 6 on strikeouts.

Siegrist carried an 0.96 ERA in 30 one run games last year.  He has pitched in 7 of them so far this year, allowing no runs in 6.1 innings.

Sam Tuivailala

After throwing 4 scoreless innings after his call-up, Sam Tuivailala has now allowed a run in each of his last 3 games (3 innings).

Seung-hwan Oh

The runs off Seung-hwan Oh last night were the first runs he’d allowed in seven innings, and the first earned runs he’d allowed in 15 innings.  He had converted his previous 10 saves since faltering on opening night.

Oh has pitched in 6 of the one run games so far this year, with less than optimal results.  In the 7.2 innings he covered in those games, He has given 6 runs on 11 hits – a 7.04 ERA, paired with a .324 batting average.  It’s far too few innings to be overly concerned, but it is certainly a disappointing start from the designated closer.

NoteBook

The Cardinal bullpen served up as many runs (6) in three innings last night as the entire pitching staff surrendered in the three games against the Cubs that opened this home stand.

In home game #24 tonight, the Cards will surpass the one million mark in home attendance.  If St Louis wins today, they will be 12-12 at home this year.

Last year, Yadier Molina set a career high in strikeouts with 63.  He also grounded into 22 double plays – his highest total since he bounced into 27 back in 2009.  With 2017 not quite at the quarter pole, Molina has already struck out 21 times – but has only grounded into 2 double plays.

While he should have been thrown out at second, Randal Grichuk managed to get in with his fifth stolen base of the year – tying already his career high, set last year.

Offense Becoming Dangerous with Runners On Base

While the final score doesn’t necessarily suggest it (St Louis won the rubber game of their weekend series 5-0) (box score), Chicago’s Jake Arrieta made things difficult enough for the Cardinal hitters.  Of the 37 batters that faced Arrieta and his relief pitcher, Brian Duensing, 23 came up with the bases empty (62.2%)

While this is usually a recipe for defeat, The Cardinal hitters – as they have for most of the month – took advantage of the few opportunities they had with runners on base to go 4 for 13 (.308) with 2 home runs, keeping their momentum going.  The Cards have now won 8 of 9, 9 of 12 played in the month of May, and 18 of the last 24 since they were swept by the Yankees in mid-April.  The wet-powder Cardinals of 2016 never managed more than 7 wins in any 9-game stretch or 15 wins in any 24-games stretch.  However the season ends up, this year’s club has already shown more sustainability than last year’s team ever did.

The foundation of the Cardinal surge continues to be the excellent pitching – especially (these days) the bullpen.  Over the 9-3 May, the Cardinal starters have chipped in with 8 quality starts and a 3.61 ERA – while the bullpen ERA so far this month has been an impressive 1.30.  In the 18-6 run, the starters have thrown 17 quality starts to accompany a 3.24 ERA, while the ‘pen has backed then with a 2.58 ERA.

While the Cards continue to pitch, they will continue to contend.

Finally Hitting With Runners On Base

One of several elements of the Cardinal streak is improved hitting with runners on base.  April saw them hit a disappointing .233/.322/.369 with runners on base.  After yesterday’s exploits, St Louis is hitting .284/.351/.461 this month in those situations.

After a worrisome struggle against Eddie Butler on Friday night, the Cardinal offense has bounced back quite nicely.  They are now hitting .283 and scoring 5.50 runs per game this month.  In the 24 games since the beginning of the Pittsburgh series, they are hitting .285 and scoring 5.13 runs per game.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk contributed three hits last night, two of them doubles.  Both doubles came with the bases empty.  Randal’s numbers have shown a mild uptick so far this month, but only when he’s batting with the bases empty.  He is hitting .348 (8 for 23) and slugging .609 (3 doubles and 1 home run) with the bases empty.  He is only 4 for 24 (.167) this month when batting with anyone on base.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina’s two home run day stretched his hitting streak to six games, during which he’s hitting .320 (8 for 25) with more extra-base punch than we’re used to seeing from Yadi.  His 8 hits include 2 doubles and the 2 home runs – a .640 slugging percentage.

His first home run came in his only plate appearance with a runner on base.  Yadi’s month of May has been all about taking advantage of chances to hit with runners on base.  With no one on, Yadi is hitting .231 this month (6 for 26).  He is now at .333 (6 for 18) when he gets to hit with runners on.  He hit .345 last year with runners on base (70 for 203).

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz was thrown out at second on an overly aggressive attempt to stretch a single into a double, but Diaz, nonetheless, finished with two more hits and has two hits in three of his last four games.  Since moving to the sixth slot in the lineup, Aledmys has hit .364 (16 for 44).

His two hits lifted his batting average for the month of May to .340 (18 for 53).  Only Tommy Pham’s .371 is better among Cardinal regulars (and Tommy qualifies as a regular during the month of May).

All of Diaz’ at bats yesterday came with the bases empty.  So far this year, Aledmys has had no one on base for him in 60.7% of his plate appearances.  That is the third highest rate on the team.  Leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler has been up with the bases empty 67.2% of the time.  Even though he has been moved to the third slot in the order, Matt Carpenter still has no one on base for him 61.8% of the time.

Adam Wainwright

In putting together his first quality start of the season, Adam Wainwright still struggled keeping runners off base.  In fact, his game was almost the reverse of Jake Arrieta’s.  Where Arrieta rarely had runners on base, but got taken advantage of when he did, Wainwright was almost always in some flavor of trouble.  He had only one clean inning out of the seven he pitched – although two double plays helped him face the minimum in two other innings.

For the game the 13 batters that faced Adam with the bases empty went 4 for 11 with 2 walks – a .364 batting average and a .462 on base percentage.  For the season, when Adam has pitched with no one on base, opposing hitters have fashioned a .393/.440/.548 slash line.

Here was the difference, though.  In his disappointing April, hitters went on to hit .305/.349/.492 once they did get a runner on.  Yesterday afternoon, the Cubs were 0 for 12 with 2 walks and 2 double plays against Wainwright once they put a runner on base.  For the month of May (in 3 starts), Adam is holding batters that hit with runners on base to a .207/.361/.310 batting line.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal pitched his fifth consecutive hitless innings last night (he’s walked 1 and struck out 7 in those innings), and is now unscored on in his last 7 games – all one-inning appearances.  His season ERA is back down to 1.88.  The 23 batters who have faced Trevor this month are slashing .045/.087/.045 – that’s 1 single, 1 walk and 10 strikeouts.

He pitched on consecutive days for the third time this season yesterday.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist is the other vital part of the Cardinal bullpen that has returned to his former dominance.  Siegrist pitched the ninth and, like Rosenthal, set the Cubs down in order with two strikeouts.  Kevin has now thrown four consecutive perfect innings, and has set down the last 13 batters he’s faced, striking out 6 of them.  Kevin is unscored against in his last 10 games, constituting 9 innings.

Walks were an early issue for Kevin.  He walked no one last night for his seventh consecutive inning.  He walked 10 through his first 6.1 innings.

Over his last 12 games (11 innings), Kevin holds a 1.64 ERA and a .209 opponent’s batting average.

NoteBook

With last night’s win, the Cards become the first team in the division to reach six-games over .500 (they are 21-15).  They were also the division’s first team to fall six-games under .500 when they started 3-9.

Coming off a two-of-three series loss against Tampa Bay, the Boston Red Sox will be the sixth consecutive team the Cards will play that has lost its previous series.

Marlins Grind but Cardinals Conquer

All major league victories are hard won – even if they don’t necessarily seem so.  Last night’s 7-5 conquest of the Miami Marlins (box score) – after a grueling 3 hour and 46 minute struggle which began with the Cards trailing 4-0 in the first inning – was, I think, one of the more difficult of the season, so far.

Nonetheless, with the conquest, the Cards have now won six in a row and 16 out of 21.  Last year’s team never won more than five in a row and never managed more than 13 wins in any 21 game span.

The Marlins are currently trending the opposite way, losing 12 of their last 15.  They need some answers in the bullpen – two of the losses they suffered in this series were due to bullpen meltdowns.  But take the Miami hitters lightly at your own peril.

They finished with 5 runs on 9 hits – 2 of them home runs – and 8 walks.  But just as impressive were the at bats, whether they resulted in hits or not.

After almost four hours of baseball, Miami ended the evening having sent 43 batters to the plate and exacting 208 pitches from the Cardinal staff – an impressive 54 of which were fouled off.  The Cardinal pitching staff came into the game averaging 3.83 pitches per batter faced.  They threw 4.84 per batter last night.  Whatever else you may say about Miami, they are a difficult offensive team.

The Streaking Cardinals

In addition to the six-game streak, St Louis is now 7-2 in the month of May – even though the rotation hasn’t been as solid as they were through most of April.  Over the last 9 starts, the rotation has given us 5 quality starts and a 4.10 ERA.  Surprisingly, it has been the bullpen to the rescue to this point of May.  They have a 1.31 ERA in their first 34.1 innings of the month.

Offensively, the Cards enter the home-stand on a significant roll.  As a team, they are hitting .290/.366/.467 scoring 6 runs a game in the early part of May, and over the last 21 games the batting line is .288/.359/.470 while scoring 5.29 runs per game.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko led the offense again with three more hits and two important RBIs that helped the Cards get back in the game.  Jedd extended his current hitting streak to seven games, and now has hits in 10 of his last 11 games.  Over those games, Jedd is hitting .400 (18 for 45) and slugging .689 (4 doubles & 3 home runs) with 10 RBIs.

Jedd is 27 for 69 (.391) with 7 doubles, a triple and 4 home runs (a .696 slugging percentage) since the sweep at the hands of the Yankees.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz broke out of his hitless skid with two hits last night, and hit a couple of other balls hard.  Although it’s been a very streaky ride, Diaz is still hitting .375 (12 for 32) with 6 runs batted in in 7 games since he was re-settled in the sixth slot in the order.  Aledmys has struck out just once in those games.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk hit a couple more long fly balls that stayed in the park and struck out two more times as his 0-for-5 evening extends his hitless streak to 16 at bats and his homerless streak to 51 at bats.  Grichuk’s average is back down to .228 for the season.  Randal has also gone 6 games now without drawing a walk.

Since re-locating to the second slot in the order four games ago, Randal is 2 for 19 (.105).

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn’s streak of four straight quality starts came to a crashing halt in the first inning last night.  He served up two first-inning home runs.  Lance has had 6 hit off him already – 5 of them in just two games.  He served up 3 to Washington on April 11.  Those are also the only two games this season that Lance has walked more than two batters.

The story here, though, was more than the home runs.  In general, the Miami hitters put Lance through the ringer in all of his four innings.  They exacted 104 pitches from Lynn in those innings as they refused to chase pitches out of the zone (43 of Lance’s 104 were ruled balls) and extended at bats by fouling off his pitches.  They drove 22 of those pitches foul, while only missing on 7 swings.

Lance intermittently has the problem of long at bats.  After averaging 4.95 pitches per batter faced last night, Lynn’s season average sits at 4.16 per batter – the highest on the staff (higher even than Adam Wainwright’s 4.07).

Nine of the 12 batters who put the ball in play against Lance hit the ball in the air.  At times over his quality start streak, Lance looked like a groundball pitcher.  When he beat Milwaukee (4-1) on April 22, his ratio was reversed – 9 grounders and 3 fly balls.

Groundball pitchers do have the virtue of getting the double-play ball.  Lynn had four batters at the plate last night in double-play situations and got double-plays from none of them.  For the season, Lynn has induced 2 double plays in 28 such opportunities.  You would think that his 7.1% would be the lowest percentage of any of the starters, but you would be wrong.  To this point of the season, Mike Leake has faced 20 batters in double-play situations and hasn’t gotten one yet.  He has gotten 8 ground balls, but three have found their way through the infield for hits and the defense has been unable to turn any of the other five into double plays.

Lance has also had intermittent problems throwing first-pitch strikes.  Only 11 of the 21 batters he faced last night saw strike one.  For the season, Lance is throwing first-pitch strikes just 54.8% of the time.

Sam Tuivailala

Sam Tuivailala picked up his second win in the last four games.  He pitched the fifth, giving up no hits but walking a batter.  Sam has appeared in 3 games since his recall.  In 4 total innings, he has allowed just 1 hit, but has now walked 3.

I didn’t see Sam pitch down in Memphis, but one notable difference in his game in the few innings since his recall is the frequency of his first pitch strikes.  In his limited appearances last year, only 57.4% of the batters he faced saw that first pitch strike.  He was better at the beginning of the year, throwing 61.5% first-pitch strikes before being returned to AAA.  He threw first-pitch strikes to 3 of the 4 batters he faced last night, and has thrown 11 first-pitch strikes to the 15 batters he’s faced since his recall (73.3%).

This approach compliments his pitch-to-contact style.  Although Sam can throw with good velocity, he doesn’t generate many swinging strikes.  Last year, only 15.3% of the swings against him missed the ball.  Last night he caused only one swinging strike, and is at 12.8% for the year.

Brett Cecil

After being on quite a good roll, Brett Cecil is scuffling again.  Three of the five batters he faced last night got hits.  He has now surrendered hits in 6 straight games, totaling 10 hits (and 3 runs) in his last 4 innings. He has surrendered 2 leads in those 6 games.

With the hits, the batting average against Brett rises to .333, and his BABIP (a number I almost never reference) is a rather stunning .452.  The people who embrace BABIP will take this as good news, as it suggests that Brett has been mostly unlucky.  But not too many of the hits against him have been softly hit.

Derek Dietrich made it a 6-5 game when his one-out, sixth-inning single against Cecil drove home Dee Gordon from third.  Brett has had runners at third with less than two out 12 times this season – and has given up the run 9 times, including all of the last 5.

Brett’s best moment of the night came on a strikeout of Christian Yelich.  Behind on the count 1-2, Christian had no choice but to try to catch up to that slider that started at his knees and was almost in the dirt when Yadier Molina caught it.  Of Cecil’s 18 strikeouts this year, 16 have been swinging strikeouts.  That 88.9% is the highest percentage on the staff.

Brett would certainly walk more batters than he has, but batters love to swing the bat against him.  Last night, 14 of his 24 pitches were swung at (58.3%).  In 5 games so far this month, batters have offered at 48 of the 80 pitches he’s thrown.  At 60%, Brett leads the staff so far this month.

Since the end of the Yankee series, Brett is also the most missed pitcher on the staff.  His swing and miss rate over his last 12 games is 31.4%.  Last night, 5 of the 14 swings against him came up empty.

Kevin Siegrist

In last night’s seventh inning, Kevin Siegrist may have looked like Kevin Siegrist for the first time this year.  He pitched a 1-2-3 inning, throwing 10 of his 14 pitches for strikes (68.1% of his pitches this month have been strikes) and striking out 2.

The narrative on Siegrist seems to suggest that his Spring Training injury compromised his readiness for the season.  In his first 7 games, Kevin lasted 6 very eventful innings (7 runs, 5 hits – including 2 home runs, and 10 walks with only 4 strikeouts).  His last 8 times out, his numbers have been a lot closer: 7 innings, no runs, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts.  Still 8 hits allowed, but even that is getting better – he’s given none in his last two outings.

It hardly needs to be mentioned how important an effective Siegrist will be to a sometimes shaky bullpen.

First-pitch strikes is another of the principle differences between Siegrist in April and Siegrist, so far, in May.  Of the 21 batters he faced in April, only seven (33.3%) saw strike one.  Of the first 19 he’s faced in May, 12 have been started off with a first-pitch strike (63.2%).  He threw first-pitch strikes to 2 of the 3 he faced last night.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal added a stress-free eighth.  His season ERA is down, now, to 2.19, and he has been very sharp during the team’s 21-game run.  Trevor has pitched in 11 of the 21 games, earning 3 saves and 3 holds with a 1.64 ERA and a .175/.233/.250 batting line against.  Rosenthal has 21 strikeouts in 12.1 innings this year.

Possibly the principal reason that Trevor’s strikeouts are significantly higher than previously is his ability to throw his secondary pitches for strikes.  Last night, after throwing 4 four-seam fastballs that ranged from 100.1 to 100.5 miles-per-hour, Rosenthal paralyzed J.T. Realmuto with an 86.6 mph slider.  Rosenthal now has 8 strikeouts this season on called third strikes (38.1% of all his strikeouts) – all of them, probably, on breaking pitches.

The three Marlin hitters that he faced combined to foul off 7 of Trevor’s pitches.  It took him 16 pitches (5.33 per) to make it through the inning.  This has been a little bit of a recent pattern as well.  Over his last 11 innings, Trevor is throwing 4.51 pitches per batter and seeing 49.5% of his pitches fouled off.

Seung-hwan Oh

Closer Seung-hwan Oh invited some ninth-inning drama as he surrendered a double and 2 walks (1 intentional). But he got out of the inning with no damage and sent the Cards back to St Louis with the winning streak intact.

Oh has been in the middle of the Cardinal resurgence.  He has been called on 12 times in the last 21 games and has responded with 9 saves in 9 opportunities and a 0.69 ERA.  He has allowed no earned runs in his last 12 innings.

The highlight of his inning was the double-play that he got off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton that took the steam out of the inning.  It was the first double-play grounder that Oh has coaxed this year.

Last season, batters missed on 34.6% of the swings they took against Seung-hwan.  Last night, Oh got no swinging strikes from any of the 9 swings they took against him.  This month, so far, Seung-hwan has generated just 8 swinging strikes from the 47 swings against him (17%).  Of the bullpen regulars, Oh has the lowest swing-and-miss ratio this month.

NoteBook

St Louis had scored first in seven straight games.  The Marlins put an emphatic end to that streak with their four-run first inning.

When the Cubs open the home-stand tomorrow evening, they will be the fifth consecutive team that the Cards have played that had lost its previous series.  The Cubs were just beaten 2 of 3 in Colorado.

Bullpen Misfires Continue for Cards and Marlins

For seven innings last night, former Cincinnati pitcher (and current Miami Marlin) Dan Straily silenced what had been a pretty consistently dangerous offense, holding the St Louis Cardinals to 1 run on 3 hits.  For five of those innings, his St Louis counterpart – Adam Wainwright – did much the same to Miami, as he held them to 1 run on 2 hits.  Both starters on this night were failed by their respective bullpens that combined to serve up 5 runs on 7 hits over 5.2 innings (while allowing 5 of 6 inherited runners to score).  At the end it was the Cardinals prevailing on Dexter Fowler’s ninth-inning pinch-hit RBI single – just enough to give the Cards the 6-5 victory (box score).

The win was St Louis’ fifth in a row and makes 15 of the last 20.  This was the kind of run the 2016 team was never able to make.  Over the entire 2016 season, that team never managed more than 13 wins over any 20-game span.

To get this one, the Cards would need a 4-run eighth-inning rally against the Miami bullpen to tie the score and set the stage for the ninth.  And both of those innings were set up by outfielders who started the season in the minors.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham continues to leave his imprint on the road trip.  His two doubles last night were at the heart of two scoring rallies – especially the second one that triggered the 4-run eighth inning.  Since his recall from AAA, Pham has hit in four of his five games – getting multiple hits in three of them – on his way to a .450 batting average (9 for 20), a 1.050 slugging percentage (he has 3 doubles and 3 home runs) and 6 runs batted in over his five games.

Tommy saw 16 pitches over the course of his 4 plate appearances last night.  He swung at only 4 of them, missing none and putting three pitches in play.  Since his recall, Pham has been uncommonly selective – swinging at only 33% (29 of 88) of the pitches thrown to him – but hasn’t missed when he has.  Tommy has 5 swings so far this season that haven’t made contact (17.2%), and 15 swings that have put the ball in play (51.7%).  Last year he swung at 41.6% of the pitches sent his way, missed on 34.8% of those swings, and put the ball in play with just 27.9% of them.

Perhaps just as impressive, 7 of the 12 pitches that Pham didn’t swing at were called strikes (58.3%).  In his five games back, 39% of the pitches Pham has taken have been called strikes (the team average is 30.8%)

All these numbers suggest a hitter who is seeing the ball very well and taking confident at bats.  It could be that Pham is just hot.  This could also be the difference that being able to see can make.  Pham’s recent success, both here and down in Memphis, coincided with his latest set of contact lenses.

As long as Tommy Pham hits, Tommy Pham will play.

Magneuris Sierra

Magneuris Sierra also added two more hits last night, and was also in the middle of the offense.  He scored two runs last night and has scored 5 in his 3 games in the majors, while going 5 for 14 (.357) at the plate.

It is way too early to get overly excited about the 21-year-old rookie, but my question is this.  If he does well in his brief stay in St Louis, can they (or should they) really send him back down to A ball?  Doesn’t Sierra at least have to land in AA ball?

Randal Grichuk

In the middle of last night’s eighth-inning rally, Randal Grichuk almost ended both his hitless streak and his homer-less streak.  Alas, his long fly ball fell just short of the would-be grand slam.  But he did drive home the second run of the inning.  Grichuk is now hitless in his last 11 at bats and without a home run in his last 46.  He hasn’t walked in any of his last five games, either.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz is all the way back down to .250 on the season after last night’s 0 for 4.  Since getting hits in 7 straight at bats, Aledmys is 0 for his last 15.

Say this for Diaz.  Even when slumping, he has great control with his swing.  He swung at 6 pitches in his 4 plate appearances last night, fouling off 2 pitches and putting the other four in play.  Last year, he missed on only 17.4% of his swings while putting the ball in play 44.7% of the time.  This year, so far, he leads the team missing on just 16.7% of his swings and in putting the ball in play (52.9%).

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright’s final line in the game is becoming all too familiar.  He pitched 5.1 innings (he has made it through six innings just once this season) and allowed 4 earned runs (the fifth time this season he has allowed four or more earned runs).  Seven starts into his 2017 season, Adam is still waiting for his first quality start.

For the season, Adam has been inconsistent.  But last night’s line doesn’t reflect Adam’s night.  Wainwright’s effort last night was the best non-quality start I’ve seen in quite a while.

Five innings into the game, Adam had allowed two hits and one scratch run composed of a “hit by pitch” where Derek Dietrich made not the tiniest effort to avoid the pitch, a walk, a dribbler back to the mound that advanced the runners, and a perfectly executed suicide squeeze.  That was all this excellent Miami offense had to show for their first 18 plate appearances against Adam.

Then came the sixth inning.  J.T. Realmuto and Ichiro Suzuki guided bouncing singles up the middle.  Marcell Ozuna rolled a little grounder to Wainwright’s right that advanced the runners to second and third.  Adam then issued an intentional walk to slugger Giancarlo Stanton and – with lefthanders Dietrich, Justin Bour and J.T. Riddle due up – he exited the game and watched from the bench as Brett Cecil allowed all his runners to score.  For the game, the 15 batters who put the ball in play against Adam hit 11 ground balls.

Baseball isn’t always fair.  Last night, Adam deserved a much better fate than he got.  Of course, so did Straily.  It must be frustrating for Adam.  Over these last 20 games the rest of the rotation has thrown quality starts 14 times in 16 games, registering a 2.63 ERA and a .218/.280/.339 batting line against.  If Adam has more games like last night, though, he will be OK.

One of Wainwright’s enduring problems has been long at bats and long innings as far as number of pitches are concerned.  Last night the 22 batters to face Adam averaged 4.41 pitches per at bat which led, eventually, to 18.2 pitches per inning – with the result that his 97 pitches weren’t enough to get out of the sixth inning.  For the young season, Adam is averaging 4.07 pitches per batter and 19.22 pitches per inning.  Both numbers are the highest of anyone in the rotation.

Brett Cecil

Cecil had been pitching very well until Sunday – allowing no earned runs over his previous 8.1 innings and allowing only 2 of his previous 9 inherited runners to score.  But Brett served up the game-tying home run in the eighth inning Sunday in Atlanta and surrendered all of Wainwright’s baserunners plus one of his own last night.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman needed only 9 pitches in his three-up-three-down seventh.  In his previous 5 games (covering 5 innings), Matthew had been touched for 8 hits and 7 runs (6 earned).  It was relieving to see him back on track.

His inning was classic Bowman.  Three batters faces, three pitches per batter, three ground ball outs.  So far this year he is facing just 3.89 batters per inning (tied with Mike Leake for fewest on the staff), throws just 15.13 pitches per inning, and gets that ground ball 60% of the time –the highest ground ball ratio on the staff after he led all Cardinal pitchers last year with a 63% ground ball ratio.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal walked a batter, but otherwise pitched an uneventful eighth inning.  It was the third time in four games that Rosenthal has pitched.  Over his last 10 games (equaling 10 innings) Trevor has held opposing batters to a .180 average.

NoteBook

It took until the fifth inning, but the Cards finally scored that first run of the game.  That makes seven games in a row that the Cards have scored first.  They have won six of the seven.

Jedd Gyorko continues to close in on his doubles total from last year, when he hit only 9 all year.  He has 8 already in 2017.  Is he faster?  No.  The difference is that this year – so far – Jedd is driving the ball with authority to right and right-center.

Cardinals Conquer Miami’s Lefty

From the time that they walked off the field in New York – victims of another sweep by the Yankees – there have been several constants in the play of the St Louis Cardinals.  One – of course – is winning.  In the 19 games since that low point in the season, the Cards have now won 14 times.  One of the other constants has been facing a right-handed starting pitcher.  Until last night, the Cards hadn’t seen a lefty on the mound to start a game since the Yankees threw CC Sabathia at them on April 15 – 21 games ago.

From the first game of the ensuing Pittsburgh series to the last game in Atlanta, 725 Cardinals had come to the plate.  Only 67 (9.2%) of them had faced a lefty.

If the Cards were thrown off by the strangeness of it, they didn’t show it too much last night as they drove Miami left-hander Adam Conley from the mound in the fourth inning on their way to a fairly comfortable 9-4 win (box score).  I hedge this statement a bit, because most of the hitters who have played principle parts in the recent Cardinal resurgence didn’t really light up the box score.  The combination of Kolten Wong, Randal Grichuk, Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko, Yadier Molina, Aledmys Diaz and Tommy Pham – essentially the top seven spots in the batting order – combined to go 5 for 29 (.172).

The hitting heroics came from the number eight hitter (rookie Magneuris Sierra, who had two hits playing in just his second major league game), and pitcher Carlos Martinez, 0 for 11 at the plate before last night.  Carlos singled and doubled, and 6 of the 9 Cardinal runs scored as a result of his plate appearances.  It’s not entirely clear how the game would have progressed without his offensive contributions.

This much is clear.  With that fourteenth victory, your St Louis Cardinals have re-emerged at the top of the division – one half game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds, and a full game up on that team from Chicago.  There’s a long way to go, and it’s a bit early to be calculating magic numbers, but the winning streak is very encouraging.  The 2016 team never won 14 games over any 19-game span.  They won 13 out of 19 once, from July 7 through July 29.

Randal Grichuk

After a six-hits-in-eleven-at-bats splurge, Randal Grichuk has tailed a bit (hitless in his last 9 at bats).  Only one of those outs was a strikeout.  The other outs were four popflys and four fly balls (3 to center and 1 to right). His last home run was the game-tying shot in the first game of the Toronto doubleheader (now 44 at bats ago) and Randal has just 1 RBI in his last 8 games.

Grichuk has also seen 20 or more pitches in 5 straight games.  He had seen that many pitches in a game only four times previously this season.  The last few at bats haven’t worked out, but Grichuk is looking pretty locked in at the plate.  Good things are on the horizon.

Randal has now not had a hit against a left-handed pitcher since a fourth-inning home run off of Washington’s Gio Gonzalez back on April 11.  Since then, he is 0 for 11 with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts against lefties.  He is a .111 (2 for 18) hitter against left-handed pitching for the young season.

Aledmys Diaz

Riding a similar roller-coaster is Aledmys Diaz.  At one point during the Atlanta series, Aledmys had hits in five consecutive at bats, and – stretching back to the Milwaukee series – 10 hits over 12 at bats.  But beginning with his ground out in the ninth-inning of the Saturday game, Diaz is hitless in his last 11 at bats.

Carlos Martinez – the pitcher

After pushing through six innings just once through his first four starts, Carlos has now strung together three consecutive quality starts.  Although his final line was 3 runs in six innings, he surrendered nothing until he had built up a 7-0 lead.

Over his last three starts, Carlos is 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA.  With the home runs allowed last night, Martinez has allowed 5 over his last 24.1 innings.

Martinez’ quality start was the rotation’s fourteenth in the last 19 games.  During that streak, the Cardinal starters are 12-1 with a 3.03 ERA.

As you can imagine, right-handed batters don’t usually fare so well against Carlos.  Last season, he held righties to a .207 batting average and a .269 slugging percentage.

He has been nearly as tough on them this year – especially lately.  Last night, right-handers were just 2 for 10 against Martinez – although the two hits were the two home runs off the bat of Marcell Ozuna.  Over his last four starts, right-handers are carrying a .188 batting average (9 for 48) with Martinez on the mound.

Miguel Socolovich

During spring training, there was a lot of talk about looking for multi-inning relievers – and some of the high-profile members of the bullpen (like Trevor Rosenthal) were spoken of as possible matches for that role.

As the season has developed, the mostly unheralded Miguel Socolovich has started to assume that role.  He threw three innings last night to close out the game.

Of his 11 appearances this season, 4 of them have totaled more than one inning.  Miguel carries an 0.93 ERA over 9.2 innings in those games, with Giancarlo Stanton’s home run last night accounting for the only earned run he’s allowed in those innings.  Miguel has also walked only 1 batter over his last 6 games – accounting for 8.1 innings.

Miguel faced five right-handed batters last night and only one of them (Stanton) got a hit.  Last year, righties against Socolovich were only 2 for 34 (.059).  He hasn’t been quite that good against them this year, but even with the home run, right-handers are still just 8 for 35 (.229) for the year.  And just 4 for the last 22 (.182).

NoteBook

Martinez’ 3-run double makes it 6 straight games where the Cards have scored first.  St Louis has gone on to win 5 of the 6.

In winning consecutive starts for the first time this season, Carlos received 9 runs of support from his offense (well, OK, mostly himself).  In his six previous starts, Martinez had been backed by a total of 7 runs.