Tag Archives: Grichuk

Quintana’s Acts of Aggression Pay Off

The Cardinals had their moments against new Chicago lefty Jose QuintanaRandal Grichuk and Paul DeJong reached him for home runs.  Tommy Pham almost did as well.  Matt Carpenter was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a double.  Yadier Molina was thrown out stealing one pitch before DeJong’s home run.  Michael Wacha bunted into a double play to blunt another scoring opportunity.  Pham’s was one of three line drives that were caught.

The most notable aspect of Quintana’s game – to my mind – was his aggressiveness.  He only fell behind two batters 2-0 (and he walked both of those).  Everyone else got a strike (and usually a fastball strike) in the first two pitches.

Jose doesn’t have the overpowering fastball.  But that didn’t stop him from firing it in there.  In baseball, aggression always works – except when it doesn’t.  And while the end result for Jose could very easily have been much different, he ended up getting just enough run support and just enough plays made behind him to get the win.

That’s how it goes when you are the hot team.

For the Cardinals, it was their fourth loss in the last five games.

Jedd Gyorko

After getting just 5 hits in his previous 11 games, Jedd Gyorko came through with a couple of hits.  His first-inning double (the hit that resulted in Carpenter getting thrown out at first) was his first extra-base hit in 32 at bats.

Paul DeJong

DeJong’s little slump didn’t last long.  He had two hits – including a home run – and is having as fine a July as anyone.  He is now 20 for 68 (.294) this month with 8 doubles and 6 home runs – a .676 slugging percentage.

Randal Grichuk

Whether or not it will last, Grichuk certainly didn’t struggle to find his rhythm.  He finished the Cub series 5 for 11 (.455) with 3 home runs and 5 RBIs.

Luke Voit

While DeJong has re-discovered his groove, Luke Voit – whose playing time has been less regular – has not.  Luke took over for Matt Carpenter after Carpenter felt tightness in his leg, and went 0 for 3.  Luke is now hitless in his last 10 at bats, and 1 for 12 (.083) in the last 5 games.  For the month of July, his average has fallen to .220 (11 for 50).

In the fifth inning, Luke bounced Quintana’s first pitch changeup to second base.  In his brief major league career, Luke has hit the first pitch thrown to him 9 times.  He has one infield singled to show for them.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham didn’t get a hit, but he ended up in counts of 1-0, 2-2, 3-2, and 3-1.  For the month of July, Pham is hitting ahead in the count 47.5% of the time, and 42.7% of the time for the season.  As his vision seems to have been corrected, Tommy’s strike zone judgment has improved significantly.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler has now played in 13 games since coming back from his latest foot issue.  After his 0 for 3 last night, Fowler is a .239 hitter (11 for 46) and .326 slugger (1 double, 1 home run).  He has driven in 2 runs and scored 2 runs in those games.

Let’s point out, though, that for someone who hasn’t had a lot of hits, Dexter has been putting together a lot of pretty good at bats.  In his 52 plate appearances since coming off the disabled list, Dexter has hit ahead in the count in 26 of those (50%).  This includes 2 of his 4 last night.  That Dexter is only hitting .150 in those plate appearances (3 for 20) is evidence, perhaps, of some bad luck.  He has also walked in 6 of those plate appearances-including 1 last night, so his on base percentage since his return is a not so bad .346 when he gets ahead in the count.

Michael Wacha

Though last night wasn’t all he hoped for, let’s not forget how well Wacha has been pitching of late.  He had won 5 decisions in a row, and was 4-0 with a 1.01 ERA and a .189/.235/.221 batting line against over his previous 26.2 innings.  Before allowing two home runs last night, Michael had gone 141 at bats against him without yielding a home run.

Michael, in fact, pitched better than his final line.  All during the month of July, Wacha has been throwing that plus change off his downward-plane fastball to mostly devastating effect.  Last night he pitched from ahead against 8 of the 24 batters he faced.  They managed one hit and struck out 4 times.  For the month of July, when Wacha pitches ahead in the count, opposing batters are 2 for 36 (.056).

The only real damage done to him last night came when he fell behind hitters.  Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant both drove in third-inning runs on 2-0 fastballs.  Willson Contreras’ game-winning, two-run homer came on a 3-1 fastball.

Buyers or Sellers?

With the 4-6 road trip, the Cards stand at 47-51, 4.5 games behind the division co-leaders.  One could make a very compelling case for the Cards being sellers at the deadline – the most compelling argument being that 98 games into the season, the Cardinals are still a bad baseball team.  They have great, great talent.  Anyone who doubts their talent, just hasn’t been paying attention.  But their heart doesn’t match their skill.

After last night’s loss, manager Mike Matheny said: “We’re putting up some good, good games against some good teams.  It’s just that something is not letting us finish it, one way or another, whether it’s enough offense or enough pitching and defense.”

In other words, they are what I have been calling them for a while – the team that blinks.  The team that isn’t as mentally tough as the team that lines up against them.

That being said – being that they are only 4.5 games out – it is unlikely that they will sell.  And I think I’m OK with that.  Especially as it concerns Grichuk and Lance Lynn.

With Randal, I really want to see him play through this second half.  He’s been more of a tease these last two years, but there is enormous talent there.  Before we give it away for whatever we can get, I would like to see these last couple of months whether he can turn the corner.  He is under team control for a few more years, so we can always flip him next year if he doesn’t pan out.

The case of Lynn is a little more complex, as Lance will be a free agent at season’s end.  The team thinking – I think – is this.  We have a great many promising arms working their way through the system.  Of immediate note, Alex Reyes is expected to be back and in the rotation next year – so one of the current members of the rotation will have to give way.  Lance, of course, will want a long-term deal, and – with the numbers of pitchers on the way – the Cards don’t feel that they can make that kind of commitment to him.  They consider him a very good pitcher, but not as elite as the prospects on the way.

Over his last several starts, though, Lynn – in his first season back from Tommy John surgery – has been pitching like one of the top pitchers in baseball.  Can he sustain that?  Who knows?  But I, for one, am curious.  I would like to see Lance get the rest of the season to make his case.  To show that his future is as promising as many of the arms on the way.

If neither Grichuk nor Lynn prove to be parts of our future, then not moving them will be something of a lost opportunity.  But before we part with these two impressive talents, I would like to be more convinced of what we have or don’t have in them.

NoteBook

Last night the Cards played a rubber game on the road for the sixth time this season.  They have now lost five of them.

St Louis is now also 1-5 in rubber games against teams that won their previous series.

After going 6 for 12 with runners in scoring position on Friday, St Louis was 0-1 in RISP opportunities in both of the last two games.

Another Game, Another Lead Surrendered

In a scenario oft-repeated this year, the Cardinals spit up a late lead (this time, a two-run lead in the sixth inning) on their way to a 5-2 loss (box score).  All year, the Cardinal pitching staff has treated a lead as though they were allergic to them.  Throughout the month of June, the staff pitched 27.2 innings with a 2-run lead.  In those innings, Cardinal pitching gave up 22 runs (a 7.16 ERA) with a .262/.331/.477 batting line.  If the offense should provide them a three-run lead, the response was even worse – a 10.95 ERA (15 runs in 12.1 innings) with a .370/.407/.593 batting line.

Those numbers are staggering enough, but they are just an extension of the pattern that has held all year long.  In 70 innings this year with a two run lead, Cardinal pitching has been battered for 47 earned runs (6.04 ERA) and a .256/.320/.419 batting line.  They have had a three-run lead to protect for 39.1 innings so far this year – promptly serving up 29 runs (6.64 ERA) and a .307/.350/.464 batting line against.

St Louis has now lost 18 games this season which they led by at least two runs at some point of the contest.

John Brebbia

What good news came from the game pertains mostly to the late bullpen, starting with John Brebbia’s seventh inning.  He did give up a couple of hits (after good at bats by Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton, who poked opposite field singles), but he worked out of trouble with no more runs scoring.  John (who finished June with a 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings, with a .159 batting average against), is now unscored upon in his last 5 games (totaling 5.2 innings).  He has thrown strikes with 70% of his pitches (56 of 80) in those games.

For the season, the only runs he has given up have come when St Louis was already trailing by 5 or more runs.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham had his roughest afternoon since his return from Memphis – an 0 for 4, 4 strikeout night. His strikeouts included one in the third inning with runners at first and second and one out, with the game still scoreless; and in the seventh, with one out and runners on first and third and the Cards down by three.

After a splashy start, Tommy returned to earth a bit in June – when he hit .265.  Disappointingly, he struggled most when a big hit might have done the most good.  With the game tied, or with St Louis trailing by no more than two runs, Tommy hit just .174 (8 for 46) with 1 double and 1 home run.  He drove in 2 runs, struck out 15 times, and slugged .261 in those situations.  Once the Cards took a lead he was very good (.342/.419/.500), and once the Cards fell behind by three or more he was even better (.357/.471/.643).  But that big hit with the Cards trying to hang in the game has been hard to come by for him lately.

Stephen Piscotty

Hitting right behind Pham, Stephen Piscotty’s afternoon was nearly as sour.  He went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts and left the same runners in scoring position that Tommy did.

As part of what has been a struggling year so far (Piscotty is hitting .245 with a .394 slugging percentage), Stephen has been particularly absent when the Cards have been narrowly trailing in a game.  With a deficit of between two and four runs, Piscotty is just 4 for 34 (.118) this year.

Randal Grichuk

Since the beginning of the Washington series, Randal Grichuk (who was 0 for 3 with a walk yesterday) is now 2 for 21 (.095).  He has neither scored nor driven in a run, but has struck out 9 times in his last 5 games.  He has played 10 games since his recall from Memphis, during which he is hitting .209 (9 for 43).

While the game was still scoreless, Randall walked in the second and struck out in the fourth.  He is now 7 for 45 for the season (.156) when batting while the game is tied.  While the game is within one run either way, Randal is 18 for 101 (.178).

Nationals Come After Martinez Early

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

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

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

Carlos Martinez

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

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

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

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

John Brebbia

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

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

Yadier Molina

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

Randal Grichuk

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

NoteBook

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

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

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

Pieces Starting to Come Together

With three runs in the seventh inning and five more in the eighth, the Cardinals broke open a tight game yesterday afternoon, and finished up with a 10-4 conquest of Arizona (box score).  St Louis now finds itself the victor in 4 of its last 5 games.  While this might not be front page news, it’s enough to lighten the mood of the team and its followers, and fan the flames a bit.  In this recent turnaround, most of the mostly malfunctioning parts of the team have seemed to come together a bit.

Offensively, the team has been much more consistent all month than in April and May.  With the 10 runs last night, the Cards have scored 139 in 28 June games (4.96 per).  Thirty-five of those have now come during the last five games, in which the team has hit .275 (47 for 171).

Randal Grichuk

It may or may not be coincidental that the Cardinals’ mini-surge coincides with the day that Randal Grichuk returned from Memphis.  He did suffer through a short 0-for-9 stretch through the first two games of the Arizona series, but broke out of it decisively with 3 hits – including the game-winning three-run home run in the seventh.  He is now hitting .318 (7 for 22) since his return.  Even better, the hits haven’t been soft.  They include a double and 3 home runs – a .773 slugging percentage.  Randal has driven in 9 runs over his last 5 games.

In his first 24 post-Memphis plate appearances (yes a very small sample size), Grichuk has shown some early ability to battle deeper in an at bat.  Before his demotion, if his at bat lasted more than three pitches, his average fell to .160 (15 for 94).  He slugged just .255 with only 1 home run in those at bats.

Since his return, Randal has already stretched 13 plate appearances past the third pitch.  He is 4 for 12 (.333) with a walk.  More impressive, three of the four hits were for extra-bases – including 2 home runs.  The home run that turned yesterday’s game came on the fourth pitch of that particular at bat.

Jedd Gyorko

The Cardinal resurgence also coincides with Jedd Gyorko’s emergence from a slight slump.  Jedd had 2 hits and a walk yesterday as his contribution.  Jedd has had 20 plate appearances over the last five games, leading to 2 singles, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 8 runs batted in and 4 walks – a batting line of .400/.500/.800.  Jedd has pushed his season-long average back up to .298.

Jedd jumped on the first pitch thrown to him twice yesterday, drilling Patrick Corbin’s second-inning fastball down the left-field line for a double, and then bouncing to third on a first-pitch changeup in the sixth.  For the season, Gyorko puts the first pitch in play 16.1% of the time (among Cardinals, only Yadier Molina at 16.5% hits the first pitch more frequently), and no one on the team does it better.  Gyorko is hitting .405 and slugging .929 on the first pitch this season.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter was issued an intentional walk in front of Grichuk’s home run.  It was the only time he reached base, as he finished another 0-for-4 evening.  Matt is now 4 for 36 (.111) over his last 11 games – although those games include 15 walks, so his on base percentage is a healthy .373.  Matt’s average for the season is now down to .230, but with a .371 on base percentage and a .457 slugging percentage.  Similarly, he is now hitting .247 for the month of June (23 for 93), but with a .391 on base percentage and a .505 slugging percentage.  He has hit 5 home runs this month.

Not Just About the Runs

But more than just the offense has gotten healthy lately.  The bad base-running decisions have stopped.  The defense has been solid and sometimes spectacular.  The bullpen hasn’t been as terrible (most of the time), although it’s clearly still a worry.

And the starting pitching – the team’s albatross for most of June – is also starting to turn the corner.  Yesterday afternoon marked a full turn through the rotation with everyone throwing a quality start.  The rotation has put together a 3.26 ERA over the last five games, allowing just one home run (hit yesterday by Paul Goldschmidt).

Pitchers Surviving the First Pitch

According to baseball reference, across all of baseball batters hitting the first pitch thrown to them are hitting .349 with a .590 slugging percentage.  Whether through luck or some element of design, Cardinal pitchers have avoided first-pitch damage recently.  The Diamondbacks were only 1 for 4 yesterday when they hit the first pitch (Jake Lamb took the first pitch thrown him by Mike Mayers in the ninth over the wall).  The last 28 Cardinal opponents who have hit the first pitch thrown to them have just 4 hits (.143).  The other three hits have been singles.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn has been surprisingly good all season when batters hit his first pitch.  Arizona was 0 for 3 against his first pitch yesterday (albeit with help from a big defensive play by Stephen Piscotty in right).  This month, batters are just 1 for 10 against Lance when they hit his first pitch (Scott Schebler began Cincinnati’s comeback from a 3-0 deficit with a first-pitch home run off Lynn on June 7).  Of the now 19 home runs that Lance has given up, that is the only one hit off of his first pitch.  For the season, batters are hitting .214 (6 for 28) and slugging .321 against Lynn’s first pitch.

MatthewBowman

Matthew Bowman added a 1-2-3 seventh that included a strikeout.  Bowman – who has pitched better than his ERA all season – is wrapping up a pretty good June.  In 13 games and 12.1 innings he holds a 2.19 ERA and a .238 batting average against this month.

Bowman’s seventh was highlighted by the longest at bat against him this year, a ten-pitch struggle against Chris Iannetta. Bowman won the battle when Iannetta took a called strike three.  Yes, it was definitely a good couple of inches off the outside corner, and Chris was understandably upset.  Of course, the earlier 2-2 fastball that was called ball 3 was also clearly a strike, so the at bat evened out.

NoteBook

Yesterday’s win gave the Cardinal’s only their fifth series win in the 12 they have played on the road.  The overall road record is 17-21.

Arizona had six hits yesterday afternoon, but no singles.  And the only walk they received was intentional.  The Cards opened the fourth inning with four singles and a walk from their first five hitters of the inning.

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.

Leake Answers 13-Inning Loss With a Gem

Most of the time when a team needs to turn things around (as the Cardinals did last night after losses in 5 of their 6 previous games), the turnaround starts with the starting pitcher.  And as he has several times already this season, Cardinal starter Mike Leake answered the bitter 13-inning loss of the night before with his ninth quality start in 9 games.  He helped lead the Cards to a 6-1 conquest of the Dodgers (box score).

For all of that, though, St Louis is where they are on the season (23-20) because they have been largely unable to break out of significant losing streaks.  Already this season they have endured three 3-game losing streaks and, most recently, a 4-game losing streak.  Last year’s team was a modest 44-32 after a loss.  They finished with 86 wins and missed the playoffs.  The Cardinals begin 2017 with a 10-10 record in games after a loss (including a 5-4 mark in May).  There are various explanations for this struggle.  The starting pitching, though (which is suddenly starting to resemble the 2015 team an awful lot), has not been one of the issues.

Mike Leake

Last night’s dominating performance brought Mike Leake his team-leading fifth win of the season.  Mike won only 9 all of last season and has never won more than 14 in a season in his career.  But this is MikeLeake 2.0, and the rest of the National League might as well get used to it.  Last night he pitched 8 innings allowing 1 run.  It was the fifth time in 9 starts that Leake allowed fewer than 2 runs, and the eighth time that he has allowed less than three.  He walked nobody for the second straight start, and now has 0 walks in 4 of his 9 starts.  In fact, he hasn’t walked any of the last 62 batters that have faced him.  In 4 starts this month, his record sits at 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA and a .190 batting average against.

Mike Leake has been impressive.

But as good as he has been in all situations, he has been at his best when he has taken the ball after a Cardinal loss.  Four of his 9 starts have followed losses.  In the 30 innings that he’s pitched in those games, he has permitted 4 runs on 21 hits (14 singles, 5 doubles, a triple, and just 1 home run) while walking 1 batter and striking out 23.  Mike has answered those Cardinal losses with 2 wins (last night’s game against the Dodgers and another 6-1 win against Washington on April 12 that broke a 3-game losing streak), one loss (a 2-0 loss against Cincinnati on April 7), and one no decision (the May 17 game against Boston that he left after 7 with a 4-2 lead only to see bad things happen after he was gone).

His ERA in those games is 1.20 and the batting line against is .200/.206/.295.   This is outstanding.

The Rest of the Rotation in Games After a Loss

St Louis’ tepid record in wins after losses is all the more confounding when weighed against the excellence of the starting pitching.  Following the 9 losses so far in May, Cardinal starters have chalked up 8 quality starts, a 5-0 record, a 1.59 ERA, and a .193 batting average against.  For the season, the rotation has 13 quality starts, a 9-5 record, a 2.51 ERA, and a .223 batting average against when responding to the previous day’s loss.

Carlos Martinez has been the next best starter after a loss.  He has taken the ball in 5 of these games, throwing 4 quality starts with a record of 2-1 and a 2.10 ERA.  Lance Lynn has four of these starts.  He is also 2-1 with a 2.31 ERA.  Michael Wacha, starting 3 times after a loss, is 1-0, 2.50.

These four pitchers have combined to start 16 of the 20 games St Louis has played after suffering a loss.  They have combined to throw 12 quality starts and 105.2 innings with just 7 home runs allowed.  They are a combined 7-3 in those games with a 1.96 ERA and a batting line against of .190/.258/.302.

Through 43 games, one-time ace Adam Wainwright has been the “other” starter.  He has made the other 4 starts after a loss, but with less effectiveness.  He has thrown 1 quality start, and sits at 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in these games.

Always the Bullpen

As with almost every other statistical measuring tool, it is the bullpen that has been clipping the wings of the 2017 Cardinals.  While the starters are 5-0 this month after a loss, the bullpen is 0-4 with 3 blown saves and a 4.23 ERA.  For the season, the bullpen carries a 5.72 ERA in games after a Cardinal loss.

This is a trend I don’t expect to see continue.  Recently, most of the troubled bullpen arms have started to rebound and pitch as anticipated.  We’ll revisit this situation later on in the year and see how it develops.

Offense Gets By With a Little Help

Nine walks and a big error that allowed two runs to score eased the Cardinal path to victory.  With just 8 hits – 6 of them singles – the offense was less explosive than it’s been of late.  Still, it all combined for 6 runs.  Over the last 28 games, the Cards have now scored at least 4 runs in 22 of them.

Jedd Gyorko

Having had his six-game hitting streak snapped the night before, Jedd Gyorko responded with three hits last night to spark the offensive bounce back.  Jedd has now hit safely in 21 of his last 26 games – getting multiple hits in 11 of them, and three or more in five of them.  Jedd’s season average has soared to .331 on the strength of these 26 games of sustained excellence.  Jedd has hit .362 over his last 105 at bats (38 hits), and slugged .610 (7 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs).  In 18 games this month, Jedd is 25 for 76 (.329) with 3 home runs.

Jedd has now played in 8 of the 9 after-loss games the Cardinals have played this month.  He is hitting .417 (15 for 36) and slugging .750 (1 double, 1 triple & 3 home runs) in those games.  All season long, Jedd has been the most dangerous Cardinal hitter when the team had lost its previous game.  Jedd has played in 17 of the 20 games (starting 16) and has hit .358 (24 for 67) and slugged .642 in those games.  Of the 7 home runs Jedd has hit this season, 5 have come in games following a loss.

Dexter Fowler

As has been variously reported following his 0-for-4 last night, Dexter Fowler is now hitless in 20 straight at bats with 7 strikeouts.  He is now just 7 for 47 (.149) for the month.  While his overall batting average sinks to .206, his average in games after a loss is even worse – now at .149 (11 for 74), the lowest on the team.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty hasn’t come back from the DL with an especially torrid bat.  He has had one dribbling infield hit in his last 9 at bats, and is just 3 for 15 (.200) since his return.

But Stephen wasn’t especially torrid before he went down, either.  While the offense in general has done quite well since the beginning of that late April series in Milwaukee, they have done so without much contribution from Piscotty.  Playing in 16 of the last 28 games, Stephen holds a .231 average (12 for 52) with 4 extra-base hits (all doubles) and 3 RBIs.  His slugging percentage sits at .308 since late April.

Stephen’s last home run came in the ninth-inning of the April 15 game in New York against the Yankees – 81 plate appearances (and 322 pitches) ago.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk struck out three times in his 0-for-4 night.  He is 16 for 72 this month (.222).  With their combined 0-for-12 last night, the Cardinals starting outfield is now hitting .232 (Grichuk in left), .206 (Fowler in center), and .234 (Piscotty in right) respectively at slightly past the quarter-pole of the season.  Somewhat less than was hoped for.

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.

Unknown Lefties Still a Mystery

It doesn’t seem to me that other teams struggle that much against pitchers that they don’t know very well.  Perhaps the first time through the order, but thereafter most teams seems to adjust.  And when that unknown pitcher is a lefthander, well, even after all these years and with a handful of very talented right-handed hitters in the lineup, lefties are still mostly a mystery to this team.

Take nothing away from Eduardo Rodriguez – who is a quality pitcher – but last night’s 6-3 loss to Rodriguez and the Red Sox (box score) could have been a replay of any of a number of dominating performances by various left-handers at the expense of the Cardinals over the years.

The early returns this year aren’t encouraging, either.  After going 5 for 22 (.227) against Rodriguez and lefty reliever Robby Scott, the Cards are now hitting .240 this season against left-handed pitching.

Tommy Pham

Since it’s never too early to mention things like this, Tommy Pham, batting second last night, was 0 for 3.  He is now 1 for 11 in his three starts hitting second.  Toss in an 0-for-3 in a start where he batted sixth, and Pham is 1 for 14 (.071 batting average and slugging percentage) when he bats higher than seventh.  In his 6 starts hitting seventh or eighth, Tommy is 12 for 24 (.500) with 4 doubles, 3 home runs, and 8 runs batted in (a 1.042 slugging percentage).

Randal Grichuk

After getting three hits Sunday afternoon against the Cubs, Randal Grichuk suffered through another 0 for 3 last night.  His average for the year is back down to .241, and his average for the month of May is right there, too, at .240 (12 for 50).  He has 1 home run, 3 runs batted in, and 15 strikeouts for the month, so far.

One of the most encouraging parts of Grichuk’s promising second half last year was his proficiency at hitting lefthanders.  From the All-Star Break through the end of the season, Randal was 17 for 50 (.340), with the hits including 7 doubles and 5 home runs (.780 slugging percentage) against left-handed pitching.

To this point of 2017, that punch against lefties has been absent.  With his 0 for 3 last night, Grichuk is now 3 for 22 (.136) against lefties so far his season.

Pitchers Struggle Some Against Lefties As Well

Although Boston’s left-handed hitters didn’t have the success that most lefties have had against Cardinal pitching this year (they are hitting .274/.368/.452 against us), the pitching staff did continue its trend of thriving against right-handed hitters.  Boston’s righties managed only 4 hits in 21 at bats (albeit one of those hits was a home run).  For the season, right-handers manage just a .226/.280/.359 batting line against the Cardinal pitching staff.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn served up two home runs for the second straight start and now has three multiple home run games this season.  It has been about the only blot on an otherwise impressive season that has seen Lance reach 4-2 on the season with a 2.78 ERA and a .205 opponents’ batting average.  The home runs bring Lance’s total to 8 allowed so far this year in 45.1 innings.  His career high is the 16 he allowed in 176 innings in 2012.

Jackie Bradley’s second-inning home run was the third home run this month and the sixth home run this year that Lance has given up to left-handed hitters.  He also walked one lefty and hit another.  For the season, left-handers have troubled Lance to the tune of a .566 slugging percentage and a .393 on base percentage.  Over his three starts in May, those numbers are .680 and .438.

Right-handed batters have been another story.  The righties in the Red Sox lineup were only 2 for 14 against Lynn (.143).  Over his three starts in May, he is holding right-handed batters to a .147 average (5 for 34) and to a .133 average (12 for 90) on the season.  Prior to Mookie Betts’ leadoff home run, Jayson Werth’s fourth-inning home run against Lance on April 11 in Washington was not only the only right-handed home run he had served up this year, but the only right-handed run batted in against Lance this season.

Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Broxton pitched the seventh inning and gave up a hit.  Over his last 7 appearances – totaling 6.1 innings – Broxton has allowed 11 baserunners (3 walks to go with the now 8 hits).  None of them have scored.  In addition, Broxton has stranded his last two inherited runners.

Bradley’s leadoff single to left makes left-handed hitters 9 for 18 (.500) against Broxton so far this season.

That being said, Broxton hasn’t allowed an extra-base hit to anyone (right or left) since Milwaukee’s Manny Pina homered off him in the ninth-inning of their April 23 game.  That was 29 batters ago.

Sam Tuivailala

Sam Tuivailala was charged with his first run allowed since his return from Memphis.  In Sam’s two previous games, all seven batters who put the ball in play against him hit the ball on the ground.  Last night, the only two he faced both hit it in the air.

Sam has had issues with walking batters in his few innings this season, but that has only been a problem when facing lefthanders.  He has walked 3 of the 10 lefties he’s faced, while walking only 1 of the 20 right-handers who have been up against him.

Brett Cecil

Troubles continue for Brett Cecil who came on the eighth inning of a one-run game with a runner at first and one out.  He proceeded to walk the only two batters he faced (both lefthanders) to set up the final two runs of the game.  Although the run charged to him was ultimately unearned, the outing marked the fifth consecutive game that Brett has allowed a run.

The 26 batters Brett has faced in his 7 games this month are slashing .476/.538/.857 against him.  Eighteen of the 26 have been left-handed batters.  Their slash line against him has been .538/.611/1.154.  For the season 36 left-handed batters have taken their chances against Cecil, and have done OK against him (OK in this context translates into a .464/.528/.929 batting line).

I do think that Brett will figure things out eventually.  He’s had a long track record of getting lefties out.  But I repeat my concern about continuing to bring him into critical junctions of close games while he’s struggling.

Miguel Socolovich

Miguel Socolovich – who inherited the bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth inning last night did as well as could be expected.  He allowed one run on a fly ball and should have had the last out of the inning on the fly that Pham dropped.  After a shaky April, Socolovich has allowed only 3 hits in his 6 innings this month.  He has pitched more than one inning 5 times in his 12 games this season – including his last two.

Like Tuivailala, Socolovich throws strikes to right-handed batters.  Of the 30 lefties he’s faced so far, Miguel has walked 2 and hit 2.  He has walked only 2 of the 41 right-handed batters he’s faced (hitting none).

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.