Tag Archives: Grichuk

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.

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.

Cards Finally Discover the Virtue of Add On Runs

Add on runs are those very important runs a team scores after they have taken a lead.  They are the runs that embolden the pitching staff and dishearten the other team.  Teams that stop scoring after they’ve gone ahead keep the other team in the game and invite late game catastrophe.

Through the season’s first 15 games – up through the Pittsburgh series – the Cards averaged only 3.2 runs per game.  Through those 15 games, the Cards scraped together a total of 19 add on runs.  Once they went ahead in the game, the offense usually came to a crashing halt.  In their first 214 plate appearances of the year with a lead, the hitters struggled to a .213/.311/.284 mark.

The offense took a decided upswing with their visit to Milwaukee.  In the 12 games beginning with the first Brewers series and ending with the most recent, the Cards scored 5.17 runs per game and hit much better once they forged a lead – better in this case being a .295/.374/.417 batting line – but again – this equated to only 19 more add on runs over the 12 games.

Last night – admittedly with the assistance of some unremarkable Atlanta pitching – the Cardinal offense discovered the virtue of add on runs.  From the moment they took a 1-0 first inning lead, the Cardinals hit .378/.465/.649 as they added on 9 runs in that game alone – pulling away from Atlanta for a 10-0 win (box score).

Aledmys Diaz

After his 4-for-4 night, Aledmys Diaz is 7 for 9 in the two games since he’s slid to the sixth slot in the order.  He is suddenly up to .264 for the season.

Diaz has been a frequent contributor to the recent offensive surge.  He has played in 12 of the last 13 games (starting 11) and hitting .302 (16 for 53).

The Cards had their first lead of the game before Diaz made his first trip to the plate, and all five of his plate appearances (Aledmys also drew his third walk of the season!) came with the Cards in add on mode.  Aledmys has seemed his most comfortable when hitting with a lead, hitting .314 (11 for 35) on the season.

Jose Martinez

With Stephen Piscotty on the disabled list and Dexter Fowler a little ouchy, Jose Martinez made his first start since the first game of the Toronto doubleheader.  With his two hits, Jose has now hit safely in all 9 of his starts, going 11 for 34 (.324) in those games.  After striking out just 4 times over his first 38 at bats, Martinez – who whiffed 3 times last night, has struck out 5 times in his last 9 at bats.

Only two of his at bats came before the Cards built a lead of at least five runs.  Jose went 1 for 2 in those opportunities – it was, in fact, his first-inning double that set the stage for the first run scoring of the game.  Throughout the season, Martinez has hit particularly well when the score is close (defined here as within three runs).  Martinez is now 13 for 35 (.371) in close games.

Jedd Gyorko

With two more hits last night, Jedd Gyorko has had multiple hits in 4 of his last 6 games, hitting .423 (11 for 26) and slugging .846 (2 doubles & 3 home runs) during those games.  Gyorko enters tonight’s game with a .346/.400/.679 batting line.  Over the course of these last 13 games, Jedd leads the Cardinals in batting average at .426 (20 for 47) and slugging percentage at .830 (5 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs).  I had always thought Jedd would only be a part-time player, and that he would be over-exposed if he played on an every-day basis.  Twenty-eight games doesn’t disprove that opinion, but it certainly calls it into question.

Like Martinez, Gyorko had two at bats before the Cardinal lead ballooned to 7 runs.  In those at bats, Jedd doubled home the game’s first run and singled in the third to start the rally that pushed St Louis’ lead from 1-0 to 3-0.  Jedd has been nearly impossible to get out in close games.  With these two hits, he is now 13 for 35 (.371) when he hits with the Cards either even or ahead by just one run.

While the scores of the games have been within three runs, Gyorko is a .333 hitter (22 for 66) with 5 of his 6 home runs and a .682 slugging percentage.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk joined in on the fun with a single and a double.  Grichuk has played in all of the last 13 games, contributing a .292 average (14 for 48).  He is hitting .304 (7 for 23) in those games when batting with a lead.

Lance Lynn

While the offense was making up for lost at bats, Lance Lynn was busy leaving hints to the front office that they need to strongly consider keeping him in the fold.  With six innings of shutout, four-hit ball, Lynn has now put together four consecutive dominating starts – all wins.  Over his last 25 innings, Lance has only permitted 2 runs (0.72 ERA) on 16 hits.  Lynn’s season ERA is now down to 2.04.

Over the course of the season, Lance has pitched very well while the games have been close – 2.37 ERA, and a .216 batting average against in 30.1 innings.  He has been dynamic once he’s been given a lead.  In 20 innings with any kind of a lead, Lance has given just 16 hits and 2 earned runs – a 0.90 ERA and a .216 batting average.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist continues to allow more hits that someone with his stuff should.  The triple he served up to Ender Inciarte was the eighth hit he’s given up over his last 5 innings (covering 6 games).  But he has walked only one during those innings and has given up no runs.

Could Milwaukee be a Winning Team This Year?

With a smartly played 5-4 victory over the Cardinals last night (box score), the Milwaukee Brewers fly on to Pittsburgh sporting a 15-14 record and holding on to second place in the division.  They last finished the regular season with a winning record in 2014 when they finished 82-80.  They haven’t seen the playoffs since the Cards bumped the 96-win Milwaukee team out of the 2011 tournament.

It’s a long way till the finish line, but I suggested here that both Milwaukee and Cincinnati looked like they would be better this year.  Whether they will be a winning team at the end of the year or not, the Brewers do look like a team that can hit.

Struggling Against Winning Teams, Again

Of more interest to me is the fact that the Cards are now 6-10 this year against teams that currently sport a winning record.  I grant you that the Brewers are maybe below the level of the rest of the over .500 teams we’ve played already in the early season (the Cubs, the Nationals and the Yankees).  But they are 15-14, so . . .

Through these first 16 games, the offense has been by-and-large competitive.  They have scored at least four runs in 10 of those contests, scoring first in 8 of them and leading at some point in 13 of the 16.  They have hit 17 home runs in the 16 games, with a team batting line of .252/.327/.409 – averaging an OK 4 runs per game.

Where they have come up short are the areas they expected to be strengths this year – pitching (especially the bullpen) and defense.  Led by a bullpen ERA of 5.14, the Cardinal pitching staff has managed only a 4.40 ERA against these teams, while the defense has provoked the matter by contributing to 10 unearned runs.

Aledmys Diaz

Yes, one of the hits was a dribbler to third and another was a bunt on which he would have been easily retired with a decent throw.  Still, it’s great to see a three-hit night from Aledmys Diaz – who has struggled to a .236 average in the early going.  His double was lined and he flew out to pretty deep right on another pitch that was well struck.  He now has multiple hits in two of his last three games, so maybe this is the beginning for him.

While Diaz’ season so far hasn’t been what he hoped, he has been one of the better competitors against the winning teams the Cards have faced.  He is now 18 for 65 (.277) against the better opponents, with the hits including 5 doubles and 3 home runs – good for a .492 slugging percentage.

Kolten Wong

No, that is not a misprint.  If you are scanning the Cardinal batting averages and you see the .303/.398/.500 line next to Kolten Wong’s name, you are likely to do a double-take.  But those are, indeed, his numbers on the heels of his three-hit night last night.  His hitting streak has now reached nine games, during which he is 14 for 30 with 5 doubles and a triple.  He has scored 6 runs and driven in 5 while batting .467 with a .700 slugging percentage.

Even though the bulk of this damage has come at the expense of the Brewers in the two series they’ve played against Milwaukee, Wong’s batting average against winning teams has climbed to .326.

Yadier Molina

Although he’s lost a little steam since the last game of his seven-game hitting streak, Yadier Molina is still hitting .326 (14 for 43) over his last 11 games.  He had a couple of hits and an RBI last night.

In his 14 games against the Cubs, Nationals, Yankees and Brewers, Yadi is batting a more than respectable .280 (14 for 50).

Jose Martinez

Jose Martinez had one of the nicest moments of the home stand, hitting his first career home run in the seventh-inning of the first Toronto game – tying the game.  He has gone 1 for 11 since – seeming to succumb at last to the difficulties of irregular playing time.  He was 0 for 3 with 2 strikeouts after replacing Stephen Piscotty in the lineup.  (Piscotty tweaked a hamstring and has landed himself on the disabled list).

Randal Grichuk

After flourishing briefly during a seven-game hitting streak, Randal Grichuk has run into another little dry spell.  Over his last 4 games, Randal has two singles in 14 at bats (.143).  His batting average – which had been flirting with the .250 mark – has regressed to .234.

Hitless in three at bats last night, Grichuk is one of those players who has been mostly taken advantage of by the league’s better teams.  In the 16 games St Louis has played against the winning teams, Randal has 2 home runs and 8 RBIs, but is hitting just .224 (13 for 58) with 20 strikeouts.

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright continues to raise more concerns than he answers.  In what has become a standard performance for him, he lasted just five innings while struggling to contain the Milwaukee offense to just 4 runs on 10 hits and 3 walks.  He has made 6 starts this season, none of which have met the minimums to be considered a quality start.  He has been battered for 49 hits in his 30 innings.  The batting line against him is a troubling .371/.415/.568.

His numbers are possibly exaggerated by the fact that 5 of his 6 starts have come against the Cubs (one of his better performances in a 2-1 loss), Nationals (a 14-6 battering that came mostly at the expense of the bullpen), Yankees (a 9-3 pounding), and Milwaukee twice (a 6-3 win and last night’s no decision).  Perhaps had he been able to pitch one of the Pittsburgh games his numbers would be better, but the story is pretty clearly told.  To this point of the season Adam has been largely overmatched by the league’s better teams.  He’s had some bad luck, true.  And he’s run into some very hot hitting teams – that is also true.  But there have been a lot of hanging pitches worked into the mix.

The Other Starters

Of the other starters, Mike Leake has been the best, although only 2 of his first 5 starts have been against these A-list teams.  Leake beat Washington and Max Scherzer, 6-1 on April 12.  The Nationals were a hot hitting team when they lined up against Leake, but Mike silenced them on 4 hits through 7 shutout innings.  He also beat the Brewers on April 23 going six innings, giving 2 runs on 3 hits.

Four of Carlos Martinez’ six starts have been against the winning teams.  He’s thrown 2 quality starts in those four games (against the Cubs on opening night and his last time out against the Brewers) and 2 not-so-good efforts (his 8-walk start against the Yankees and his 7-5 beating at the hands of the Brewers on April 20).  Taken as a whole, the numbers are more positive than negative.  In 25 innings against some of baseball’s best hitting teams, Carlos is 1-2 with a 2.52 ERA with a .214/.294/.296 batting line against.

Lance Lynn hasn’t been as good against these guys as he’s been against everyone else.  He’s had three starts in these 16 games, throwing one quality start (6 innings, 1 run, 3 hits on April 22 in Milwaukee), but his starts against Chicago and Washington were rougher.  Overall, his mark is OK.  He’s 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA and a .213/.294/.393 batting line.

Michael Wacha – at one time a playoff and World Series hero – has been flourishing against the lesser competition.  His first two starts against over-.500 teams haven’t been terrible, but they haven’t been memorable either.  On April 14 he scuffled through 6 innings in a 4-3 loss to the Yankees, giving up all 4 runs on 9 hits – including 2 home runs.  Last Monday, Milwaukee pushed across 4 runs on 7 hits – including a home run – in 6 innings against Michael.

Matthew Bowman

After beginning the season with 9.2 scoreless innings, Matthew Bowman has allowed runs in 3 of his last 4 games – a total of 6 runs – all over the course of this last home stand.  His batting line against for his last 4 games is .389/.450/.722.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist gave up two more hits last night – pop flies that dropped in.  He has now given up 12 hits in his 10.1 innings.  But he walked nobody, again – and, consequently, allowed no runs.  After walking 10 batters through his first 6.1 innings, Kevin has walked 1 over his last 4 innings.  In his first 2.1 innings of the season, it rained 5 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks on Kevin.  In the 8 innings he’s pitched since then, just 2 runs on 8 hits and 7 strikeouts.

Siegrist worked in 5 of the 8 games on the home-stand, giving 7 hits in 4 innings, but just 1 walk and no runs.

It’s still too early in the season to make too much of this, but the Cardinal struggles against the teams that they will eventually have to beat highlights the deficiencies they’ve had on defense and in the bullpen.  It also casts questions on the depth of the starting pitching.

In Atlanta and Miami they have teams coming up who have struggled in the early going as well.  They won’t play another team that currently has a winning record until their next home stand on May 12, when they will welcome the Cubs (3 games) and Red Sox (2 games) to town.  If this team has the makeup that it thinks it has, those five games would be a pretty good time to show it.

Late Inning Magic Shapes the Early Season

So, it’s 15 minutes before the game starts, and everything is running late.  The dinner dishes are still not done.  Someone needs to run out and pick-up your daughter from rehearsal and your son from soccer. Or needs to get the dip for the group coming over to watch the game.  Or you still haven’t finished the report that needs to be finished by 8:00 tomorrow.  In short, it doesn’t look like there will be any way that you will be in front of your TV by first pitch.

Don’t worry.  In fact, if you feel a little fatigued, you may as well take a short nap.  If you’re a Cardinal fan, you probably won’t miss anything of note – so long as you are awake and in front of the TV by the fifth inning.  For whatever reason, that is the inning that the soporific Cardinal offense typically breaks out of its haze and begins to go to work.

Be sure everything is taken care of and that you are securely planted by the seventh inning.  For some reason, that’s when things start to get exciting.

Four Innings of Quiet

If you have missed the first four innings, you have probably missed just 1.85 runs, 3.81 hits, and 3.38 strikeouts.  Twenty-six games into the season, St Louis is hitting .249/.311/.393 until the fifth inning.  A lot of the early inning problems fall on the shoulders of the man in the lead-off spot.

Much of the kick that Dexter Fowler brought to the Cub offense last year came in the first inning.  He was 39 for 100 leading off games last year with 15 walks and 7 home runs.  In his 118 lead-off plate appearances last year, Dexter slashed .390/.483/.720 (courtesy of baseball reference).  These numbers – by the way – don’t even include his playoff and World Series exploits.

The Cards have yet to see that first inning Dexter Fowler.  He has led off 25 of the first 26 games this year, going 4 for 24 with 1 walk and no home runs.  His early season, first inning batting line is .167/.200/.333.

For his career, Fowler is a .267/.353/.477 hitter with 21 home runs in that first at bat of the game.  Expecting him to repeat 2016 might be unreasonable, but he should be quite a bit better than he’s been as the season warms up.

Matt Carpenter – last year’s leadoff hitter – and Randal Grichuk are also among the sluggish hitters to begin the game.  They are both hitting .216 through the first four innings.  Yadier Molina is also scuffling along at .237 (9 for 38) before the fifth inning.

Taking the Fifth

By the fifth inning, the guys at the top of the lineup are facing the starter for the third time in the game.  Around baseball, the offensive numbers stir noticeably in the fifth, but rarely is the jump as pronounced as it is in St Louis.  After hitting below .260 every inning so far, the team batting average jumps to .296 in the fifth, while the team on base percentage pops to .372 and the slugging percentage to .480.

Sometimes this even translates into run scoring – although I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that in spite of the heightened numbers, the 14 runs they’ve scored in this inning are only their third highest total.  The Cards have plated 15 runs in both the first and third innings.  Needless to say, there have been plenty of fifth-inning opportunities missed.  They have lost three runners on the bases in this inning, have grounded into 5 double plays – their most in any inning – and are a collective 2 for 9 with two outs and runners in scoring position in this inning.  Still, it is here where the offense starts to come to life.

The most potent of the fifth-inning bats belong to: Matt Carpenter, 6 for 8 with 2 home runs and 6 runs batted in; Kolten Wong, 4 for 8 with 2 doubles; Fowler, 4 for 13 with a home run; and Stephen Piscotty, 3 for 7 with 2 runs batted in.

Ready for Some Late Excitement.

To give you some perspective, the late innings usually show a decrease in offense as teams bring in their best relievers.  All of baseball (again, thanks to baseball reference) is hitting .238/.312/.386 in innings seven through nine.  Across all baseball, only 31% of home runs are hit after the sixth inning.

By contrast, your St Louis Cardinals are hitting .252/.332/.455 after the sixth inning, hitting half of their 28 home runs in the waning stages of their games.

Responsible for most of the late innings lightning are the power bats of Jedd Gyorko and Randal Grichuk.

Jedd Gyorko is at his best in the eighth inning, where he is 4 for his first 10 (.400).  Three of the hits have been home runs.  Last year, Jedd hit .259 in the eighth inning (14 for 54) and led the team with 5 eighth-inning home runs.

From the seventh inning on, Jedd is 9 for 21 (.429).  He has hit 5 of his 6 home runs after the seventh inning.

Among the most promising developments of the early season is the late inning thump in the bat of Randal Grichuk.  Although he has struggled notably through the first six innings of the Cardinals games so far this year (.190 batting average with 1 home run and 4 RBIs), he has been uncommonly productive late in games.  Randal is 11 for 33 (.333) including 3 doubles, 2 home runs, 8 RBIs and a .606 slugging percentage from the seventh inning on.  He has already won one game in the ninth inning (a walk-off single on opening night against the Cubs) and tied another (the two-out two-run homer in the first game of the Toronto doubleheader).

Late Inning Adventures of the Pitching Staff

And, of course, the Cards have pretty much needed all those late inning runs as they have been challenged to stay ahead of the late-inning carnage done to the bullpen.  The team ERA in the eighth and ninth innings is a sobering 6.07 with a batting line of .316/.395/.490 against.  Of the 26 home runs hit against the Cards this year, 8 have come in the eighth and ninth innings.

As for the starters, they have each developed their own patterns during their first five or six starts of the season.

Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez has been mostly undone by his first innings.  He has walked 6 batters in his 6 first innings, allowing 4 runs.  It has cost Carlos 128 pitches to navigate his way through those first innings.

From the second inning through the fifth, he usually settles in.  In those innings, his ERA drops to 1.88 with a .184/.237/.333 batting line against him.  He averages 13.8 pitches per each of those innings.

Generally, though – perhaps because of the first-inning stress – Carlos doesn’t have enough to make it through the sixth inning.  In the 3.1 sixth innings that he’s pitched, Carlos has walked 4 and allowed 6 earned runs.

Adam Wainwright

For Adam Wainwright, almost all of his innings have been struggles.  He has only allowed one first inning run this year, but has given six hits in the five starts and averages 20 pitches per inning.  The payoff on this usually occurs in the second inning – where he averages another 20.8 pitches, and has been reached for 5 runs and 10 hits.

After allowing a .278 batting average in the third – his best inning, Adam has been hit to the tune of .333 in the fourth inning and frequently doesn’t survive the fifth.  In his 5 starts, Adam has pitched 3.2 innings of the fifth, allowing 8 runs on 10 hits and 2 home runs.  He averages 25.1 pitches to get through the fifth.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn has typically been at his best early and loses a little steam as he goes along.  For the first three innings, Lance’s ERA is 1.20 and the hitters are struggling at a .135/.224/.212 rate.  The fourth and the fifth become stickier.  Those numbers increase to a 4.50 ERA and a batting line of .275/.341/.525.  Three of the four home runs he’s given up have come in those two innings.

If he makes it to the sixth, he will usually be alright.  In the sixth and seventh innings, Lance’s numbers are 2.08 and .267/.353/.333.  It’s making it through that second turn through the lineup that sometimes catches Lance.

Mike Leake

As you might suspect with the National Leagues’ ERA leader, there hasn’t been much damage done to him in any inning.  His lone hiccups have usually come in the sixth inning, where he’s allowed 3 of the 5 runs that have been scored against him.  Throughout the whole rest of the game, Mike Leake’s numbers read 0.64 ERA, .206/.241/.275 batting line.

Michael Wacha

For Michael Wacha it has been the fourth inning.  He has zipped through the first three innings in pretty good shape – 3.00; .185/.214/.407 (three of the four home runs he’s given up have come in the first three innings).

From innings five on (and Wacha has pitched into the seventh this season), he’s also been just fine – 0.84; .206/.289/.265.

But in his 5 fourth innings this season, he’s been battered at a .440 clip (11 for 25) and given up 5 runs.

Twenty-six games into the season, and the starters have done well enough at getting through six innings.  They have accounted for 146.1 of the first 156 innings of these games (93.8%).  As April fades into May and the weather (when not raining gales) will start to warm up, the Cardinals will look for this talented rotation to start working through the seventh, and taking as much pressure as possible off of the beleaguered bullpen.

As they do that – and as the hitters start to figure out the first four innings of the game – this will develop into a very interesting team to watch.

NoteBook

The Cards have played three extra-inning games, losing two of them.  This in spite of the fact that they have yet to give up an earned run in extra innings.