Tag Archives: Gyorko

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.

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.

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.

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.

Productive Offense Bright Spot in Disappointing Loss

As the Cards finished their April sweep of the Pirates, they were an offense in trouble, with almost their entire roster in a deep and frosty slump.  In terms of at bats, Cardinal batsmen hit .328 with a .557 slugging percentage if they hit the first pitch thrown to them.  From the second pitch onward, they hit .192/.273/.302.  From pitches two through five this highly thought of offensive unit was hitting a “robust” .185/.243/.299.

Milwaukee was the cure then, and – as they face Milwaukee again – the bats show little signs of wearing down.  They have scored 56 runs over their last ten games – scoring at least 4 times in all of them.  For all their home run hitting exploits, the 2016 Cards (which averaged 4.81 runs per game), never put together a string of more than 9 consecutive games scoring at least 4 runs in all of them.

After drilling out 13 hits (including 4 home runs) last night, the Cards – as a team – are hitting .312/.384/.522 over these 10 games.  Predictably, the Cardinals have gotten much more productive deeper into the at bats, as well.  They are still hitting .327 with a .519 slugging percentage on the first pitch.  Over the last ten games, though, the Cards have hit .341/.401/.554 on pitches 2 through 5.  Last night, 9 of the 13 hits – including all four home runs – came after the first pitch of the at bat, but before the sixth.

Unfortunately, the Milwaukee cure has only applied to the hitters.  Another thready pitching effort (along with a few other lapses) pushed the Cardinals back below the .500 mark after a 10-inning, 7-5 loss to Milwaukee (box score).

Jedd Gyorko

Nobody has led the Cardinals out of their offensive malaise more than the surprising Jedd Gyorko.  Hitting .226 with 2 home runs and 4 runs batted in when the team opened their four-game road trip in Milwaukee, Gyorko has been lighting things up ever since.  Jedd has pushed his season average to .369 with a 17 for 34 spree (.500) that includes 4 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs – a 1.029 slugging percentage over his last 9 games.  Jedd was 4 for 5 last night with two of those homers.  He is hard to keep out of the lineup right now.

Jedd jumped on the first pitch thrown to him his first two times to the plate last night, singling to right and grounding to third.  Over his last 9 games, Jedd has jumped on the first pitch 8 times (a team-leading 21.6% of his at bats), and is 5 for 8 with 2 doubles and a home run in those at bats.  For the season, so far, Gyorko is a .583 hitter (7 for 12) and a 1.250 slugger (2 doubles, 2 home runs) when he hits the first pitch.

For the season, Gyorko is a .440 hitter (22 for 50) and a .940 slugger (all 12 of his extra-base hits) when his at bat last five pitches or less.  Once the at bat stretches to six pitches, Gyorko drops to a .133 hitter (2 singles in 15 at bats).

It will be interesting to see how long Jedd can sustain this hot streak.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz bounced back last night with a couple of hits – including a home run.  Aldemys, who’s been a pretty impatient hitter this year, saw a season-high 24 pitches thrown to him.

In fact – in a stark departure from his early season form – Diaz saw at least three pitches in all five at bats, and made it to six pitches in the at bat twice.  For the season, almost half of Aledmys’ plate appearances (45 of 99) are over by the second pitch.  So this – maybe – is a start.

Diaz also leads the team in stolen bases.  He has 3.  He stole 4 bases all last year (in 8 attempts).

Randal Grichuk

Having had his 7-game hitting streak snapped Sunday afternoon, Randal Grichuk began another with two hits last night.  Over his last 9 games, Randal is 12 for 34 (.353) with four doubles and a home run – good for a .559 slugging percentage.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler’s 5-game hitting streak came to an end yesterday in an 0 for 4 effort.  Dexter hit .435 during the streak (10 for 23) and slugged .783 (2 doubles & 2 home runs).  He scored 7 runs over the five games.

Michael Wacha

In Michael Wacha’s first two starts of the season he struck out 14 batters in 12 innings.  Of the swings taken against him, 28.1% (25 of 89) came up with only air.  Over his last three starts, Wacha’s swing-and-miss ratio has fallen to 16.8%.  He has 14 strikeouts in his last 18.2 innings.

Seung-hwan Oh

Travis Shaw’s game-winning home run came on the fourth pitch from Cardinal closer Seung-hwan Oh.  Usually, batters prosper early in the count and pitchers prosper late.  As with much else in the early season for Oh, things have gotten themselves a little backwards.  Batters who don’t wait around to see the fourth pitch from Oh are hitting .240 this year (6 for 25).  From the fourth pitch on, they are hitting .313 (10 for 32) with 2 home runs and a .594 slugging percentage.  Willson Contreras’ three-run home run off Oh on opening night also came on the fourth pitch of the at bat – and also on a 1-2 count.

NoteBook

The Cards did rally to erase a 4-0 deficit, but never took the lead.  This ended a streak of 13 straight games in which St Louis had held a lead at some point of the game.  The last game they had played in which they never lead was the 3-2 loss to the Yankees on April 15.

At 50 degrees at first pitch, last night was the coldest game of the year so far (the first game of the Toronto doubleheader was 52 degrees at first pitch) and (probably for that reason) the poorest attended home game to this point in the season at 36,339.  This was only the second home game this season that drew under 40,000.  The Tuesday April 18 game against Pittsburgh drew only 38,806.

After collecting just 7 doubles in 313 at bats last year, Kolten Wong has 6 in his first 69 at bats in 2017.  He also grounded into his second double-play of the season last night.  He grounded into three all of 2016.

Not Enough Fastball Not Enough to Subdue Cards

Many, many times in recent years, the Cardinals have gone down meekly to soft tossers who have teased their hitters with pitches just out of the strike zone.  It frequently doesn’t seem to matter if the pitcher they face falls into the “not enough fastball” category.

For a couple innings last night, it looked like this might be one of those games as a “not enough fastball” Cincinnati pitcher dispatched the first six Cardinals he faced with minimal effort.  But after an inning-opening error by Eugenio Suarez (who endured one of his most forgettable games – being famously picked off third later on) things began to unravel quickly for Tim Adleman who ended his evening allowing six runs (five of them earned) in 5.1 innings of a 7-5 loss to the Cardinals (box score).

Adleman didn’t necessarily make a whole lot of mistakes, but the aroused Cardinal offense – which now features lots of hitters emerging from their shells – made sure he paid the full price when he did mis-locate that less than dominating fastball.

Cards on a Good Roll

Noteworthy in the victory is the fact that St Louis has now won 9 of 11 games.  Last year’s team – in 162 games – never had an eleven-game stretch where they won nine times.  I referred to that team several times as the “wet powder” Cardinals.  A half a dozen times during 2016 that team looked as though they were ready to go on an extended run, only to have the fire go abruptly out.

I have much higher hopes for this squad which has already put together a longer sustained run than last year’s team was ever capable of.

I know that this run has been established against some teams of questionable virtue.  At the end of the year, how good will Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Toronto and Cincinnati be?  Will any of them end up playing .500 ball?  Maybe, maybe not.  But remember that the 2016 team played lots of bad teams, too.

In fact, one of the most frustrating aspects of the 2016 season was that this team would frequently get rolled over by sub-.500 teams.  Even if all this current club achieves is consistently beating the poorer teams, that by itself will be a noteworthy improvement over 2016.

This recent surge – which began with three 2-1 wins against Pittsburgh – has seen ample contributions from both hitters and pitchers.  With their 7 runs, 11 hits and 4 walks last night, St Louis has been scoring 4.82 runs per game while hitting .290/.353/.484 as a team during the run.

Meawhile, the rotation has turned in 8 quality starts over the 11 games with a 2.98 ERA and a .233/.2899/.353 batting line against.

It’s been a pretty good roll.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler’s season average still sits at just .236, but that number currently means nothing.  With two hits last night, Dexter has had multiple hits in four straight games, hitting .500 in those games (9 for 18) and slugging .944 (his hits include 2 doubles and 2 home runs).  All seven of his RBIs this season have come in his last 8 games.

Dexter has been very much the straw that stirs the drink over this eleven-game uprising.  Among the regulars, he leads the team with a .350 batting average (14 for 40) and a .750 slugging percentage (2 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs.)

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko pushed his season average up to .321 with two more hits last night – including his fourth home run of the season.  Since the second game of the Milwaukee series – when Jedd was moved into the clean-up slot in the lineup – Gyorko is hitting .364 (8 for 22).  He has one double, one triple, and last night’s home run in that span – a .636 slugging percentage.

Jedd doesn’t qualify as a “regular” during the 9-2 streak the Cardinals are on.  He falls two plate appearances shy.  But his .393/.469/.786 batting line would lead the Cards in all those categories.  Over his last 32 PAs, Jedd has 5 singles, 3 doubles, a triple, 2 home runs, 6 runs scored, 4 runs batted in, 3 walks, and a hit by pitch.

The first two times up last night, Gyorko took the first pitch of the at bat, getting ahead in the count 1-0 both times.  He ended those at bats striking out and grounding out.

He swung at the first pitch his last two times up, missing once and fouling the other off – starting those at bats behind 0-1.  He went on to hit a home run and a single in those at bats.  So far this season – whether he hits the ball or not – when Jedd swings at the first pitch in an at bat he is 10 for 20 (.500) with 3 doubles and 3 home runs (1.100 slugging percentage).

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty broke an 0 for 8 with a single and a double.  He also walked and grounded out in the second inning at the end of a 10-pitch at bat.  He has now gone three straight games without striking out, and has fanned just once in his last six games.  Piscotty’s season average is just .235, but he has been looking better at the plate.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter was in the highlight reels with his walk-off, eleventh-inning grand slam the other night, but Carpenter hasn’t been at the top of his game.  He is 0 for 7 since that home run after last night’s 0 for 4 left him at .224 for the young season.  Matt is also hitting .226 (7 for 31) since the beginning of the Pittsburgh series.

In last night’s third inning, Carpenter tried to bunt the first pitch thrown him by Tim Adleman.  He fouled the bunt off, but it was still only the third time in his last 37 plate appearances that Matt had made any kind of attempt at the first pitch thrown to him.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn authored his third straight quality start as he muffled the dangerous Cincinnati offense on just one run through six innings.  In his third start during this run that began with his 2-1 victory in the first Pittsburgh game, Lynn is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA and a batting line against of .185/.264/.262.  He has been as good as could be hoped for.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil continued his very productive run.  He pitched a 1-2-3 seventh with a strikeout.  He has now allowed just one run – unearned – over his last 9 appearances totaling 6.2 innings.  He has allowed only 2 hits to the last 24 batters he’s faced, while striking out 8 of them.

Kevin Siegrist

Nobody is swinging at Kevin Siegrist’s first pitch anymore – and very few are swinging at any pitch he throws.  Last year, batters swung at his first pitch 26.2% of the time, which was slightly below average (the average for all the major leagues was 28.4%).  Last year, batters offered at 43.8% of all of Kevin’s offerings.  Again, this was close to average – batters swung at 46.6% of all pitches thrown by the Cardinal pitching staff.

Last night – even though he threw a first-pitch fastball right down the middle to Scooter Gennett, Scooter just took it for a strike.  Then, even though he elevated a first-pitch fastball to Patrick Kivlehan, Patrick just watched it go by for a ball.  Both of those plate appearances lasted 8 pitches. Gennett took the first five pitches of the at bat before fouling off two and driving the eighth into left-center field for a two-run double.  Kivlehan ended up fouling off 3 pitches before drawing a walk.

Of the last 34 batters that Siegrist has faced, only 2 have swung at his first pitch.  They have only swung at 51 of the last 147 pitches that he’s thrown (34.7%).

Working theory.  As Siegrist’s velocity is down this year (for whatever reason) batters are less afraid that Kevin will throw it by him.  They are, therefore, content to take pitches early in the at bat and foul them off late while waiting for either a mistake that they can drive or for ball four.

None of Siegrist’s last 38 pitches has produced a swinging strike.  At the moment, Siegrist – like Adleman – is a “not enough fastball” pitcher.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh’s rebound continues.  He retired the last four Reds for the save – his sixth.  In his first six games this year, Oh allowed 6 runs on twelve hits – including 4 doubles and 2 home runs – to the first 35 batters he faced this year.  While hitting two batters and walking one, he managed only 3 strikeouts and was saddled with an 8.10 ERA.

In his five games since then, he has faced 19 batters, giving no runs on two hits (both singles) and one walk while striking out 7.

Rain tries to interrupt the Cardinal hot streak again as today’s afternoon contest was washed away.  If they get to play tomorrow – and if the Reds stay with Bronson Arroyo – the Cards will get more “not enough fastballs” to swing at.

NoteBook

All four of last night’s walks came on at bats that began with ball one.  Thirty-five of the last 36 walks drawn by Cardinal hitters have begun with first-pitch balls.

Lots of Early One Run Games

Last year, through the course of their 162-game season, the Cardinals played in 47 one run games – 29% of their contests were decided by one run.  They were 24-23 in those contests.

Although last night’s 6-5 loss to Toronto (box score) was their first extra-inning game of the season, it was their eighth one run game of the season already (they are 4-4).  Should they continue at this pace, they will end the season having played in 65 such contests.

One run games are the predictable result when a team combines mostly excellent pitching with a sluggish offense (as the three 2-1 games we played against the Pirates earlier this month attest).  They are also a barometer of the team’s character.  Once in a while throughout the season, I glance at the numbers from these games.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko remains the hottest of the Cardinal hitters.  Since the beginning of the Pirate series, the Cards have been averaging 5.2 runs per game and hitting .303 as a team.  Gyorko, who has played in four of the five games, has been at the forefront of the offensive surge.

Jedd now has multiple hits in three of the last four games, including two three-hit games.  He is now 9 for 16 against Milwaukee and Toronto (a .563 average) with five of the hits for extra-bases (3 doubles, a triple, and a home run).  He has 3 RBIs and a 1.063 slugging percentage during this recent action.

Gyorko clearly needs to be in the lineup (even though he is clearly not the best defensive choice at any of the positions he plays).

Jedd is also just one of two Cardinal hitters to be hitting above .250 in one run games so far.  He has only played in 5 of the 8 (starting just 4), but is off to a 4-for-13 start (.308) that includes a double and a home run – a .615 slugging percentage.  The only player hitting better in these games is Jose Martinez (who hit his first major league home run last night).  Playing in all 8 one run games so far (starting 4), Jose is 7 for 16 with 2 doubles and the home run – a .438 batting average and a .750 slugging percentage.

Dexter Fowler

Of the regulars, Dexter Fowler has the highest batting average so far this season in one run games – although at just .242.  After last night’s 2-for-5 game that included the hit that drove in the tying run in the ninth, Dexter is now 8 for 33 in one run games.  Half of his hits are for extra-bases (including the two home runs he hit in one game in Pittsburgh).  Dexter is slugging .515 through the Cards’ first 8 one run games.

The team is averaging .216 (56 for 259) and is scoring 2.63 runs per one-run game.

Stephen Piscotty

With his two hits last night, Stephen Piscotty is the early leader among the regulars in on-base percentage during the eight one run games.  He is still hitting just .231 in these contests (6 for 26), but has drawn three walks and been hit by two pitches – a healthy .355 percentage.

Yadier Molina

After an indifferent start, Yadier Molina is starting to have the ball fall in for him.  With two more hits last night, Yadi has 5 in the last 2 games, and a baby hitting streak of five games – during which he’s hit a very soft .364 (8 for 22, but with only one double).  We talked a little about Yadi’s patience (or lack thereof) yesterday.  Yadi hasn’t drawn a walk since April 8 against Cincinnati’s Robert Stevenson.  That was 48 plate appearances ago.

Like Piscotty, Molina is 6 for 26 so far in one run games (a .231 average) with all of those hits being singles.

Aledmys Diaz

Last night was not Aledmys Diaz’ best performance of the season.  He capped his 0-for-5 night with the throwing error that brought home the winning run (albeit a more experienced first baseman would have probably saved Diaz the error).

Nonetheless, Diaz has hit better in recent days.  His hitless game last night broke his little five-game streak, during which he had hit .375 (6 for 16) and slugged .625 (his hits included a double and a home run).  He walked only once during the streak, but also struck out just once.

Aledmys was a solid bat in the 32 one run games he played in last year.  He hit .256 with 4 home runs and 19 runs batted in in those games, including 2 game winning hits.

This year, though, Diaz’ bat has been the most absent during one run games.  After last night, Aledmys is just 5 for 30, with 2 doubles, no walks and no RBIs in the eight one run games he’s played so far – a batting line of .167/.167/.233.  His batting average and on base percentage are the lowest on the team among starters in one run games.

Matt Adams

With Matt Carpenter serving a one-game suspension, Matt Adams got the opportunity to earn himself more playing time.  But his frustrating start continued.  He started and went 0 for 2 with two strikeouts.  Matt is hitting .172 on the young season (5 for 29) with no extra-base hits and 13 strikeouts.

Michael Wacha

After being blessed with an abundance of run support in his first start (a 10-4 win over Cincinnati), each of Michael Wacha’s last three starts have been decided by one run – a 4-3 loss in New York to the Yankees; a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh and Gerrit Cole; and last night’s loss.  Only Carlos Martinez (who has had two of his four starts decided by one run) has started more than one one-run game.

The Starting Pitching Counts in One Run Games

The eight starting pitchers in these one run games have an aggregate ERA of 1.99 and a batting line against of .219/.291/.310.  Last year, the starters in the one run games scuffled to a 3.75 ERA with a .269/.321/.396 batting line against.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist threw an eventful, but scoreless inning last night.  He gave up two hits, but didn’t walk a batter for the first time in seven appearances.  The only other game he’s pitched in this season in which he didn’t walk a batter was game #2 against the Cubs – and he hit a batter in that inning.  He also struck out two batters for the second straight time.  After managing just 2 strikeouts over his first 5.1 innings, he has 4 in his last 2.  Kevin’s ERA still hovers at 8.59, but by degrees he’s starting to resemble the Kevin Siegrist we are used to seeing around here.

Kevin has now tossed 4 scoreless innings in the 4 one run games he’s participated in – even though he’s walked three and hit one in those games.  The 21 batters who have faced Siegrist in one run games hit .176/.333/.176.

The first eight one run games of the season have been – more or less – a microcosm of the Cardinal season.  The offense has provided opportunities that have not been capitalized on.  With runners in scoring position, St Louis is 8 for 48 (.167) in its one run games.  With RISP and 2 outs, they are 4 for 22 (.182) in those contests.  Three of the four one-run losses the Cards have incurred have seen the winning runs scored on an error.  We’ve also lost four runners on the bases in those eight games.

But the pitching in general – and the starting pitching in particular – has held us in the contests.  Yes, it is still early, but the pitching is starting to look like it will be a consistent force for good for the whole season.  If this club wants to stop hovering around the .500 mark, it will need to clean up the mistakes and hit when the opportunities present themselves.

Cards Stop This Losing Streak Before It Starts

As I have pointed out several times – and am likely to point out several more – I keep a close eye on how the team responds after a loss.  I think it reflects the character of a team.  The concept, I think, is simple enough.  Every team loses games, but good teams have the character to avoid the losing streak.  The 100-win team of 2015 was 37-24 (.607) after losing a game.  Last year’s 86-win squad was 44-32 (.579) in those situations.

Preempting the Next Losing Streak

As the 2017 Cardinals have already endured three three-game losing streaks in their first 17 games, you might guess that they haven’t been terribly proficient at this so far – and you would be right.  In fact, all of their first nine losses had been a part of a three-game losing streak.  Last night’s crisp 6-3 win (box score) raised their record to only 4-6 in games after a loss.  They have won their last two, though.

Adam Wainwright

The man of the moment at the plate (with a single, a home run and 4 RBIs) and on the mound was longtime ace Adam Wainwright, who – in his third attempt this season – was finally able to halt a Cardinal losing streak.  Wainwright’s previous two attempts were both fairly disastrous.  He lasted 4 innings, giving up 6 runs on 11 hits in an eventual 14-6 battering at the hands of Washington, and then got pushed around by the Yankees, giving 4 more runs on 10 hits over 4.2 innings of a 9-3 loss.

Adam’s results last night were much better as he continued what has been a mostly excellent run of starting pitching.  With Waino’s solid five innings last night (during which he allowed only two runs), the starting rotation has managed a 3.06 ERA over 53 innings in the last 9 games.  The Cards have won 5 of the 9.

The bullpen continues to improve as well.

Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Broxton pitched the sixth last night and gave up a single, but no extra-base hits.  He hasn’t given an extra-base hit, now, to any of the last 16 batters he’s faced.  He also walked a batter.  Broxton has walked at least one batter in four of his six appearances, and has totaled 6 walks (1 of them intentional) in his 5.2 innings.  His opponent’s on base percentage has risen to .444.

Brett Cecil

In Brett Cecil’s second game as a Cardinal he melted down, allowing 4 runs without retiring a batter in a brutal loss to the Cubs.  First impressions are hard to overcome, but over the course of his other 8 appearances so far, Brett has allowed only one other run while striking out 7 in 6.2 innings.  He has retired the last ten batters he’s faced, striking out five.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal (who pitched the eighth inning last night) has given up some hits – 6 of them in his 4.1 innings, including a home run last night.  But he has walked none of the 19 batters he’s faced so far this year.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh picked up the save last night.  He has saves in his last three games.  After allowing runs in each of his first three games, Oh has allowed just one in his last four outings.

Also encouraging, the offense is beginning to show its first hints of life this season.

Jedd Gyorko

After going 0 for 3 in the Pittsburgh series, Jedd Gyorko has been the first to take advantage of Jhonny Peralta’s absence from the lineup.  With two more hits last night, Gyorko is 5 for 7 with a home run so far in the series.  Now up to .316 on the season, Jedd has been even better in games after a loss.  He is 9 for his first 27 (.333) with a double and two home runs (a .593 slugging percentage) playing in 8 of the 10 games the Cards have already played after losing the game before.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong has now started five consecutive games for the first time this season.  He doubled, singled and was given an intentional walk last night, making him 5 for 15 (.333) over those five games.  Even better, his hits include a double, triple and home run, leading to a .733 slugging percentage and 4 runs batted in in the five games that he’s been in lineup.

Kolten has yet to strike out in 8 plate appearances in this series, and has fanned just once in his last 17 plate appearances.  He is 3 for 7 so far against Milwaukee.

Wong is now 6 for 23 (.261) when he plays in the game after a Cardinal loss, but four of those hits (3 doubles and a home run) have gone for extra-base hits, and he’s added four walks in those contests.  He is slugging .522 with a .370 on base percentage in games that follow a loss.

Stephen Piscotty

When Stephen Piscotty helped beat Washington on April 12 with three hits and five RBIs, it looked like he had turned a corner.  Since then, Piscotty has just 5 hits (and 7 strikeouts) in 25 at bats (a .200 average).  He entered last night’s game after Dexter Fowler’s foot started acting up, going 0 for 2 with a strikeout.  He is now 1 for 5 with 3 strikeouts in the series.

With 11 runs scored in the first two games of this series, this has already been the second highest scoring series for the Cards this year.  They scored 15 runs in the three games against Washington.  St Louis is 23 for 72 in the first two games of this series, with ten extra base hits – 3 of them home runs.  This equates to a .319 team batting average and a .556 slugging percentage against a Milwaukee pitching staff that began the series with a 4.07 team ERA.

NoteBook

Last night – in the season’s seventeenth game – the Cardinals finally won a game when they didn’t score the first run.  When Kolten Wong drove in three runs with a triple in the second inning the night before (game # 16 of the season) it was the first time all year the Cards had erased a deficit of any size at any time during a game.

Pirates and Cards Put Runners On But Can’t Get Them Home

Usually, pitchers become more vulnerable once they have runners on.  Last year, all major league hitters hit .250 with the bases empty, and .262 with one or more runners on.  In the early days of 2017, both leagues are hitting .238 with the bases empty and .247 with runners on.  Last year’s Cardinal team hit .253 and .258 respectively.

As was true of every game in the recently concluded Pittsburgh series, the Pirates had sufficient opportunities to mount big innings.  If they had managed to do that even once during the series, they would have won at least one of the games.  But the Pirates went 0 for 9 yesterday and were 5 for 34 (.147) for the series with runners on base.  They fell yesterday for the third consecutive time to the Cards by the same 2-1 score (box score).

As the Cardinal pitchers have started to turn the corner over their last seven games, their dominance with runners on base has become an integral part of their success.  Beginning with the last game of the Washington series, and continuing through the sweep of the Pirates, Cardinal pitchers have allowed only 20 hits in 97 at bats (.206 average) with any runner on base.  This has led to an impressive 2.70 team ERA over that span.

This dominance has proved vital.

Hitters Have Struggled With Runners On

This year – for whatever reason – the Cardinals’ offense has been equally unable “keep the line moving.”  They were 1 for 9 yesterday with runners on base (Yadier Molina followed Jose Martinez’ fourth-inning walk with a bouncing single up the middle) and are now hitting .201 (37 for 184) this season once any runner reaches base.  They were 0 for 3 yesterday with two runners on, and are now 11 for 61 (.180) on the season with more than one runner on base.

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha faced 24 batters yesterday afternoon.  Only four of them came to the plate with a runner on base.  This has been one of the most encouraging aspects of Wacha’s return to health and to the rotation.  He simply keeps runners off the bases.  Wacha has faced 73 batters so far this year – 51 of them (69.9%) with the bases empty.  That is the highest ratio of anyone in the rotation (slightly higher than Lance Lynn’s 68.9%).

When he walked John Jaso in the seventh inning with David Freese already on first, it was the only time in his 18.2 innings so far this season that Wacha has walked a batter with a runner already on.

Wacha’s performance (6.2 innings, 1 run allowed) continued an impressive resurgence for the Cardinal rotation.  Over the last seven games – beginning with Mike Leake’s victory in Washington – the starters have strung together 43 innings with a 2.30 ERA.  While the bullpen hasn’t been as effective, they are improving, too.  Over the 17 innings they’ve worked in these last 7 games, they have faced 73 batters without serving up a home run.  Their innings yesterday proved a little adventurous, but not damaging.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman extinguished the seventh-inning threat with a big strikeout of Jordy Mercer.  Bowman has been a significant part of the pitching staff’s recent resurgence.  He has now stranded all of the last 6 runner’s he’s inherited.  Over the last seven games, Cardinal relievers have stranded 11 of 12 inherited runners.

Of the last 16 batters Bowman’s faced only two have reached.  He walked Greg Bird in New York in the sixth inning last Sunday, and gave up a single to Josh Harrison Tuesday night.

With the strikeout of Mercer, Bowman has fanned 3 of the 7 batters who have faced him with more than one runner aboard.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist skirted around danger in the eighth inning.  The Pirates loaded the bases on two errors and a walk.  Siegrist hasn’t given a hit to any of the last 14 batters to face him, but he has walked five of them.

Kevin faced 6 batters yesterday – only the first 2 with the bases empty.  For the season – not counting the runner who reached on an error yesterday – 7 of the 12 batters to face Siegrist with the bases empty have reached (a .583 on base percentage).  Kevin has walked 5, hit one, and served up one home run. Nine of the 30 batters Siegrist has faced so far have batted with multiple runners on base.  That 30% ties Jonathan Broxton (6 of 20) for the highest percentage on the team.  By contrast, only 7.1% of the batters Trevor Rosenthal has faced (1 of 14) and just 4.1% of the batters that Wacha has faced (3 of 73) have batted with more than one runner on base.

Trevor Rosenthal

Speaking of Rosenthal, he wrapped up the ninth inning last night allowing one seeing-eye single (after an excellent at bat by Jaso) and struck out two.  He has faced 14 batters this season.  Seven have struck out, four have singles – none of them really hard hit, and none have walked.  The early returns on Mr. Rosenthal are very encouraging.

Dexter Fowler

The offense – or rather, Dexter Fowler – provided just enough.

With Fowler’s two home runs yesterday following close on the heels of his lead-off triple the day before, Fowler now has three of his four extra-base hits in his last 8 plate appearances.  All four of his extra-base hits have come with the bases empty.  He has just 2 singles in his first 15 at bats with at least one runner on base.

Of course, as the leadoff hitter, Fowler rarely gets at bats with runners on base.  Forty-eight of his first sixty-six plate appearances (a team-leading 72.7%) have come with the bases empty.  All Cardinal batters are hitting with the bases empty 59.3% of the time so far this year.

Fowler’s home runs lift the team total to 14 through 15 games this season.  Ten of the 14 have been hit with the bases empty.

Half of the Cardinals’ first six game-winning hits have now been solo home runs, as Fowler’s fifth-inning drive joins Aledmys Diaz’ first-inning home run against Bronson Arroyo that began St. Louis’ 10-4 rout of Cincinnati on April 8, and Kolten Wong’s third-inning home run against Ivan Nova that sent the Birds off to their 2-1 win against the Pirates on Monday.

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia, getting some at bats in place of some of the slumping hitters in the line-up, could be doing more with these opportunities.  His average faded to .227 after his 0-for-4 last night.  Three of those at bats came with no one on.  One of the team’s “table-setters,” Garcia is hitting just .214 (3 for 14) with the bases empty so far this year.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko came to the plate in the fourth inning with runners at first and second.  In his first 35 plate appearances this month, Jedd has been up with two runners on 7 times – 20%.  Of batters with at least 30 plate appearances, only Kolten Wong has found himself in this situation with more frequency.  Kolten has been at 25% so far this year (10 of his 40 plate appearances).  Jedd was promptly called out on strikes on a pitch that was several inches outside.  Gyorko has now struck out 5 times in those 7 opportunities, drawing a walk and popping out the other two times.

Gyorko did have one at bat with the bases loaded earlier this year, driving in two runs with a single against the Reds and Robert Stephenson.  Yesterday, Jedd went 0 for 2, watching his season average fall to .226.

Kolten Wong

Speaking of Wong, Kolten is down to .171 after going 0 for 3.  Two of those at bats also came with two runners on base.  His strike out came in his lone at bat with the bases empty.  Kolten is a .200 hitter so far this season (4 for 20) with no walks with the bases empty.