The Colorado Rockies invaded St Louis last night a very hot hitting team. They had scored in double figures in 5 of their previous 12 games, and were averaging 6.89 runs per game over their first 18 games in July. For one night, at least, the Cardinals muffled that explosive offense, sending them back to their hotel with an 8-2 loss (box score).
Cardinal starter Mike Leake and his bullpen had great success in making the Rockie hitters work through their at bats. Of the 35 Colorado hitters who came to the plate, only 11 hit the ball before seeing ball one. Those 11 at bats averaged just 2.1 pitches per, and worked out well for Colorado. They collected 6 hits in those at bats (.545), including Pat Valaika’s home run that accounted for all of their scoring.
But the other 24 who saw at least ball one during their plate appearance worked through an average of 4.54 pitches. They met with much less success. They went 1 for 23 (.043) with 1 walk and 9 strikeouts. In general, the more comfortable the Colorado hitters felt, the better they did.
Starters on the Rise
Although Leake, himself, hasn’t been much of a contributor recently, his effort last night did continue a strong string of performances by the starting pitchers. After Leake finished 7 shutout innings allowing just four hits and no walks, Cardinal starters now have 9 quality starts in their last 13 games.
Over those 13 games, the rotation is 6-2 with a 2.32 ERA and a .235 batting average against. They have allowed just 8 home runs over their last 81.1 innings, while walking just 13 (1 intentional).
Unfortunately, through spotty offense and an inconsistent bullpen, the Cards have mostly wasted these performances. They are 7-6 in those games.
Welcome back Mr. Leake. His first three starts this month had been anything but encouraging, as Mike managed to stay on the mound for only 10.2 innings through those starts. He gave 9 earned runs in those innings – a bad enough 7.59 ERA. But this was compounded by the fact that he allowed almost as many unearned runs (8), as he struggled to pitch around mistakes made behind him. During those innings, batters hit .474 and slugged .719 against Leake.
All season, the deeper the at bat went, the better it has turned out for Leake. Thus far, the batters whose at bat is over before they see ball one are hitting .324 against Mike (56 for 173), with a .331 on base percentage. But, if Mike can get the at bat to at least ball two, the batting average against him drops to .196 (33 for 168). Even though he would walk a few in the extended counts, his on base percentage is still lower at .310.
During July 63% of the batters that have faced Mike have ended their at bats before making it to ball two. They have hit .429 (24 for 56). Last night he did a much better job of staying out of the middle of the plate early in the count. Only 5 of the 20 batters he faced hit before ball one. They were 3 for 5 with 2 infield hits. Everyone else was 1 for 20 last night against Mike.
For all of the offense and the fine starting pitching, the shaky Cardinal bullpen had a chance to spit this game up as well. Perhaps the most significant event to come out of this game was the fact that the bullpen didn’t blink when faced with the most pressure-packed moment of the game.
In the eighth inning, after Colorado had trimmed the lead to 6-2, they put two men on with no one out. One of the runners belonged to John Brebbia (DJ LeMahieu with a fine piece of hitting had looped John’s slider into short right for a hit.
Now John would deal with Nolan Arenado. After an intense 7-pitch contest, Brebbia recorded the first out of the inning, striking out the major league’s RBI leader.
Brebbia has been awfully good in every opportunity granted him. His season ERA is down to 1.61 after last night. It’s been 10 games and 11.2 innings since he’s allowed an earned run.
After Brebbia retired Arenado, it was Kevin Siegrist’s opportunity to get out of the inning – which he did, striking out Gerardo Parra and getting Mark Reynolds on a fly ball to center. Since his return from the DL, Kevin has faced 13 batters. One of them got a hit. Another drew a walk. The other 11 went down without reaching base – 8 of them on strikeouts. Since his return, batters have taken 18 swings against Siegrist, and missed the ball with 10 of those swings.
For one night at least, Brebbia and Siegrist didn’t blink.
The game was pretty well in hand when Tyler Lyons took the mound in the ninth. He was, nonetheless, as impressive as any pitcher the Cardinals employed last night. Tyler struck out the side, throwing 10 of his 11 pitches for strikes.
Tyler is unscored on in his last 5 outings, and in 9 July games holds a 2.84 ERA.
The job of the pitching staff was made considerably easier by the offense which scored early and often. With 8 runs scored last night, the Cardinals are averaging a healthy 4.70 per game this month.
The summer of Pham continues. Tommy Pham added a single, a home run, two walks and two runs scored to his impressive month. Tommy is now hitting .351 in July with a .662 slugging percentage. In 20 games this month, Pham has 5 home runs, 16 runs scored, and 18 runs batted in.
Paul DeJong added a couple of hits to the surge last night. He has 5 hits in his last 10 at bats (2 of them home runs) and is hitting .301 this month (22 for 73) and slugging .658 (8 doubles and 6 home runs).
Twice, Paul found himself in 1-2 counts, singling once and grounding into a double play the other time. In the month of July, Paul is hitting .341 (13 for 41) and slugging .756 (5 doubles, 4 home runs) when his at bat ends before he’s seen ball two.
It no longer bothers Yadier Molina to go deep into counts. Last night was a good example. He singled in the first inning on a 2-2 pitch. He flew out on a 2-0 pitch in the third. He doubled in the eighth on a 3-1 pitch. He is 8 for 21 this month (.381) and 31 for 102 this year (.304) when hitting in two- or three- ball counts.
Kolten Wong hasn’t returned from the DL as hot as when he entered it, but he has still hit .286 (8 for 28) since his return after his two hit night last night. Wong doubled for his first extra base hit since his return, and also drove in his first run since his injury.
Kolten’s double came on the first pitch thrown him in the fourth. That is still Kolten’s strength – find something he likes early in the count. He is hitting .310 this season (18 for 58) when his at bat ends before he sees ball one.
Dexter Fowler walked and scored in the first inning. Otherwise, he went 0 for 3. Dexter is now hitless in his last 10 at bats, and hitting .224 (11 for 49) since returning from the disabled list.
Jedd Gyorko followed his 2 for 4 on Sunday with an 0 for 3 last night. He is still having difficulty pulling out of his slump, which has now reached 13 games. He is hitting .149 during those games (7 for 47 with only 2 extra-base hits), and is down to .210 for the month (13 for 62).
Last night was the first time in six game and just the second time in the last nine that St Louis never trailed at any point of the game.