One never knows what one will get the day after a game like Friday’s. Highlighted by Matt Carpenter’s career day, the Cardinals waltzed away with an 18-5 win (box score). When the next day features a double-header, it’s even harder to predict.
As it turned out a long day of baseball turned even longer as both pitching staffs showed a strange aversion to throwing strikes.
The umpires played a part. Both Lance Barksdale and Will Little might have been more generous with the outside corners, but any part they might have played in the outcome was minor indeed. There weren’t a whole lot of narrow misses.
The 18 innings saw a total of 589 pitches. Of the 351 pitches that were taken by both teams, 252 (71.8%) were called balls. Of the 161 batters that came to the plate, 68 (42.2%) ended their at bat ahead in the count. The pitching staffs combined to issue 28 total walks (3 of them intentional).
The two games totaled 6 hours and 51 minutes.
For all that – as neither side took full advantage of their opportunities – the final scores were not all that extreme. The Cubs took the opener, 7-2 (box score), with the Cards salvaging (barely) the night-cap, 6-3 (box score). After racking up 18 runs on 18 hits in the Friday game, the Cards were just 2 for 20 (.100) in the double-header when they were ahead in the count.
The story of the weekend was Cardinal first-baseman Matt Carpenter. With home runs in each game of the double-header, Carpenter extended his historic home run streak to six games. While the decision not to start Matt in the second game was a little questionable (how do you bench someone who has home runs in five straight games?) Carpenter did provide a seventh-inning home run that helped bring the Cards back late.
During the streak, Carpenter is 11 for 20 (.550) with all the hits being for extra-bases (3 doubles and 8 home runs) – resulting in a video-gamesque slugging percentage of 1.900.
Matt has 12 runs batted in during the six games, but he only has 1 game with multiple RBIs – the Friday game in which he drove in 7. The home runs in the other five games were all solo shots – one of the residual complications of having your most consistent power hitter who can only hit in the lead-off spot.
At the double-header’s conclusion, Carpenter now has 72 plate appearances in the month of July. They have resulted in 4 singles, 7 doubles, 10 home runs, 17 runs batted in, 13 walks (2 of them intentional) 10 strikeouts, 1 hit-by-pitch, and 0 double plays. Matt’s July batting line is a satisfactory .362/.486/1.000.
While Carpenter has grabbed the headlines, Tommy Pham – whose first half was deeply marred by an epic slump – has bounced back recently with a vengeance. In many ways, his recent production is almost as noteworthy as Carpenter’s.
Since Mike Shildt took over as manager, Pham has gone 10 of 17 (.588) including a double and a home run. He has 8 runs batted in over those last 17 at bats – a span during which he is slugging an impressive .824.
After a fairly brutal start, Tommy is now hitting .316 with 15 runs batted in in 16 July games. He has had 5 multi-RBI games already this month, including three, 3-RBI games.
When Tommy is seeing the ball well, he is almost always ahead in the count. In his 9 plate appearances over the double-header, Pham was ahead in the count 4 times. In 65 July plate appearances, he has ended the at bat ahead 47.7% of the time.
Yairo Munoz didn’t start the first game, but he came off the bench to get only the Cardinals’ second (and last) hit of that game – later scoring St Louis’ last run. He did start game two, driving in the game-tying run in the eighth.
Playing time for Munoz has been less plentiful since Paul DeJong returned to the lineup. Nonetheless, the rookie continues to produce when the opportunity presents itself. Munoz is now 11 for his last 31 (.355), with 3 home runs and a double (a .677 slugging percentage) in spite of the fact that he has played in only 11 of the last 16 games – making just 7 starts.
Marcell Ozuna, on the other hand, just keeps starting. Forty-four consecutive starts in left field for the former All-Star. He was 1-for-7 in the double-header. In 17 July games, Marcell has 73 plate appearances, resulting in 12 singles, 1 double, 7 runs batted in, 4 walks (1 intentional), 14 strikeouts, 1 sacrifice fly, and 1 double play. It’s only a .191/.233/.206 batting line.
The embattled Dexter Fowler is one of the players that Shildt has made a commitment to. Dex has played in all five games played under the new regime – starting 4. He was 0-for-5 in the double-header, and is now 3-for-19 (.158) for Shildt. For the month of July, Fowler is 7 for 38 (.184).
Among the many puzzling aspects of Fowler’s season is his persistent inability to hit when ahead in the count. He was ahead in 3 of his 5 appearances in the double-header, going 0-for-3 in those opportunities. For the season – even though Fowler has found himself ahead in the count 40% of the time – he is still hitting just .186 (16 for 86) when he has the count in his favor.
John Gant is not one of the major pitching prospects that people rave about in the Cardinal system, but since he was last recalled from Memphis, it has to be acknowledged that he has been the Cardinals’ best pitcher. He made the start in the second game, throwing 5 innings of shutout baseball at the Cubs. In his last 6 games (four of them starts), Gant is 2-1 with a 1.84 ERA and a .160 batting average against.
Johnny doesn’t give in to hitters – even when behind. Gant fell behind 7 of the 22 he faced yesterday. He walked 3 but the others went 0-for-4 against him. For the season, batters are hitting just .180 (9 for 50) when they are ahead of Gant in the count.
After Gant’s five great innings, Greg Holland entered and promptly served up the lead. Yes, an error on a double play ball could have gotten Greg out of the mess, but he still walked two in the inning (including one with the bases loaded).
A note to Mike Shildt. One of the factors that cost your predecessor his job was that he kept allowing Holland to pitch in important situations. I advise caution with his usage.
While Holland set up the mess and was charged with the 3 Chicago runs in the sixth, they mostly scored with Jordan Hicks on the mound. Jordan allowed 2 of the 3 inherited runners to score. He has now allowed 6 of his last 8 to cross the plate.
There is much more to say about the bullpen, but I think that will be the focus of tomorrow’s post.