Tag Archives: Jose Martinez

Sorting Out the Cardinal Bullpen

A great deal of attention was focused on the rally cat (some truly adorable video, by  the way – especially the part where the kitty tries to claw the grounds person that’s escorting it off).  Considerable attention is being paid to the aroused Cardinal offense that has scored 42 runs in the last 4 games.  This offense has averaged 5.23 runs per game over the last 56 games.

But at this point, some attention needs to be paid to the Cardinal bullpen.  Disastrous for most of the year, this unit came to the rescue again last night with five relievers combining for four scoreless innings as the Cards put away Kansas City 8-5 for their fifth win in a row (box score).

That bullpen now has a 2.38 ERA, a .222 batting average against, and has stranded 18 of 22 inherited runners since the All-Star Break.  Even amidst this success, the roles are still sort of evolving.  Promising right-handers John Brebbia and Sam Tuivailala are still searching for consistent opportunities.  Among the four lefties, Kevin Siegrist is trying to resolve health issues, and Brett Cecil has struggled some recently.  Their situations are also in a bit of flux.

But the five who pitched last night are starting to carve out defined roles, and their success is driving the success of the relief corps, and of the team.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman came in to pitch the sixth inning.  He has most frequently been pitching in the seventh or eighth innings, but with starter Mike Leake lasting only 5 innings – and with the right-handed batters coming up in the sixth, Bowman’s opportunity came earlier than usual.  He gave a couple of hits (unusual for him), but escaped with no damage.

Matthew has now made six consecutive appearances (4.2 innings) without allowing a run.  In 13 games in the second half, he has surrendered just 2 runs in 8.2 innings, and in 19.1 innings over his last 27 games, Matthew has a 1.86 ERA, a .221 batting average against, and has stranded 13 of 14 inherited runners.

Zach Duke

Zach Duke came in to pitch the seventh – particularly to face lefty Eric Hosmer (who grounded out), switch-hitter Melky Cabrera (who also grounded out), and lefty Mike Moustakas (who flew to right).

I think this is the role that manager Mike Matheny has for Duke.  A late inning lefty specialist that Mike isn’t afraid to let face the occasional right-hander.  It gets confusing, because the Cards right now have two lefthanders that hold about that same job description.

For Duke, coming off Tommy John surgery that was supposed to cost him the entire year, a significant milestone was passed as he pitched on consecutive days for the first time this season, needing only 10 pitches to wrap up his inning.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh opened the eighth, retiring 2 of the 3 that he faced.  Since being moved into the primary setup role, Oh has allowed no earned runs in 10 games (covering 9.2 innings).

Oh has now appeared in 21 games this season as the Cardinal closer and 28 games in a setup function.  His ERA as a closer was a shaky 4.09 with a .309 batting average against.  His ERA is 2.83 in those other games, with a .239 batting average against.  As a closer, Oh threw 67% of his pitches for strikes.  In non-closing situations, Oh throws strikes 72% of the time.  Eight of his eleven throws last night were strikes.

Some small part of the improvement might be that setup pitchers generally work more regularly than closers.  So far this year, 35 of Oh’s games have come with at least one day of rest.  His ERA in those games is a not-terrible 3.50.  Only 13 times – including last night – has Oh pitched with no rest in between games.  He has a 1.38 ERA in those games.

Tyler Lyons

Very quietly and with minimal fanfare, Tyler Lyons has become as good at his job as anyone in the Cardinal bullpen, and is evolving into one of baseball’s elite specialists.  When Alex Gorden came off the bench to pinch-hit in last night’s eighth inning, Lyons came out of the pen to get him – and of course he did.  I grant you the fly ball was struck a considerable distance to center field.  But there was never any danger of it leaving.

With the out, Lyons now has a scoreless streak of 11 games (9 innings) under his belt.  During that streak he has allowed 2 hits, 1 walk, and 14 strikeouts.  These are Clayton Kershaw type numbers.

Tyler is in a similar role as Duke.  They are looking specifically to use him against a left-hander in a critical late-game situation, with no great concern if a right-hander ends up facing him.  Lyons’ breaking pitches are pretty devastating most evenings.

Trevor Rosenthal

Turning a season-long liability into a strength was as simple putting the right man on the mound in the ninth inning.  A bullpen is built from the back forward, and as soon as the closer is found, the other pieces will usually slot in.  Without dispute, the best thing that happened to the Cardinal bullpen all year was the return to prominence and dominance by Trevor Rosenthal.  Now balancing his 100-mph heat with a sharp slider and effective change, Trevor has re-emerged as the man with the ball at the end of the game.

Since the All-Star break, Trevor has pitched in 10 games (12 innings) with a 0.75 ERA and a .167 batting average against.  He has 20 strikeouts in those 12 innings.

Last night was the tenth time this season that Rosenthal came into the game as the closer.  He now holds a 1.64 ERA in those games.  His ERA in 37 games as a setup man was 3.67.

Mike Leake

For Leake – who started last night – his April groove remains elusive.  He lasted just 5 last night, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) to a good Kansas City offense.  Mike has managed quality starts only twice in his last seven games.  He is 1-4 with a 5.08 ERA over that slide.

Jose Martinez

Yadier Molina hit the famous home run last night, but Jose Martinez also gave the Cards a lead with a home run.  Martinez has simply hit his way into more playing time.  Jose has now played in 9 of the last 10 games, starting 8 of them.  He has hit safely in 6 of them – getting 2 hits in three of the last four.  Since his playing time started becoming more regular, Jose is 10 for 28 (.357).  He has hit 3 home runs, driven in 8 runs, and is slugging .714 in his last 9 games.  Jose has 8 home runs in his last 91 at bats.

Cardinal lineup plans have been enormously complicated by a couple of fourth outfielders (Martinez and Tommy Pham) who simply refuse to stop hitting.  With Dexter Fowler and Randal Grichuk both showing signs of life, the Cards have four outfielders who need to be in the lineup – and, of course, space for only three.

Randal Grichuk

Grichuk added a couple of hits last night – he now has back to back two-hit games.  Grichuk has been a bit up and down since his return from Memphis, but the ups have been more than the downs.  In the season’s second half, Randal is a .299 hitter (20 for 67) with 4 doubles and 5 home runs (.582 slugging percentage).

When Carlos Trusts His Stuff

Carlos Martinez has these days where he looks every inch the elite pitcher that St Louis believes he is and will be.  He has those other days, too.  But last night he played hard ball with one of baseball’s more dangerous lineups and came away the victor in an 11-3 conquest (box score).  Carlos went 8 of those innings, striking out 7 and allowing just 2 runs on 7 hits (that would have been only 4 hits had Carlos simply gotten out of the way of a few infield grounders).

What was different last night from his previous start when he gave three first-inning runs to Milwaukee?  The easy answer would be command.  In Milwaukee he threw strikes with only 55 of his 102 pitches.  Last night he also threw 102 pitches, but with 70 of them being strikes.  He gave no walks last night.

But the deeper answer is that last night Carlos trusted his stuff – and it worked out for him.  It’s a fine line.  There are games when he doesn’t trust his stuff.  There are games when he trusts his stuff and gets beaten up a bit.  But when the fastball runs – and it was darting a lot last night – Carlos Martinez can be a handful.  Last night, 23 of the 31 batters he faced saw some flavor of fastball on the first pitch.  Overall, 58 of his 102 pitches were either the four-seam (47) or two-seam (11).  According to Brooks Baseball who tracks such things (here), Carlos never quite reached 100 mph, although he came exceedingly close (his top speed weighed in at 99.9), but he threw with great confidence and great movement at 96-98.

His attacking mindset – and the Kansas City Royals’ willingness to chase that fastball – allowed Carlos to keep his pitch count low enough to finish 8.  For the game, 18 of the 31 batters he faced lasted 3 pitches or less – including 3 of the 4 he faced in the eighth.

As you watch Martinez walk 5 batters in 5 innings, as he did in Milwaukee, you might get the feeling that Carlos’ is less pitch-efficient than the other starters in the rotation.  In actuality, for the season, Carlos is dealing with batters at just 3.66 pitches per.  Only Mike Leake (3.57) expends fewer pitches per batter.  When you throw a lot of fastballs and don’t nibble, the at bats cycle through pretty quickly.  Last night, Carlos’ 31 batters in 102 pitches worked out to 3.29 pitches per.  That will usually get you deep into a game.

And Oh Yes, There Was Some Offense Last Night, Too

On July 26, your St Louis Cardinals took their baseball wood to the Colorado Rockies by a 10-5 score.  In the nine games that followed, those same Cardinals totaled 19 runs.  Now they have scored 24 over the last two games, featuring big innings of 4, 6 and 9 runs.

With the outburst comes hope of a more sustainable offensive situation over the season’s last 50 games.  There are certainly a number of Cardinal players who are overdue for an extended hot streak.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter capped off the 6-run fourth inning with the 3-run home run that opened up the game.  Matt is one of those who have suffered through a less-than-expected season.  Even with his two hits last night, his season average still sits at .249.  However, he is now hitting .295 (23 for 78) with a .396 on base percentage (12 walks) since the All-Star Break.

As per usual, Matt Carpenter saw more pitches than anyone else on the team.  In his 4 plate appearances, he cost Kansas City pitchers 21 pitches – 5.25 per appearance.  For the season, he leads the team with 4.37 pitches per PA.

Jose Martinez

Jose Martinez did less damage last night than the night before.  Still, he contributed two more hits and is now at .333 in the second half.  Mike Matheny really can’t bench him while he’s getting two hits a night, can he?

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina pushed his second half batting average to .320 with two more hits (24 for 75). He has now hit safely in 6 of his last 8 games, during which he is 11 for 26, including 2 doubles and 2 home runs – a .423 batting average and a .731 slugging percentage.  With two runs scored last night, Molina has scored 8 runs in his last 8 games.

Ever aggressive, Yadi swung at half of the 12 pitches thrown him last night.  Molina is swinging at 53.6% of the pitches thrown his way this season.  Of the regulars and semi-regulars, the only higher percentage belongs to rookie Paul DeJong, who swings at 54.7% of the pitches thrown to him.

When Yadi came up in the second, he did so with Jose Martinez at first and no one out.  It is likely that Kansas City viewed this as a double play opportunity – as Molina has grounded into many double plays over the years.  Things have been very different in that regard for Molina so far this year.  Yadi hit the ground ball – but it shot down the left-field line for the double that set up the big inning.

Molina still hasn’t grounded into a double play in the second half, and has bounced into only 6 in 74 opportunities this year (8.1%).

Tommy Pham

Not much disappointing news from last night, but one down note was the end of Tommy Pham’s most recent hitting streak – a six-gamer during which he hit .333 (8 for 24).

One of the biggest differences in the new Tommy Pham is swing and miss percentage.  Last year, Tommy missed 34.8% of the pitches he swung at.  That was the highest rate of any non-pitcher on the team (higher even than Brandon Moss’ 33.7%).  He is down to just 20.6% this season, and in the season’s second half Tommy has only missed on 28 of the 179 swings he’s taken.  Of all players with at least 25 plate appearances in the second half, only Matt Carpenter (15.3%) misses with fewer swings than Pham’s 15.6%.  He swung the bat 8 times last night, and only missed with one of the swings.

However, Tommy also seems to feel that just because he can finally see, that means that everyone else (like the umpires) can as well.  Pham was called out twice last night on close pitches – the first of which was clearly inside (and probably high, as well), but ultimately too close to take.  Tommy frequently seems mystified by the fact that the same umpires that miss calls on everyone else also miss calls on him.  Of the 84 times he has struck out so far this season, 34 (40.5%) have been on called strike threes.

NoteBook

Kolten Wong’s second-inning sacrifice fly gave the Cards a brief 1-0 lead.  It was the first time in 8 games that St Louis had scored first.

Before last night, the Cards had trailed at some point in eight straight games, and 10 of their last 11.

Cards Get Weeks Worth of RISP Hits in Rout of Reds

By the time Yadier Molina came to the plate in the second inning with Jose Martinez standing at second (and no one out), St Louis was already down 3-0.  They were also riding an 11-game streak of hitting .193 (17 for 88) in RISP opportunities (RISP = Runner(s) In Scoring Position).

Beginning with Molina’s single, St Louis would string together 4 straight hits with runners in scoring position as they sprinted into the lead, 4-3.  In the recent nine-run inning against Chicago, they had five consecutive RISP hits – mixed in with several walks.

But as it turned out, they were just getting started. Two innings later, they succeeded in 5 of 6 RISP chances – including Jose Martinez’ first career grand slam, as the Cards put up another nine-spot in a surprising flash-flood of offense – on their way to a convincing 13-4 victory (box score).

By game’s end, St Louis had put together their season high in both RISP at bats (19 – previously they had managed 18 in an 8-1 win against Washington on June 30) and hits (9 – previously they had managed 8 such hits against Miami in a 14-6 win on July 3).

In the aftermath, the Cardinal clubhouse exuded more confidence than we’ve seen recently.  But before we consider the offensive woes cured, let’s see how they manage against a more legitimate pitching staff in Kansas City over the next four days.

Still, even if only for one afternoon, it was nice to have a laugher.

Paul DeJong

After a recent downturn, Paul DeJong was given a day off.  He has rebounded strongly. He went 3 for 5 yesterday, and has hits in 6 of his last 12 at bats.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong was in the middle of both big innings, as he also finished the afternoon 3 for 5.  Kolten has now hit safely in 6 of his last 7 games, going 10 for 27 (.370) in those games.

Kolten was 1 for 2 in his RISP at bats yesterday.  He has been one of the club’s best in these opportunities, hitting .293 (17 for 58) in these moments.  He is 5 for 13 (.385) since the break with ducks on the pond.

Jose Martinez

Martinez’ grand slam was the centerpiece of the offensive evening.  His other hit may actually have been more important.  He began that second inning with the double that ignited the four-run inning that gave the team the lead.

Jose has been a second half fire-plug.  He has only played in 12 of the last 23 games – making just 6 starts and getting only 32 plate appearances.  But he’s turned those plate appearances into 3 singles, 1 double, 3 home runs, 6 runs scored, 8 runs batted in, 9 walks and 1 sacrifice fly – a batting line of .318/.500/.773.  That kind of production will keep your name on the lineup card.

Yadier Molina

Molina was also a central figure in both big innings, on his way to a solid 2-for-4 afternoon.  Yadi has hit in 5 of his last 7 games, hitting .409 (9 for 22) in those games and slugging .727 (1 double and 2 home runs).  Yadi is having another very profitable second half, hitting .310 with 3 home runs since the All-Star break.

As mentioned earlier, Yadi had the first of the team’s 9 hits with runners in scoring position yesterday.  Of all regulars, Molina leads the team, hitting .311 (23 for 74) in RISP opportunities.

Pitchers in RISP Situations

In contrast to the Cardinal success, Cincinnati was just 1 for 6 in RISP situations (that one hit, of course, being Joey Votto’s three-run homer).  Since the All-Star break (3 starts) that is the only hit Adam Wainwright has allowed in 14 RISP at bats (.071).

Lance Lynn has been even better.  The 18 second half batters to have RISP at bats against Lance have 1 single to show for their efforts (.056).  For the season, batters are hitting .156 (12 for 77) against Lance in RISP situations.

Michael Wacha has had similar success, holding batters to just 3 for 19 (.158) with runners in scoring position since the break.  His season batting average against in these situations is a very good .233 (21 for 90).

Having less success in the second half with ducks on the pond are Carlos Martinez (6 for 21 – .286) and Mike Leake (12 for 26 – .462).  This is unusual for Martinez, who usually excels in these moments.  For the year, his average against in RISP situations is .189 (20 for 106).  For Leake, this has been kind of a year-long struggle.  Batters are now hitting .300 against him (30 for 100) with runners in scoring position.

Matthew Bowman

After a couple of shaky outings, Matthew Bowman is getting back on the beam.  After pitching yesterday’s ninth inning, Matthew has put together five consecutive scoreless outings (3.2 innings) during which he has surrendered just 1 hit.  He has pitched in 12 games in the second half (7.2 innings) with a 2.35 ERA and a .222 batting average against.

NoteBook

St Louis has now gone seven straight games since the last time they scored first in one of their contests.

When we lost on Friday, it marked the twenty-first time this season that the Cards had lost the opening game of a series.  Eleven times, now, the team has fought back to force a rubber game.  With last night’s victory, they are 5-6 in those games.

Yadier Molina ended the Cardinal fifth by swinging through a 1-2 pitch from Lisalverto Bonilla.  Leading off the bottom of the eighth inning, Scooter Gennett swung and missed a 2-0 pitch from John Brebbia.  In between those two swings, there were no swinging strikes.  There were 7 called strikes, and 19 pitches fouled off, but the next 22 consecutive batters saw 72 consecutive pitches without one being swung at and missed.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before.

Score One for the Enigmatic Cardinal Bullpen

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the St Louis Cardinals scratched for their third and final run of the game.  After a fatiguing 107 pitches. Lance Lynn – the Cardinal starter – would be through for the day.

After receiving their twelfth quality start in the last 19 games, the fate of the game would once again rest in the hands of the enigma that is the Cardinal bullpen.

After a season of bullpen frustration culminated with Trevor Rosenthal failing to cover first, handing the New York Mets a 3-2 win on July 20, followed almost immediately by a two-run eighth-inning meltdown that granted the Chicago Cubs a 3-2 victory on July 22; the bullpen came back three nights later to serve up another one-run lead.  After another strong six innings from Lynn, Lance went to the mound in the seventh with a 2-0 lead over the Colorado Rockies.  But eleven pitches put his lead in jeopardy as he walked DJ LeMahieu and served up a double to Nolan ArenadoKevin Siegrist relieved and limited the damage to a sacrifice fly.  The heartbreak came an inning later when Trevor Story tied the game with a home run – one of only 4 hit off of Matthew Bowman this season.

The inning then threatened to unravel when Bowman hit Ryan Hanigan with his next pitch.  That brought Rosenthal into the contest for the first time since his gaffe against the Mets.

Trevor would finish the night throwing 34 pitches to 8 batters over two innings.  He would bend a little – allowing a sacrifice hit in the eighth, and two singles that threatened disaster in the ninth.  But Trevor would not walk a batter and did not break, walking off the mound at the end of nine innings with a 2-2 tie.  He would get the win in this one, courtesy of Jedd Gyorko’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth – 3-2 Cardinals.

Was it a turning point for Rosenthal and the Cardinal bullpen?  The Colorado series ended with a comfortable 10-5 win, and the subsequent Arizona series began with a 4-0 loss, in which the bullpen threw four scoreless innings.

Now it’s Friday July 28.  After five-and-a-half scoreless innings, Tommy Pham leads off the second reaching on an error.  He promptly steals second, moves to third on a grounder, and scores on a single from Gyorko.  1-0 Cardinals.  But could it last?  Michael Wacha had been dominant through six.  As it would turn out, the offense would score no more.  So the bullpen would have nine outs to get from a very formidable Arizona lineup with no margin for error.

Seung-hwan Oh flirted with disaster in the seventh, allowing a couple of singles, but he worked his way out of trouble.  But Brett Cecil ran into immediate peril in the eighth, allowing a single and a double that put runners on second and third with no one out with the toughest part of the lineup coming up.

Summoned to do a Houdini act, Rosenthal struck out A.J. PollockDavid Peralta rolled a groundball to drawn-in second-baseman Kolten Wong, who teamed with catcher Yadier Molina to make the play of the series when he threw out the runner trying to score from third.  Five pitches later, Paul Goldschmidt struck out, and the lead was preserved.  Trevor made his second consecutive two-inning relief appearance, setting the Diamondbacks down in order (with two more strikeouts) on 9 pitches in the ninth.

The pen did let Saturday’s game get away – turning a 3-1 deficit into a 7-1 loss.

But now, here they were again.  Nine outs to get with no margin of error.  Arizona threatened a little in the seventh, but Tyler Lyons and Bowman combined to keep them off the board.  Oh and Rosenthal were money in the eighth and ninth, retiring all six Diamondback batters – striking out 5 of them – and the Cards were in with a 3-2 win (box score).

And suddenly this grey cloud that has hung over the Cardinal bullpen since opening night is starting to dissipate.  They have now become a main part of the encouraging turnaround of the Cardinal pitching staff.  Going back to a 4-1 win over the Mets on July 8, St Louis has maintained a 2.75 team ERA over the last 19 games.  With 57 games left in the season, those who counted this team out may have spoken too soon.

Lance Lynn

As I type this. Lance Lynn is still a Cardinal – for which fact we should all be grateful.  I mentioned here that I would like to see Lance make his case for being an important part of the Cardinal future.  He has certainly led the way in this little pitching renaissance.  Over his last five games (all quality starts), Lance has given us 31.1 innings, allowing just 4 runs on 21 hits (just one home run) – walking just 9.  He is 3-0 (and could be 4-0) during the streak, with a 1.15 ERA and a .194 batting average against.  Of the 21 hits, only 6 have been for extra-bases, so the slugging percentage against Lynn since July 9 is .269.

If Lance remains a Cardinal, and if he pitches like this down the stretch – I grant you, two big ifs – then the management may have to re-asses the Lance Lynn situation.

During this streak, all four runners who have scored against Lynn have reached base with no one out.  Over his last five games, Lance has been most vulnerable before the first out of an inning is recorded.  Those batters are hitting .244/.289/.415 against Lance.  After he has gotten that first out, the remaining batters in the inning hit .164/.233/.179.  Last night, batters were 2 for 6 against Lynn with no one out, and 2 for 14 thereafter.

Tyler Lyons

Lyons has pitched his way into some high-leveraged situations.  He started the seventh last night, retiring 2 of the 3 he faced.  Tyler is unscored on in his last 8 games (6.1 innings), during which he has given only 2 hits and no walks (although he did hit a couple).  Tyler has struck out 9 batters over those 6.1 innings, and 25 of his last 91 pitches have been taken for strikes.

Trevor Rosenthal

As for Trevor, He has pitched 5 innings facing 17 batters in his last 3 outings.  He has given up exactly two singles to those batters.  While 73% of the pitches he has thrown (48 of 66) have gone for strikes.  Over his last 10 games, Trevor has given us 11.2 innings allowing 1 run on 4 singles, 1 walk, and 19 strikeouts.  The last 41 batters to face Rosenthal are missing with 38% of their swings – and that’s not all fastballs, either.

Jose Martinez

The game’s offensive hero was Jose Martinez – who drove in all three Cardinal runs.  Fourth outfielder is always a tough situation to play under, but lately Jose has been cashing in on his chances.  Including his two-hit, one-home-run night last night, Martinez has hit safely in 6 of last 10 games (only 4 of them starts), hitting .421 (8 for 19), and slugging .737 (with 2 home runs).  He ended July hitting .333 for the month.

NoteBook

In splitting the four-game series with Arizona, the Cardinals scored 5 runs.  That is the fewest runs the team has scored in any series this year of any length.  Earlier this season, St Louis swept a three-game series from Pittsburgh during which they only scored six runs – winning each game by a 2-1 score.

Coming off a series loss to the Cubs, Milwaukee breaks a string of 5 straight Cardinal opponents who had won its previous series.  The Brewers have lost 9 of their last 12 and 11 of 16 since the break.  They look as vulnerable now as they have at any time during the season.

Cards Rise and Fall with the Rotation

In a 24-game span from May 28 in Colorado through June 21 in Philadelphia, the Cardinal starting rotation managed just 6 quality starts.  Not surprisingly, the Cardinals won only 9 of the 24.

From June 22 until July 1 against Washington, that same rotation provided 9 quality starts in 10 games.  St Louis won 6 of the 10.

They have now failed to provide a quality start in any of the last 4 games – and any suspense as to whether they would interrupt the streak was over early as the Miami Marlins poured on 7 runs in the first 3 innings.  The pesky Cardinal offense kept fighting back, and the semi-refitted Cardinal bullpen helped St Louis creep back into the game (it was an 8-6 game heading into the ninth), but the deficit was too steep, and the Cards fell to Miami, 9-6 (box score).

They have now lost 3 of the last 4.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia started the evening for the bullpen by finally ending the trouble in the fourth.  It marks, now, six consecutive scoreless appearances for John – totaling 6 innings.  His walk yesterday was intentional.  He hasn’t given an unintentional walk in 11 games (covering 12.1 innings).  During his six-game scoreless streak, John is throwing 71% of his pitches for strikes (58 of 82).

Brett Cecil

Like Brebbia, Brett Cecil just keep doing his job.  His perfect eighth inning gives Brett 12 consecutive scoreless games (12 innings).  During these innings, Brett has allowed 3 hits and 1 walk – a .081/.105/.108 batting line.  Since Freddy Galvis grounded a double into left field in the ninth inning of the June 21 game in Philadelphia, batters have gone 0 for 16 with 1 walk against Cecil.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh – who is still one of the trusted late inning relievers – killed a lot of the comeback buzz with a brutal hanging curveball that Justin Bour flicked over the wall in right-center.  I suspect that Mike Matheny and his staff want to believe that Oh is fixed.  He has now been scored on in 6 of his last 11 games.  In the 10.2 innings he has pitched in those games, it has rained hits (14) runs (8) and home runs (4) on Oh, whose ERA since June 11 is 6.75, with a .311/.304/.578 batting line against.

Only 32% of the last 37 batters to hit the ball in play against Seung-hwan have hit the ball on the ground.

Tommy Pham

In spite of his four strikeout day on Tuesday, Tommy Pham is still 6 for his last 13 (.462) after slapping two doubles and driving in three runs last night.  He has driven in 7 runs in his last 4 games.

Jose Martinez

In his four at bats last night, the hardest ball that Jose Martinez hit was a line drive back to the mound that David Phelps gloved to end the seventh inning.  Martinez, nonetheless, finished the night 2 for 4, as he beat out a couple of dribblers to third.  Up as a pinch-hitter the day before, Jose floated a single into short right-center field.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky.

Greg Garcia

With his dismal June behind him, hits are starting to fall in for Greg Garcia.  Greg had two hits last night, and has hit safely in each of the last 5 games that he has had an at bat in.  He is hitting .438 (7 for 16) during this baby hitting streak.

Luke Voit

Going back to his strikeout in the eighth-inning on Tuesday, Luke Voit is now hitless in his last 5 at bats – the first time in his brief major league career that he has gone five at bats without a hit.  The 0-for-5 includes a 5-pitch at bat, a 6-pitch at bat, and the 10-pitch at bat he ended the game on last night.  Luke has also drawn an 8-pitch walk during this streak.  Voit is still taking very good at bats.

Bullpen Lets Taillon, Pirates Off the Hook

The bullpen ended up being the talking point – again.  But before the almost expected bullpen failure, the evening belonged to exceptional performances by the two starting pitchers – the Cardinals’ beleaguered Adam Wainwright, and the talented Pirate right-handed Jameson Taillon.  Neither figured in the decision, but both were particularly effective.

In Taillon’s case, that effectiveness took the form of 7 strikeouts in 6 innings.  He gave 4 hits.  Three of them were dribbly ground balls that died in the dirt before the infielder could make a play on them.  The other hit was one of only two well hit balls against Jameson all night – a line drive off the bat of Jose Martinez that just made it over the fence in left for a home run.  Martinez also hit the only other line drive off Jameson last night.  He capped an 11-pitch at bat with a liner to right that Gregory Polanco turned into a double play.

Taillon’s dominance notwithstanding, the game followed a fairly familiar trend for the Cards this month.  Three runs scored on two home runs, but there was no other offense.  St Louis finished the game with just 4 other hits.  For the month of June, the Cards have hit 36 home runs in 22 games, but are only hitting .247.

Jose Martinez

Since the beginning of the last road trip, Martinez has rediscovered a little of the magic that helped him make the roster out of spring training.  Over his last 6 games, Jose is 7 for 18 (.389) with 2 doubles and 2 home runs – an .833 slugging percentage.

All year, Jose has been an excellent fastball hitter in fastball counts.  His home run came on a 95-mph fastball on a 1-0 count.  Later he singled off Juan Nicasio on a 97-mph fastball.  That came on a 3-2 pitch after another long at bat (9 pitches).  Jose has been pretty locked in of late.

For the season, now, he is 5 for 11 (.455) when hitting in 3-2 counts, and 12 for 29 (.414) when hitting ahead in the count.

Matt Carpenter

After a brief but torrid reunion with the leadoff spot in the order, Matt Carpenter has lapsed into a slump as challenging as any he had while batting third.  He has had 1 hit in 19 at bats (.053) over his last six games.

It is thought that Carpenter spends most of his season in 3-2 counts.  That’s not exactly accurate.  He did work his way into a 3-2 count in the fifth inning last night, flying to left.  For the season, now, Carpenter has had 68 full counts in 296 plate appearances (22%) – during which he’s hitting .239/.485/.500.  As far as getting ahead in the count goes, though, Carpenter has ended almost 46% of his plate appearances this season (including 2 of last night’s 5) ahead in the count.

Adam Wainwright

As good as Taillon was, Wainwright was nearly as good.  Ninety-seven pitches pushed him through seven innings and gave him – briefly – a chance for a victory.  He was a little lucky (there were quite a few hard hit balls against him), but at game’s end he had only given up two hits and 1 earned run – and that run almost didn’t happen either.

The only earned run allowed by Adam came on a home run off the bat of Josh Bell.  Bell hit a very good cutter that ran in under his elbows.  Josh managed just enough turn to put just enough barrel on the ball to loft it just far enough to sneak it over the wall in the shortest part of the ballpark – the 335 in the extreme right-field corner.  Not that Josh needs to apologize.  If it goes out of Bush, you’ve earned it.

Still an encouraging performance from Wainwright, who stayed ahead of hitters all night.  Of the 26 batters he pitched to, only 5 finished their at bat ahead on Adam in the count.  Leadoff hitter Adam Frazier bounced to first on a 1-0 pitch. David Freese walked on a 3-0 pitch to start the fourth (that walk began the series of events that led to the unearned run).  Adam Frazier – again – led off the fifth by striking out on a 3-2 pitch.  David Freese (again) would end the sixth grounding out on a 3-2 pitch.  And Andrew McCutcheon would add a little seventh-inning excitement by walking on a 3-2 pitch.

All things considered, an excellent performance by Wainwright, who, had he not been let down by his offense, his defense and his bullpen, would surely have walked off with the victory.

Trevor Rosenthal

The hits against Trevor Rosenthal weren’t necessarily ear-ringing – a well-placed looping liner and a ground ball that made its way into right field.  But – sandwiched around a very damaging walk – they were enough to erase the 3-2 Cardinal lead and send them – eventually – on their way to a 4-3 defeat (box score).  This is happening to Trevor constantly this month.  For the month of June, Rosenthal has worked 9 innings, incurring 6 runs on 10 hits.  He has also walked 5 batters.  The 40 batters who have faced him this month are hitting .294 against him.

How does a pitcher with Trevor’s stuff have guys hitting almost .300 against him?  One part of that is that Trevor has lost the ability to get ahead of hitters.  Through April and May, Trevor finished an at bat ahead of the hitter (either an 0-1, 0-2 or 1-2 count) 44% of the time (32 of the first 73 batters he faced).  Those batters went 2 for 32 (.063) with 19 strikeouts.  This month, Trevor has only pitched from ahead against 10 of the 40 batters he’s faced (25%).  They are 2 for 10.  But the other 30 batters are hitting .333 against him (8 for 24) with 5 walks (a .433 on base percentage).

Trevor may have also lost a little confidence in his slider.  Of the 15 pitches that he threw to the three batters that hurt him last night (Frazier who singled, Josh Harrison who walked, and Freese who singled) 14 were fastballs (the only slider he threw to any of them became ball 2 to Harrison).

The other day, I pointed out that Trevor has done very well this season until he gets a runner on base.  Perhaps, for a while, Mike Matheny should have Rosenthal on a shorter leash and pull him at the first hint of trouble.  In this game, that would have been after Adam Frazier’s one-out single.

Another key for Trevor could be when he walks a batter.  In 22 of Trevor’s 30 games this season, he hasn’t walked anybody.  In those games, Rosenthal holds a 1.74 ERA, a .189/.187/.284 batting line against, and throws 72% of his pitches for strikes.  In the 8 games where he has walked a batter, his ERA soars to 9.45 with a .269/.474/.346 batting line against.  Only 55% of his pitches are strikes on those days.  Perhaps Matheny should have gotten him after he walked Harrison.

Either way, Rosenthal’s effectiveness this season has been closely tied to the use and effectiveness of his slider.  At this point of the season, Trevor is struggling mightily to work his way out of jams.

Seung-hwan Oh

All that remained, then, was for closer Seung-hwan Oh to serve up the game-winning home run in the ninth.  Oh has now given up runs – 6 of them, in total – in 4 of his last 6 games – covering 6 innings.  He has given up 10 hits (including 2 home runs) in those innings.  The last 28 batters to face Oh are hitting .370 and slugging .593.  Even if the Cardinals had played well in all other aspects of their game this month (and, of course, they haven’t), struggles late in the bullpen would have undermined all their efforts.  A baseball team can survive a lot of adversity and still compete.  No team can survive any sustained inability to pitch the ninth inning.

NoteBook

The Cardinals are now 3-13 this month against any team not named Philadelphia.

Winning Teams – Like the Brewers – Still Own the Cards

After a comfortable win in the first game of the Milwaukee series, the Cardinals engaged the Brewers in three very tightly contested games – games that weren’t decided until the seventh inning or later.  All three games were eventually won by Milwaukee – the last one by a 6-4 score last night (box score).  You could say that the results of these games were less important than the fact that the Cards were “in” every game (even a game they trailed 6-0 at one point).  But the truth is that this recent series fits neatly into the predominant pattern of the Cardinal season.  They are still the team that blinks.  Now just 10-19 against teams that currently have a winning record (a list that does not at the moment include the defending champion Cubs), the statistical message they are loudly sending is that they are simply are not good enough.  That, at least, is the testimony of the season’s first 65 games.

What is curious about this (so far) disappointing team, is the difficulty we have determining its strengths and weaknesses.  Of all the question marks coming into the season, one area of assumed strength was the bullpen – which has been mostly disastrous this season.  Not that there haven’t been other issues, but I think it’s accurate to say that if the Cardinal bullpen had managed to be just average, this team could very well be in first place.  They certainly would be over .500.

Meanwhile, for the season’s first two months the starting rotations ranked among the elite rotations in baseball while the offense did all it could to undermine their efforts.  As May has faded into June, the offense is beginning to find itself while the rotation has been dutifully melting down.

Michael Wacha’s abbreviated four-inning start last night leaves the rotation with only 3 quality starts and a 5.36 ERA through the first 15 games of June – 10 of which have been losses.

Michael Wacha

On May 19, Wacha walked off the mound having thrown 6 innings of 4-hit shutout ball against the San Francisco Giants.  Even though the bullpen turned his 2-0 lead into an eventual 6-5 loss, optimism was high that the Cardinals had revived the career of the talented but oft-injured right-hander.  At that point, Wacha had pitched 42.2 innings over 7 starts (5 of them quality starts).  He held a 2-1 record (with two other potential wins lost by the bullpen), a 2.74 ERA and a .242 batting average against.

Since that moment, Wacha has mostly unraveled.  In the 5 starts he has made since then, Wacha has lasted at least five innings only once.  He has lasted only 21.1 innings total – during which it has rained hits (30 including 4 home runs) and runs (22 – 21 of them earned).  He is 1-2 with an 8.86 ERA, a .333 batting average against, and a .567 slugging percentage against since May 19.  It’s starting to be quite a while since Michael has been good.

Wacha is one of the pitchers that winning teams have taken advantage of all season.  This was his fifth start against teams that have won more than they’ve lost.  He has no quality starts against them, going 0-3 with a 7.83 ERA, lasting just 23 innings in those starts.  Serving up 35 hits – including 5 home runs – in those games, Michael is seeing the league’s better teams hit .361 and slug .588 against him.

Needless to say, the early season enthusiasm over Michael has cooled considerably.

Winning Teams v the Other Cardinal Starters

While the rotation has hit on some collective rough times this month, over the whole season, when faced with winning teams, most of the Cardinals starters have been appreciably competitive.

Carlos Martinez has been the best, his 2-3 record notwithstanding.  He has produced quality starts in 3 of his 5 games with a 3.00 ERA and a .203 batting average against.  From 2015 when Carlos became a member of the rotation, he has made 31 starts and 2 relief appearances against winning teams, providing a 14-12 record, a 3.29 ERA, and a .226 batting average against.  Twenty of those 31 starts have been quality starts.

Lance Lynn (2-3, 3.09 ERA) and Mike Leake (3-2, 3.29 ERA) have also pitched very well against the better teams they’ve faced.  Lynn has held these clubs to a .176 average.  Leake (who was only 1-8, 4.84 ERA against winning teams last year) has held these teams to a .223 batting average.  He has also walked just 6 in 41 innings over 6 starts.

Adam Wainwright has made 6 such starts so far this year, managing a 3-2 record in spite of a 4.26 ERA and a .328 batting average against.

Seung-hwan Oh

The previous night, it was Kevin Siegrist who surrendered the seventh inning run that would give Milwaukee just enough margin to hold onto the 7-6 victory.  Kevin pitched a flawless seventh last night.  The night before it had been Trevor Rosenthal surrendering 3 eighth-inning runs that served up the second game of the doubleheader to the Brewers by an 8-5 score.  Trevor pitched the eighth again last night, allowing a hit but no damage.

So last night it was Seung-hwan Oh’s turn.  Again.  Entering in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game, Oh served up a single and the two run home run that sealed the three-game losing streak.

Before he came into last Sunday’s ninth inning against Philadelphia, Oh seemed to be the one member of the Cardinal bullpen who looked like he was starting to figure things out.  He had a modest six-game streak of not giving up a run, holding batters to a .174/.208/.217 batting line.  In addition, he had struck out 11 batters in those 6.1 innings.

He picked up that save on Sunday, although not before he allowed 4 hits and turned a 6-3 lead into a 6-5 nail-biter.  Summoned in the eighth-inning in game two of the Brewer series with the bases loaded and facing a 1-run deficit, Seung-hwan gave a hit and a sacrifice fly to let 2 of the 3 runners score.  After last night, the last 16 batters to face him have 7 hits (including a home run) and a sacrifice fly – a .467 batting average and a .667 slugging percentage.  Seung-hwan doesn’t look so fixed anymore.

John Brebbia

If the name John Brebbia meant nothing to you before the season started, you were not alone.  His promotion from Memphis in late May didn’t occasion hordes of media types descending to witness his major league debut.  But there has been little not to like about Brebbia as he continues to get outs in an otherwise out-challenged bullpen.  Brought in yesterday in perhaps his most crucial situation yet (tie game, bases loaded, fifth inning, no one out), John did a very capable job defusing the situation while allowing just one of the runners to score.  He then added a scoreless sixth.

It’s only a total of 8.2 innings over 8 games, but John’s numbers are encouraging – two runs allowed on three hits – a 2.08 ERA and a .103 batting average against.  Serving up one of the Scooter Gennett home runs in Cincinnati on June 6 has been the only blemish on his record so far.

Five of Brebbia’s first eight games have come against winning teams.  They haven’t been terribly high leveraged situations, but he has, nonetheless, thrown 5.2 innings of one-hit scoreless ball in those games.

Matt Carpenter

If you are looking for positives to take away from this game – and in fact this series – you pretty much have the top of the batting order: Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler.

Famously re-inserted into the top of the order nine games ago, Carpenter has responded with a 9 game hitting streak during which he has hit .429 (15 of 35) and slugged .886 (7 doubles and 3 home runs).  All 7 of the doubles have come in the last six games after Matt had hit only 5 doubles through his first 55 games.  Carpenter has also gone 5 games without striking out.

After beginning the month just 2 for his first 19 (.105), Carpenter may have put himself in the player of the month conversation.  He is now hitting .315 and slugging .611 this month.  His June OPS is currently .994.

Dexter Fowler

As Carpenter is starting to make things happen in the leadoff spot, Fowler has been heating up in the second position as well.  In the nine games since Carpenter was switched, Fowler has hit .357 (10 for 28) and slugged .679 (3 doubles and 2 home runs).  He added a home run and a single last night.  After a rough start, Fowler’s June batting line is starting to look very healthy.  In 54 plate appearances this month, Dexter has 7 singles, 3 doubles, 3 home runs, 7 runs scored, 9 runs batted in, and 8 walks – a .283/.389/.543 line that adds up to a not-so-shabby .932 OPS.

Jose Martinez

The Brewers series (in which he started all four games) started on a very high note for Jose Martinez.  He hit two home runs in the first game, drove in another run with a ground ball in the second game, and then added two more RBIs with a triple in the third game.  It finished on a much lower note, as he went hitless in his last seven at bats – including the deflating double play that ended the eighth.

The three extra-base hits from the Milwaukee series notwithstanding, Martinez is just 5 for 26 (.192) this month.

NoteBook

Tonight’s opponent – the Baltimore Orioles – come into the series having lost three of four to the White Sox.  Earlier this season, St Louis played a streak of six straight opponents that had lost their previous series (Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago & Boston).  This was immediately followed by a streak of four straight opponents that had won their previous series (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Colorado & Los Angeles again).  The Orioles will now be St Louis’ fifth straight opponent since LA not to have won its previous series (Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia – which split a four game series, Milwaukee and Baltimore).

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.