After the game, Cardinal starter and tough-luck loser Lance Lynn put a very strange game in context. He pointed out that he had given up a first-inning run on three hits, none of which made it to the infield grass. Before the game was over, the two teams would combine for 20 hits (with 8 of them not making it out of the infield), 4 walks, and 1 hit batsmen. Of all of those baserunners – in a game where most of the outs were hit harder than most of the hits – only 3 made it home. All of those wore the San Diego uniform as San Diego ended St Louis’ four-game winning streak with a 3-0 blanking (box score).
Even with the disappointing outcome, the Cardinal pitching staff – an area of concern earlier this season – continues to take the lead in the team’s belated run for a playoff spot. Beginning with the last game of the last home stand, the pitching staff has sustained a 2.57 ERA over the last 11 games.
Earlier this season, Lance went through a stretch of starts where he pitched well, but couldn’t make it through 6 innings due to elevated pitch counts. After throwing 32 pitches in last night’s first inning, and 57 pitches through the first two, the odds of Lance hanging on past the fourth inning weren’t looking too good. But the gutsy Mr. Lynn would throw 118 pitches as he would fight his way through six innings, putting runners on base in 5 of them, but only allowing one run on a swinging bunt in the first inning.
Of the 28 batters he faced, only 12 came to the plate with no one on base.
Struggle though it was, Lance provided the Cardinals with his eleventh quality start in his last 12 games. Record wise, Lynn is now 4-1 with a 1.77 ERA over 76.1 innings in those games. He also left 3 of the games with a lead that was later surrendered by his bullpen. Lance, who also had problems with home runs earlier this season, has now allowed just 4 over those last 12 games, while holding batters to a .211/.299/.309 batting line.
The game got away a bit when San Diego scored twice in the seventh against a Cardinal bullpen strategy that should maybe be re-examined. It began with a one-batter appearance by lefty Zach Duke. That seems to be the role he has inherited, as all of his last 5 games (and 7 of his last 9) have been one-batter affairs. While Zach has done OK in this role (Carlos Asuaje’s single made him the only one of the five to reach), it’s still evident that Zach hasn’t pitched enough (remember, he had no spring training) to really solidify the feel of his slider. Since August 27, Zach has thrown just 18 actual pitches (it works out to about 1.5 pitches per day). He needs, I think, a bit more opportunity than that to be as effective as he can be.
And then, of course, with the game still exceedingly tight at 1-0, Mike Matheny summoned Seung-hwan Oh from the bullpen. I said earlier that most of the outs in this game were harder hit than most of the hits. One spectacular exception to that generality was the home run that Wil Myers crushed into the upper deck in left field off yet another hanging slider from Oh.
Patience is a vital virtue for any successful organization. At some point, though – and coming down the stretch of a playoff run is that point – management has to concede that a particularly inconsistent performer just can no longer be trusted in high-leveraged situations. Oh has pitched in 21 games since the All-Star Break (15.2 innings), with a 4.60 ERA and a .313 batting average against. Going back to August 10, Seung-hwan has pitched in 10 games – totaling just 5.2 innings – during which he has allowed 5 runs on 10 hits.
Since the break, batters who have faced Oh with runners on base are 10 for 28 (.357) with 2 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs (.714 slugging percentage).
Oh has also now allowed 8 of the 17 runners he has inherited (47.1%) to score this season – including 5 of the 8 he’s inherited in the season’s second half.
They were both ground balls that never made it through the infield, but Harrison Bader finished with two more hits and kept giving the Cards chances to push something across. Since his recall, Harrison has 9 hits in 26 at bats (.360). They haven’t all been infield dribblers, either. Harrison has hit 3 home runs in his last 7 games in two of the National League’s more spacious ballparks (San Francisco and San Diego).
His hits last night included a third-inning single with a runner on first. In the very early games of his career, Bader has shown an affinity for hitting with runners on base. He is now 8 for his first 21 (.381) in those opportunities.
Scuffling a bit lately, Paul DeJong contributed a couple of hits to the effort – both hits coming with the bases empty. In his opportunities with runners on base, Paul grounded to second with runners at first and second and two-out in the third, and he struck out with a runner at first and one-out in the sixth.
For the season, now, Paul is 54 for 177 (.305) when hitting with the bases empty. He is a .262 hitter (43 for 164) when he hits with a runner on base. Twelve of his 21 home runs have been solo shots.
Another of the strong positives from last night is the continued emergence of Stephen Piscotty from what has been a mostly lost season. With 2 more hits last night, Piscotty is hitting .333 (15 for 45) since he returned from Memphis, and .391 (9 for 23) over his last 8 games.
Batting behind Jose Martinez and Yadier Molina (who went a combined 1 for 8), Piscotty is one of the few Cardinals who didn’t get an opportunity to hit with a runner on base. With his 2-for-4 evening, Stephen is now hitting .342 (13 for 38) since the All-Star Break with the bases empty. In his last 28 at bats with a runner on base, Stephen has just 5 hits (.179).
Dexter Fowler’s recent struggles continue. Hitless in 4 at bats with 2 strikeouts – including with the bases loaded and two-out in the ninth inning – Dexter is now just 5 for 31 (.161) over his last 9 games.
Dexter has had a roller-coaster season, the lows very low and the highs very high. Still, one of the difficulties that have partially defined the season of this would-be leadoff hitter is his season-long .239 batting average (54 for 226) with no one on base. He was 0-for-3 last night with the bases empty.
Since a recent streak where he hit safely in 12 of 13 games, Yadier Molina has hit a bit of a dry patch. After last night’s 0 for 4, Yadi is just 2 for 17 (.118) since the end of that streak.
With recent injuries to Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals have ended up with Alex Mejia as their mostly-starting third baseman. So far, this could have gone better. Called up at the beginning of September, Alex was 0 for 2 last night, and is 1 for 14 (.071) since his recall.
Before last night’s game, all of the Cardinals previous 3 losses (and 4 of the previous 5) had been by one run. The game also broke a streak of 9 consecutive games that St Louis held a lead in at some point. The last time the Cards played a game in which they never led was the 10-inning, 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on August 27 that ended the last home stand.