Tag Archives: Lyons

How Tough is Lance Lynn?

If the defining moment of the Wednesday game was the soft-fuzzy moment of the rally cat running around just before Yadier Molina’s grand slam, the defining moment of last night’s game was much more hard core.

Lorenzo Cain led off the third inning, with the Royals ahead 1-0.  Cardinal starter Lance Lynn got ahead of Cain 1-2, but a misbehaving cutter slid back across the plate, where Cain was waiting to line it into center field for a single.  After it caromed off Lance’s noggin.  Lance never went down.  He flinched a little, and after the play was over he rubbed the spot (a reddish welt right on his temple) for a second or two.  But Lance Lynn took a line drive to the head and went right on completely unfazed.

As you watch the replay, you keep looking to see if maybe the ball missed, or mostly missed, or maybe clipped off the bill of his cap.  Nope.  It was a glancing blow – meaning that Lance tilted his head enough so that the contact wasn’t full-on.  But it still hit him right in the head hard enough to shoot into medium center field.  But not hard enough to rattle the suddenly tough competitor that Lance Lynn has become.

This is not how I remember Lance from his early years in the rotation.  Back then it seemed that he didn’t quite have the grit for the big games.  He was a phenomenal April pitcher who routinely faded as the season wore on.

But this Lance Lynn has been remarkable in his ability to focus on the task at hand regardless of what is happening all around him.  Even as the rumors swirled around him while the trade deadline approached and passed, Lance responded with one of the best stretches of his career.  After managing just 5 quality starts in his first 15 games, Lance is now riding a streak of 7 straight quality starts, during which he has gone 4-0 (with another potential victory surrendered by the bullpen) and a 1.45 ERA over 43.1 innings.  After once serving up 6 home runs in 10.1 innings over consecutive starts, Lance has been chipped for only two during these last seven games.

Lance’s baseball toughness was also on full display in last night’s 8-6 win (box score).  His final numbers were fairly pedestrian – 6 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs (2 earned).  The line doesn’t do him justice.  On a night when Lance fought his command from the first inning on (he threw only 51 of his 87 pitches for strikes) – and on a night where his defense repeatedly let him down – Lance pitched the entire game on the edge of disaster, making big pitches when needed.  Although they put runners in scoring position against Lance in 4 of his 6 innings, he very nearly held them scoreless.

Kansas City’s first-inning run was set up when Kolton Wong booted Mike Moustakas’ routine grounder.  Attempting to sacrifice Mike into scoring position, Alcides Escobar dropped a bunt in front of the plate.  He reached safely as Molina made a poor throw trying to get the runner at second.  A ground ball single loaded the bases with no one out.  Lynn houdinied his way out of the mess allowing just one run.

The Royals then had Lance on the ropes in the fifth, when Cain’s single and Eric Hosmer’s walk gave Melky Cabrera a two-out opportunity.  Ahead in the count 2-1, Cabrera laced a fastball right off his fists into right field, where Jose Martinez almost made the great play to bail his pitcher out.  The ball hit the heel of Jose’s glove and dropped to the turf.  Both runners scored, and Melky got credit for a triple.

That made the score 3-0 KC – as Lance’s offense didn’t throw their switch until after Lance had thrown his last pitch of the evening.

Through it all – the line drive to the head, the struggles with control, the sloppy defense, the lack of offensive support – the suddenly unflappable Lance Lynn just kept making the next pitch.

Even as he battled his control, Lance continues to dramatically improve his pitch-efficiency.  Of the 27 batters he faced, Lynn had 3 hit the first pitch thrown them, 6 that hit the second pitch, and 5 others that hit the third pitch.  Overall, his 87 pitches to 27 batters works out 3.22 pitches per.  Over his last two starts, Lance is throwing just 3.54 pitches per batter faced (177 pitches to 50 batters).  Previous to last night, Lynn was averaging 4.16 pitches per batter faced.

Tyler Lyons

Tyler Lyons earned his first win of the season retiring the two batters he faced.  Pitching in a 3-3 tie in the seventh, Tyler inherited a runner at second and one out.  He concluded the inning getting Hosmer to fly out and striking out Cabrera.  Tyler is now up to 12 consecutive scoreless appearances covering 9.2 innings, during which he has allowed 2 hits with 15 strikeouts.

Of the six swings that those two batters took last night, only Hosmer put the ball in play.  As Lyons’ slider gets sharper, putting the ball in play against him is getting more and more difficult.  The 10 batters he has faced this month have swung at 22 pitches, putting only 3 in play (13.6%).  The 30 batters he has faced since the All-Star Break are only putting the ball in play with 25.5% of their swing – the lowest percentage on the team for anyone pitching to at least ten batters.

Trevor Rosenthal

For the fourth time in his last 7 games, Trevor Rosenthal was asked to pitch more than one inning – and once again, Rosenthal came through.  Over his last 7 games, Trevor has worked 9.2 innings allowing no runs while striking out 16.  Last night, Trevor got strikes with 14 of his 18 pitches.  Over his last 7 games, Rosenthal has been throwing 70% of his pitches for strikes.

Offense Plugs Away

They waited until the sixth before they made any noise, but by game’s end, the Cards had scored 8 runs again – their fifth consecutive game scoring at least 8 runs.  In 10 August games, St Louis has scored 64 runs.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler has been especially torrid since his return from the disabled list.  In the four games since he’s been back, Dexter has come to the plate 19 times, with the following results: 1 single, 3 doubles, 1 triple, last night’s home run, 7 runs scored, 5 runs batted in (all last night), 6 walks, and 1 stolen base.  It all adds up to a .462/.632/1.077 batting line.  Over his last 31 games (which bridges a couple of injury absences), Dexter is hitting .303/.411/.578 with 7 home runs and 21 runs batted in.

Kolten Wong

Kolten booted a ball that led to a run, but otherwise excelled last night.  He singled, doubled, walked, and smote a sacrifice fly. He has now strung together a baby five-game hitting streak, during which he has hit .500 (8 for 16) with 6 runs scored and 6 runs driven in.

He is now hitting .412 (14 for 34) in the early days of August; .309 since the All-Star Break (25 for 81); and .337 (34 for 101) over his last 33 games.  I still think we all underestimate how much Kolten’s absences hurt this team.

Paul DeJong

Paul DeJong has also been in the middle of all the offense lately.  After having his 5-game hitting streak snapped on Wednesday, Paul began another one last night with 2 hits.  Over his last 7 game, DeJong is hitting .344 (11 for 32).

NoteBook

The two-game series against Kansas City was the nineteenth home series of the season for St Louis.  It was the fifth of those series that the Cardinals took the field for the last game with a chance for a series sweep – and the fourth time that they have achieved that sweep.

We are now also 10-4-2 in series when we win that first game.

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).

Three First-Inning Runs Hold Up for Milwaukee

First-inning runs almost never hold up.  In fact, one of the Cardinals favorite patterns from earlier in the season was to put two or three first-inning runs on the board and then shut down, waiting until their opponent wore through the lead and – eventually earned the victory.

Given the shaky recent nature of the Milwaukee bullpen, I felt all along that if the pitching staff could hold them there, our chances of eventually winning were pretty good.  Alas, it came not to pass.  Three first-inning runs were all they got.  And three first-inning runs were all they needed, as Milwaukee held off the Cards by a 3-2 score (box score).

The first run scored on a ground out from Ryan Braun, but after starter Carlos Martinez struck out Travis Shaw, the Cards were presented with a golden opportunity to get out of an inning that began with runners at second and third and no one out, allowing just the one run.  A two-out single from Domingo Santana made it 2-0.  That hurt.  But catcher Manny Pina delivered the clinching hit – launching Martinez’ two-out, two-strike, 100-mph fastball over the head of center-fielder Tommy Pham – delivering the third and final run of the inning.

As disappointing as that first inning was, the game ended with Milwaukee scoring just those three runs on only 5 hits.  Kudos, still, to the pitching staff.  Since the All-Star break, the team has maintained a 3.04 ERA.  Over the last 20 games, that ERA is only 2.78 with a .228 batting average against.

Carlos Martinez

While most of the rest of the pitching staff has been flourishing since the last two games before the All-Star break, presumptive ace Carlos Martinez has been more stumbling block than support.  Over his last six starts, Carlos is now just 1-3 (part of a 1-4 streak for the talented right-hander), with a 5.82 ERA.  He was 1-2 with a 5.90 ERA in July.

Martinez’ first inning struggles are beginning to gain some attention.  After yesterday, Carlos holds a 6.55 first-inning ERA.  During this inning, batters are slashing .284/.402/.519 against him.  Twenty-six percent of all the runs he’s allowed, twenty percent of all the hits he’s allowed, twenty-nine percent of the home runs he’s served up, and twenty-eight percent of the walks he’s given have come in that first inning.

From the second through the fifth, his ERA is a solid 2.35 with a .211 batting average against.  He begins to tail off again in the sixth.

These trends have been worsening lately.  In his four starts since the All-Star break, Martinez has been stung for 8 first inning runs (18.00 ERA) and a .429/.478/.810 slash line against him.  After that first inning, his ERA has held at 1.80.

Last night’s loss was Carlos’ ninth of the season, tying (already) his career high set last year when he was 16-9 (he is 7-9 so far this year).  Carlos’ career record is 41-30.

Moreover, the three runs allowed last night brings Martinez’ season total to 61.  His career high is the 68 he allowed last year.

Lack of any kind of consistent offensive support hasn’t helped Martinez.  Last night was the thirteenth time in his 22 starts that his offense failed to score as many as three runs for him.

More Good Bullpen Work

After posting a cumulative 2.17 ERA in July, the sometimes troublesome bullpen began August with four shutout innings last night, holding the game where the offense could still have a chance.  They gave one hit and two walks in those four innings.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia’s current scoreless streak (after his scoreless sixth inning last night) is 7 games (8.1 innings).  He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 14 games (15.2 innings).  His season ERA is down to 1.37.  Coming into the sixth inning of a one-run game is a fairly highly leveraged responsibility.  Little by little, the impressive Mr. Brebbia is earning more and more important innings.

In 13 innings this season before the seventh inning, John is unscored on, allowing just 3 hits.  Even though all the runs scored against him have come from the seventh inning on, his ERA in those innings is a still excellent 2.70.

Tyler Lyons

The evening featured another fine performance from Tyler Lyons, who seems to be very locked in.  He threw an inning and a third last night, giving no runs or hits – although he did walk his first batter in 10 games.  Tyler has not allowed a run in his last 9 appearances (7.2 innings), and has given only 2 hits in that span (.087 batting average), while striking out 11.  Tyler has struck out 9 over his last 5 innings with a swing-and-miss ratio of 30% of the swings taken against him.

Tyler pitched the seventh and got the first out of the eighth last night.  He has been very, very good in those innings this year.  He has totaled 16.1 innings in the seventh and eighth innings, with a 1.62 ERA, a .214 batting average against, and a .268 slugging percentage against.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman ran into a little more difficulty than usual closing out the eighth, allowing a hit and a walk.  But no runs came in.   Bowman held a 2.00 ERA in July and picked up in August where he left off.

The eighth has been Matthew’s most difficult inning to date.  In six “eighth innings” Matthew has been cuffed for 2 of the 4 home runs he’s allowed, and 9 earned runs – an 18.00 ERA.  To go along with a .387/.444/.645 batting line against.

Runs A Little Scarce Lately.

The impressive recent efforts of the pitching staff would normally be enough to push this team into a surge that would carry them into the division lead.  Unfortunately, a concurrent offensive brown-out has limited the good the club has realized from the good pitching.  St Louis is only 11-9 in their last 20 games.  The offense has managed more than three runs only 3 times in the last 13 games, and, in the 18 games since the All-Star break, they are averaging just 3.83 runs per game.

Except for the Fourth Inning

Last night’s fourth inning could have been better.  Pham led it off with a single and went to second on a ground ball.  With the four, five and six hitters coming up, the Cards were setting up for an inning.  The big inning never materialized (neither in the fourth nor any other inning last night), but the Cards did get the one run on a single from Yadier Molina.

Curiously, the fourth inning has been one of the team’s consistently best innings this year.  In the 18 games since the All-Star break, the Cards are hitting .329 in that inning (24 for 73), scoring 12 runs.  The only inning in those games that they’ve scored more runs in is the eighth (17 runs), and that was only on the strength of one 9-run inning against the Cubs.  Over the course of the entire season, the 67 runs scored in that inning and the .291 batting average in that inning are both the highest of any of the innings.

The Summer of Pham

Not much good happened offensively for the Cards last night, but Tommy Pham keeps on keeping on, with two more hits.  He scored one of the runs and drove in the other run.  Tommy has hit safely in all of his last 7 starts, going 10 for 25 (.400) in those games.  He led the team in batting average last month, hitting .344 (32 for 93) and slugging .591 (he finished with 6 doubles, a triple, and 5 home runs).  In 26 July games (24 starts), Pham scored 19 runs and drove in 19 runs.

Tommy’s RBI came on a fifth-inning single.  Pham (who singled and scored in the fourth) has done well as a part of the Cardinal fourth-inning surge – he is hitting .333 in the fourth.  But the fifth is his inning.  He is now hitting .419 in the fifth (13 for 31) and is now 5-for-5 in that inning since the All-Star break.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong had hits in the third and fifth innings.  He grounded out in the seventh and struck out in the ninth.  Kolten is a .333 hitter (44 for 132) before the seventh inning.  From the seventh inning on, his average drops to .208 (15 for 72).

Jedd Gyorko

The long slump of Jedd Gyorko continues.  Jedd was 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts last night, and looked more than a little lost.  Over his last 19 games, the Cardinal cleanup hitter is batting just .152 (10 for 66) and slugging just .227.  Jedd hasn’t hit a home run since the first game after the All-Star break – 58 at bats ago.

Paul DeJong

Wonder rookie Paul DeJong is tailing off a bit.  He was also 0-for-4 last night.  Since the All-Star Break, Paul is hitting .225 (16 for 71) – albeit with 5 home runs.  Still, he’s gone 5 games without an extra-base hit, driving in just one run in those games.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter opened the game with a fly out.  He came up again in the third and struck out before walking in both the fifth and eighth innings.  For a leadoff hitter, Matt is curiously slow out of the gate.  He is only hitting .229 in the first inning this year (19 for 83) and just .215 in the first three innings (31 for 144), albeit with a .339 on base percentage and a .417 slugging percentage.  From the fourth inning on, he slashes .278/.409/.473.

NoteBook

Yadier Molina’s strike out last night was his fifty-fifth of the season.  In his previous 13 years, he has only struck out more than 55 times twice – 59 strike outs in 2015, and his career high 63 strike outs last year.

On the other hand, Molina has only grounded into 6 double plays so far this season.  Four times in his career he has bounced into at least 20 double plays – including 22 last year.  His career low for a full season is 10, which he achieved in 2005 and again in 2012.

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.

Two Strikes Not Quite Enough

It was all so agonizingly close for Luke Weaver.  After A.J. Pollock opened the fourth inning with a double, Weaver fell behind Jake Lamb 3-0.  Swinging on 3-0, Lamb fouled off a boarder-line fastball.  Weaver then threw two pretty good changes, but Lamb fouled those off as well.  Now 3-2, Luke was one pitch away from getting the first out of the inning.  But Luke missed with his fastball off the outside corner, and Lamb joined Pollock on base.

Now it was superstar slugger Paul Goldschmidt., with two runners on, no one out, and the game still scoreless.  Luke just missed with his first-pitch change, but he got back ahead with two fastballs – one that Goldschmidt watched and the other that he fouled.  Again, Luke was in position to get either the strikeout – or even better, a double play that would take the steam out of the inning.

But his 1-2 cutter missed up and away, and his 2-2 changeup bounced.  Now it was 3-2 to one of the top sluggers in the game.  Luke tried to get him to chase the change-up, but – temptingly close as it was – Paul took it for ball four, loading the bases.

That brought former Tiger J.D. Martinez to the plate.  No longer in a mood to mess around, Weaver came after him with three straight fastballs.  For his part, Martinez was up there to swing – which he did at all three even though the last two were off the plate (he fouled the last one off to stay alive).  At 0-2, Luke was once again in a position to take the steam out of the inning.  But Martinez laid off the 0-2 change that dropped low.  Gaining one more pitch in the at bat – the twentieth, now, of the inning from Weaver – Martinez lofted Luke’s misplaced 1-2 fastball just fair around the right-field fouls pole.

And that was the game.  Before and after that, Luke went pitch for pitch with Zack Godley and his untouchable curve.  Luke faced 21 batters in his 5 innings.  He pushed 14 of them (66.7%) into two strike counts.  Except for the three at bats in the top of the fourth, the other 11 managed one single (Goldschmidt, again, grounded a 3-2 changeup into right field for a single leading off the second) and 5 strikeouts.

It was almost a brilliant performance from the Cardinal rookie who is trying to establish himself as a major-league caliber pitcher.

Cardinal Bullpen Shuts the Door

Continuing a month long pattern, the Cardinal bullpen closed the door once it was sort of too late.  After Weaver coughed up the grand slam, the Cardinal relief corps put up zeros for the last four innings.  While they have had struggles holding onto narrow leads, the Cardinal bullpen currently holds a 1.97 ERA this month (15 earned runs in 68.2 innings).  They have held opponents to a .241 batting average, allowing just 5 home runs and walking only 19 (7 of those intentionally).

John Brebbia

One reason why the bullpen does better in non-critical moments, is those are the only times Mike Matheny lets John Brebbia pitch.  John threw his twelfth consecutive game without allowing an earned run last night (totaling 13.2 innings).  He didn’t walk anyone again.  He has allowed no walks in his last six games (7.2 innings) and hasn’t given an unintentional walk in his last 17 games (20.1 innings).  His ERA is down to 1.48 on the season.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist allowed a couple of singles in an almost-messy eighth innings, but wriggled out of the inning taking no damage.  Kevin has now thrown 5.2 scoreless innings in 6 games since his return from the disabled list.

Tyler Lyons

Tyler Lyons tossed a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two.  Tyler has now struck out 5 of the last 6 batters he has faced, and the last 14 batters he’s faced are 0-for-13 with a hit-by-pitch.  Over his last six outings, Lyons has allowed no runs and just 1 hit.

Tyler put all three batters he faced last night into two-strike counts.  Chris Owings grounded out on a 3-2 pitch, and Ketel Marte and Chris Iannetta both struck out on 2-2 pitches.  Lyons has faced 31 batters so far this month.  He has pushed 21 of them (67.7%) into two-strike counts.  Those batters are just 3 for 18 (.167) with 1 walk, 2 HBPs, and 11 strikeouts.

Feast or Famine Offense

The shutout continues a strange feast or famine offensive trend.  Over the last 9 games, St Louis is hitting .269 as a team, and scoring 4.67 runs per game – both very healthy totals.  But they have now scored more than three runs in only three of those games.  A 9-run eighth inning transformed what might have been a 3-2 loss into an 11-4 victory over Chicago on July 21.  Three days later, they handed Colorado an 8-2 loss.  And then on Wednesday a five-run fourth pushed them past the Rockies 10-5.  In between those eruptions there were 7-3 and 3-2 losses to the Mets; 3-2 and 5-3 losses to the Cubs; a 3-2 win over Colorado; and last night’s 4-0 loss (box score).

In the three “hot” games, the Cards averaged 9.67 runs per game and hit .355/.462/.589.  They averaged 2.17 runs per game in the other six, hitting .222/.276/.340.

Paul DeJong

When the dust had settled, Paul DeJong was the only Cardinal hitter who had some answer for Godley and the Diamondback bullpen.  He went 2 for 3 with a walk.

Paul is now riding a 7-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .379 (11 for 29) and slugging .828 (1 double and 4 home runs).  His six-game RBI streak did come to an end last night.  DeJong had driven in 9 runs through those six games.

After starting the season at Memphis, Paul DeJong has started 21 of the 23 July games St Louis has played.  He is hitting .318 this month (27 for 85) and slugging .694 (8 doubles and 8 home runs).  Paul has 14 runs scored and 15 runs batted in this month.

Randal Grichuk

One night after Randal Grichuk’s first-ever four-hit night, his six-game hitting streak came to an end in an 0-for-4 performance.  During the streak, Randal had 7 singles and 4 home runs in 24 at bats – a .458 batting average and a .958 slugging percentage.

In the fourth inning, Randal chased a 1-0 slider that was in on his hands and fouled out.  Later, in the sixth, with runners at first and second and one out, Randal reached for Godley’s low-and-away fastball and bounced into a force play.  A lot of Randal’s game has improved noticeably since his return from the minors.  Of late, though, he is starting to swing at pitcher’s pitches early in the count.  Across all of baseball, batters who hit the first strike thrown them hit .348.  Randal, this month, is 3 for 14 (.214) when hitting the first strike thrown him.

Harrison Bader

It is very, very early in the major league portion of Harrison Bader’s career, but he’s shown an early propensity to get into two strike counts.  He’s gotten to two strikes in 10 of his first 13 times to the plate (77%), including all four last night.  After his 0-for-4, Harrison in 2 for 9 with a walk in those at bats.

NoteBook

Before last night, St Louis had led at some point in each of their 7 previous games.  That hasn’t been a very good predictor of success for the Cards this season.  They were only 4-3 in those games.

Leake and Cardinals Keep Colorado Off Balance

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.

Mike Leake

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.

John Brebbia

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.

Kevin Siegrist

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.

Tyler Lyons

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.

Offensive Contribution

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.

Tommy Pham

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

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.

YadierMolina

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

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

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

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).

NoteBook

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.

Living and Dying With the Fastball

Lance Lynn closed out the season’s first half with a nifty seven innings of 3-hit shutout ball against the Mets.  He pitched pretty well the game before against Miami. Although he ended that game with a loss, he surrendered only 2 earned runs in 5.1 innings.

These two games merit a little closer examination.  Lance is a first-pitch fastball pitcher pitching in a fastball hitting league without that over-powering fastball.  Complicating matters even more is the fact that Lance isn’t one of those pitchers with pinpoint control.

So how does a guy like Lynn survive and sometimes thrive?  The best answers are always the simplest.  Over the 12.1 innings that Lynn has thrown over his last two games, he has been very consistent at keeping the ball away from the middle of the plate.

In those 12.1 innings, Lance has pitched to 45 batters.  Six of them got first-pitch changeups, and one got a curve.  The other 38 got some flavor of a first-pitch fastball (4-seam, 2-seam or cutter).  Some of these were strikes, many weren’t.  But almost all of them were in the vicinity of the plate, and of the 38 first-pitch fastballs thrown, there were only two that swerved back over the plate where more aggressive hitters might have taken a cut at them.

One thing about the fastball – everyone wants to hit it.  So a lot of times your command doesn’t have to be pristine.  If the fastball is a tad inside, or just a smidge off the outside corner, there is a pretty good chance that someone will chase after it anyway.

Surprisingly, though, that didn’t happen with either the Marlins or Mets.  They must surely have been looking for that fastball, but both teams showed no interest in fishing for it.  And so they took.  And took.  And took.

At one point over the two games, 16 consecutive batters that faced Lance took his first pitch.  Of the 45 batters to face him in the two games only 4 swung at his first pitch.  Only 18 of the other 41 first-pitches were called strikes, but falling behind in the count didn’t bother Lance.  For the season, his 60% strike ratio is the lowest on the club.  But the simplified version of his game plan was not to give in.  To trust that eventually the hitters would come out to where the fastball was.

He ended the two games walking just 2 batters and allowing 9 hits (a .214 batting average).  He might have made it through both games allowing no runs had he not given in just once with a 3-2 fastball that Lynn put right into Christian Yelich’s wheelhouse.  That pitch became a three-run home run.

While mostly effective, this approach does come at a price.  Lance threw 100 pitches in his 5.1 innings against Miami, and 93 more in seven innings against the Mets.  For the two games, Lance averaged 4.29 pitches per plate appearance, and is averaging 4.15 for the season – the highest of any of the Cardinal starters.  Long counts lead to short outings.  In 7 of Lance’s last 9 starts, he hasn’t made it through 6 innings.  For the season, 10 of his 18 starts have ended without Lance making it through the sixth inning.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia is another of the Cardinal pitchers with a good, but not overpowering fastball.  John’s mindset is more of a pitch-to-contact approach.  As opposed to Lynn, Brebbia throws the fewest pitches per plate appearance (3.53) of anyone on the staff.  Fully 43.5% of the swings against Brebbia put the ball in play.  Of pitchers who have faced more than 20 batters this year, only Miguel Socolovich (45.6%) and Mike Leake (44.1%) have the ball put into play with higher frequency.

Sometimes batters want to take pitches against John.  When they do that they end up taking a lot of strikes.  Of the 268 pitches he’s thrown in the majors, 52 have been taken for strikes (37.4% of all pitches taken).

The BABIP enthusiasts have issues with the whole pitch-to-contact notion.  BABIP is Batting Average on Balls In Play.  These types will be keeping a close eye on Brebbia in the second half.  Of the 55 balls hit in play against John (and for this metric, home runs are not balls in play) only 10 have fallen in for hits – a .182 BABIP.  BABIP dogma holds that in the long run everybody’s BABIP trends toward .300 or so, so if – over the course of a few months or even a whole season your BABIP is significantly below that, then you have been lucky, and you should expect your luck to turn the other way at some point.

BABIPist don’t easily embrace the concept of inducing weak contact.  It will be interesting to see if Brebbia’s BABIP holds or changes significantly in the season’s second half.

Seung-hwan Oh

Batters have swung at 49 of Seung-hwan Oh’s last 76 pitches – an uncommonly high 64.5%.  Oh leads all Cardinal pitchers in having 52.2% of his pitches this season swung at.

Oh has had 48 batters come to the plate against him in a double-play situation.  He has gotten only one of those 48 to ground into that double play. Trevor Rosenthal also has just 1 double play in 33 chances.

Tyler Lyons

Through the end of June, only 1 of the 18 hits off of Tyler Lyons had been an infield hit.  Lyons has allowed 8 hits already in July – 4 of them of the infield variety.

Trevor Rosenthal

Batters miss with 32.5% of their swings against Rosenthal (the highest percentage on the staff).  Trevor also throws more pitches per batter (4.51) than anyone on the staff.  In between the swings and misses are an awful lot of fouls and a significant number of pitches out of the strike zone.

Recent Scoring Changes

In the eighth inning of the June 22 game in Philadelphia, Odubel Herrera reached second on what was originally ruled an error by left fielder Jose Martinez.  That has been changed to a double for Herrera.  Cardinal pitcher Kevin Siegrist gets a hit and a double added to his line for that game.  Additionally, the two subsequent runs that scored – originally unearned – have now become earned runs.

In the eighth inning of the July 1 game against Washington, Matt Wieters reached on a ground ball that deflected off of first-baseman Jose Martinez into right field.  Originally ruled an error, this is now a single added to pitcher Seung-hwan Oh.

In the second inning of the July 5 against Miami, JT Riddle rolled a groundball past first base for what was originally ruled an error.  That has been changed to a double – charge pitcher Mike Leake with an additional hit and another double.

Wainwright, Offense, Secures Sweep of Phillies

From the beginning it was a struggle.  With single runs in the first two innings, the Philadelphia Phillies took the early lead.  It was a struggle at the end, as well, as an almost comfortable lead nearly disappeared.  But this time St Louis had just enough.  Just enough grit from Adam Wainwright.  Just enough runs from the offense.  And just enough luck to hold on for the 6-5 win that swept the three game weekend series (box score).

Adam Wainwright

Admittedly without his fine command, Adam Wainwright battled through five innings to earn his seventh victory in his last 8 decisions.  After yielding 7 hits in 3.2 innings in his previous starts, Adam has now given 13 hits over his last 8.2 innings.  For the month of June, Adam is allowing opponent’s to hit .288 against him (although he is 2-1 so far this month).

The Phillies hacked at 39 of the 84 pitches that Adam spun in their direction.  They only missed with 5 of those swings.  Swing-and-miss stuff may be a little over-rated (Mike Leake has the rotation’s lowest swing-and-miss ratio at just 17.6%, with Waino second at 18.4%), but you would think that Adam with that curveball should have a few more misses.  Among rotation members, Carlos Martinez gets the most misses on swings against his pitches.  Batters come up empty 25.1% of the time against Carlos.

With the five inning effort by Adam, the rotation has managed just 3 quality starts through the first 11 games of the month.

Surviving the Bullpen

St Louis finished the sweep of the struggling Philadelphia club, but to do so had to once again overcome shakiness from the bullpen.  A prime contributing factor to the seven-game losing streak that opened this month, the bullpen continues to be a sore spot – allowing more runs yesterday (3) in four innings than the starter gave up (2) in five.

Through the first 11 games in June, the St Louis bullpen carries a 4.85 ERA and a .523 slugging percentage against.  They have now allowed as many home runs in 29.2 innings this month (7) as the starters have served up in 62.1 innings.

Tyler Lyons

Tyler Lyons has been taking advantage of most hitter’s normal inclination to take the first pitch, by throwing first pitch fastballs for strikes.  Since no one will ever confuse Tyler’s fastball for Trevor Rosenthal’s, it’s a risky strategy that so far has worked more than not.  Three of the four batters that Tyler faced in the sixth-inning last night got first pitch fastballs.  The one he bounced to Freddy Galvis was the only one that wasn’t a strike.  Michael Saunders took one right down the middle for a strike – on his way to a strikeout.  Maikel Franco swung at his and singled to right.

Ten of the thirteen batters to face Lyons this month have seen first pitch strikes.  No Cardinal pitcher this month facing at least 10 batters throws a higher percentage of first-pitch strikes (76.9%).  So far, most batters have been taking the pitch.  Franco was just the seventh batter (out of 44 faced) this season to swing at Tyler’s first pitch.

Still, it’s more than a little risky.  Joey Votto was sitting on that first-pitch fastball from Lyons last Thursday in Cincinnati when he scorched it for a game-icing two run home run.

Be careful, Tyler.

Three of the six swings taken against Lyons last night put the ball in play.  This has been a consistent issue for Tyler this year.  To this point of 2017, 47.5% of the swings taken against Lyons have put the ball in play – the highest percentage on the staff.  That percentage has risen to 56.3% this month.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman faced four batters in the seventh-inning yesterday, and threw first-pitch fastballs to all four.  None of the fastballs ended up over the plate, but all ended up as strikes.  Three of the batters (Andres Blanco, Odubel Herrera, and Howie Kendrick) chased after that enticing fastball, and home plate umpire Tom Woodring did Matthew a favor with a generous strike call on an outside pitch against Daniel Nava (who hit the next pitch – a hanging splitter – over the wall in right).  Among the 24 batters that Bowman has faced this month, 10 have chased the first pitch (41.7%).

Trevor Rosenthal

Speaking of Rosenthal. He faced three batters in the eighth inning and struck them all out.  He has now fanned 41 of the 92 batters he’s faced this season, holding them to a .171 batting average.  Trevor has really been better than ever this year.  Except when he hasn’t.

Possibly because Trevor is getting very, very proficient at throwing that slider for strike three (and 2 of his 3 last night took third-strike sliders), batters have begun to be more aggressive on the first pitch – which is still usually a fastball.  In April and May, only 27.4% of the batters he faced chased his first pitch.  So far this month 42.1% have gone for Rosenthal’s first offering (including two of the three last night).  Last year, only 14 of his 56 strikeouts (25%) came on called third strikes.  This year he already has 14 called strikeouts among his first 41 (34.1%), including 5 of the 10 so far in June.

Philadelphia offered at 9 of Trevor’s 15 pitches (60%).  Everybody loves to chase that fastball.  The 19 batters he has faced so far in June have chased 54.4% of Rosenthal’s pitches.  For the season, 50.2% of his offerings have been swung at.  The only higher ratio on the club belonged to the since-departed Jonathan Broxton, who drew swings on 51.7% of his pitches.

Rosenthal finished with almost as many swinging strikes in his one inning (4) as Wainwright had in 5 innings (5).  Trevor leads the pitching staff in swing-and-miss percentage, both for the year (33.0%) and for the month (40.8%).  As a result, batters are putting the ball in play on just 20.6% of their swings this year and 14.3% of their swings this month against Rosenthal.

Strikeout pitchers, of course, do run the risk of elevated pitch counts.  It cost Trevor 15 pitches to retire his three batters last night.  He averages more pitches per batter faced than anyone else on the staff (4.52). In the month of June, he’s been throwing 4.74 pitches per plate appearance.

Seung-hwan Oh

Closer Seung-hwan Oh had a string of six consecutive scoreless appearances (6.1 innings) snapped as Philadelphia came back to make a game of it with 4 singles and 2 runs in last night’s ninth inning.

The string of singles gave Oh 4 opportunities to get a double play grounder.  He didn’t.  For the season, Oh has faced 35 batters in double play situations.  He has gotten that double play just once (Giancarlo Stanton bounced into a 6-4-3 with runners on first and second and nobody out in the ninth inning on May 10, helping to preserve a 7-5 Cardinal win).

For the game – although 16 batters came to the plate with an opportunity to ground into a double play – the Cards could get only one of them to comply.  Tommy Joseph – the last batter Wainwright faced – ended the fifth by grounding into a double play.

Oh is another pitcher who throws a lot of first-pitch fastballs.  But he puts most of them on the edge of the strike zone, so his first pitch is infrequently swung at.  Only 2 of the 7 he faced last night offered.  Of the 18 batters faced this month, only 4 (22.2%) have wanted Oh’s first pitch.  For the season, just 28.5% offer at Seung-hwan’s first delivery.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler hit the fifth-inning home run that flipped a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead.  Dexter also led off the game with a double.  With 4 hits in his last 9 at bats, Dexter has looked better at the plate, lately.

Fowler is still hitting just .242 for the month (8 for 33), but 5 of those hits have been for extra bases (2 of them home runs) – giving him a .515 slugging percentage this month.

Kolten Wong

Sparkplug Kolten Wong returned to the lineup just in time to face Philadelphia.  He went 5 for 10 in the series, scoring 3 runs.  St Louis won all three, but how much of that was Kolten Wong and how much was the Phillies?  As the Brewers begin a four-game series tomorrow, we will begin to find out.  It is nonetheless true that the sometimes maligned Wong is now hitting .294/.393/.434 for the year, and has been a sparkplug.

Wacha Betrayed by Defense, Falls to Dodgers 8-4

While not his best outing by any means, Wacha’s night could have been better had he not been undone by a sloppy four-error night by his defense.  Some highs and lows:

Yadier Molina

Among the more frustrating aspects of the Cardinals’ offensive struggles last year was the inability of their right-handed batters to make a significant impact against left-handed pitchers.  Yadier Molina was a case in point.  Last year, Molina hit a soft .232 against lefty pitching, with no home runs and 14 runs batted in.  Even though he is off to a terrific offensive start this season (and he goes into tonight’s game against the lefty Kazmir with a .341 overall average), that still isn’t translating into much production against left handers.  Molina is just 7 for 29 (.241) with 4 singles, 3 doubles and 4 runs batted in against them.  Yadi has, however, managed 5 walks against lefties already this year (he walked only 16 times against them all last year) and currently owns a .353 on base percentage against them.

The bulk of Molina’s damage, then, has come at the expense of right-handed pitchers.  After his 2-for-4 last night, Yadi is now hitting .371 (36-for-97) against right handers.  Here is the note of warning, though.  In 2015 Molina maintained a .304 batting average against righties at the All-Star break.  In the season’s second half – as the workload caught up with him – his numbers against righties fell to .248.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz added a double and home run last night against Dodger right-hander Ross Stripling.  While Diaz has been plenty effective against lefties (.344/.364/.563 in 33 plate appearances), he – like most of the Cardinal right-handed hitters – has bedeviled right-handed pitchers.  Aledmys is now 32 for 79 against righties this season, with 4 home runs and 14 runs batted in.  His slash line against them is .405/.435/.734 as now 17 of those 32 hits have gone for extra-bases.

And, yes, there have been errors from time to time.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk is off to a slow start in general.  He’s actually been worse against left-handers (.161 on 5 of 31 hitting), but also hasn’t found his stroke against right-handed pitching.  After his 0-for-4 last night, Randal is now 18 for 81 (.222) when facing right-handers.  In 2015 he hit the All-Star break carrying just a .269 average against righties, but closed out the season with a .303/.398/.592 slash line against them in the second half.

Michale Wacha

Michael Wacha allowed no home runs last night, but he continues to be stung by extra-base hits by left-handed batters.  Lefties were only 2-for-7 against him last night, and are only hitting .237 against Wacha this season (14-for-59).  But both hits he allowed them were doubles (to Gonzalez and Pederson).  Of the 14 hits that left-handers have off of Wacha so far this season, 8 have been for extra-bases (3 home runs, a triple, and now 4 doubles).  Lefties are slugging .492 against Wacha thus far.

Tyler Lyons

The 192 right-handed batters that faced Tyler Lyons last year only hit .258 against him (a reasonably good number).  Then as now, the problem has been that when they hit him, they hit him hard.  He served up 9 home runs right-handed hitters (six of them after the All Star break), and surrendered his fourth to a right-handed hitter (Puig on his first pitch last night) in now just 45 at bats by right-handers against him.  Their slash line against Tyler is .289/.333/.622.

On the plus side, Lyons has gotten much better against lefties.  They are just 3 for 18 against him (.167) although one of those hits was a home run (off the bat of Jake Lamb in Arizona).

Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Broxton retired both right-handers to face him last night (one on a strikeout).  Broxton has had command issues (mostly against lefties, as he’s walked 7 of the 25 he’s faced so far this year), but he has been very strong against right-handed hitters.  They are now just 5 for 37 (.135) with 11 strikeouts against him this year.

Leake and Cardinals Trying to Turn the Corner

It’s fairly difficult to think of the Cardinals on any kind of “roll,” but last night’s 8-1 victory was their fifth in the last eight games – and the first of the season for Mike Leake.  The “streak” includes two humbling losses at home against the Pirates and a 1-0 loss to Aaron Nola and Philadelphia, but there have been hopeful moments in between.

Let’s point out, first of all, that half of the Cardinals last eight games (including last night’s) have come following a loss.  St Louis has won all four of them, scoring at least five runs in each game and allowing no more than 4 runs in any of them.  In these “response” games, the offense has contributed a .322/.393/.644 slash line with 11 home runs and 7.25 runs per game while the pitching staff has contributed 3 quality starts and a 2.75 ERA.

Among the most hopeful developments is the progress of the pitching staff.  Believed to be the team’s greatest strength coming into the season, they have been less than hoped for so far.  But, since the end of the Washington series, there have been positive signs.  Two quality starts from Adam Wainwright, dominant starts from Jaime Garcia and – finally – Mike Leake last night, and a well-pitched effort by Michael Wacha in the tough loss to Nola have all been very encouraging.

After managing just eleven quality starts through the first 25 games of the season, last night’s effort was the fifth QS in the last eight games (and the first for Leake in seven starts).  The team ERA over that span is a very serviceable 3.25.

Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday was in the middle of most of the offense last night with 3 extra-base hits.  Even better is that Holliday went 2-for-3 against left-handed pitching.  He is now 5 for his last 12 (.417) against lefties.

Matt Carpenter

One of the recent catalysts has been leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter.  Matt provided the ninth-inning home run that claimed our only victory over Pittsburgh this season, and was one of the big bats in last night’s win – hitting two more home runs.  In what has been an uneven season so far, Carpenter may finally be rounding into form.  He now has 10 hits in his last 30 at bats (.333), and seven of those hits have been for extra bases.

In his last plate appearance of the night, Carpenter finally got to hit against a right-hander.  He jumped AJ Achter’s errant pitch and drilled it for his second home run of the night.  Carpenter now has 7 hits in his last 16 at bats against right-handed pitching (.438).  Five of those hits are for extra-bases (3 doubles and 2 home runs).

Yadier Molina

In 2015, Yadier Molina started 131 of the 162 games behind the plate.  One of the goals heading into this season was to lighten the load on the veteran catcher.  The difficulty here, though, is that St Louis went 85-46 when Yadi started and just 15-16 when he didn’t.

In the “best laid plans” department, the Cards acquired a quality backup in Brayan Pena to help keep Yadi’s work-load to 120 games or less. Pena, of course, went down in spring training with an injury and hasn’t seen the field yet.  Eric Fryer has found himself thrust into the backup catcher role – and he hasn’t done badly.  St Louis is 2-1 in the three games he’s started.  The problem is he’s only started 3 games.  With St Louis scuffling a bit in the early going (and still trying to keep in sight of the steam-rolling Cubs), Eric hasn’t been trusted with too many opportunities.  At his current pace, Yadi will start 147 games.  Pena is expected to be back at some point in the semi-near future, so that pace will certainly lighten.  But St Louis has still lost the opportunity to give Yadi early season rest.

Yadi’s double last night came on a 2-2 pitch (in the eighth pitch of the at bat).  Molina now has 5 hits in his last 12 at bats when hitting with two strikes on him (.417) and his fourth hit in his last 7 at bats that have lasted more than four pitches.

Jeremy Hazelbaker

As Jeremy Hazelbaker has cooled off after his impressive start, he has found at bats more and more scarce.  His 0-for-4 last night still leaves him at .282 for the season, but only 2 of his last 14 (.143).  It’s starting to look like Jeremy’s will be the roster spot that Tommy Pham will claim when he is deemed ready to return.  Hazelbaker, I expect, will profit from more regular playing time.

Mike Leake

During his shaky first six starts for St Louis, considerable discussion centered around Mike Leake’s struggles pitching with runners on base.  Last night, the Angels managed two hits (both singles) in 13 at bats (.154) against Leake with runners on base.

Leake also did a more than adequate job of putting hitters away once he put them in 2-strike counts.  Those batters went 1-for-14 (.071) against him.  Over his last two starts, batters with 2-strikes are only 3-for-25 (.120) against Mike.

Leake is the only starter to have worked more than once with Fryer as the catcher.  In those two starts, Leake threw 12 innings, serving up 4 home runs and lost his only decision.  His ERA in the games Fryer started is 6.75.  Last night was his fifth start with Molina behind the plate.  Mike Leake is now 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA in those games.  He has pitched 30.1 innings in those games allowing just 2 home runs.

Tyler Lyons

Batters were 0-for-3 against Tyler Lyons last night once they got two strikes on them.  Lyons has now put 25 batters into 2-strike counts this season.  They are 0-for-24 with one walk.

The Cardinals punctuated their victory with four more home runs.  They now have 48 after 33 games and 1150 team at bats.  It took them 63 games and 2,119 at bats to hit 48 home runs last year.  Matt Reynolds hit that home run in the fourth inning of a June 15th game off of Minnesota’s Trevor May.

Last year they never hit more than 4 home runs in a game (and only did that once), while managing multiple home runs in a game just 36 times.  They had 7 other games where they hit three home runs.  Last night’s game was the Cardinal’s 13th multiple home run game of the year, the sixth time already this year that they have hit at least 3 home runs, and the fourth time that they have hit at least four.  They also have had a five home run game and a six home run game.