As the season spins forward, it’s starting to look like the fifth inning of the April 16 game against Cincinnati might turn out to be the first major turning point of the season. At that point, the Cards had won six of seven games, scoring in double figures in four of them, including hitting six home runs against Cincinnati the game before. They had now pulled to within 2 games of the Cubs. When a 4-run second inning gave them a 4-0 lead over the Reds in this game, every aspect of the team seemed ready to come together.
For three innings, Cardinal starter Adam Wainwright seemed like he had regained his balance. He had retired the first 8 batters he’d faced, and after yielding a couple 2-out singles, he closed the door getting Eugenio Sanchez to pop out ending the third.
But the Reds would get up off the deck, scoring 2 in the fourth to get back into it, and tying the contest with a momentum-switching two-run, fifth-inning rally that consisted of doubles by pitcher Brandon Finnegan, Zach Cozart and Brandon Phillips.
St Louis would keep scoring, but the Reds offense punched a hole in the game with a 4-run sixth and held on to win 9-8.
Since that game, the Cards have lost 9 of their last 15, falling a game under .500 at 12-13, and dropping to six games behind the Cubs.
As disappointing as any aspect of this slump is most of this has happened at home, where they have now lost 6 of their last 8. They have only had two quality starts in their last eight home games.
Although the numbers suggest the pitching has been more to blame, the truth is that letdowns have occurred in both units. While the offense has hit 18 home runs over the last 15 games and scored a very respectable 4.67 runs per game, this offense has already gone through several feast or famine cycles and has been disappointingly absent during the current four game losing streak – during which they have barely avoided being shut out three times. They were 0-for-8 last night with runners on base.
Felipe Rivero came out of the bullpen to pitch the eighth for Washington. The lefty’s perfect inning drops the Cards to just .227 (22-for-97) against left-handed pitching over these 15 games. It seems like struggles against left-handed is always a part of the mix anytime the Cardinals struggle.
The last 8 home games have been characterized by a general offensive brown-out. St Louis is hitting just .232 and scoring three runs a game lately at home.
For their part, the pitching staff has contributed just 6 quality starts and a 4.30 ERA since that turning point loss. With the three home runs allowed last night, the Cardinal pitchers have now surrendered 18 home runs over their last 132 innings.
All four of Matt Carpenter’s plate appearances last night came with the bases empty. Over his last 65 plate appearances, Carpenter – with his two hits last night – is now hitting .290 (9-for-31) with the bases empty, with 8 walks and a .436 on base percentage. With any runners on base, Matt is just 4 for 23 (.174) with a .231 on base percentage.
Carpenter has also lately been reviving his reputation as the team’s best two strike hitter. He singled once in three at bats last night with two strikes and is 8 for his last 27 (.296) with two strikes.
Stephen Piscotty has shared much of the frustration the Cards have had recently in their home park. His 0-for-4 last night makes him 5 for his last 26 (.192) over the last 8 home games.
Since that Cincinnati game, every bat in the line-up has shown at least some spark, except for Randal Grichuk. His has been the most trying first month. Going 0-for-4 again last night, Randal has 7 hits in his last 49 at bats (.143), while his season average has declined to .179.
Grichuk’s ground out that ended the game was St Louis’ lone at bat with a runner in scoring position last night. Randal is now 3 for his last 15 (.200) with runners in scoring position.
And just one for his last 23 at home (.043).
Aledmys Diaz is on his first little skid of the season, and most of it has happened at home. Over the last eight home games, Aledmys is hitting .238 (5-for-21) with no runs batted in.
Martinez entered the game holding the last 22 batters to face him with a runner on base to 0-for-21, with one walk. That streak reached 0-for-22 when den Dekker grounded out to end the third. It would be den Dekker who finally broke the streak with his RBI single in the sixth.
When Max Scherzer bounced am 0-2 pitch up the middle for a third-inning single, it broke Martinez’ other streak. Since the fifth-inning of his second start of the season, batters with two strikes on them had gone 0-for-30 against Carlos.
Tyler Lyons is, of course, out of options. After bouncing back and forth between AAA and the big club, he has shown flashes of being a reliable major league pitcher. He has also struggled keeping the ball in the park. Heisey’s home run in the ninth was the third he’s allowed to the last eleven batters he’s faced.
Lyons is also fading against right-handed batters. The home run was one of two hits by right-handed batters in five at bats against Tyler. After games of April 15, right handers were hitting .100 (1-for-10) against Tyler. Since then, they are hitting .471 (8-for-17) with 2 home runs and a .941 slugging percentage.