Tag Archives: Molina

Offense Becoming Dangerous with Runners On Base

While the final score doesn’t necessarily suggest it (St Louis won the rubber game of their weekend series 5-0) (box score), Chicago’s Jake Arrieta made things difficult enough for the Cardinal hitters.  Of the 37 batters that faced Arrieta and his relief pitcher, Brian Duensing, 23 came up with the bases empty (62.2%)

While this is usually a recipe for defeat, The Cardinal hitters – as they have for most of the month – took advantage of the few opportunities they had with runners on base to go 4 for 13 (.308) with 2 home runs, keeping their momentum going.  The Cards have now won 8 of 9, 9 of 12 played in the month of May, and 18 of the last 24 since they were swept by the Yankees in mid-April.  The wet-powder Cardinals of 2016 never managed more than 7 wins in any 9-game stretch or 15 wins in any 24-games stretch.  However the season ends up, this year’s club has already shown more sustainability than last year’s team ever did.

The foundation of the Cardinal surge continues to be the excellent pitching – especially (these days) the bullpen.  Over the 9-3 May, the Cardinal starters have chipped in with 8 quality starts and a 3.61 ERA – while the bullpen ERA so far this month has been an impressive 1.30.  In the 18-6 run, the starters have thrown 17 quality starts to accompany a 3.24 ERA, while the ‘pen has backed then with a 2.58 ERA.

While the Cards continue to pitch, they will continue to contend.

Finally Hitting With Runners On Base

One of several elements of the Cardinal streak is improved hitting with runners on base.  April saw them hit a disappointing .233/.322/.369 with runners on base.  After yesterday’s exploits, St Louis is hitting .284/.351/.461 this month in those situations.

After a worrisome struggle against Eddie Butler on Friday night, the Cardinal offense has bounced back quite nicely.  They are now hitting .283 and scoring 5.50 runs per game this month.  In the 24 games since the beginning of the Pittsburgh series, they are hitting .285 and scoring 5.13 runs per game.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk contributed three hits last night, two of them doubles.  Both doubles came with the bases empty.  Randal’s numbers have shown a mild uptick so far this month, but only when he’s batting with the bases empty.  He is hitting .348 (8 for 23) and slugging .609 (3 doubles and 1 home run) with the bases empty.  He is only 4 for 24 (.167) this month when batting with anyone on base.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina’s two home run day stretched his hitting streak to six games, during which he’s hitting .320 (8 for 25) with more extra-base punch than we’re used to seeing from Yadi.  His 8 hits include 2 doubles and the 2 home runs – a .640 slugging percentage.

His first home run came in his only plate appearance with a runner on base.  Yadi’s month of May has been all about taking advantage of chances to hit with runners on base.  With no one on, Yadi is hitting .231 this month (6 for 26).  He is now at .333 (6 for 18) when he gets to hit with runners on.  He hit .345 last year with runners on base (70 for 203).

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz was thrown out at second on an overly aggressive attempt to stretch a single into a double, but Diaz, nonetheless, finished with two more hits and has two hits in three of his last four games.  Since moving to the sixth slot in the lineup, Aledmys has hit .364 (16 for 44).

His two hits lifted his batting average for the month of May to .340 (18 for 53).  Only Tommy Pham’s .371 is better among Cardinal regulars (and Tommy qualifies as a regular during the month of May).

All of Diaz’ at bats yesterday came with the bases empty.  So far this year, Aledmys has had no one on base for him in 60.7% of his plate appearances.  That is the third highest rate on the team.  Leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler has been up with the bases empty 67.2% of the time.  Even though he has been moved to the third slot in the order, Matt Carpenter still has no one on base for him 61.8% of the time.

Adam Wainwright

In putting together his first quality start of the season, Adam Wainwright still struggled keeping runners off base.  In fact, his game was almost the reverse of Jake Arrieta’s.  Where Arrieta rarely had runners on base, but got taken advantage of when he did, Wainwright was almost always in some flavor of trouble.  He had only one clean inning out of the seven he pitched – although two double plays helped him face the minimum in two other innings.

For the game the 13 batters that faced Adam with the bases empty went 4 for 11 with 2 walks – a .364 batting average and a .462 on base percentage.  For the season, when Adam has pitched with no one on base, opposing hitters have fashioned a .393/.440/.548 slash line.

Here was the difference, though.  In his disappointing April, hitters went on to hit .305/.349/.492 once they did get a runner on.  Yesterday afternoon, the Cubs were 0 for 12 with 2 walks and 2 double plays against Wainwright once they put a runner on base.  For the month of May (in 3 starts), Adam is holding batters that hit with runners on base to a .207/.361/.310 batting line.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal pitched his fifth consecutive hitless innings last night (he’s walked 1 and struck out 7 in those innings), and is now unscored on in his last 7 games – all one-inning appearances.  His season ERA is back down to 1.88.  The 23 batters who have faced Trevor this month are slashing .045/.087/.045 – that’s 1 single, 1 walk and 10 strikeouts.

He pitched on consecutive days for the third time this season yesterday.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist is the other vital part of the Cardinal bullpen that has returned to his former dominance.  Siegrist pitched the ninth and, like Rosenthal, set the Cubs down in order with two strikeouts.  Kevin has now thrown four consecutive perfect innings, and has set down the last 13 batters he’s faced, striking out 6 of them.  Kevin is unscored against in his last 10 games, constituting 9 innings.

Walks were an early issue for Kevin.  He walked no one last night for his seventh consecutive inning.  He walked 10 through his first 6.1 innings.

Over his last 12 games (11 innings), Kevin holds a 1.64 ERA and a .209 opponent’s batting average.

NoteBook

With last night’s win, the Cards become the first team in the division to reach six-games over .500 (they are 21-15).  They were also the division’s first team to fall six-games under .500 when they started 3-9.

Coming off a two-of-three series loss against Tampa Bay, the Boston Red Sox will be the sixth consecutive team the Cards will play that has lost its previous series.

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.

Lots of Early One Run Games

Last year, through the course of their 162-game season, the Cardinals played in 47 one run games – 29% of their contests were decided by one run.  They were 24-23 in those contests.

Although last night’s 6-5 loss to Toronto (box score) was their first extra-inning game of the season, it was their eighth one run game of the season already (they are 4-4).  Should they continue at this pace, they will end the season having played in 65 such contests.

One run games are the predictable result when a team combines mostly excellent pitching with a sluggish offense (as the three 2-1 games we played against the Pirates earlier this month attest).  They are also a barometer of the team’s character.  Once in a while throughout the season, I glance at the numbers from these games.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko remains the hottest of the Cardinal hitters.  Since the beginning of the Pirate series, the Cards have been averaging 5.2 runs per game and hitting .303 as a team.  Gyorko, who has played in four of the five games, has been at the forefront of the offensive surge.

Jedd now has multiple hits in three of the last four games, including two three-hit games.  He is now 9 for 16 against Milwaukee and Toronto (a .563 average) with five of the hits for extra-bases (3 doubles, a triple, and a home run).  He has 3 RBIs and a 1.063 slugging percentage during this recent action.

Gyorko clearly needs to be in the lineup (even though he is clearly not the best defensive choice at any of the positions he plays).

Jedd is also just one of two Cardinal hitters to be hitting above .250 in one run games so far.  He has only played in 5 of the 8 (starting just 4), but is off to a 4-for-13 start (.308) that includes a double and a home run – a .615 slugging percentage.  The only player hitting better in these games is Jose Martinez (who hit his first major league home run last night).  Playing in all 8 one run games so far (starting 4), Jose is 7 for 16 with 2 doubles and the home run – a .438 batting average and a .750 slugging percentage.

Dexter Fowler

Of the regulars, Dexter Fowler has the highest batting average so far this season in one run games – although at just .242.  After last night’s 2-for-5 game that included the hit that drove in the tying run in the ninth, Dexter is now 8 for 33 in one run games.  Half of his hits are for extra-bases (including the two home runs he hit in one game in Pittsburgh).  Dexter is slugging .515 through the Cards’ first 8 one run games.

The team is averaging .216 (56 for 259) and is scoring 2.63 runs per one-run game.

Stephen Piscotty

With his two hits last night, Stephen Piscotty is the early leader among the regulars in on-base percentage during the eight one run games.  He is still hitting just .231 in these contests (6 for 26), but has drawn three walks and been hit by two pitches – a healthy .355 percentage.

Yadier Molina

After an indifferent start, Yadier Molina is starting to have the ball fall in for him.  With two more hits last night, Yadi has 5 in the last 2 games, and a baby hitting streak of five games – during which he’s hit a very soft .364 (8 for 22, but with only one double).  We talked a little about Yadi’s patience (or lack thereof) yesterday.  Yadi hasn’t drawn a walk since April 8 against Cincinnati’s Robert Stevenson.  That was 48 plate appearances ago.

Like Piscotty, Molina is 6 for 26 so far in one run games (a .231 average) with all of those hits being singles.

Aledmys Diaz

Last night was not Aledmys Diaz’ best performance of the season.  He capped his 0-for-5 night with the throwing error that brought home the winning run (albeit a more experienced first baseman would have probably saved Diaz the error).

Nonetheless, Diaz has hit better in recent days.  His hitless game last night broke his little five-game streak, during which he had hit .375 (6 for 16) and slugged .625 (his hits included a double and a home run).  He walked only once during the streak, but also struck out just once.

Aledmys was a solid bat in the 32 one run games he played in last year.  He hit .256 with 4 home runs and 19 runs batted in in those games, including 2 game winning hits.

This year, though, Diaz’ bat has been the most absent during one run games.  After last night, Aledmys is just 5 for 30, with 2 doubles, no walks and no RBIs in the eight one run games he’s played so far – a batting line of .167/.167/.233.  His batting average and on base percentage are the lowest on the team among starters in one run games.

Matt Adams

With Matt Carpenter serving a one-game suspension, Matt Adams got the opportunity to earn himself more playing time.  But his frustrating start continued.  He started and went 0 for 2 with two strikeouts.  Matt is hitting .172 on the young season (5 for 29) with no extra-base hits and 13 strikeouts.

Michael Wacha

After being blessed with an abundance of run support in his first start (a 10-4 win over Cincinnati), each of Michael Wacha’s last three starts have been decided by one run – a 4-3 loss in New York to the Yankees; a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh and Gerrit Cole; and last night’s loss.  Only Carlos Martinez (who has had two of his four starts decided by one run) has started more than one one-run game.

The Starting Pitching Counts in One Run Games

The eight starting pitchers in these one run games have an aggregate ERA of 1.99 and a batting line against of .219/.291/.310.  Last year, the starters in the one run games scuffled to a 3.75 ERA with a .269/.321/.396 batting line against.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist threw an eventful, but scoreless inning last night.  He gave up two hits, but didn’t walk a batter for the first time in seven appearances.  The only other game he’s pitched in this season in which he didn’t walk a batter was game #2 against the Cubs – and he hit a batter in that inning.  He also struck out two batters for the second straight time.  After managing just 2 strikeouts over his first 5.1 innings, he has 4 in his last 2.  Kevin’s ERA still hovers at 8.59, but by degrees he’s starting to resemble the Kevin Siegrist we are used to seeing around here.

Kevin has now tossed 4 scoreless innings in the 4 one run games he’s participated in – even though he’s walked three and hit one in those games.  The 21 batters who have faced Siegrist in one run games hit .176/.333/.176.

The first eight one run games of the season have been – more or less – a microcosm of the Cardinal season.  The offense has provided opportunities that have not been capitalized on.  With runners in scoring position, St Louis is 8 for 48 (.167) in its one run games.  With RISP and 2 outs, they are 4 for 22 (.182) in those contests.  Three of the four one-run losses the Cards have incurred have seen the winning runs scored on an error.  We’ve also lost four runners on the bases in those eight games.

But the pitching in general – and the starting pitching in particular – has held us in the contests.  Yes, it is still early, but the pitching is starting to look like it will be a consistent force for good for the whole season.  If this club wants to stop hovering around the .500 mark, it will need to clean up the mistakes and hit when the opportunities present themselves.

What Can Yadier Molina Do For an Encore?

By the time the 2015 season had ended, it was hard to call it a disappointing one for the franchise’s finest catcher.  Battling a partially rehabilitated thumb, Yadier Molina nonetheless finished the season hitting .270 (his lowest average since he hit .262 in 2010), his walks were up to 32, and he hit 2 triples in the same season for the first time in his career.  Even so, he wasn’t the same.  His 34 runs scored were his fewest since he scored 34 back in 2010.  His 4 home runs were the fewest since he hit 2 in just 51 games in his rookie season, and he set a career high for strikeouts with 59.

Now 33-years-old as he approached the 2016 season, the feeling around the Cardinal camp was that Yadi’s workload would need to be pared back in the hopes that he would not wear down as the season progressed – and let’s remember that he did fade noticeably in 2015.  After hitting .284/.323/.358 in the first half, Yadi contributed just a .249/.290/.339 line after the All-Star break.  This included a dismal .152/.231/.174 line in 46 September at bats.

And, after a strong April, Yadi began fading again.  On the heels of an April where he hit .341/.426/.451, Molina tumbled badly through the months of May and June.  In 180 at bats in 51 games over those two months, Yadi managed 40 hits (a .222 average), of which only 9 went for extra-bases (8 doubles and 1 home run).  He drove in 16 runs over those two months combined and slugged just .283.  Asked at that moment, most Cardinal fans would have probably conceded that we were witnessing the twilight of Yadier Molina’s storied career.

If anyone had predicted at that point that Yadier Molina would end the season setting career highs in games played (147), plate appearances (581), at bats (534), and hits (164) while batting .307 for the season while scoring more runs (56) and hitting more doubles (38) and home runs (8) in any season since 2013, one would have dismissed it as crazy talk.  And yet, the more he played the better he got (in spite of what I thought at the time).

After reaching the All-Star break with a very soft .259 average (75 for 290 with only 2 home runs), Yadi would hit .365 from that point on (89 for 244) with 6 home runs and 30 RBIs while playing (and starting) 65 of the Cardinals last 74 games.  He started 27 of the 30 September games and hit an impossible .388 with 3 home runs and 17 runs batted in in that month alone (remember he had 16 combined for May and June).  He finished off his best season in years by starting 15 of the last 16 games and hitting .463 (25 for 54).

I understand the plan for 2017 is to let him play as much as possible.

Yadi’s 2016 season included a number of impressive situational highlights.  A listing of a few of them follows:

Yadi’s miracle September included going 7 for 16 (.438) with runners in scoring position.  He finished the second half of the season at .333 (13 for 39) in that situation – pushing him to a .308 season average (32 for 104) with runners in scoring position.

He also finished the year as the team’s best two-strike hitter – hitting an impressive .275 (64 for 233) in those at bats.  This included going 31 for 103 (a remarkable .301) after the All-Star break when hitting in two-strike counts.

From the seventh-inning on, Molina hit .365 (61 for 167) with 22 runs batted in.

Perhaps the most impossible number left behind in Yadi’s miracle season was his unbelievable effectiveness when hitting with two outs.  In 167 two-out plate appearances, Yadi hit .352, driving in 19 runs.  He hit .411 with two-out throughout the season’s second half (23 for 56), and topped off the season going 13 for 22 (a .591 clip) in September when batting with two out.

Most of the Cardinals will approach 2017 trying to rebound from mostly disappointing 2016 seasons.  Yadier Molina is one of the few Cardinals who will be tasked with living up to the excellence of his 2016 season.

My feelings – here at the threshold of the 2017 season – is that Yadi learned a lot about himself during that 2015 season.  Yes, there was the thumb issue.  But I also think 2015 caught him by surprise.  When he was younger, the rigors of catching 136 or so games wasn’t a limiting issue.  But the landscape changes for a catcher as he passes through his early thirties.

I don’t believe that the strong finish to 2016 was at all accidental.  I believe Yadier Molina had been planning that kind of finish since the disappointing end of the 2015 season.  Whether or not he can repeat last season will be one of the compelling stories of 2017.

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.

Molina and Holliday Put On a Clinic For Old Friend

Perhaps is was just being on the field with him again, but ex-teammates Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday combined for seven hits as the Cards and Angels wrapped up their three-game series.

In outlasting Anaheim last night, the Cardinals secured their seventh win in their last ten games – and this one was a kind of a microcosm of the streak so far.  At the end of the ride, the Cards have come out ahead most of the time, but haven’t made any of it look easy.  For a team on something of a roll, they have looked all too mortal.

The offense has been at the center of this little run.  With 12 runs and 18 hits last night, they are hitting .289 and scoring 5.7 runs per game over the last ten.  They have added 16 home runs since the beginning of the Philadelphia series.  They were 5-for13 with runners in scoring position for the night and are hitting .297 (27-for-91) over the course of these games.  They hit .350 (41-for117) with seven home runs and 25 runs scored in the Angel’s series – fashioning a team slugging percentage of .590.

But the pitching staff is surrendering hits with runners in scoring position almost as fast as the offense can collect them.  Los Angeles went 5-for-11 last night, and the last ten opponents have managed a .289 average against the Cardinal staff (21-for-74) with ducks on the pond.

Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday wrapped up a bizarre series as he sandwiched Wednesday’s hitless game between a three-hit game Tuesday and last-night’s four-hit game.  He finished the series 7 for 14 (.500) with five extra-base hits (2 doubles and 3 home runs).

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina keeps on starting and keeps on hitting.  Three more hits last night brings him to .351 over the last ten games (13-for-37).  His season average now sits at .336. Molina has started all but three games behind the plate.

He did a little showing off for his friend in the other dugout, finishing the series against the Angels with 7 hits in 12 at bats (.583).

Yadi was also 1-for-2 with two strikes on him.  Over the last ten games, Molina is hitting .438 (7-for-16) with two-strikes on him.  Molina was also 2-for-2 with two-outs, and is now 6 for his last 12 batting with two outs.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s resurgence continues.  Two more hits, including another home run, brings him to 12 hits in his last 37 at bats (.324).  Eight of those hits have been for extra-bases (including four home runs in his last ten games), giving him a recent slugging percentage of .757.  He hit three of those home runs in the three games against the Angels.

Carpenter has led off an inning 19 times over the last ten games, and hasn’t drawn a walk in any of them.  He does have 9 hits (3 singles, 4 doubles and 2 home runs) so he carries a .474 on base percentage while leading off those innings.  Matt was 1-for-3 leading off last night.  During those same games, all Cardinal leadoff hitters are carrying a .296/.352/.531 slash line and are coming around to score 58% of the time they reach base.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz isn’t hitting .400 anymore, but he isn’t exactly slump-ridden, either.  A 2-for-5 night last night brings him to .333 (11-for-33) over his last nine games.

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright – after showing marginal improvement in his previous two games – took a step backwards last night.  Among the situations plaguing him are those at bats with runners in scoring position.  The Angels had hits in four of their eight RISP at bats against Adam, and over his last three starts he has surrendered hits to 8 of 18 (.444) such batters.

General Trends

Over the last ten games, St Louis has been held under 4 runs only twice, while scoring at least 5 runs in 7 of the games.  Last year, the Cardinals failed to score four runs in almost half of their games (79 games), while scoring five or more slightly more than a third of the time (53 games).  So far in 2016, the Cards have been denied a fourth run only 10 times (29%) while scoring at least five runs in 21 games (60%).  Last night’s explosion marked the eighth time already this season that St Louis has scored in double figures – a feat they managed only 9 times all year last year.

On the other hand, the Cardinal pitching staff held opposing teams to less than four runs 101 times last year (62% of their games) and surrendered five runs or more just 47 times (29%).  This year, so far, only 15 opponents have been held below 4 runs (43%), while 13 other games have seen 5 or more runs scored against them (37%).  After allowing 10 or more runs in a game only four times in all of 2015, that has already happened three times this year.

Last year, St Louis never lost a game once the fashioned at least a four-run lead, and only lost once when they led by three runs.  Conversely, they only overcame deficits of four runs or more twice last year – and only overcame 3-run deficits four times.  Already in 2016 they have surrendered a 3-run lead (the April 25th game where Arizona scored 9 runs in the sixth to win 12-7) and a four-run lead (the 9-8 loss to Cincinnati on April 16th).  On the other hand, they have already come back once from three runs down (a 10-3 win May second against Philadelphia) and twice from four-runs down (April 8th against Atlanta, 7-4; and May 4th against Philly, 5-4).

Better buckle in tight.  Looks like it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The slugging Cardinals had yet another 3-homer game last night.  Through 35 games and 1,226 team at bats, St Louis has already amassed 51 home runs.  They needed 67 games and 2,233 at bats last year to hit 51 home runs.  Yadier Molina hit that home run on June 19th (a 2-run, second-inning shot against a Philadelphia right hander named Phillipe Aumont that broke a scoreless tie and sent St Louis on its way to an eventual 12-4 win.  That team was 44-23 and five games ahead in its division.

Last night was also the 14th multiple homer game and the sixth time they’ve hit at least three in a game.  In all of 2015, St Louis managed 36 multiple home run games, hitting as many as three in a game only eight times.

Position Wars – Through 34 Games

With wins in the first two games of the road trip – and the team back to two games over .500, let’s look at the position wars for the first time this season. This is something we’ll do every month or so.

Position wars looks at the players starting at each of the defensive positions and develops the team trends associated with that player in that position.

Position: First Base

First base has been the most contested position on the team through the first 34 games.  As the season started, it was thought that erstwhile left fielder Matt Holliday might edge out the other contenders to take the majority of the starts here.  Tommy Pham’s opening day injury re-wrote that plan, sent Holliday back to left field, and opened up a straight-up competition between Matt Adams and Brandon Moss for playing time there.

As of right now, both have made 14 starts at first.  St Louis is 8-6 when Adams starts and 6-8 with Moss.  Defensively, the team has been better with Adams – posting a 2.90 ERA in his games there vs the 4.52 ERA when Moss starts.  However, the offense has been as noticeably better with Moss (5.93 runs per game) as opposed to Adams (4.29 runs per game).

Holliday has started four games at first, with a 2-2 record.  Matt Carpenter and Yadi Molina have each started once at first, with the Cards winning both of those games.

First base was a messy position for the team last year, too.  Mark Reynolds ended up leading the team is starts there with just 72 – leading the team to a 47-25 record in those starts.  Adams – the presumptive starter there last year – saw his starts limited to 42 games by an injury, but also saw the team win 27 of those starts (.643 percentage).  Moss, coming off his own injury, only made 24 starts at first last year – St Louis winning only 11 of those.

At the moment, Adams seems to have the upper hand.  He’s started 5 of the last 9 games, with Moss starting 3 of the other 4.  The Cards have won 4 of Adams’ 5, but just 1 of Moss’ 3.  This is a back and forth that looks like it will last the whole season (unless some circumstance pushes Holliday back into the picture).

Position Second Base

Second base is the only other position that is at all contested.  Kolten Wong has started 20 of the 34. But only 5 of the last 9 as both he and Jedd Gyorko are struggling to find any consistency at the plate.  At this point, St Louis is 11-9 when Kolten starts, scoring 5.4 runs per game with a 3.31 team ERA.  With Gyorko at second, the record is 7-7.  The scoring is a bit higher (5.71) but the team ERA significantly higher (4.31).  The momentum, however, may be turning in Jedd’s direction. They have won 3 of Gyorko’s last 4 starts scoring 21 runs.  They are 3-2 in Wong’s last 5 starts, scoring 24 runs in those games.

Wong made 140 starts at second last year, with St Louis winning 91 of those games.

Position: Shortstop

Jhonny Peralta held this position for 147 games last year, leading the Cards to a 93-54 record in those games.  His backups were Pete Kozma (4-4) and Greg Garcia (3-4).  Of all of those players, only Garcia has seen starts at shortstop this year.  He has two (both Cardinal wins).  Kozma is elsewhere and Peralta has missed the entire year so far with an injury.  Reuben Tejada was acquired as a stop-gap, but his season has been curtailed by an injury of his own.  Jedd Gyorko was supposed to make some starts there as a back-up.  Those two players have combined to make 7 starts at short. St Louis is 2-5 in those games.

In spite of all these injuries, Aledmys Diaz began the season at AAA.  For one day.  Tommy Pham’s opening day injury not only shuffled the plan at first base, but opened the roster spot that finally went to Diaz.  The injury to Bobby Bonilla that opened the door for a rookie named Albert Pujols is one of the great injury-opportunity stories in Cardinal lore.  For Diaz to get his chance, three other players had to go down.

Now Diaz is here, hitting .382 at this moment, and has taken over at short.  In his 25 starts there, the team is 14-11, scores 6.24 runs per game with a 3.77 ERA.

Position: Third Base

Third base is the only current position (other than catcher, which we discussed yesterday) on the team where last year’s uncontested starter is also this year’s uncontested starter.  A 141-game starter there last year (91-50), Matt Carpenter has made 31 of the first 34 starts there this year.  Reynolds was the primary backup there last year.  In his absence, Carpenter may play 150 games there.  Gyorko was thought to be a useable backup at third – and he may turn out to be.  So far, he has only started there once.  Tejada has made the other 2 starts there.

St Louis is in an unusual position at third, as none of their first base candidates (Adams, Moss, Holliday) can double as a third baseman.  All most every other team has at least one “corner infielder” on their roster.

Position: Left Field

Matt Holliday – his injury notwithstanding – still made the most starts of anyone in left field last year.  That number was just 64 starts (41-23).  Seven different players made starts there (Piscotty – 40, Grichuk – 37, Moss – 9, Pham – 5, Reynolds – 4, and Jon Jay – 3).  Thirty-four games into this season, and already four different players have started in left.  But mostly (for 23 games, anyway) it has been Holliday.

The results, however, with the season now more than a fifth over, are a cause for some concern.  St Louis is 9-14 (.391) with Holliday starting in left, scoring 4.78 runs per game with a 4.32 ERA.  The numbers for the others: Jeremy Hazelbaker – 6 starts, 5-1 record, 8.67 rpg, 2.67 ERA; Brandon Moss – 4 starts, 4-0 record, 6.25 rpg, 1.75 ERA (although 5 unearned runs have scored against the team in those four games); and Tommy Pham, who started the season-opening 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh.  In the 23 games that Holliday has started in left, the pitching staff fashioned just 9 quality starts.  They have 8 in the 11 games that someone else has started in left.

Is it too early to draw conclusions from these numbers?  I think so.  But it is a little jarring to note that we have as many wins without Matt in left as we do with him (in less than half the games).  This is a trend we will keep an eye on.

Position: Center Field

Randal Grichuk has made 25 of the first 34 starts in center field.  He would probably have five or six more starts there, but his early-season offensive struggles have bought him a few more days off than he would have liked.  Standing in for him have been Hazelbaker (7 games) and Piscotty (2 games).  Even though Randal has yet to find his hitting groove, the numbers still show that he is the best option in CF.  The Cards are 14-11 with him and 4-5 without.  They score 5.72 runs per game with Grichuk in center and 5.00 with someone else.  The team ERA is 3.51 with Grichuk in center.  When the other two are out there, it rises to 4.33.  Randal – though off to a slow start – is a big-time talent.  The plan is for him to be in center field in St Louis for a long time to come.

Position: Right Field

Stephen Piscotty started the second most games in right field last year.  He started 11 there.  Over the off-season, his name was floated as an option at first base (where he started 9 times last year).  But with the defection of last year’s starting right fielder, it was clear that the talented Mr. Piscotty would be ticketed for the right field position.  Stephen has started 29 there already this year, with the Cards winning 16 of them.  Other right fielders have been Moss (1-2) and Hazelbaker (1-1).  Stephen has some versatility.  He can play first as well as all the outfield positions.  But for the foreseeable future, expect to see him in right field pretty much every day.

Last Night

Meanwhile, last night’s victory added more credibility to the recent Cardinal turn around.  Yes, yes, it’s mostly against Philadelphia and the Angels (although I remind you that the Phillies are 19-15), but encouraging nonetheless.  In winning, now, six of their last nine, St Louis has fashioned a 2.89 ERA and pitching-wise is starting to resemble a little the staff we saw last year.

Stephen Piscotty

With two more hits and an RBI last night, Piscotty is now hitting .421 (16-for-38) over his last nine games, with seven RBIs.

Stephen was also 1-for-2 with runners in scoring position.  He now has 6 hits in his last 10 RISP opportunities.

Moreover, Piscotty added a couple more two-strike hits.  Over the last 9 games, Piscotty is now 6-for15 (.400) with two strikes on him.

Piscotty’s hits last night came in the fifth and seventh innings.  Through his last nine games, Piscotty is only hitting .167 (3-for-18) through the first four innings.  From the fifth inning on, Piscotty has 13 hits in his last 20 at bats (.650)

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina shows little signs of slowing down, in spite of his heavy early season work load.  Two more hits last night raise his season average back up to .325.  He has hits in 10 of his last 32 at bats (.313).

Molina also added a 2-strike hit.  He is now 6 for his last 14 (.429) with 2-strikes on him.

Yadi’s third-inning double was his only 2-out at bat of the game.  Molina is 4 for his last 10 (.400) with two-outs.

Randal Grichuk

Grichuk’s bat continues to heal.  His two hits last night raises his average to .308 (8-for-26) over the last 9 games (including 2 home runs and 6 RBIs).

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter is 5 for his last 8 first-inning at bats.  Thereafter, he is 5 for his last 24 (.208).

Matt Holliday

Holliday still can’t seem to put together any kind of streak.  After a 3-hit game yesterday, Matt went 0-for-4 last night.  He has just 7 hits in his last 33 at bats (.212) and is now down to .243 for the season.

Jaime Garcia

Jaime Garcia was in charge again last night.  Over his last two starts (both wins), Jaime has allowed 6 hits and no earned runs in 14 innings.

Mike Scioscia loaded his lineup with right handed batters against the lefty Garcia.  Thank you Mike.  All his righties went 3-for-22 against Jaime (.136).  Garcia – who always has dominant reverse splits – has now held right handed batters to a .173 average this season (22-for-127).

Jaime is also a nasty pitcher to hit when you have to protect the plate.  Last night, batters with 2 strikes on them were 1-for-14 (.071) against Garcia.  Over the two starts, batters are just 2 for 25 (.080) when hitting against Jaime with two strikes on them.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal needed 22 pitches to get out of the ninth inning.  He has now thrown 76 pitches in his last three innings.

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.

Garcia Dominates Milwaukee

In the best game of his career (a 7-0 domination of Milwaukee), Jaime Garcia pitched the Cardinals to their fifth win in the last six games.  A look at some of the numbers from the hot streak.

Matt Carpenter

While much credit for the recent surge in offense has deservedly gone to Hazelbaker and Diaz, let’s not overlook the turnaround from Matt Carpenter in the leadoff spot.  Billed in the offseason as baseball’s most dynamic leadoff man, Carpenter has been among the many to thrive since the team left Pittsburgh.  With two more doubles yesterday (and another hit by pitch), Matt is 8 for 23 (.348) in his last 6 games.  5 of the hits have been for extra-bases (3 doubles, a triple, and one home run).  Add in 3 walks and 3 HPB, and Carpenter’s slash line for his last 29 plate appearances is .348/.483/.696 with 8 runs batted in.

With his RBI double, Carp is now 5 for his last 7 with runners in scoring position.  Four of the five hits are for extra-bases.

Jeremy Hazelbaker

The league hasn’t quite caught up with Jeremy Hazelbaker yet.  With two more hits yesterday (including a home run), Jeremy now has hits in 11 of his last 22 at bats (.500), with 5 of them being extra-base hits (including 2 home runs).  He now has 6 RBIs in his last six games and a .955 slugging percentage since the team left Pittsburgh.  After going 7 for 12 with 4 extra-base hits and 3 RBIs in his first home series, the Brewers, for one, will be glad to be rid of him for a while.

Jeremy’s home run came on a 1-0 pitch.  Over the last six games, Jeremy is 9 for 12 (.750) when he hits one of the first three pitches thrown to him.  He is just 2 for his last 10 when the at bat stretches beyond 3 pitches.  The home run also came in the seventh inning.  Jeremy is 4 for his last 7 (including 2 home runs) in the seventh or eighth innings.

Randal Grichuk

It’s good to see the ball jumping off Grichuk’s bat.  Lucky two ways on his home run yesterday (lucky it wasn’t caught and lucky he wasn’t called out for passing Brandon Moss on the bases) Randall was nonetheless 2 for 3 and hit the ball hard.  He is now 3 for his last 4 with runners on base, and is 5 for 10 with a home run and 5 RBIs on the home stand so far.

Randal’s hits came in the second and third innings.  So far this year, Grichuk is 4 for 8 before the fourth inning and 2 for 16 thereafter.

With another walk yesterday, Randal Grichuk is now second on the team with 6, behind only Steven Piscotty, who has 7.  Randal hits mid-April with a .387 on base percentage and an .827 OPS.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina stayed hot with another 2 for 4 yesterday.  He is now 9 for 26 (.346) since the end of the Pirate series.  Molina was also 7 for 12 in the Milwaukee series.

Both of hits came with a runner on base.  Over the last 6 games, Yadi is 2 for 11 with the bases empty and 7 for 15 with at least one runner on.

Yadi’s seventh-inning single came on the first pitch thrown to him.  He is now 4 for his last 5 when hitting the first pitch.  That hit, coming with 2 outs, left Yadi 1 for 2 with 2-outs yesterday, and 5 for his last 10 when hitting with 2 outs.

Matt Holliday & Kolten Wong

Combining to go 0 for 6 yesterday, Matt Holliday and Kolten Wong haven’t prospered as much as the rest of the team has in these post-Pittsburgh days.  Holliday is now 5 for his last 22 (.227) with a .261 on base percentage, and Wong is 4 for 21 (.190) with a .190 on base percentage.  Kolten went 0 for 7 against Milwaukee.

Especially glaring for Holliday has been his recent struggles with runners in scoring position.  After ending the fourth inning by popping out with runners at first and third, Matt is now just 1 for his last 10 in RISP situations.

Kolten Wong did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly, but also flew out to end the seventh with runners on the corners.  He is now 0 for 11 this season with RISP and 0 for 16 with any runner on base.  He was 0 for 2 with 2-outs yesterday and just 1 for his last nine while trying to extend an inning.

Jaime Garcia

Twenty-four of the 29 batters that Garcia faced yesterday hit right-handed.  They went one for 23.  For the season, so far, righties (who hit only .218 against him last year) are just 5 for 39 (.128) – all singles – against Jaime.

Only 6 of Jaime’s starts last year came after a Cardinal loss.  He gave us 5 quality starts, a 3-0 record, and a 1.11 ERA in those games.  He is 1-0, 2.40 so far this year, as both of his starts so far this year have come after losses.

Only 3 of the 29 batters that Jaime faced extended the at bat for more than 5 pitches (they all struck out).  Through his first two starts, batters hitting his first pitch are 3 for 13 (.231).  Anyone who hasn’t hit Jaime’s first pitch is just 3 for 38 resulting in a slash line of .079/.163/.079 with 19 strikeouts.

Garcia, of course, had that rugged third inning in Atlanta when he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits and a walk.  In the 14 other innings that he’s pitched so far this year, he has allowed 1 single in 44 at bats (.023).  He has struck out 18 for the 47 batters he faced in those innings.

Overall

During their series’ against Atlanta and Milwaukee, the Cardinals have combined to hit .327, slug .576, reach base at a .404 clip, and score 8.67 runs per game.  After a 3 for 8 day with runners in scoring position, St Louis has punctuated its 5-1 run by hitting .375 (27/72) and slugging .639 with RISP.

Nine of the 11 Cardinal hits came in the 15 at bats that lasted 3 pitches or fewer (.600).  This included 5 of the 6 extra-base hits.

The late inning hitting continued yesterday as well.  With 3 hits in the seventh inning and another in the ninth, the Cards have a team slash line of .378/.459/.757 after the sixth inning of their last six games, scoring 20 runs in those innings.

With two more home runs yesterday, St Louis now has 11 for the season in 318 team at bats.  Their eleventh home run last season didn’t happen until game #15 (April 24), a sixth inning shot by Peralta against Garza in the team’s 501st at bat.  The Cards also added 4 more doubles (they now have 24 for the season), to push their team slugging percentage to .481.

Who Are Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz

Less than two months ago, as the defending NL Central champs opened camp, the spotlight shone intensely on handful of critical body parts.  Yadi Molina’s thumb, Carlos Martinez’ shoulder, Jedd Gyorko’s glove and Jaime Garcia’s head dominated the news stories as Cardinal nation searched for reasons to be hopeful after an offseason that was regarded – by those outside the organization and clubhouse – as disappointing.  Out of the spotlight and under the radar, rookies Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz labored in relative obscurity, hoping for just an opportunity to make the club.

Yesterday, as the Cardinal’s opened their home season, these two mostly unheralded rookies combined to go 7 for 9, with 3 doubles and a triple (12 total bases), 3 runs scored and 2 runs batted in to lead the charge in a 10-1 victory over Milwaukee.  The outburst gives the team three straight games in double figures for runs and 41 runs over the last four games that have been mostly dominated by Hazelbaker and Diaz.

OK, so let’s breathe here for a minute.  Diaz won’t hit .533 with a 1.067 slugging percentage for the season – just as Hazelbaker won’t finish at .526 and 1.053.  The league will make adjustments on them, and their futures as contributing big league players will depend on their ability to adjust – just as with every other player who manages to endure as a productive major league player.  That being said, there is no reason to assume that these players are merely April mirages.  Both have pedigree enough to suggest that this early success is more than just coincident hot streaks.  Diaz, of course, was a highly regarded veteran of the Cuban professional league when the Cards signed him two years ago, and Hazelbaker is a former fourth round draft pick who has always shown good power and great ability to steal bases in the minors, who hit .333 with a .594 slugging percentage in 200 AAA at bats last year.

There’s no reason to believe that these guys are not players.

Four games is an exceedingly small sample size.  As the season develops, the story will become more complete.  But, since the recent onslaught has been as unexpected as it’s been enjoyable, let’s take a peek inside these numbers and see what’s inside.

Jeremy Hazelbaker

Jeremy Hazelbaker certainly had an opening day to remember, going 4-4 in the midst of a 19-hit attack.  Jeremy has only started 3 of the last 4 games, but now has hits in 8 of his last 14 at bats (.571) with 4 runs batted in.

Jeremy’s early numbers speak of an aggressive hitter.  In his last 18 plate appearances he has swung at the first pitch 10 times (56%).  This includes 3 of his 5 plate appearances yesterday.  He is 4 for 5 when putting that first pitch in play.  The team as a whole only swung at the first pitch 29.5% yesterday ((13/44), and just 33% (61/185) over the last four games.  While the rest of the team has swung at slightly less than half the pitches thrown them, Jeremy has offered at 60.3% (38/63), an even higher percentage than Matt Holiday’s 56.3%.

Aledmys Diaz

After his 3 for 5 day, Aledmys Diaz – who the baseball gods demanded would get a shot this April – is on a 7 for 12 streak (.583) that began with his pivotal pinch homer in Atlanta and now includes 3 doubles and a triple.  Even though he has only started 2 of these last 4 games, he is still second on the team in RBI’s during the winning streak with 5.

In the early moments of his career, Diaz has also showed a surprising capability at hitting with two strikes.  He was 2 for 4 yesterday with 2-strikes on him.  Over his last 13 plate appearances, Diaz has hit with two strikes in seven of them, responding with 2 singles, 2 doubles and 2 runs batted in.  All of Diaz’ five plate appearances yesterday lasted at least three pitches, with three of them lasting five or more.  Beginning in Atlanta, Aledmys has seen at least three pitches in 10 of 13 plate appearances and at least 5 pitches 7 times.  When the announcers talk about Diaz’ veteran presence at the plate, this is the kind of this they are referring to.

Aledmys in the very early going also seems to have a very controlled swing.  In his five plate appearances, he swung the bat 11 times, putting the ball in play with five of those swings, fouling the pitch off five other times, and only missing entirely once.  This has been about what he’s done since he’s started playing regularly.  In his last 13 plate appearances, Diaz has swung at 24 pitches, resulting in 11 fouls, 11 balls in play, and only two swings and misses.  A couple thoughts on this.  1) Five of his seven hits have been for extra bases.  For a high-contact guy, he puts a charge into the ball.  2) This combination of taking pitches and putting the bat on the ball – if he can sustain it – would make Aledmys an ideal one or two hitter in the lineup.

In general, Milwaukee struggled to put the Cardinals away once they got two strikes on them.  The Cards responded with 9 hits (6 for extra bases) in 22 at bats with two strikes on them (.409).

Matt Carpenter

Behind the slugging rookies, the rest of the team is starting to put Pittsburgh behind them and join in the fun.  One of the most prominent is the resurgence of Matt Carpenter.  Leaving Pittsburgh 1 for 11, Matt has feasted on Atlanta and Milwaukee.  With his 2 for 4 yesterday, Carpenter is now 6 for his last 16 (.375), with half of his hits going for extra-bases and 6 RBIs during the winning streak.  He’s also walked twice and been hit by two pitches, so Matt’s on base percentage is .500 over his last 20 plate appearances.

Carpenter’s hits yesterday came in his only opportunities with runners in scoring position.  Since leaving Pittsburgh, Matt is 4 for 6 with RISP – a single, a double, a triple and a home run.

Steven Piscotty

Steven Piscotty has also left his season-opening 2 for 11 series at Pittsburgh behind.  He had two hits in the opener (both doubles), and has gone 7 for 18 (.389) with a home run, 4 RBIs, a .667 slugging percentage and a .500 on base percentage (courtesy of 4 walks) over these last four games.

Yadier Molina

Also having some fun yesterday was Yadier Molina, who went 3 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, a run scored and 2 RBI during the onslaught.  Yadi’s night featured going 2 for 3 with runners in scoring position.  He is now 3 for his last 6 in those situations.

Randall Grichuk

Randall Grichuk, who’s early season struggles have cost his some at bats to Hazelbaker, looked more confident at the plate, contributing a single, double, 2 more walks, 2 runs scored and his first RBI of the young season.

About those walks.  Grichuk had 5 plate appearances yesterday.  Once he hit the first pitch (for a single).  His other plate appearances lasted 5 pitches, 6 pitches (twice) and 9 pitches.  He now has 5 walks, none of them intentional, in his last 13 times up

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong did add a sacrifice fly for his first RBI of the season, but his is the only bat that hasn’t joined in the fun of late.  Zero for 4 yesterday, Kolten is hitting just .222 during the streak (4 for 18) with 3 of those hits coming in one game.  Kolten is still looking for his first extra-base hit of the season.  Zero for 3 yesterday with runners in scoring position, he is also looking for his first hit in that situation.  He is 0 for 10 with RISP for the early part of the season.  Wong, in fact, is hitless in 15 at bats with any runner on base this year.  He is 6 for 12 with the bases empty.

The Team

With 19 hits yesterday, the team is now hitting .351 since leaving Pittsburgh.  A team whose offense was very much in question has responded with 23 extra base hits (6 of them home runs) and a .597 team slugging percentage over the last four games.  The run has been fueled by team-wide success with runners in scoring position.  They were 8 for 20 in those situations yesterday (with five of the hits being for extra bases), and 22 for 58 (.379) during the winning streak.  (9 of the hits have been for extra-bases and the Cards are slugging .621 during that span in RISP situations.

Six of St. Louis’ hits yesterday came in 13 at bats with two outs (.462).  During the winning streak, the Cardinals are hitting .370 (20/54) with two outs in the inning.  With 3 more yesterday, the team has 15 2-out RBIs over the last four games.  St Louis has also excelled in opening up innings.  Yesterday, they put the leadoff man on 5 times in the eight innings.  Two of them scored.  St Louis has successfully reached 17 of their last 35 leadoff hitters (.486) and scored 13 of them (76%).

A final efficiency note.  St Louis was 5 for 6 delivering the runner from third with less than two outs (and very efficient moving the runner to third with less than two outs).  This was frequently an area of difficulty when the offense struggled last year.  Since leaving Pittsburgh, they are 11 for 18 in bringing in that run with less than two outs.