As May faded into June, the Cardinal playoff hopes seemed to fade with the month. Finishing May with four wins in six games, St Louis began June with a 30-24 record
Twenty-seven games later (15 of them losses) they staggered out of the month with a 42-39 record.
Certainly the starting pitching buckled that month, but there were many aspects of the Cardinal’s game that slipped significantly during June. One of the most disappointing was the relapse against left-handed pitching.
An eternal thorn in the Cardinals’ collective side, April and May showed signs of real progress against lefties. They finished those first two months 8-5 against them, and, during that month of May, even hit an unheard of .254 against lefties as a team.
But in June, the troubles began again. The Cards found themselves baffled last month by lightly-regarded lefties like Wei-Yin Chen (2-6, 6.14), Eric Lauer (4-5, 4.84), and Max Fried (1-3, 3.92). For the month of June, they were 1-6 when lefties started, hitting .202 as a team against them.
In the 4-4 start to July – which includes yesterday’s head-shaking 13-8 loss to San Francisco (box score), there have been an equal supply of positives and negatives. Among the positives is a noticeable upturn against left-handed pitchers. After averaging just 3.43 runs per game when lefties started against them in June, the Cards have scored at least 6 runs in each of the three games lefties have faced them this month. They beat Arizona 6-3 on July 2 in a game started by Robbie Ray; they battered Patrick Corbin 8-4; and then – in spite of the presence of the usually dominant Madison Bumgarner, they finished yesterday’s game with 8 runs. True, they didn’t exactly drive him from the mound. But Madison didn’t finished the sixth inning – surrendering 4 runs on 7 hits in his 5.1 innings.
A hint of progress, indeed.
While not doing as much damaged against the Giant lefties as he usually does, Jedd Gyorko nonetheless added two more hits (both singles) in four at bats against left-handed pitching. Jedd is pretty much the one right-handed bat that consistently takes advantage of left-handed pitching. With yesterday’s hits, Gyorko is hitting .358 (19 for 53) against lefties this season. It’s hard to justify not starting him against lefties.
Frankly, the turning of the calendar has brought the return of Jedd Gyorko against all pitchers. Almost invisible in June (hitting .159 with just 1 walk for the month), Gyorko has been dynamic so far in July. Starting seven of the eight games, Jedd has hits in all of them (getting multiple hits in 4 of those games). Jedd is 11 for 27 (.407) through the early part of the month. His 11 hits include 2 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs – a .778 slugging percentage.
Also encouraging in the loss were the three hits off the bat of Jose Martinez. Jose put together a terrific June (.314/.372/.640) with 8 home runs. Largely struggling in the early days of July (and fighting for playing time because of his leaky defense), Martinez is certain to get some at bats at DH in the upcoming series against the White Sox. This would be an excellent time for him to go on a bit of a tear.
Yairo Munoz also continued his recent hot streak. With 2 hits and 2 walks, Munoz has hit in 8 consecutive starts, during which he is hitting .345 (10 for 29) and slugging .621 (2 doubles and 2 home runs). Yairo has 7 RBIs in his last 8 starts.
Francisco Pena struck out against Bumgarner in the second, and then grounded into a double play against him in the fourth. Even granting that Madison is tougher than your typical lefthander, this still leaves Pena just 2 for 22 (.091) against left-handers this season.
Back on June 22, Jack Flaherty flirted with a no-hitter, finishing up allowing one hit over seven innings. Last night, he didn’t make it out of the third inning. Through his three starts since that near no-hitter, Jack has lasted a total of 12.1 innings, going 0-2 with a 7.30 ERA.
While yesterday wasn’t his best game, Jack nonetheless continued his mastery of left-handed batters. Giant left-handed hitters – who feasted on the Cardinal bullpen – had only Brandon Belt’s soft flyball single in the second to show for their 7 at bats against him.
For the season, lefties are hitting just .214 (28 for 11) against Jack. In June, they hit only .189 (10 for 53) against him.
In what was an otherwise horrific effort from the bullpen, Mike Mayers almost brought sanity to the game. He wriggled out of the bases-loaded situation in the third, and then added a scoreless fourth. Along the way, Mike faced three left-handed batters (Pablo Sandoval – who flew out; Alen Hanson – who popped out; and Steven Duggar – who struck out). He also faced three right-handed batters (Gorkys Hernandez – who fouled out; Buster Posey – who flew out; and Madison Bumgarner –who singled).
In that small sample size, was a little microcosm of Mike’s season. The right-hander has been surprisingly good against lefties so far this year, holding them to a .200/.233/.309 batting line in 60 plate appearances. He has had surprising struggles against right-handers. They are hitting .286/.322/.500 in 60 plate appearances.
Even since I bragged on him last week, John Brebbia has been relentlessly pummeled. His fifth-inning struggle turned yesterday’s game around and sent San Fran off with the victory. Since finishing a string of 13 appearances during which he was only scored off once, Brebbia had allowed runs in three consecutive outings, serving up 6 altogether in 3.1 innings. During this stretch, opponents have hit .529 and slugged .882 against him.
In his first 6 games since returning from the disabled list, Greg Holland fanned the hopes of Cardinal Nation. In those 6 games, he tossed 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and no walks while striking out 8. He threw 77% of his pitches for strikes, and held opposing batters to a .105/.105/.105 batting line.
Over his last three appearances, Greg has lasted just 1.2 innings, with 8 runs of damage (6 earned) on 7 hits and 3 walks (1 intentional) against 1 strikeout. Only 55% of his last 53 pitches have been strikes, and opponents have hit .583/.667/.667 against him.
Among the Holland mysteries has been his inability to retire right-handed hitters. They were 1 for 2 last night, and are now 17 for 43 (.395) against Greg for the season.
Starting to figure things out (perhaps) is lefty Brett Cecil. After the game was largely decided, he finished the sixth and tossed a scoreless seventh. Brett has allowed just 1 run (unearned) over his last 8 games (totaling 8.1 innings). He had a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings in June.
In 14 road series, so far, the Cards have now won 5, lost 4, and split 5. They are currently 23-21 overall away from home.