Tag Archives: Piscotty

Cards Have Chances, But Can’t Catch Up to Reds

In the waning innings of a closely contested game, 7 of the last 14 batters the Cards sent to the plate reached base.  When Mike Matheny talks about the team continuing to grind through at bats, this is what he is talking about.

Of those 7 late inning baserunners, only 1 scored – leaving the Cardinals (once again) one run short in another head-shaking loss.  This time they fell to the last place Reds, 3-2 (box score).

When Matheny bemoans the lack of that “one” hit, this is what he is talking about.

Of the 39 Cardinals who came to the plate last night, 25 of them batted with the Cards trailing.  They went 8 for 22 with 3 walks – a .440 on base percentage.  But only 2 of the 11 runners scored.

Since the All-Star break, this has been a palpable trend.  When the Cards are even in the game, they don’t hit at all.  Last night, they were 1 for 12 (.083) when the score was tied, and over the last 21 games, they are hitting .216 (50 for 232) when the game is even.  When they fall behind by one or two runs, though, this team has responded with a .289 batting average and a .383 on base percentage.

The other half of this frustrating trend is the pitching half.  Lately, Cardinal pitching has been very good.  They carry a 3.07 ERA since the break, and over their last 23 games they have a 2.84 ERA.

They have been very, very good – once they fall behind.  Last night, while they trailed in the game, the Cardinal pitchers held Cincinnati to 4 singles in 18 at bats (.222). But, for the few innings that the game was tied (the first when it was 0-0, and the third through the fifth when it was a 1-1 game), Cincinnati was 5 for 12 (.417).

This has also been a palpable trend.  Since the All-Star break, in the 41.1 innings the pitchers have trailed by one or two runs, they have a 1.09 ERA and a .199 batting average against.  In the 59.2 innings they’ve pitched with the score tied, their ERA is 4.83.  Cardinal pitchers have only allowed 19 home runs in 21 second-half games.  Ten of them have come in the 34% of the plate appearances when the score was tied.

Marrying these two trends casts an almost earie light on this Cardinal team.  On the one hand, you have an offense that doesn’t engage until it trails – but then battles furiously to put itself back into the contest.  This offense is paired with a pitching staff that will throw remarkable innings once they are behind to keep the team in the game – but as soon as the offense catches up, they almost immediately re-surrender the lead, and the cycle begins over again.

Again, this isn’t an issue of talent.  By every gage available to us, this is an extremely talented Cardinal team.  But every statistical measure at our disposal continues to show a lack of toughness.  Cincinnati is having a terrible season.  But they were tougher than the Cardinals last night, and have been in our matchups all season.

Tommy Pham

In what has been – so far – a disappointing season, Tommy Pham has been one of the finds.  With two more hits last night, Tommy is 6 for his last 14 (.429) and has reached base in 9 of his last 17 plate appearances.  Since the break, Tommy leads the team in hits (28), runs scored (14), runs batted in (12 – tied with Paul DeJong), walks (10), stolen bases (4), batting average (.364), on base percentage (.444), slugging percentage (.532) and OPS (.977).

With two out in the third inning, Pham slapped a ball through into left for a single.  It would be the only hit the Cards would have all night while the game was tied (it was 1-1 at that point).  Tommy has been the one hitter the Cards have had who has been able to produce while the score is tied.  Since the break, Tommy is hitting .367 (11 for 30) in tie games, and for the year he hits .302 (26 for 86) in that situation.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter was back in the leadoff spot last night, but it didn’t help.  He was 0 for 4, and is now hitless in his last ten at bats.  Matt’s last home run came against Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole on June 24 – 117 at bats ago.  It has also been seven games since his last run batted in.

Carpenter is a .232 hitter this year (32 for 138) when the game is tied.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty added another 0-for-4 to his growing collection. To say it hasn’t been his season so far would be an understatement.  Stephen is now 1 for 12 since his return from the DL; 1 for 16 (.063) in the second half; and 4 for 37 (.108) in his last 11 games.  For the season, his average has fallen to .228.

Randal Grichuk

And Randal Grichuk has disappeared again.  Hitless in 3 at bats yesterday (with two strikeouts), Randal is now 0 for his last 10 (with 7 strikeouts).  In 8 games since his 4-hit game, Grichuk has totaled 3 hits in 25 at bats (.120).

Randal was up twice yesterday with the Cards down by a run.  He struck out both times.  For the season, Randal is 7 for 38 (.184) with just 4 runs batted in when he hits trailing by one run.

Starting Pitchers in Tie Games

Mike Leake has battled the pitching aspect of this trend all season.  In 28.2 innings when trailing, but by less than three runs, Leake holds a 2.83 ERA.  This rises to 4.09 if the game is tied.

Among the others, Adam Wainwright has defied the general trend.  When he falls behind, things can get ugly in a hurry, but in 48 innings this season with the score tied, Waino has a 2.44 ERA and a .239 batting average against.  Over his last three starts, Wainwright has a 0.64 ERA with a .140 average against in 14 innings while his games have been tied.  He has walked just 2 batters in those innings.  Adam has won a team-high 11 games.  One way you do that is by not giving up runs while the game is tied.

The resurgent Michael Wacha has followed a similar pattern.  All season, he’s been very strong while the game has been tied (2.72 ERA; .230 average against in 43 tied innings), but has been even better in the second half (11.2 innings; 2.31 ERA; .195 batting average).

Carlos Martinez has struggled more than most at keeping the game even.  He has pitched in that situation for 54.1 innings, with a 4.14 ERA and 9 home runs to show for it.  His struggles have increased since the break.  In his last four starts, Carlos has only been even in the game for 7.2 innings, during which he has served up 3 home runs and 10 earned runs – good for an 11.74 ERA and a .361/.410/.694 batting line against.  A lot of that derives from his first-inning issues that we have pointed out before.

NoteBook

Joey Votto’s first-inning RBI double that gave Cincinnati its early 1-0 lead makes five consecutive games where the Cards have not scored first.

Doing Battle with Winning Teams

Yes, it could have been much, much better.  When Corey Knebel froze Greg Garcia with a 3-2 curveball, the home standing Brewers had held on to their 2-1 victory, giving them the 2-1 series win.  As with so many other games this season, the Cards fell just short.  As with so many other opportunities recently, the Cards just missed another chance to reach the .500 mark.

In the midst of the frustration, in the longer view all of this has been not so bad.

Yesterday’s game marked the end of a 13-game streak of games against winning teams – many of them among the league’s best.  The streak began on July 21 with 3 games in Chicago (the defending world champs, in case you forgot, who had yet to lose since the All-Star Break when we arrived in town).  It continued with a 7-game home stand against the two teams currently sitting in the two Wildcard spots, Colorado and Arizona (who also happen to be 2 of the 4 NL teams that have won 60 or more games already this season).  It then finished with these three games in Milwaukee – which I admit are the most disappointing of the lot, as the Brewers looked like they were beginning to sink.

Still, out of all of that, the Cards finished this fairly daunting streak of teams whose composite winning percentage is currently .548 with a solid 7-6 record.  Seven of the thirteen games (including all of the last four) were one-run games – with St Louis winning 3 of the 7.  Remember, prior to this, St Louis was 17-27 against winning teams, and are 17-21 overall in one-run games.

No, they couldn’t manage the “run” they keep talking about.  At the same time, it was a definite step forward.  The June version of this team would have gone 4-9 or worse during this stretch.  This finally looks like a team that can compete with the better teams in baseball.

Throughout the run, the heroes were the pitching staff.  Against four highly regarded offenses, the pitchers held the line with a 3.27 ERA and a .230 batting average against.  This continues an impressive streak that runs to the last two games before the All-Star break.  Over the last 22 games, Cardinal pitchers hold a 2.82 ERA.  This is the pitching staff that management believed heavily in at the beginning of the season, and as this impressive run grows, it is easier and easier to see why.

Holding the team back, of course, has been the scuffling offense that has been averaging only 3.75 runs per game since the All-Star Break.  Yesterday’s performance – which saw them finish 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, ending with 1 run and just 6 hits – is fairly representative of the recent struggles the hitters are fighting through.

As an exercise, I looked at the four pitching staffs – considering their season stats coming into their series’ against the Cards.  Over the 113 offensive innings we had against these teams, an average offense would have been expected to score 51 runs, hit 15 home runs, and bat .246.  The Cardinal actuals were 50 runs scored, 13 home runs hit, and a .253 batting average.  Over the course of the season – in 57 games against winning teams – St Louis is hitting .240 and scoring 3.89 runs per contest.

The message of this 13-game test is that the pitching staff looks like it can compete with the best offenses out there.  This is great news, because there is even more highly regarded pitching on the way from the pitching-rich farm system.

The questions swirl around the offensive component.  Can they show up as more than an average offense against the better teams in the league.  There are hitters on the way, too, so the lineup – as it stands – should be on notice.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong finished his day with a single in the sixth inning, and a double that was almost a home run in the eighth.  Wong looks like he’s starting to heat up, now, with 6 hits in his last 21 at bats (.286).

While there are questions about other bats in the lineup, Wong is spending this season answering questions about whether he is the second baseman of the future or not.  Yesterday’s hits bring his season average back up to .291.  In 38 games against winning teams, Wong is hitting .289 (35 for 121).  His absences from the lineup have probably been more damaging to this team than we immediately realize.

Matt Carpenter

Yes, Matt Carpenter was pushed back down to the three hole in the lineup, so his 0-for-4 should have been anticipated.

During his first two full seasons, Carpenter was one of the team’s best hitters against winning teams. In 2012-2013, Matt played 154 games against teams that would finish with winning records. He hit .314 against those guys (165 for 525).  Over the most recent seasons, though, he has lost most of that edge.  Since 2014, Carpenter has played 180 games against winning teams, hitting just .238 (156 for 655) with 175 strikeouts.  This year, Matt has played in 54 of the 57 games against winning teams.  He is 43 for 185 (.232).

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty finished the game 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a walk.  His last three at bats (which were both strikeouts and the walk) were excellent battles that lasted a total of 22 pitches.  Still, Stephen – who is still re-inventing himself – has been back from the DL for 3 games, during which he has one gift single in 8 at bats.  He is 1-for-12 in the season’s second half, and, stretching back 7 games before his injury, Piscotty is hitting .121 (4 for 33) in his last ten. His last extra-base hit was a double on July 2 – 38 at bats ago.

For the season, Stephen hits .216 (25 for 116) against teams with winning records.

Michael Wacha

Coming off a great July – he was 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA – Michael Wacha’s first August start was a bit disappointing.  When they sent up a pinch-hitter to take his at bat in the fifth, Wacha had allowed only 1 run – but had also only pitched 4 innings.  They were grinding innings.  It took him 81 pitches to navigate through those innings, which saw him surrender 5 hits and 3 walks.

Overall, Wacha has been one of those puzzle pieces that has mostly fallen short when facing winning teams.  Yesterday was his tenth start against a winning team.  He has managed only 2 quality starts against them, going 2-4 with a 5.84 ERA.  This number, though, has gotten better lately.  Wacha made 3 of the starts in this 13-game stretch against winning teams.  He was 1-1 with yesterday’s no decision, and a 3.38 ERA.  His batting average against these opponents was a solid .233.

Coming down the stretch, Wacha still looks like he is more answer than issue.

Other Starters facing Winning Teams

Of the members of the rotation, it has been Lance Lynn – whose future is very much in question here in St Louis – who has been the most effective when matched up with the better teams the Cards have faced.  Lance has made 11 starts against teams with winning records.  He has a 4-3 record in those games, with a 3.11 ERA in 63.2 innings, and a .178 batting average against.  Speaking only for myself, I’m not entirely convinced that Lance’s future isn’t as promising as some of the young arms on the way.

Mike Leake has also been very good matched up against winning teams.  In his 11 starts and 73.2 innings against them, Mike has a 5-5 record, a 3.18 ERA, and a .217 batting average against.  This isn’t just a factor of his good early start to the season.  He started twice in this recent 13-game gauntlet.  He pitched 12 innings, throwing quality starts both times, and going 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

Adam Wainwright has made 10 starts against winning teams, with better than expected results – 5-3 record and 3.28 ERA.  Carlos Martinez has been more hit-and-miss than hoped for.  In 12 starts against these opponents, Carlos is 4-5, 3.72.

Brett Cecil

Three consecutive two-out singles against Brett Cecil in the fifth inning doomed the team yesterday.  After a long streak of excellence that culminated with his brief enthronement as the team’s closer, Brett is sort of broken again.  In 8 innings since the All-Star Break, Brett has given 4 runs on 14 hits that have included 5 doubles and a home run.  Since the break, opponents are batting .389 and slugging .611 against Cecil.

Seung-hwan Oh

Settling back into the set-up role that he began in last year, Seung-hwan Oh looks like he has found himself.  He has allowed no earned runs in his last 7 games (7 innings), during which he has allowed just 6 singles.  In these games, batters have missed with 31% of their swings against him, 58% of the batters who have put the ball in play against Oh have hit it on the ground, and 72% of the pitches he has thrown have gone for strikes.  He has looked very sharp recently.

While this has been an uneven season for Oh, he has always been good against winning teams.  His ERA against them last year was 2.53 in 32 innings.  This year, his ERA against them is 2.49 in 25.1 innings.

NoteBook

With their series win over Pittsburgh, Cincinnati becomes the sixth of the Cardinals’ last seven opponents to have won their previous series.

The Milwaukee series was the Cardinals sixteenth road series of the season.  In going 22-29 on the road, St Louis is 5-10-1 in their road series thus far.

Relentless Pirates Finally Prevail

For eight and a half grueling innings last night, the Cardinals hung with the Pirates.  Continually on the verge of having the game blown open, they managed escape after escape.  When Josh Bell hit the inevitable home run that provided Pittsburgh with its 5-2 walk-off victory (box score), he became the eighteenth Pirate to reach base that night (12 hits and 6 walks).  By contrast – although they hit a lot of line drives – the Cardinals finished their evening having put just 6 runners on base (6 hits and no walks).

The Cards went down in order five times in their nine innings.  The Pirates went down in order only twice.  Eventually, the sheer weight of the Pirates relentless pressure (and the Cardinals’ inability to sustain anything like offense) was enough to do the Cardinals in.  St Louis jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, but never scored again.  It was yet another first game of a series lost, and yet another loss in which St Louis held a lead at some point.  These were items from yesterday’s installment.

And, of course, another late miss-step from the bullpen.

Tommy Pham

With outfielders dropping around him like flies, Tommy Pham continues prove himself as an everyday contributor.  Tommy finished the night with two hits, and hit another ball hard.  He is now hitting .371 (13 for 35) and slugging .657 (2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs) for the month of July.  In the ten games played so far, Tommy has scored 8 runs and driven in 9.  Pham has also hit in 12 of his last 15 games (although he has started only 13 of them), hitting .392 (20 for 51).  He has scored 15 runs over those 15 games, and driven in 12.

A statistical oddity: Pham came to the plate in the eighth inning with runners at first and second and one out.  He lined out to right.  For the season, Pham is a .295/.397/.420 hitter when up with the bases empty.  Four of his eleven home runs have been solo shots.  With one runner on base, Pham is a terror.  He is 27 for 65 (.415) with 5 doubles, a triple, and his other 7 home runs (.846 slugging percentage).  He has been up 3 times with the bases loaded, getting a single and a double and driving in 5.

But he is now 1 for 28 on the season when batting with two runners on base.

Stephen Piscotty

Before leaving the game with an injury in the ninth inning, Stephen Piscotty suffered through another 0 for 4 with two more strikeouts.  It’s been that kind of season for Piscotty.  He is now 0 for his last 8, and hitting .120 (3 for 25) over his last 7 games.  He hasn’t scored a run in any of those 7 games, and hasn’t had an extra base hit in his last 8 games.  For the month of July, Piscotty has had 37 plate appearances, with the following results: 5 singles, 1 double, 2 runs scored, 3 runs batted in, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts, once hit by a pitch, and 1 double play grounded into.  It works out to a batting line of .171/.216/.200.  Hitless in three at bats last night, Stephen is now 1 for 15 this month (.067) when batting with the bases empty.

What could happen now?  Well, Stephen’s injury has sent him back to the DL.  After a period of recovery, he could spend some time with Diaz (and maybe Grichuk) in Memphis, re-working his swing.  Being optioned to the AAA club after his injury clears might be a good thing for him.

In the meantime, Magneuris Sierra has made his way back to the big club, and should see some regular playing time.  That might be a good thing, too.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong returned to the lineup with an 0-for-3 night that snapped his 6-game hitting streak.  During the streak, Wong hit .450 (9 for 20), and slugged .650 (4 doubles).  He scored 5 runs in the 6 games.

Mike Leake

Mike Leake has now made two starts in July – last night and July 5 against Miami.  In those two starts, Mike has fought his way through 8.2 innings, allowing 23 baserunners (17 hits and 6 walks).  “Only” 10 of them have scored – and “just” 5 of those runs were earned.  It has cost Mike 156 pitches to clear those 8.2 innings.

Last night was the better of the two games, as Leake gutted his way through five innings, allowing just 2 runs although he dealt with 12 baserunners.  Of the 25 batters he faced, only 8 came to the plate with the bases empty (and 5 of those reached).

His evening was a study in frustration.  The third inning run he allowed resulted when he attempted to snare Gerrit Cole’s grounder and deflected it into an infield hit.  His fifth was even more frustrating.  After getting a double play to mostly ease him out of the inning, Leake walked the next three hitters and gave up the game tying single.

Over those last two games, 29 of the 47 batters he has faced have come to the plate with at least one runner on base.  He has pitched to only 18 batters with the bases empty, and 9 of those have reached.

Matthew Bowman

While some pieces of the bullpen are still lagging, others are starting to achieve sustained effectiveness.  Matthew Bowman pitched the sixth and gave a couple of hits, but got a double play and ended the inning with no damage taken.  Matthew is unscored on over his last 7 games (5 innings), and over his last 19 games (16.1 innings), Matthew holds a 1.65 ERA and a .246 batting average against.  He has also stranded all 11 inherited runners.

Matthew has always pitched very well with runners on base – this season he has held batters to a .221/.267/.324 batting line when they hit against him with runners on base.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil turned in his fifteenth consecutive scoreless appearance (15.2 innings) with his scoreless seventh inning.  He gave up a two-out double, but no damage.  In his 15.2 scoreless innings, Brett has given just 7 hits and 1 walk.  The batting line against him in those innings has been .137/.154/.176.

Trevor Rosenthal

Add Trevor Rosenthal to the list of relief pitchers who seem to be turning things around.  He had the Pirates three-up-and-three down with two strikeouts in the eighth.  He has now strung together 4 consecutive perfect outings of one inning each, striking out 7 of the 12 he’s faced.  Sixty-eight percent of his pitches (36 of 53) have been strikes – usually the defining issue for Trevor, and batters have missed on 41% of their swings (9 of 22).

This year Trevor has been absolutely golden until a runner gets on.  Hitting against him with the bases empty, batters are .167/.244/.218.  Once a runner reaches, though, batters improve to .277/.373/.383 against him.  Half of the 16 walks he’s allowed this year have come with at least one runner already on base.

Still, most of the bullpen has been coming around.  Through the first 10 games (and 30 innings) of July, everyone other than the closer has combined for an 0.90 ERA, no home runs allowed, and a .236/.306/.291 batting line against.  Now if they could only fix that ninth inning.

Seung-hwan Oh

So, it’s a pretty bad thing when your closer comes into a tie game in the ninth inning, and you get that sinking feeling in your stomach.  Such is the season for Seung-hwan Oh.  A double, a fly ball, an intentional walk, a three-run walk-off home run.  I tried to be surprised, but . . .

Heroic last year, Seung-hwan has now allowed runs in 7 of his last 14 games.  Over his last 13 innings, he has given 11 runs on 20 hits – 5 of them home runs.  He carries a 7.62 ERA over those games, while opponents are hitting .351 and slugging .632 against him.

With the home run, Oh has now allowed 22 runs (19 earned) this year in 41 innings.  He surrendered 20 runs (17 earned) all of last year in 79.2 innings.

The home run was the eighth against him in 2017 (only 5 were hit off of him all last year).  He is now on pace to serve up 15 home runs for the season.  In 2001, Dave Veres saved 15 games.  He served up 12 home runs in 66.2 innings.  That is the most home runs allowed by any Cardinal reliever in this century who saved at least 10 games that season.  At 20 or more saves, the record goes to Jason Motte, who saved 45 games in 2012 while serving up 10 home runs in 80.1 innings.  Oh is already in that neighborhood.

Sixty-one batters have now reached base against Oh in just 41 innings.  The only batter he faced last night with the bases empty doubled to left.  In the 6 games he’s pitched in July, batters up with the bases empty are 6 for 11 (.545) with a double and a home run (.909 slugging percentage).  For the season, Seung-hwan (who, by the way, turned 35 today) has a .333/.349/.536 batting line against with the bases empty.

Cardinals Rake Over Another Left-Handed Pitcher

So, I have to admit that yesterday’s game had me worried.  On the mound for New York was a lefty (Steven Matz) that no one but Dexter Fowler had ever faced before.  Ever since forever, this has been a team that has scuffled against left-handed pitching – even more so when that lefty was fairly unfamiliar.

But that would not be the script Sunday.  Beating a left-hander for the third time on the home stand – and batting one around for the second time on the home-stand – the Cards brushed past Matz and the Mets 6-0 (box score).

Six days earlier they had routed Jeff Locke.  This wasn’t exactly headline worthy stuff.  Locke has struggled all season (and was, in fact, released the day after the Cardinals beat on him).  Matz, however, is a much different story.  Carrying a 2.12 ERA and riding a 17-inning scoreless streak into the contest, Steven Matz is one of the rising stars in the National League.  Even though he wasn’t his sharpest on Sunday, driving him from the mound before he made it through five innings was an impressive feat.

In 94 plate appearances early in the month of July, St Louis is hitting left-handers at a .338/.415/.613 clip.  Something almost unheard of.  Usually, even marginal left-handers are more than enough to bedevil the Cards.

A Time of Coming Together

Early June was highlighted by a seven-game road trip through Chicago and Cincinnati.  The Cards lost all seven games.  They sat, at that moment, six games under (26-32), and were a team in quite a bit of disarray.  Very few of the pieces were fitting together.

In the 30 games since – beginning about a month ago with a June 9 game against Philadelphia – the Cardinals have been gradually coming together.  They are 17-13 – a decent .567 percentage – since that road trip, and have shown in flashes the team they thought they were going to be.

With 3 more home runs yesterday, the Cardinals have 49 over the last 30 games.  They have hit .268/.346/.475 over those games, and scored 170 runs (5.67 per game).

Meanwhile, the once-toxic bullpen has worked 103.1 innings over those last 30 games with a 2.61 ERA and a .238 batting average against.

Still a little spotty has been the starting rotation.  They have provided quality starts for 15 of the 30 games, with a 4.58 ERA and a .268/.329/.470 batting line against.  In their last 167 innings, the starters have served up 27 home runs.

Tommy Pham

Going back to the June 9 game, Tommy Pham is the only player to play in all of the last 30 Cardinal games – he has started 26.  He carries a .306 batting average through those games (33 for 108), and a .519 slugging percentage (3 doubles, 1 triple, and 6 home runs).  He has scored 23 runs and driven in 19 over that span.  He was 3-for-3 yesterday, and finished the Met series with 4 hits in his last 5 at bats.

All of Pham’s hitting yesterday (2 singles and the big home run) came off the left-hander Matz.  Throughout their recent history, St Louis has searched for that bat that could make a difference against lefties.  Pham has now had 58 plate appearances against left-handed hurlers this season.  They have resulted in 10 singles, 1 double, 1 triple, 4 home runs, 11 runs batted in, 10 walks, and 2 sacrifice flies – a .348/.448/.674 batting line.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler goes into the All-Star Break with the momentum of a 2-for-4 game.  He has missed a good part of the last 30 games – he has played in only 16 of them, starting 14 – but over that span has resembled the hitter they remember.  Dexter is hitting .339 (19 for 56) and slugging .714 (3 doubles, 6 home runs) since the beginning of the first Philadelphia series.

Fowler went 1 for 3 while Matz was in there.  He began the season batting .196 against left-handed pitching (11 for 56).  He is now 4 for his last 12 (.333) including a home run off of Baltimore lefty Vidal Nuno on June 20 (the only one of his 14 home runs hit off a lefty this season).

Fowler also singled of the right-hander Seth Lugo in the seventh.  He is now 15 for his last 44 against right-handers (.341), including 3 doubles and 5 home runs (.750 slugging percentage).

Paul DeJong

And then there was rookie Paul DeJong.  After going 7 for 8 in the first two games of the Met series (1 single, 4 doubles and 2 home runs), Paul finished off the series in good form with two more hits including another home run.  The game pushes DeJong’s overall hitting streak to 6 games, during which he has hit .600 (12 for 20) and slugged 1.300 (5 doubles and 3 home runs).

Paul returned to the big league team on June 15.  In 24 games since then (22 of them starts), Paul is a .345 hitter (30 for 87) and a .701 slugger (7 doubles and 8 home runs).  He has scored 15 runs in those games and driven in 16.

He sure looks like he belongs.

Additionally, DeJong looks like he could also be an impact bat against lefties.  He was 2-for-2 against Matz yesterday and is 9 for 26 (.346) against left-handers over the season.  His 2 doubles and 2 home runs against them are good for a .654 slugging percentage.

Stephen Piscotty

With outfield starts becoming a coveted commodity, Stephen Piscotty isn’t really making a compelling case for himself.  Hitless in 3 at bats yesterday, Stephen is 3 for 21 (.143) over his last six games with no extra base hits, no runs scored, and 2 runs batted in.

Piscotty has played in 29 of the last 30 games (starting 25).  He carries a .212 average (21 for 99) with 2 home runs and 14 runs batted in.

During his first two seasons, Stephen hit .301/.390/.536 against lefthanders.  After his 0 for 2 against Matz, Piscotty is down to .195 against lefties (8 for 41) this year.  The hits have been 5 singles (one an infield single) and 3 doubles – a .268 slugging percentage.  Stephen has 3 runs batted in against left-handed pitching all season.

More recently, Stephen has been struggling against right-handers as well.  He is now 17 for his last 86 (.198) against them.

Lance Lynn

After back-to-back starts where he gave up 7 runs to Baltimore and then 7 more to Pittsburgh, Lance Lynn has bounced back a bit.  Over his last three starts, Lynn has tossed 18.1 innings with 2 quality starts and a 2.45 ERA.  The last 68 batters to face him are hitting .203.  Most of Lance’s outings have been very good, but haven’t lasted very long.  In fact, yesterday was only the second time in his last 9 starts that Lance has made it through 6 innings.

Up until this year, Lance had always been good, but not dominant when facing right-handed hitters.  Since he became a member of the rotation back in 2012, righties had hit .241 against him.  This year – after the Met right-handers were held to 1 infield hit in 11 at bats against Lynn yesterday, they are hitting .177 (34 for 192) against him for the year.

Trevor Rosenthal

In his perfect eighth inning, Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side.  He has now struck out the last 5 batters to face him.

Two of last night’s strikeouts were right-handed batters.  When he first arrived in the majors, Trevor dominated right-handers.  In 2012 & 2013, right-handed hitters hit .201/.281/.308 against him.  Through 2014 & 2015, righties found themselves better able to cope with Trevor.  Their batting line those years was .266/.346/.377.  Last year, an injured Rosenthal was taken advantage of by all hitters, including right-handers.  They hit .293/.381/.404 against him.

But this year, Rosenthal has taken a sort-of step back to the dominance of his first two years.  With yesterday’s strikeouts, right-handers are now just 10 for 58 (.172) with just 2 extra-base hits (.259 slugging percentage) and 29 strikeouts against him. The problems, though, are the walks.  None yesterday, but 8 of the 67 right-handers he’s faced have walked (with 3 of them coming around to score).

John Brebbia

John Brebbia was touched for a damaging unearned run in the first game of the Met series, but – after his 1-2-3 ninth yesterday – John has gone 8 games (8.1 innings) without giving up an earned run.  The last 35 batters to face him are hitting .194 (6 for 31) and slugging .258 (4 singles, 2 doubles).  John has given earned runs in only 1 of his last 13 games (15 innings).  He has a 1.20 ERA and a .182 batting average against in those games.

All three batters he faced (and retired) yesterday were left-handed batters.  Lefties are now hitting .214 (6 for 28) against Brebbia.

Two Paragraph First Half Summary

The season began with 9 losses in the first 12 games.  At the moment they had overcome that start and moved into first place on May 14, they immediately lost 22 of their next 32 games.  Over the first 88 games, both the everyday lineup and the bullpen have undergone multiple shakeups.  While the starting rotation has remained intact, they have been wildly inconsistent.

And through all that, the St Louis Cardinals hit the All-Star Break just 2 games under .500, and – and this is huge – tied with the defending World Champs.  Last year, we entered the break 4 games over (46-42) but already 7 games behind the Cubs.  If anyone had offered us a deal at the beginning of the year that we would hit the break tied with the Cubs, I think most of us would have been happy to accept it.

NoteBook

The Cardinals’ first opponent after the break will be the Pittsburgh Pirates – who are coming off winning two of three from the Cubs, and finished the first half winning five of six.  In an April 24 game, the Pirate pitching staff surrendered the most runs it has all season when they were savaged by a 14-3 score.  The opponent that day was the Chicago Cubs.  Yesterday afternoon – playing the Cubs again – the Pirates scored their most runs of the season so far, beating Chicago 14-3.

Yesterday’s win puts St Louis at 5-6 this season in rubber games.

Of the 17 series where the Cardinals have lost the first game, this is now the fifth time they have come back to win one of those series.  (They have also come back to tie one.)  After losing the first game of these series, St Louis is 20-16 in the remaining games.

Jedd Gyorko suffered through an 0-for-4 afternoon, but his first-inning RBI on a ground-out did stand up as the game winner.  Jedd has tied Yadier Molina for second on the club with 5 game-winning-RBIs.  Fowler still leads the team with 7.

Another Game, Another Lead Surrendered

In a scenario oft-repeated this year, the Cardinals spit up a late lead (this time, a two-run lead in the sixth inning) on their way to a 5-2 loss (box score).  All year, the Cardinal pitching staff has treated a lead as though they were allergic to them.  Throughout the month of June, the staff pitched 27.2 innings with a 2-run lead.  In those innings, Cardinal pitching gave up 22 runs (a 7.16 ERA) with a .262/.331/.477 batting line.  If the offense should provide them a three-run lead, the response was even worse – a 10.95 ERA (15 runs in 12.1 innings) with a .370/.407/.593 batting line.

Those numbers are staggering enough, but they are just an extension of the pattern that has held all year long.  In 70 innings this year with a two run lead, Cardinal pitching has been battered for 47 earned runs (6.04 ERA) and a .256/.320/.419 batting line.  They have had a three-run lead to protect for 39.1 innings so far this year – promptly serving up 29 runs (6.64 ERA) and a .307/.350/.464 batting line against.

St Louis has now lost 18 games this season which they led by at least two runs at some point of the contest.

John Brebbia

What good news came from the game pertains mostly to the late bullpen, starting with John Brebbia’s seventh inning.  He did give up a couple of hits (after good at bats by Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton, who poked opposite field singles), but he worked out of trouble with no more runs scoring.  John (who finished June with a 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings, with a .159 batting average against), is now unscored upon in his last 5 games (totaling 5.2 innings).  He has thrown strikes with 70% of his pitches (56 of 80) in those games.

For the season, the only runs he has given up have come when St Louis was already trailing by 5 or more runs.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham had his roughest afternoon since his return from Memphis – an 0 for 4, 4 strikeout night. His strikeouts included one in the third inning with runners at first and second and one out, with the game still scoreless; and in the seventh, with one out and runners on first and third and the Cards down by three.

After a splashy start, Tommy returned to earth a bit in June – when he hit .265.  Disappointingly, he struggled most when a big hit might have done the most good.  With the game tied, or with St Louis trailing by no more than two runs, Tommy hit just .174 (8 for 46) with 1 double and 1 home run.  He drove in 2 runs, struck out 15 times, and slugged .261 in those situations.  Once the Cards took a lead he was very good (.342/.419/.500), and once the Cards fell behind by three or more he was even better (.357/.471/.643).  But that big hit with the Cards trying to hang in the game has been hard to come by for him lately.

Stephen Piscotty

Hitting right behind Pham, Stephen Piscotty’s afternoon was nearly as sour.  He went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts and left the same runners in scoring position that Tommy did.

As part of what has been a struggling year so far (Piscotty is hitting .245 with a .394 slugging percentage), Stephen has been particularly absent when the Cards have been narrowly trailing in a game.  With a deficit of between two and four runs, Piscotty is just 4 for 34 (.118) this year.

Randal Grichuk

Since the beginning of the Washington series, Randal Grichuk (who was 0 for 3 with a walk yesterday) is now 2 for 21 (.095).  He has neither scored nor driven in a run, but has struck out 9 times in his last 5 games.  He has played 10 games since his recall from Memphis, during which he is hitting .209 (9 for 43).

While the game was still scoreless, Randall walked in the second and struck out in the fourth.  He is now 7 for 45 for the season (.156) when batting while the game is tied.  While the game is within one run either way, Randal is 18 for 101 (.178).

Cards and Pirates Try a Little Role Reversal

Sitting on a three-game losing streak – and losers of 8 of their previous 11 – a somewhat desperate Cardinal management juggled the roster, rolled the dice a little, and saw starter Mike Leake struggle out of the gate.  Five innings into the game, St Louis found itself trailing again, 4-2.

This time, though, the end game would look a little different.  With the Pirates looking a lot like the Cardinals (with defensive issues and bullpen problems), and the Cardinals doing their best Pittsburgh impression with patient, persistent late at bats, St Louis finally broke through with two runs to tie the game in the sixth and 4 more to break it open in the seventh – on their way to an 8-4 victory (box score).

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina was riding a ten-game hitting streak when a bothersome knee forced him to the bench for a few days.  He was back yesterday, and without missing a beat.  He went 3-for-4 with a double, and all the hits were line drives – including one to right field in the seventh-inning that brought in the game-winning run.  Over his now 11-game hitting streak, Molina is batting .333 (15 for 45) and slugging .556 (his hits include 3 home runs).  After a sluggish start, Yadi enters the last week of June hitting .292 (19 for 65) for the month with some unexpected power.  His hits include 2 doubles and 4 home runs.  Molina is slugging .508 this month.

Yadi has been noticeably less aggressive this year.  Last year, Yadi came to the plate swinging – especially after the All-Star break, when he offered at 45.6% of the first pitches thrown him.  Whether he hit that pitch or not, Yadi went on to hit .410 and slug .615 in those at bats.  This season, Yadi is swinging at the first pitch thrown him much less frequently (38.2%) – and with lesser results (.258 avg).

Last night, Yadi took the first pitch in all four at bats (I don’t remember if that has ever happened before) – including two very hittable first-pitch strikes.  During July, Yadi has taken the first pitch 70.1% of the time (47 of 67 plate appearances) – and has prospered surprisingly while doing do.  Including the 3 hits last night, Yadi is hitting .326 this month (15 for 46) and slugging .609 when he takes the first pitch of an at bat.  All 4 of his home runs this month, and 1 of the 2 doubles have come in at bats where Molina has taken the first pitch.

Whether this is intentional or not, I don’t know.  But it has looked very deliberate.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham’s baby 5-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-4.  Pham hit .304 (7 for 23) during the streak, including 3 home runs.

The streak notwithstanding, Pham hasn’t had the best of June’s.  He is now hitting .232 (19 for 82) this month.

After Matt Carpenter opened the game with a single, Pham jumped all over a first-pitch fastball right down the middle and drilled it right at third-baseman David Freese for a relatively easy double play.  It’s kind of been that way all year for Tommy.  Across all of baseball, batters who swing at the first pitch of an at bat – whether they hit it or not – end up hitting .273 in those at bats (as opposed to .247 when they take that pitch).  Tommy Pham, this year, is hitting .188 in at bats when he swings at the first pitch, as opposed to .312 when he takes that pitch.

Pham entered the season having grounded into a total of 4 double plays through his first 358 major league plate appearances.  Last night he grounded into his tenth already this season in just 181 plate appearances.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty also had a small hitting streak end on him last night.  Piscotty had hit .333 (7 for 21) over his six previous games.  He hit two home runs during the streak and slugged .714.

Mike Leake

Leake elevated a couple of cutters in the three-run third inning – one a 1-2 pitch that Elias Diaz drove for a double, and the other a brutal 0-2 middle of the plate cutter that Adam Frazier stung for a 2-run triple.  Other than that, it was a very productive outing for the Cardinal right-hander.

Of the 25 batters he faced, only 7 swung at his first pitch.  This has been his MO throughout the season.  He throws that first-pitch sinker at the corners of the strike zone, and steals a little of the momentum from the at bat.  For the season, batters are taking Mike’s first pitch 71.1% of the time – and once they do, they go on to hit .213/.270/.332.

The 114 batters who have swung at Mike’s first pitch this season are hitting .300.  For the month of June, batters swinging at his first pitch are hitting .410.  Mike has had a lot of misplaced cutters early in the count this month.  Last night, the 7 batters who hacked at Mike’s first pitch were 4 for 7 with a double and Frazier’s triple.

Bullpen Pulls Together

While the 4-run seventh was the highlight, behind that was another solid outing from the beleaguered bullpen.  They went the last three, giving no runs, no walks and just one hit.  While starting pitching has been a hot button issue this month, the bullpen may be quietly coming together.  In 23 games and 81.1 June innings, the Cardinal relief corps has allowed just 72 hits and 19 walks.  The batting line against them has been a much better .238/.290/.399, and the bullpen ERA 3.54.  Their failures have still come at very critical junctures of the game – and much of the 9-15 record so far this month is on them.  But there is reason to hope that things are turning around out there.

Brett Cecil

With little fanfare, Brett Cecil is becoming, perhaps, the most dependable arm in the bullpen.  In 8 games since his heart-breaking tumble against Cincinnati, Brett has tossed 8 scoreless innings (including the eighth-inning last night) allowing only 3 hits and no walks.  Fifteen of the last 20 batters to put the ball in play against Brett have hit it on the ground.  During 10.2 innings this month, Brett has given 7 hits (.189 batting average against) and walked just 1.

Moreover, I get the feeling that most batters aren’t very comfortable stepping in against Brett.  None of the three he faced last night swung at his first pitch, and over the course of the month, 32 of the 38 batters he’s faced (84.2%) have chosen to take that first pitch.  Those 32 batters are 3 for 31 (.097) with one walk.  The six who have hacked at his first pitch have gone on to be 4 for 6 in those at bats.

Scoring Changes

If you keep statistics at home and you notice that Aledmys Diaz’ official batting average is something higher than you have calculated, then you may have missed a couple of recent scoring changes that have awarded Aledmys infield hits on plays that had originally been ruled as errors.

The first change is from the June 16 game in Baltimore.  In the seventh inning, Diaz hit that ground ball with the funny backspin.  It started well foul, but then hopped back into fair territory.  It spun off pitcher Gabriel Ynoa’s fingers and he couldn’t make a play on it.  Change that from an E1 to an infield single (and add 2 earned runs to Ynoa’s line as the change makes the runs scored on Pham’s subsequent home run – with two outs – now earned runs.

Then, four days later (June 20) in Philadelphia, during that 7-run eleventh-inning, Diaz was safe at first on what was originally ruled an E6.  That is now also an infield hit (and another earned run charged to pitcher Casey Fein as Pham again followed with a home run).

Carlos Martinez Plays Stopper – With Some Help From His Friends

Over the last two days, we have looked at character games – one run games and games against winning teams.  Thus far in 2017, St Louis has struggled notably in both of those situations.  Today, we’ll look at my third category of character games – games after a loss.  As you might expect, considering this club has already suffered through 5 three-game losing streaks, a four-game losing streak and a seven-game losing streak, the record in games after a loss is also fairly dismal (14-21).

For the first half of the month of June, it has been the starting pitching that has been most responsible for keeping this club in losing streaks.  In nine previous opportunities this month to answer the previous night’s loss, the rotation has managed 1 quality start (surprisingly from Michael Wacha against Philadelphia on June 9), a 1-5 record (the win, again, belonging to Wacha), a 7.47 ERA with a batting line against of .302/.383/.497.

But last night, Carlos Martinez played stopper.  In 92 pitches over 6 innings – and with a rare shower of offensive support – Martinez retired the Cardinals’ latest three-game losing streak with a convincing 11-2 victory over the floundering Baltimore Orioles (box score).

Carlos Martinez

Carlos’ effort last night was his second consecutive quality start, and his ninth in his last ten games.  Through his first four starts of the season, Martinez may not have completely lived up to expectations (he was 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA at that point), but has certainly played the part of the ace since.  He is 6-2 over his last 10 games with a 2.26 ERA and a .173 batting average against.  While the team has struggled to right itself this month, Carlos Martinez has been one of the few pillars of excellence.  He is 2-1 in June with a 2.11 ERA and a soft .169 batting average against.  Of the 12 hits he has allowed in 21.1 June innings, only 3 have been for extra bases – all doubles.  The slugging percentage against Martinez by the 78 batters he has faced so far this month is a negligible .211.

Carlos has been warming to the stopper’s role.  With a lot of losing going on, 9 of Martinez’ 14 starts have followed a loss.  Carlos has come through with quality starts in 7 of the 9 games, with a 2.47 ERA.  His record in those games is 4-3 (and the team is 5-4), but that speaks more to lack of run support.  Last night was only the third time in those 9 games that St Louis has scored more than 2 runs.

Since he became a member of the rotation beginning in 2015, Martinez has made 34 starts in games after a Cardinal loss.  He has responded with 22 quality starts and 220.2 innings during which he has allowed 189 hits (including 14 home runs) while striking out 219.  He is 17-8 in those games (with three other potential wins lost by the bullpen) with a 2.94 ERA.

The fiery, passionate Martinez seems a good fit for the stopper role.

The Other Starters as Stopper

Lance Lynn has had five opportunities to halt Cardinal losing streaks.  Although St Louis has only won two of those, Lynn has pitched very well in his opportunities as the stopper.  He is 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA.  Mike Leake has made 8 starts after a Cardinal loss.  Leake is 2-5 as the stopper (and the team is 2-6 having lost the last four), but his 3.46 ERA in games after a loss suggests that Mike has pitched better than that record indicates.  Michael Wacha (2-1, 5.09 in 7 starts) and Adam Wainwright (3-3, 6.16 in six starts) have struggled most as stoppers thus far.  St Louis is 2-5 when Wacha starts after a loss.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil got off to a bad start in his relationship with Cardinal fans.  Recently, he spit up a 3-run, seventh inning lead in a June 7 loss to Cincinnati.  In spite of that slip, Brett has been starting to resemble the pitcher we had hoped to see this year.  He threw a spotless seventh last night (yes, I know he had a 9-run lead at the time), and that difficult inning in Cincinnati was the only time in his last 12 games that he allowed an earned run.

Lots of Help From His Friends

After seeing infrequent offensive support for much of the season – and Martinez has already made three starts this year where he has pitched at least 7.1 innings without allowing a run, but has only won one of those games – Carlos has become the most recent beneficiary of the resurgent Cardinal offense.  The aroused offense tallied 11 runs on 14 hits that included a double and 5 home runs.  Since the second game of the Philadelphia series (the game Nick Pivetta started against them), the Cards have been averaging 6.43 runs per game, while slashing .288/.366/.515.  It’s very encouraging, but there haven’t been an abundance of elite pitchers included in the barrage.

Paul DeJong

Rookie Paul DeJong played igniter last night with 3 hits, 3 runs scored and 3 runs batted in.  Of the 14 major league games he’s played in, 11 have followed Cardinal losses – so this is starting to be business as usual for him.  Paul is now 11 for 40 (.275) in those games.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s hitting streak reached ten games with 2 more hits last night.  It was his fourth consecutive game with at least two hits.  He is 17 for 38 (.447) during the streak, with 7 doubles and 4 home runs – a .947 slugging percentage.

The streak raises Carpenter’s June batting average up to .333 (19 for 57), and his slugging percentage up to .667 for the month, with 11 runs batted in – all driven in over the last 10 games.

Carpenter has always hit very well in games after a loss.  He has now played in 356 such games over his career, hitting .294/.390/.480 with 41 home runs.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler also singled and homered, driving in 2 runs last night.  Dexter now has hits in 6 of his last 8 games, during which he is hitting .423 (11 for 26) and slugging .846 (2 doubles and 3 home runs).  He has driven in 9 runs in his last 6 games, and now has 30 for the year – 11 of them in June, where he is now hitting .306/.414/.612 for the month with 4 home runs.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham was one of the many offensive contributors – he also had a single and a home run.  Tommy has now played in 21 games after a Cardinal loss – games in which he is hitting .313 (20 for 64) with 3 home runs and 11 runs batted in.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty was the lone starter not to join in the fun last night.  Stephen’s difficult season continues.  After his 0 for 4 last night, Stephen is hitting just .167 over his last 9 games (5 for 30) with just 1 extra-base hit (a double).  He is down to .243 for the year.

Rally Falls One Run Short Again

If May was characterized by a sluggish offense that made a habit of wasting outstanding starting pitching, the 5-9 (so far) June of this strangely symmetrical season has been characterized by a fading rotation wasting some substantial offense.  Last night, the Cards lost their second 7-6 game this month (box score) after Mike Leake dug them a 6-0 hole in the first two innings.  To his credit, Mike battled back to finish six innings with no more damage – giving the Cards a chance to get back in the game.  In the end, though, this was yet another tight game that the Cards could have won, but didn’t.

Winning one-run games has been one of many struggles for this team.  Teams with high character will – over the course of the season – win most of their one-run games.

Now 9-13 on the season, the Cards have fallen to 2-3 in the 5 one-run contests played already this month – games in which the starting pitchers have managed just 1 quality start with a 6.08 ERA.  In just 26.2 innings, the rotation has served up 28 hits (including 7 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs) while walking 14 other batters in games this month that have ended up as one-run games.

The rotation has now not put together a quality start since Carlos Martinez tossed his shutout against Philadelphia.  Fourteen games into the month of June, the rotation has managed 3 quality starts and holds a 5-5 record with a 5.17 ERA.  They have combined to serve up 11 home runs in 76.2 innings.

Mike Leake

Through his first nine starts, Mike Leake took baseball by storm.  With quality starts in all 9 games, Mike was 5-2 with a league leading 1.91 ERA.  In 4 starts since then, Mike has no quality starts, an 0-4 record, and a 6.20 ERA.  His batting line has fallen from the .210/.242/.339 of those early starts to .316/.370/.500 these last 4 times out.

This was the fifth of his 13 starts that ended as a one-run game, and the first of the five that Mike didn’t contribute a quality start to.  He is 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA in those games.  The Cards are 1-4 in those games.

Other Starters in One-Run Games

Michael Wacha is the starter most frequently involved in one-run games.  Six of his eleven starts have been decided by one run (with St Louis winning only 2 of them).  These include both of his starts this month, a 7-6 loss to Chicago and a 3-2 win against Philadelphia.  Wacha has pitched well enough in these 6 games, with 4 quality starts, a 2-1 record, and a 3.60 ERA.

Carlos Martinez has been the rotation’s best in one-run games so far this year.  Only 4 of his starts have ended in one-run differentials, but the Cards have won 3 of them (4-3 vs Chicago, 2-1 wins against Milwaukee and Los Angeles).  Carlos has 3 quality starts in those games, a 2-1 record and a 0.96 ERA.

Lance Lynn has started three of these games.  He is 1-0 with a 1.33 ERA in 20.1 innings in them.  St Louis has lost his two non-decisions – including his duel with Clayton Kershaw that wasn’t decided until the thirteenth inning.

Adam Wainwright has started 4 of the one-run games.  He is 1-1 in these games while the team is 2-2.  In those four starts, Adam has no quality starts and a 5.31 ERA.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist pitched the seventh inning and – of course – allowed the run that eventually decided the game.  This was the sixth time this season that Kevin has pitched on consecutive days.  These appearances have totaled 5.1 innings, during which Siegrist has been touched for 6 runs on 10 hits – a 10.13 ERA and a .400 batting average against.  Perhaps a trend to keep an eye on.

Siegrist has been – over his career – one of the team’s best performers in one-run games.  During his first four years, he had appeared in 98 of them, going 9-7 with 30 holds and 2 saves while letting go of a lead just 8 times.  His career ERA in one-run games was 2.35 with a .203 batting average against.  He was especially good last year with an 0.96 ERA and a .160 batting average against in 30 one-run games (28 innings).

In 2017, Kevin has now pitched in 8 one-run games, accounting for 7.1 innings.  This was the first run he has allowed in any of those games.

Offense Starting to Find Its Way

Although the Phillies and Brewers don’t boast elite pitching staffs, the Cards are starting put together a little bit of offensive consistency over their last five games.  With the 6 runs last night, St Louis is now at 30 runs over these games – although they haven’t always done it with an over-abundance of hits.  Last night they had a 4-run second and a two-run homer in the eighth, but finished with only 7 hits on the night.  For the month of June, the team batting average slips to .249.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter hit leadoff for the eighth straight game last night, and ran his corresponding hitting streak to eight games.  He singled, doubled (his fifth straight game with a double), walked, was hit by a pitch and drove in his ninth run of the hitting streak.  Carp is now 13 for his last 31 (.419), with 8 of the hits for extra bases (including 3 home runs) – an .871 slugging percentage.

The streak pushes his overall average for the month of June to .300 (15 for 50) and his slugging percentage to .580.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz hit the two-run eighth-inning home run that narrowed what had been a 6-0 lead to what would be a 7-6 final.  Aledmys also had a single and ended up scoring two runs on the night.  He has 3 hits in his last six at bats, and is now back over .260 for the season (.262), but is at .279 for the month of June (12 for 43) with a .512 slugging percentage (he has 4 doubles and 2 home runs this month).

Aledmys didn’t contribute much offensively during the 17 one-run games played in April and May (he slashed .182/.217/.242 in 66 at bats in those games), but he has been a driving force in the five played so far in June.  In games that have ended up as 3-2 and 7-6 losses against Chicago, 3-2 and 6-5 wins against Philadelphia, and last night’s 7-6 loss to Milwaukee, Diaz is 8 for 19 (.421) with 5 extra-base hits and an .895 slugging percentage.  In the second half of last season (after returning from the disabled list), Diaz hit .349 in the team’s final 11 one-run games.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty slides to 0 for his last 8 after last night’s 0 for 4.  He hasn’t driven in a run – and in fact has only one extra-base hit – in his last 5 games – a span during which he is hitting .188 (3 for 16) and slugging .250.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko got things rolling with a two-run double against Nick Pivetta in the middle game of the Philadelphia series.  He hasn’t had a hit since then – a streak that has now reached 11 at bats following his 0-for-3 last night.  Gyorko has fallen back under .300 to .296 for the season, and is slashing .244/.289/.293 for the month of June, so far.

One of the interesting things about the recent offensive surge is that the Cards have done it with little contribution from their third and fourth place hitters.  And just to be clear, here, a 3-for-16 skid or an 0-for-11 isn’t anything to be overly concerned about.  It’s the kind of lull that attaches itself to everybody at some point during the long season.  Gyorko’s 10 for 41 July (which includes no home runs and only 2 doubles) is more cause for concern, but even that is nothing to panic over.  If the guys who are hot keep doing what they’re doing until Piscotty and Gyorko come around, this offense will be just fine.

From the All-Star break through the end of the season, St Louis was 17-8 in one-run games.  A principle factor in this success was the bat of Jedd Gyorko, who hit .286/.348/.631 with 9 home runs in those games.  Jedd has played in 18 of St Louis’ first 22 one-run games of 2017, hitting just .215 (14 for 65) with just one home run (hit off of CC Sabathia in the eighth inning in New York on April 15 as the Cards scored two late runs to trim a 3-0 deficit to a 3-2 final).

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia took over for Kolten Wong, who left the game with tightness in his forearm (and has since returned to the disabled list).  Greg has been a very useful role player, but he has also struggled at the plate this month.  He is now 1 for 14 in June (.071) after his 0-for-2 last night.

Last year, Greg hit a solid .268 in 30 one-run games (19 for 71).  He is now 1 for 19 (.053) in 16 one-run games in 2017.

Dodgers Win on Barrage of 1-2 Hits

The impressive run of starting pitching had to end at some point – and that some point was the fourth inning of last night’s 7-3 loss to the Dodgers (box score).  After Chase Utley got the Dodgers started with a second inning home run on a 1-2 pitch, three of his teammates followed suit with devastating hits on 1-2 pitches.

With a runner at first and two out and the Cardinals leading 3-1, Enrique Hernandez, Yasiel Puig, and starting pitcher Kenta Maeda hit successive ground balls that found holes, putting Los Angeles ahead to stay.  The at bats by Hernandez and Maeda were most impressive as they lasted 7 pitches each.

With the loss, the Cardinals have now dropped 6 of their last 8.

Michael Wacha

Mostly impressive in his return this season, Michael Wacha endured his worst start of 2017, lasting 4 innings and allowing 6 runs on 7 hits.  After an solid April, Wacha’s May has been a little ordinary.  In four starts (with one more, possibly, remaining), Wacha is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA and a .288 batting average against.

Wacha gave up a total of 5 hits on 1-2 pitches last night (including Utley’s home run).  None of those hits came off the fastball.  Perhaps batters are starting to look for that breaking pitch when they get behind in the count?

Brett Cecil

Say this for the Cardinals prize offseason acquisition, Brett Cecil.  He finds a way.  In last night’s contest, with runners at first and second and no one out, Brett uncorks two wild pitches and then serves up a double allowing all of the runs.  The game had been a one-run affair up until that point.  For the season, 11 of 23 runners Cecil has inherited have come home to roost (47.8%).  This is now three times he’s come on with two runners on and allowed all of them to score.  He has also inherited a bases-loaded jam and allowed all of those runners to score.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist turned in a good inning – albeit after the event was already decided.  In 9.2 innings this month, Kevin has a 2.79 ERA and 10 strikeouts.  He is starting to look like Kevin again.

Earlier this season, Kevin had lost the ability to get swinging strikes.  Last night, the Dodger hitters missed on 4 of the 7 swings they took against Siegrist.  All three at bats, by the way, went to 1-2 (and one of those resulted in a hit).  So far this month, 26 of the 37 batters Kevin’s faced (70.3%) have seen their at bat end before Siegrist has thrown ball two.

Anxious Offense Struggles Again

Again, last night, the offense endured another long silent stretch.  After a loud 3-run first, they didn’t score again over the last eight innings of the game.  During the 8-game slide, St Louis has hit 4 home runs and averaged just 3.88 runs per game.

When guys like Kenta Maeda shut down the Cardinal offense, they make it look so amazingly easy.  Neither Maeda nor Hyun-Jin Ryu threw with amazing velocity.  They nibbled with breaking balls on the corners of the strike zone and waited for the aggressive Cardinal hitters to get themselves out.  Throughout all of baseball (courtesy of baseball reference) only 28.4% of all at bats end before the pitcher throws ball one – and hitters usually prosper when that happens.  They slash .278/.287/.454 on those pitches.

Last night, 35.1% of the Cardinal plate appearances were over before the hitter saw ball one (this in spite of the fact that neither Dodger pitcher was really “coming after” the hitters.  St Louis slashed .182/.308/.364 in those at bats.  Over the last eight games, Cardinal batsmen are done before ball one 34.6% of the time, slashing just .257/.263/.367 when that happens.

It’s a symptom of a loss of confidence at the plate.  Hopefully, it will be temporary.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko continues to hit, even as the team fades around him.  He drove in the game’s first two runs with a double and had a later single.  Jedd has now hit safely in 22 of his last 27 games (25 of them starts).  He is 40 for 109 in those games, including 8 doubles, 2 triples and 5 home runs – a .367 batting average accompanied by a .615 slugging percentage.  He is now hitting .338 this month (27 for 80) with 3 home runs and 12 runs batted in.  He is 11 for 32 (.344) over these last 8 games.

On the double, Gyorko jumped on a first-pitch hanging curveball and drilled it just fair down the leftfield line.  Gyorko is now 11 for 23 when hitting the first pitch thrown him (.478).  He later singled on a 1-0 pitch.  Jedd is 20 for 53 (.377) this month when his at bat doesn’t make it to ball two.

That first-inning double was Jedd’s ninth of the season, tying – in 137 at bats – the total amount of doubles he hit in 400 at bats last year.  He has never hit more than 26 in any season.  He also has hit as many triples already this year (2) as he had hit in his entire career previously.

Jedd – after bouncing into 46 double plays over his first 4 seasons, has grounded into just 1 so far in 2017.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina extended his hitting streak to 14 games with two singles last night.  It hasn’t been the most torrid hitting streak on record.  This was only the third multi-hit game in the streak, and his average has been .279 (17 for 61).  He has not drawn a walk through the entire streak.

In fact, over his last 37 plate appearances, he has gone to three-ball counts only 3 times (8.1%).  For the season, only Randal Grichuk (among starters) makes it to three-balls in an at bat less frequently than Yadi (11.8% v 11.9%).  This is significantly below Molina’s 16.0% of last year.

Matt Carpenter

After getting two singles on Wednesday night, Matt Carpenter was 0-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch last night.  Matt is now 7 for his last 48 (.146).  His batting average for the season has fallen to .229 – and for the month of May he is down to .216 (16 for 74).  During the last 8 games, Carpenter is 5 for 33 (.152).

In three of his four plate appearances, Carpenter was challenged with first-pitch strikes.  He has seen strike one in 15 of his last 21 PAs (71%) and is only 4 for 19 (.211) in those resulting at bats.

The thrust of this is, I think, to keep from getting into three-ball counts against Matt.  This year, so far, Carpenter gets into three-ball counts a team-leading 36.3% of the time, and hits .333/.667/.788 once he gets there.  But if his at bat is over before ball two, he slides to just a .167 average (12 for 72).

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty’s 0-for-4 wrapped up a 1 for 13 series.  He is now hitting .158 (3 for 19) since his return from the DL, .214 (6 for 28) this month, and .224 for the year.

Piscotty hit the first pitch thrown to him twice last night.  In the first inning he flied to center on a tailing slider from Maeda.  In the sixth, he grounded to first on a changeup away from Ryu.  Over all of baseball, hitters who hit the first pitch are slashing .338/.346/.582.  Piscotty is just 3 for 13 (.231) – all singles as he is mostly disinclined to wait for a hitter’s pitch.  So far this month, 13 of his 32 plate appearances (40.6%) end before he sees ball one.  Of the regulars, the next highest is Gyorko at 36.9%.  As I noted earlier, across all of baseball, only 28.4% of PAs end before the pitcher has thrown ball one.

This number aligns with what I’ve seen from Stephen – especially since his return from the DL.  A lot of anxiety at the plate.

Leake Answers 13-Inning Loss With a Gem

Most of the time when a team needs to turn things around (as the Cardinals did last night after losses in 5 of their 6 previous games), the turnaround starts with the starting pitcher.  And as he has several times already this season, Cardinal starter Mike Leake answered the bitter 13-inning loss of the night before with his ninth quality start in 9 games.  He helped lead the Cards to a 6-1 conquest of the Dodgers (box score).

For all of that, though, St Louis is where they are on the season (23-20) because they have been largely unable to break out of significant losing streaks.  Already this season they have endured three 3-game losing streaks and, most recently, a 4-game losing streak.  Last year’s team was a modest 44-32 after a loss.  They finished with 86 wins and missed the playoffs.  The Cardinals begin 2017 with a 10-10 record in games after a loss (including a 5-4 mark in May).  There are various explanations for this struggle.  The starting pitching, though (which is suddenly starting to resemble the 2015 team an awful lot), has not been one of the issues.

Mike Leake

Last night’s dominating performance brought Mike Leake his team-leading fifth win of the season.  Mike won only 9 all of last season and has never won more than 14 in a season in his career.  But this is MikeLeake 2.0, and the rest of the National League might as well get used to it.  Last night he pitched 8 innings allowing 1 run.  It was the fifth time in 9 starts that Leake allowed fewer than 2 runs, and the eighth time that he has allowed less than three.  He walked nobody for the second straight start, and now has 0 walks in 4 of his 9 starts.  In fact, he hasn’t walked any of the last 62 batters that have faced him.  In 4 starts this month, his record sits at 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA and a .190 batting average against.

Mike Leake has been impressive.

But as good as he has been in all situations, he has been at his best when he has taken the ball after a Cardinal loss.  Four of his 9 starts have followed losses.  In the 30 innings that he’s pitched in those games, he has permitted 4 runs on 21 hits (14 singles, 5 doubles, a triple, and just 1 home run) while walking 1 batter and striking out 23.  Mike has answered those Cardinal losses with 2 wins (last night’s game against the Dodgers and another 6-1 win against Washington on April 12 that broke a 3-game losing streak), one loss (a 2-0 loss against Cincinnati on April 7), and one no decision (the May 17 game against Boston that he left after 7 with a 4-2 lead only to see bad things happen after he was gone).

His ERA in those games is 1.20 and the batting line against is .200/.206/.295.   This is outstanding.

The Rest of the Rotation in Games After a Loss

St Louis’ tepid record in wins after losses is all the more confounding when weighed against the excellence of the starting pitching.  Following the 9 losses so far in May, Cardinal starters have chalked up 8 quality starts, a 5-0 record, a 1.59 ERA, and a .193 batting average against.  For the season, the rotation has 13 quality starts, a 9-5 record, a 2.51 ERA, and a .223 batting average against when responding to the previous day’s loss.

Carlos Martinez has been the next best starter after a loss.  He has taken the ball in 5 of these games, throwing 4 quality starts with a record of 2-1 and a 2.10 ERA.  Lance Lynn has four of these starts.  He is also 2-1 with a 2.31 ERA.  Michael Wacha, starting 3 times after a loss, is 1-0, 2.50.

These four pitchers have combined to start 16 of the 20 games St Louis has played after suffering a loss.  They have combined to throw 12 quality starts and 105.2 innings with just 7 home runs allowed.  They are a combined 7-3 in those games with a 1.96 ERA and a batting line against of .190/.258/.302.

Through 43 games, one-time ace Adam Wainwright has been the “other” starter.  He has made the other 4 starts after a loss, but with less effectiveness.  He has thrown 1 quality start, and sits at 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in these games.

Always the Bullpen

As with almost every other statistical measuring tool, it is the bullpen that has been clipping the wings of the 2017 Cardinals.  While the starters are 5-0 this month after a loss, the bullpen is 0-4 with 3 blown saves and a 4.23 ERA.  For the season, the bullpen carries a 5.72 ERA in games after a Cardinal loss.

This is a trend I don’t expect to see continue.  Recently, most of the troubled bullpen arms have started to rebound and pitch as anticipated.  We’ll revisit this situation later on in the year and see how it develops.

Offense Gets By With a Little Help

Nine walks and a big error that allowed two runs to score eased the Cardinal path to victory.  With just 8 hits – 6 of them singles – the offense was less explosive than it’s been of late.  Still, it all combined for 6 runs.  Over the last 28 games, the Cards have now scored at least 4 runs in 22 of them.

Jedd Gyorko

Having had his six-game hitting streak snapped the night before, Jedd Gyorko responded with three hits last night to spark the offensive bounce back.  Jedd has now hit safely in 21 of his last 26 games – getting multiple hits in 11 of them, and three or more in five of them.  Jedd’s season average has soared to .331 on the strength of these 26 games of sustained excellence.  Jedd has hit .362 over his last 105 at bats (38 hits), and slugged .610 (7 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs).  In 18 games this month, Jedd is 25 for 76 (.329) with 3 home runs.

Jedd has now played in 8 of the 9 after-loss games the Cardinals have played this month.  He is hitting .417 (15 for 36) and slugging .750 (1 double, 1 triple & 3 home runs) in those games.  All season long, Jedd has been the most dangerous Cardinal hitter when the team had lost its previous game.  Jedd has played in 17 of the 20 games (starting 16) and has hit .358 (24 for 67) and slugged .642 in those games.  Of the 7 home runs Jedd has hit this season, 5 have come in games following a loss.

Dexter Fowler

As has been variously reported following his 0-for-4 last night, Dexter Fowler is now hitless in 20 straight at bats with 7 strikeouts.  He is now just 7 for 47 (.149) for the month.  While his overall batting average sinks to .206, his average in games after a loss is even worse – now at .149 (11 for 74), the lowest on the team.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty hasn’t come back from the DL with an especially torrid bat.  He has had one dribbling infield hit in his last 9 at bats, and is just 3 for 15 (.200) since his return.

But Stephen wasn’t especially torrid before he went down, either.  While the offense in general has done quite well since the beginning of that late April series in Milwaukee, they have done so without much contribution from Piscotty.  Playing in 16 of the last 28 games, Stephen holds a .231 average (12 for 52) with 4 extra-base hits (all doubles) and 3 RBIs.  His slugging percentage sits at .308 since late April.

Stephen’s last home run came in the ninth-inning of the April 15 game in New York against the Yankees – 81 plate appearances (and 322 pitches) ago.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk struck out three times in his 0-for-4 night.  He is 16 for 72 this month (.222).  With their combined 0-for-12 last night, the Cardinals starting outfield is now hitting .232 (Grichuk in left), .206 (Fowler in center), and .234 (Piscotty in right) respectively at slightly past the quarter-pole of the season.  Somewhat less than was hoped for.