All winning streaks eventually come to an end – and always disappointingly. Yesterday afternoon, the Braves built a 5-0 lead and withstood a late Cardinal rally for a 6-3 win (box score). Even so, the Cardinals finished off their most recent home stand with a 4-1 record. They are 9-3 in their home ballpark in the season’s second half, and now 35-27 there for the season.
Doubly disappointing in the loss was another scuffling performance by the pitching staff. After being a decided strength throughout July, the pitchers started to show a little fraying through the 5-game home stand. They allowed at least 5 runs in each game, and finished the stand with a 4.60 ERA (4 of the runs scored were unearned), and, after Atlanta banged out 12 more hits yesterday, a .309 batting average against.
One of the encouraging pieces in July, Michael Wacha has been less sharp in his 3 August starts. Lasting just 5 innings yesterday, Wacha was brushed for 4 runs on 8 hits (including a home run). He now has made it through just 15 innings in his August starts, with just 1 quality start. He has now allowed 8 runs on 19 hits (including 2 home runs) in those innings – yielding a 4.80 ERA and a .317 batting average against.
As his excellent rookie season turns the corner into August, John Brebbia has started to take on a little water. Asked to hold a two-run deficit in the ninth inning yesterday, Brebbia was touched for 2 hits and a run. He has now been scored on in 3 of his last 5 games, allowing 4 runs on 5 hits (2 of them home runs) over his last 5.2 innings.
It was the first earned run charged to John at Bush in 17.2 inning this season (0.51 ERA). His other 7 runs allowed – including all 4 of his home runs – have been served up in 14.1 innings on the road (4.40 ERA).
Offense Still Hitting the Ball, But —
For the first time in 8 games, the Cardinal offense couldn’t manage 4 runs to support the pitching staff. Even at that, though, they finished the day with 11 more hits. The Cards finished this most recent home stand with a .305 team batting average (50 for 164). They are also, now, at .290 at home in the second half.
Even in defeat, Paul DeJong continues to be a bright spot. His 3 hits yesterday included another home run that sparked the comeback. Paul has now hit in 9 of his last 10 games – getting multiple hits in 7 of them. He is 18 for 45 (.400) in those games with a .733 slugging percentage (3 doubles and 4 home runs). He has scored 7 runs and driven in 10 in those 10 games, and now has 16 runs batted in in the 19 games since he’s inherited the third slot in the order.
Paul is now hitting .333 in August (18 for 54) and slugging .611 this month. Since the All-Star Break, DeJong is a .281 hitter (34 for 121), and a .554 slugger (6 doubles and 9 home runs). Paul has driven in 22 runs in 29 second half games.
While Busch Stadium seems to inhibit many of the Cardinal hitters, Paul DeJong has claimed it as his own. After a solid 9-for21 home stand that included 2 home runs, DeJong now has a .375 average at home (42 for 112) that includes 9 home runs, 22 runs batted in (in 31 games), and a .714 slugging percentage. Paul now has to figure out a way to keep that magic going on the road, where he is hitting .234.
Another bright spot was two more hits from Randal Grichuk. Out of his head, and modeling a new shorter stroke, Randal has been a force during the recent winning streak. He has hit in 5 of his last 6 games – getting 2 hits in each of those games. Four of the ten hits have been for extra bases (1 double, 1 triple, and 2 home runs), so Randal has a .435 batting average and a .826 slugging percentage over those games. He has hit safely in each of his last 7 starts.
He is now up to .302 for the month (13 for 43) with a .581 slugging percentage, and .321 in the season’s second half (26 for 81). Those hits include 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 6 home runs, for a second half slugging percentage of .630.
With 8 hits in 18 at bats over the home stand, Grichuk is now hitting .356 at Busch (16 for 45) since the All-Star Break.
Kolten Wong’s hot streak continues. Two-for-four with a triple yesterday, Kolten’s hitting streak reaches 8 games, during which he is hitting .462 (12 for 26) and slugging .769 (3 doubles, 1 triple and 1 home run). Wong has hit in 13 of his last 14 games, and is now hitting .409 this month (18 for 44). In 30 games since the All-Star Break, Wong is hitting .319 (29 for 91).
Kolten has also thrived on his home field. He was 7 for 14 (.500) during the last home stand, and is now hitting .324 (12 for 37) here since the break, and .349 for the season (45 for 129).
Prior to 2017, Kolten was only a .239 career hitter in St Louis (164 for 686).
Kolten has also gone 11 for 30 (.367) in his last 8 road games, and is now hitting .315 (17 for 54) away from home since the break.
Matt Carpenter saw a dynamic 7-game hitting streak come to an end with yesterday’s 0-for-5. In his 33 plate appearances during the streak, Matt amassed 4 singles, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 8 runs scored, 8 runs batted in, 6 walks, and 2 hit-by-pitches. His batting line over the streak was an impressive .360/.515/.680.
Even with the streak, Carpenter is still hitting just .220 (9 for 41) for the month.
As Atlanta built their 5-0 lead, they became the fourth team in the five-game home stand to score the first run of the game. The Cardinals have scored first only 3 times in the last 14 games – yet they are 10-4 in those games.
Yesterday was St Louis’ tenth opportunity to sweep a series this year. The Braves became just the third of those teams to avoid the sweep. Half of those sweep opportunities have come against teams (like Atlanta) that had lost its previous series. St Louis has completed that sweep in 3 of their 5 opportunities.
St Louis is now 10-7-3 in their 20 home series.