The strange dynamics of baseball were on full display in yesterday’s double header sweep (box score 1) (box score 2). The Toronto Blue Jays scored the first four runs of the long day of baseball. They also scored the last four runs of the day. In between, the St Louis Cardinals scored all of their runs (all 14 of them) between the seventh inning of the first game and the fourth inning of the second game. During that span of 9 innings (the first game went 11), the Birds scored their 14 runs on 22 hits and 9 walks (3 of them intentional. The hits included 4 doubles, a triple, and 3 home runs – a .400/.477/.673 batting line.
This is a long, long way from the team that struggled to put together six runs over three full games against the Pirates.
The sweep also gives them wins in 8 of their last 10 games – a feat they managed only once all last year (from July 9 to July 22). After the dismal start, the club has fought its way back to the .500 mark.
Yesterday, almost the entire lineup contributed something at some point.
Back in spring training, Greg Garcia was quoted as saying words to the effect that he wanted more than just a bench role. He believed he could produce well enough to start somewhere. Whether or not that is true, time will tell. But Greg had a very nice double header (4 for 4 in the 2 games, with a walk, a sacrifice bunt, a stolen base and a run scored) and has been one of the forces behind the recent surge.
Over the last ten games, Garcia is hitting .308 (8 for 26), and is now hitting .316 for the season.
Curiously, the run he scored in the nightcap was his first of the season.
Matt Adams started the second game having had exactly five total bases and two RBIs for the season. He collected five total bases and two RBIs in that game alone as he slapped his first two extra base hits of the season.
Dexter Fowler was another one of the double header heroes, going 5 for 9. The signs that Fowler is starting to come out of his early season funk are growing louder.
Dexter now has 7 hits in his last three games. His double and home run mean that six of his last 12 hits have gone for extra-bases.
After driving in no runs during his first 14 games, Fowler now has 5 RBIs in his last 7.
A notorious on-base guy, Fowler walked in both games of the DH. This was only the second time all season that Fowler had walked in consecutive games, and brings him to just 8 walks on the year (but 3 in his last five games).
Dexter is now hitting .333 with a .694 slugging percentage over the Cards last ten games.
In his three-hit night-cap, Fowler laid off the first pitch thrown him all five times. This was after he had swung at the first pitch in each of his last four plate appearances in the first game.
Matt Carpenter’s first-game, walk-off, extra-inning grand slam made the news reels, but Randal Grichuk’s last-out, game-tying home run in the ninth-inning of that game was arguably the most important hit of the day.
Grichuk finished the double header 3 for 6, scoring 3 times and driving in 3 runs. He also walked twice, once intentionally, and didn’t strike out. It was only the second time this season that Randal has gone consecutive games without striking out.
Grichuk begins the evening, now, having hit safely in six consecutive games (9 for 22 in those six) with 4 doubles to go with that home run – a .727 slugging percentage to go with his .409 batting average. Randal has also scored at least one run in seven straight games.
While he hasn’t gotten himself out much lately by chasing pitches out of the zone, throwing strikes – or even pitches close to the strike zone is a dangerous proposition with Grichuk at the plate. In the seventh inning of the first game, Joe Biagini probably put his first pitch to Randal exactly where he wanted to – a low, 96-mph fastball just fractionally off the plate inside. But not inside enough – Grichuk drilled it into left for the hit that drove in St Louis’ first run of the day.
For the season – even though he is only hitting .250 overall – Randal is hitting .319 and slugging .617 in at bats that begin with a first-pitch strike. All three of his home runs and 10 of his 11 runs batted in have come in those plate appearances.
Yadier Molina only played in the first game, but continued his hitting streak with two doubles. Yadi’s streak is now up to six games, during which he’s hitting .385 (10 for 26). His intentional walk in that game broke a string of 12 straight games without a walk for Molina.
Kolten Wong chipped in with a 3 for 8 double header – a single, a double, and the triple that set the stage for the game one win.
Whether it is coincidence or not, the Cardinals’ recent run of success coincides with the point where Wong started to play every day. Kolten has made ten consecutive starts and is hitting .333 (11 for 33) with a .636 slugging percentage (3 doubles, 2 triples and a home run) in those games.
Wong is another hitter that you throw strikes to at your own peril. In the eleventh inning of game one, Ryan Tepera challenged him twice with a fastball and a cutter over the middle of the plate. Kolten took the first one, but laced the second pitch into the right-field corner for the triple.
The trends seem to be positive for almost everyone in the Cardinal line-up except for sometimes clean-up man Stephen Piscotty. Hitless in five at bats during the double header (although he did walk twice and drive in two runs), Stephen is now 0 for his last 7 at bats and is down to .215 for the season. He has gone 11 games without a home run.
If you are looking for positives, one might be that Stephen didn’t strikeout in either game, and has fanned only once in his last five games. While the team has been winning 8 of 10, Piscotty has contributed only a .176 average (6 for 34).
The Pitching Staff
The performance much better for Carlos Martinez. Nineteen of the 27 batters he faced saw strike one. Only 13 of the 24 he faced in Milwaukee saw first-pitch strikes. Adam Wainwright battled, but continues to give up too many hits. The 9 he gave up in 6.1 innings yesterday brings him to 39 in 25 innings for the season. Opposing batters are hitting .361 so far this season against Adam.
The bullpen allowed just 1 run in 7.2 innings yesterday (given up by Tyler Lyons as he shook off a little rust). Over the last 10 games the bullpen carries a 2.48 ERA.
One of the exciting pieces in the pen is the healthy version of Trevor Rosenthal. With two more strikeouts in the second game, Rosenthal has 13 strikeouts in his 6.1 innings – an average of 18.47 strikeouts per nine innings. Rosenthal is starting to get strikeouts on his breaking pitches now. After a lost season in 2016, Trevor may now be better than he’s ever been.
With his intentional walk in the first game, Kolten Wong moved into a tie for the league lead at 4. It also establishes a career high already. In three full previous seasons and part of a fourth, Wong had never been given more than 3 intentional walks.