Tag Archives: Wong

Offense Breaks Out as Cards Sweep Double Header

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.

Greg Garcia

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

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

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.

Randal Grichuk

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

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

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.

Stephen Piscotty

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.

NoteBook

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.

Wong, Leake and Rosenthal in Spotlight Against Brewers

The Cardinals wrapped up the Milwaukee series by winning the last three games, 6-3, 4-1, and 6-4.  The victories give the Birds six wins in their last seven games.  The charge in this one was led by three players who entered the season with a lot to prove – Kolten Wong, Mike Leake, and Trevor Rosenthal.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong wrapped up one of his most compelling series in recent memory.  With 2 hits, two walks, a stolen base, a run batted in, and two runs scored, yesterday, Wong finished the series with 16 plate appearances during which he achieved the following:

Two singles, two doubles, a triple, four runs scored, four runs driven in, three walks (two of them intentional), two stolen bases and just one strikeout.  His batting line against Milwaukee was a hearty .385/.500/.692.

He also committed an error and was picked off of second base.  In the good place that Kolten is in right now, mistakes don’t linger.  He puts it behind him and looks forward to the next play, the next at bat.

In the at bat that produced the RBI double, Wong took the first two pitches for strikes – something he was more inclined to do last year.  But after getting ahead of Kolten 0-2, Jimmy Nelson tried to get him to chase two low fastballs – but Kolten laid off both.  The first 2-2 pitch was a fairly nasty slider that broke to the lower inside corner of the plate.  Wong fouled it off, keeping the at bat alive for the sixth pitch – the fastball that Nelson elevated just enough for Wong to get under it and launch it over the center-fielder’s head.

As Wong relaxes into the season, his at bats are becoming – by degrees – more and more professional.  Last year, I think he strikes out in that at bat.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler came to the plate with runners at first and third and two out in the eighth inning.  He jumped on Jared Hughes first-pitch fastball, but drove it to the deepest part of the ballpark, where it died at about the warning track.  After stirring a bit against Pittsburgh, Fowler finished the Milwaukee series just 1 for 11 (.091).  To this point of the season, Dexter is just 2 for 11 when he hits the first pitch thrown to him.  Dexter was a little messed up earlier in the season.  At this point he is pushing through a little bad luck.

Greg Garcia

The recent resurgence has happened with minimal contributions from Greg Garcia, who was 0-for-4 yesterday, and is 3 for 21 (.190) since the beginning of the Pittsburgh series.

Mike Leake

Mike Leake contributed another strong effort – six innings, 2 runs.  In his first three starts of the season, Leake only went to full counts seven times – and five of those were against the Nationals.

The Brewers took him to full counts four times in six innings last night.  He walked two and struck out two.  For the season, the 11 batters who have gone to full counts against Leake are 0 for 9 with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts.

Trevor Rosenthal

Different with Trevor Rosenthal this year is his use of his expanded arsenal.  Each of the four batters that faced him yesterday saw at least a couple of fastballs at 98 mph or hotter.  But only Ryan Braun, who was hitting in a 3-1 count – put one in play (he singled).  The two batters who struck out, struck out on a changeup (Eric Thames) and a slider (Jesus Aguilar).  Travis Shaw flew out on a change.

The more Trevor can command the fastball early in the count, the more devastating his off-speed pitches are late in the count.  In the limited at bats of the early season, batters are 4-for-4 against Trevor when they hit ahead in the count; 2 for 10 against him in even counts; and 1 for 9 when Trevor has the advantage.  I don’t think a whole lot of people are very excited about Trevor Rosenthal so far this season – but maybe they should be.

Leake has been very good all season.  Rosenthal has had a few bumps, but has looked much more like the dominant pitcher he has been up till last year.  Wong began the year in a frustrating funk, but has played much better over the last week or so.  There are plenty of other question marks on this team – and much more season before us.  The questions are far from answered for any of them.  But the last seven games have been a good couple of steps in the right direction.

Cards Stop This Losing Streak Before It Starts

As I have pointed out several times – and am likely to point out several more – I keep a close eye on how the team responds after a loss.  I think it reflects the character of a team.  The concept, I think, is simple enough.  Every team loses games, but good teams have the character to avoid the losing streak.  The 100-win team of 2015 was 37-24 (.607) after losing a game.  Last year’s 86-win squad was 44-32 (.579) in those situations.

Preempting the Next Losing Streak

As the 2017 Cardinals have already endured three three-game losing streaks in their first 17 games, you might guess that they haven’t been terribly proficient at this so far – and you would be right.  In fact, all of their first nine losses had been a part of a three-game losing streak.  Last night’s crisp 6-3 win (box score) raised their record to only 4-6 in games after a loss.  They have won their last two, though.

Adam Wainwright

The man of the moment at the plate (with a single, a home run and 4 RBIs) and on the mound was longtime ace Adam Wainwright, who – in his third attempt this season – was finally able to halt a Cardinal losing streak.  Wainwright’s previous two attempts were both fairly disastrous.  He lasted 4 innings, giving up 6 runs on 11 hits in an eventual 14-6 battering at the hands of Washington, and then got pushed around by the Yankees, giving 4 more runs on 10 hits over 4.2 innings of a 9-3 loss.

Adam’s results last night were much better as he continued what has been a mostly excellent run of starting pitching.  With Waino’s solid five innings last night (during which he allowed only two runs), the starting rotation has managed a 3.06 ERA over 53 innings in the last 9 games.  The Cards have won 5 of the 9.

The bullpen continues to improve as well.

Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Broxton pitched the sixth last night and gave up a single, but no extra-base hits.  He hasn’t given an extra-base hit, now, to any of the last 16 batters he’s faced.  He also walked a batter.  Broxton has walked at least one batter in four of his six appearances, and has totaled 6 walks (1 of them intentional) in his 5.2 innings.  His opponent’s on base percentage has risen to .444.

Brett Cecil

In Brett Cecil’s second game as a Cardinal he melted down, allowing 4 runs without retiring a batter in a brutal loss to the Cubs.  First impressions are hard to overcome, but over the course of his other 8 appearances so far, Brett has allowed only one other run while striking out 7 in 6.2 innings.  He has retired the last ten batters he’s faced, striking out five.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal (who pitched the eighth inning last night) has given up some hits – 6 of them in his 4.1 innings, including a home run last night.  But he has walked none of the 19 batters he’s faced so far this year.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh picked up the save last night.  He has saves in his last three games.  After allowing runs in each of his first three games, Oh has allowed just one in his last four outings.

Also encouraging, the offense is beginning to show its first hints of life this season.

Jedd Gyorko

After going 0 for 3 in the Pittsburgh series, Jedd Gyorko has been the first to take advantage of Jhonny Peralta’s absence from the lineup.  With two more hits last night, Gyorko is 5 for 7 with a home run so far in the series.  Now up to .316 on the season, Jedd has been even better in games after a loss.  He is 9 for his first 27 (.333) with a double and two home runs (a .593 slugging percentage) playing in 8 of the 10 games the Cards have already played after losing the game before.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong has now started five consecutive games for the first time this season.  He doubled, singled and was given an intentional walk last night, making him 5 for 15 (.333) over those five games.  Even better, his hits include a double, triple and home run, leading to a .733 slugging percentage and 4 runs batted in in the five games that he’s been in lineup.

Kolten has yet to strike out in 8 plate appearances in this series, and has fanned just once in his last 17 plate appearances.  He is 3 for 7 so far against Milwaukee.

Wong is now 6 for 23 (.261) when he plays in the game after a Cardinal loss, but four of those hits (3 doubles and a home run) have gone for extra-base hits, and he’s added four walks in those contests.  He is slugging .522 with a .370 on base percentage in games that follow a loss.

Stephen Piscotty

When Stephen Piscotty helped beat Washington on April 12 with three hits and five RBIs, it looked like he had turned a corner.  Since then, Piscotty has just 5 hits (and 7 strikeouts) in 25 at bats (a .200 average).  He entered last night’s game after Dexter Fowler’s foot started acting up, going 0 for 2 with a strikeout.  He is now 1 for 5 with 3 strikeouts in the series.

With 11 runs scored in the first two games of this series, this has already been the second highest scoring series for the Cards this year.  They scored 15 runs in the three games against Washington.  St Louis is 23 for 72 in the first two games of this series, with ten extra base hits – 3 of them home runs.  This equates to a .319 team batting average and a .556 slugging percentage against a Milwaukee pitching staff that began the series with a 4.07 team ERA.

NoteBook

Last night – in the season’s seventeenth game – the Cardinals finally won a game when they didn’t score the first run.  When Kolten Wong drove in three runs with a triple in the second inning the night before (game # 16 of the season) it was the first time all year the Cards had erased a deficit of any size at any time during a game.

Pirates and Cards Put Runners On But Can’t Get Them Home

Usually, pitchers become more vulnerable once they have runners on.  Last year, all major league hitters hit .250 with the bases empty, and .262 with one or more runners on.  In the early days of 2017, both leagues are hitting .238 with the bases empty and .247 with runners on.  Last year’s Cardinal team hit .253 and .258 respectively.

As was true of every game in the recently concluded Pittsburgh series, the Pirates had sufficient opportunities to mount big innings.  If they had managed to do that even once during the series, they would have won at least one of the games.  But the Pirates went 0 for 9 yesterday and were 5 for 34 (.147) for the series with runners on base.  They fell yesterday for the third consecutive time to the Cards by the same 2-1 score (box score).

As the Cardinal pitchers have started to turn the corner over their last seven games, their dominance with runners on base has become an integral part of their success.  Beginning with the last game of the Washington series, and continuing through the sweep of the Pirates, Cardinal pitchers have allowed only 20 hits in 97 at bats (.206 average) with any runner on base.  This has led to an impressive 2.70 team ERA over that span.

This dominance has proved vital.

Hitters Have Struggled With Runners On

This year – for whatever reason – the Cardinals’ offense has been equally unable “keep the line moving.”  They were 1 for 9 yesterday with runners on base (Yadier Molina followed Jose Martinez’ fourth-inning walk with a bouncing single up the middle) and are now hitting .201 (37 for 184) this season once any runner reaches base.  They were 0 for 3 yesterday with two runners on, and are now 11 for 61 (.180) on the season with more than one runner on base.

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha faced 24 batters yesterday afternoon.  Only four of them came to the plate with a runner on base.  This has been one of the most encouraging aspects of Wacha’s return to health and to the rotation.  He simply keeps runners off the bases.  Wacha has faced 73 batters so far this year – 51 of them (69.9%) with the bases empty.  That is the highest ratio of anyone in the rotation (slightly higher than Lance Lynn’s 68.9%).

When he walked John Jaso in the seventh inning with David Freese already on first, it was the only time in his 18.2 innings so far this season that Wacha has walked a batter with a runner already on.

Wacha’s performance (6.2 innings, 1 run allowed) continued an impressive resurgence for the Cardinal rotation.  Over the last seven games – beginning with Mike Leake’s victory in Washington – the starters have strung together 43 innings with a 2.30 ERA.  While the bullpen hasn’t been as effective, they are improving, too.  Over the 17 innings they’ve worked in these last 7 games, they have faced 73 batters without serving up a home run.  Their innings yesterday proved a little adventurous, but not damaging.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman extinguished the seventh-inning threat with a big strikeout of Jordy Mercer.  Bowman has been a significant part of the pitching staff’s recent resurgence.  He has now stranded all of the last 6 runner’s he’s inherited.  Over the last seven games, Cardinal relievers have stranded 11 of 12 inherited runners.

Of the last 16 batters Bowman’s faced only two have reached.  He walked Greg Bird in New York in the sixth inning last Sunday, and gave up a single to Josh Harrison Tuesday night.

With the strikeout of Mercer, Bowman has fanned 3 of the 7 batters who have faced him with more than one runner aboard.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist skirted around danger in the eighth inning.  The Pirates loaded the bases on two errors and a walk.  Siegrist hasn’t given a hit to any of the last 14 batters to face him, but he has walked five of them.

Kevin faced 6 batters yesterday – only the first 2 with the bases empty.  For the season – not counting the runner who reached on an error yesterday – 7 of the 12 batters to face Siegrist with the bases empty have reached (a .583 on base percentage).  Kevin has walked 5, hit one, and served up one home run. Nine of the 30 batters Siegrist has faced so far have batted with multiple runners on base.  That 30% ties Jonathan Broxton (6 of 20) for the highest percentage on the team.  By contrast, only 7.1% of the batters Trevor Rosenthal has faced (1 of 14) and just 4.1% of the batters that Wacha has faced (3 of 73) have batted with more than one runner on base.

Trevor Rosenthal

Speaking of Rosenthal, he wrapped up the ninth inning last night allowing one seeing-eye single (after an excellent at bat by Jaso) and struck out two.  He has faced 14 batters this season.  Seven have struck out, four have singles – none of them really hard hit, and none have walked.  The early returns on Mr. Rosenthal are very encouraging.

Dexter Fowler

The offense – or rather, Dexter Fowler – provided just enough.

With Fowler’s two home runs yesterday following close on the heels of his lead-off triple the day before, Fowler now has three of his four extra-base hits in his last 8 plate appearances.  All four of his extra-base hits have come with the bases empty.  He has just 2 singles in his first 15 at bats with at least one runner on base.

Of course, as the leadoff hitter, Fowler rarely gets at bats with runners on base.  Forty-eight of his first sixty-six plate appearances (a team-leading 72.7%) have come with the bases empty.  All Cardinal batters are hitting with the bases empty 59.3% of the time so far this year.

Fowler’s home runs lift the team total to 14 through 15 games this season.  Ten of the 14 have been hit with the bases empty.

Half of the Cardinals’ first six game-winning hits have now been solo home runs, as Fowler’s fifth-inning drive joins Aledmys Diaz’ first-inning home run against Bronson Arroyo that began St. Louis’ 10-4 rout of Cincinnati on April 8, and Kolten Wong’s third-inning home run against Ivan Nova that sent the Birds off to their 2-1 win against the Pirates on Monday.

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia, getting some at bats in place of some of the slumping hitters in the line-up, could be doing more with these opportunities.  His average faded to .227 after his 0-for-4 last night.  Three of those at bats came with no one on.  One of the team’s “table-setters,” Garcia is hitting just .214 (3 for 14) with the bases empty so far this year.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko came to the plate in the fourth inning with runners at first and second.  In his first 35 plate appearances this month, Jedd has been up with two runners on 7 times – 20%.  Of batters with at least 30 plate appearances, only Kolten Wong has found himself in this situation with more frequency.  Kolten has been at 25% so far this year (10 of his 40 plate appearances).  Jedd was promptly called out on strikes on a pitch that was several inches outside.  Gyorko has now struck out 5 times in those 7 opportunities, drawing a walk and popping out the other two times.

Gyorko did have one at bat with the bases loaded earlier this year, driving in two runs with a single against the Reds and Robert Stephenson.  Yesterday, Jedd went 0 for 2, watching his season average fall to .226.

Kolten Wong

Speaking of Wong, Kolten is down to .171 after going 0 for 3.  Two of those at bats also came with two runners on base.  His strike out came in his lone at bat with the bases empty.  Kolten is a .200 hitter so far this season (4 for 20) with no walks with the bases empty.

Garcia Dominates Milwaukee

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

Matt Carpenter

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

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

Jeremy Hazelbaker

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

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

Randal Grichuk

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

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

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

Yadier Molina

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

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

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

Matt Holliday & Kolten Wong

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

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

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

Jaime Garcia

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

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

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

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

Overall

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

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

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

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

Who Are Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremy Hazelbaker

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

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

Aledmys Diaz

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

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

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

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

Matt Carpenter

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

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

Steven Piscotty

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

Yadier Molina

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

Randall Grichuk

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

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

Kolten Wong

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

The Team

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

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

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