This is Why You Always Have to Put the Fish Away

Of course, from the moment Starlin Castro jumped an errant slider for his fifth-inning home run, Jack Flaherty was doomed to be the losing pitcher in the contest.  With Jordan Yamamoto starting for Miami that evening, it was understood that all the Marlins would need would be any kind of run and they would be in great shape.

For Jack, though, his effort in the 6-0 loss (box score) is a kind of microcosm of his season.  Jack ended up pitching 7 innings allowing just 4 hits while striking out 8.  For six innings, he and Yamamoto were matching up in a classic pitchers’ duel.  Through six, Miami had 1 run on 2 hits, and St Louis had no runs on 1 hit – Flaherty had provided a double for his team’s only hit.

With the one-two punch of his fastball and slider keeping the Marlins under wraps, Jack had retired the first 8 batters in the game that he had gotten ahead of in the count – striking out 5 of them.

But the game spun away from him in the seventh, when he had a couple of fish backed up in the count, but couldn’t put them away.

Garrett Cooper opened the inning falling behind 1-2 in the count.  Flaherty’s next fastball wasn’t a terrible pitch, but it didn’t quite jam him, and Cooper laced it into left-center for a double.

Flaherty promptly jumped ahead of the next batter – Brian Anderson – 0-2.  But he hung the 0-2 slider, and suddenly it was a 3-0 Marlin lead.

On other days this kind of performance (3 runs in 7 innings) will usually gain you a victory.  These days in St Louis, though, the offense – such as it is – doesn’t afford much latitude.  In spite of the fact that the team is 9-7 this month, they are hitting a distressing .218 and scoring just 3.75 runs per game.  According to baseball reference, the team’s .656 OPS so far this month ranks them as the third worst in baseball – ahead of only Kansas City and Baltimore, while their batting average is better than only Cincinnati’s (.216).

These days, if you are a starting pitcher in St Louis, it is risky business to fall behind.

Jack – who has lost 3 of his last 4 decisions – has served up 8 home runs over his last 21 innings.

TylerWebb

Although the run didn’t score while he was on the mound, Tyler Webb did serve up the double to left-hander JT Riddle that set Miami’s three-run eighth into motion.  Tyler has now given runs in 3 of his last 6 games.  Over the 4 innings he has pitched in those games, the 20 batters to face him are hitting .400/.444/.667.  Tyler’s ERA for the month of June has risen to 4.26 over 6.1 innings.

JohnBrebbia

One of the team’s great assets in April and May, John Brebbia is scuffling through June.  Most of the real damage done in that eighth inning occurred with John on the mound (he allowed the inherited runner to score, and then added two more of his own runs in just two-thirds of an inning).

John has pitched 8 times this month, and given up runs in 4 of those games.  In 7 June innings, John has been banged for 9 runs (8 earned) on 9 hits and 3 walks.  It all equates to a 10.29 ERA and a .300/.364/.500 batting line.

Offense Dominated Again

Jordan Yamamoto must be thinking the majors are a piece of cake.  He has pitched only two games in the “show” and – not only has he not allowed a run in 14 innings – he has barely been threatened.  In those innings, he has given just 5 hits and 4 walks – a 0.643 WHIP.

Of course, both of those starts have come against the offensively challenged Cardinals.  His next start, I believe, should be in Philadelphia.  He may find out then that it won’t always be this easy.

As for the Cardinals, in an ironic counterpoint to the big hits Flaherty (and Brebbia, for that matter) gave up when they had two strikes on Miami’s hitters, the Cardinal batters couldn’t even taste success when they had the advantage.  St Louis was 0-for-7 against Yamamoto when they were ahead in the count.

The list of struggling Cardinal hitters remains pretty lengthy.

MattCarpenter

Hitless again in 3 at bats last night, Matt Carpenter still looks like he’s getting closer.  He is still hitting just .245 for the month of June.

PaulDeJong

Among the casualties last night was Paul DeJong’s seven-game hitting streak.  During the streak, DeJong hit .367 (11 for 30) and slugged .700.

PaulGoldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt endured another 0-for-4 at the plate.  He has 1 hit over his last 6 games (20 at bats).  For the month of June, Paul’s average has slipped to .179 (10 for 56).

MarcellOzuna

After a torrid start to the month, Marcell Ozuna is also starting to fade.  Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Marcell is just 3 for his last 17 (.176) with no extra-base hits.  Marcell’s last extra-base hit was the ninth-inning home run he hit against Miami’s Adam Conley in the blow-out win back on June 11 (23 at bats ago).

YadierMolina

Yadier Molina was 0-for-3 last night.  Over his last 7 games, Yadi is just 4 for 26, with 3 singles and a double.  He has drawn 1 walk, driven in 1 run, and struck out 7 times over that span, giving him a batting line of .154/.185/.192.

Yadi was behind in the count for all 3 plate appearances last night.  Since his return from injury, Yadi has found himself behind in the count on 46.9% of his plate appearances.

HarrisonBader

Harrison Bader’s hitless streak reached 5 games and 16 at bats after his 0-for-3 last night.  Bader is 9 for 50 (.180) for the month of June.

Bader had one of the at bats against Yamamoto where he was ahead in the count.  In the fifth inning he came up with a runner at first and two outs – the game was still 1-0 at that point.  After taking a ball, Harrison jumped on a fastball down and in and bounced to third.

All season, Bader has been unable to take advantage of being ahead in the count.  He is 2 for 12 this month when ahead in the count (.167) – both singles.  For the season, he is 9 for 42 (.214) when he has the advantage at the plate.  The hits are 7 singles (2 of them of the infield variety), 1 double, and 1 home run – a .310 slugging percentage.

If you don’t make hay when you’re ahead in the count, you will struggle to sustain a decent batting average – one reason Harrison’s has fallen to .220.

NoteBook

Here’s how the recent games have gone.  Last night’s game broke a streak of 5 straight games in which St Louis held the lead at some point.  It was also the sixth of the last seven games that the Cards had trailed in at some point.

Cards Overcome Sputtering Offense in Shutout of Miami

If it’s possible to hang a fastball, that’s what Austin Brice did in last night’s eighth inning.  It seemed to start at Dexter Fowler’s ankles, but then it rose and just spun in the middle of the zone.  For his part, Fowler launched it over the wall in right for the three-run homer that put Miami out of its misery and sent St Louis on its way to a 5-0 victory (box score).

Breakthrough opportunities were fairly rare – as has mostly been the case recently.  Two first-inning singles had given Dexter a first-and-second opportunity with two outs, but he struck out.

From that point, the Cardinals didn’t see a runner in scoring position till the fifth, when Matt Carpenter – who had made the score 1-0 with a third-inning home run – gave St Louis a two-out opportunity when he laid down a bunt-double.  The Fish gave away that run – in the first place by playing their entire infield on the right side to allow the bunt-double, and then Starlin Castro dropped Paul DeJong’s pop fly to short center to allow the run.

With DeJong advancing to second on the error, Paul Goldschmidt had the chance to deliver the key hit – but he grounded out.

The Cards followed by going down in order over the next two innings, so this final opportunity in the eighth was welcomed.

For the game, the Cards managed a .238 on base percentage with the bases empty, resulting in 21 of St Louis’ 33 batters coming to the plate with no one on.  This has been a recurring pattern.

Over the last 17 games, the Cardinals hold a .281 on base percentage when the bases are empty.  The results have been 62% of all Cardinal hitters batting with no one on, only 5 bases-loaded plate appearances all month, and 16 of the last 23 Cardinal home runs (69.6%) being solo shots.

Here’s the thing though.  St Louis has won 11 of those last 17 games.

Slowly, but consistently, the pitching is settling into the decisive factor the Cardinals have been counting on all season.  Sometimes it’s been two steps forward, one step back.  But, while it hasn’t always been pretty, the Cardinal pitching staff has put together a 3.42 ERA over these last 17 games.  That would be good enough for second in the league if they had been able to maintain that all year.

I’m not really sure that I believe in this team yet.  I would like to see them keep the streak going a little longer and, perhaps, see more wins against quality opponents.  But this is exactly the kind of thing that those who do believe in this team point to.  The fact that – even when the offense struggles to get out of its own way – the pitching can be dominant enough to keep them competitive.

A week ago they had just been swept by Chicago and sat one game under .500 and 5.5 games behind in the division.  Today they have trimmed that margin to 2.5 games, and have pushed their way to 3 over .500.  The opportunity is before them.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter continues to hint that he is about to turn the corner.  He had a big game on Monday with 3 hits, including a home run.  Carpenter has hits in 4 of his last 5 games.

Carpenter never batted last night with a runner on base.  That’s normal for him.  As he has spent most of the year as the leadoff hitter, 69% of his at bats have come with the bases empty.  Of his 10 home runs this season, 9 have been solo shots.

Paul DeJong

DeJong didn’t leave his hot streak in New York.  With 2 hits last night, Paul has pushed his hitting streak to seven games, getting multiple hits in three of them.  Over the 7 games, he is hitting .367 (11 for 30) with a double and 3 home runs.  He has driven in 6 runs during the streak, while slugging .700.  He has also hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games.

Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna rebounded from a tough series in New York to collect a couple of singles last night.  Marcell is up to .340 (18 for 53) for the month of June.

One of Marcell’s hits came in his 2 at bats with no one on base.  Throughout the last 17 games, Ozuna has been one of the few hitters to get hits with bases empty.  He is, in fact, hitting .378 on 14 hits in his last 37 such opportunities.

Paul Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt’s season stays stuck in neutral.  He was hitless in 4 at bats last night, and has just 1 hit (that two-run home run in New York) over his last 5 games (16 at bats).  Paul is down to .192 (10 for 52) on the month.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina picked up two hits in his first game back from the injured list.  In the 6 games since then, hits have been harder to come by.  After his 0-for-4 last night, Yadi is 4 for 23 (.174) with 1 double (.217 slugging percentage) since that first game back.

Harrison Bader

Harrison Bader had the big first game in New York with 3 hits, a couple stolen bases, and the big defensive play.  He’s had no hits since.  With his 0-for-3 yesterday, Harrison is hitless in his last 13 at bats, with 7 strikeouts.

Miles Mikolas

In his three June starts, Miles Mikolas has had consistent issues keeping the bases clean.  Even though he shut the Marlins out through 6 innings last night, Miami batters were still 5 for 15 (.333) when hitting against him with the bases empty.  For the month, batters are hitting .355 (11 for 31) against him with the bases empty.

Last night he was very good once a runner reached.  The Fish were only 1 for 8 when they hit against Miles with a runner on base.  In his other starts this month, he hasn’t been so efficient.

Giovanny Gallegos

First out of the bullpen in support of Mikolas was Giovanny Gallegos, who recorded a scoreless seventh.  At some point someone other than me is going to have to start taking this kid seriously.  Gallegos has now thrown 12 scoreless innings over his last 9 games, giving just 4 hits and no walks – he has been throwing his pitches for strikes 75% of the time during this streak.  The last 38 batters he’s faced have a batting line of .108/.105/.162.

John Gant

John Gant had a couple rough games early in the road trip, as he gave runs in consecutive appearances.  Still, John has been more than just solid recently.  He pitched a scoreless eighth last night.  He has pitched in 8 of the last 17 games, throwing 10.1 innings with a 2.61 ERA.

Jordan Hicks

Jordan Hicks has held the back end of the bullpen very solid over the Cards recent rise.  He earned last night’s save with a 1-2-3 ninth.  He has now pitched in 7 of the last 17 games, with a 1.23 ERA and an .083 batting average against in 7.1 innings.

NoteBook

The victory was the Cardinals’ ninth this month – tying their total for the entire month of May.

Nonetheless, St Louis had trailed at some point in five consecutive games until last night.

The Cards scored first for the third straight game and the fourteenth time in their last 20 games.

Last night was game number 64 for Dexter Fowler this year.  Between his injuries and unending slumps, Dex played in only 90 games all last year.  He also now has 193 at bats, after finishing last year with just 289.  His strikeout was also his fifty-second of the season after striking out just 75 times last year.

DeJong Continues to BeDevil the Mets

It is safe to say that the New York Mets are just as happy that they will probably not have to see Paul DeJong again this season.

His eighth-inning home run on Sunday snapped a 3-3 tie and sent the Cards on to a 4-3 win (box score), a 3 games to 1 series victory, and put the cherry on a series in which DeJong hit .412 (7 for 17) with 3 home runs.  He drove in 5 runs over the 4 games, and slugged .941.

While things certainly turned up a notch when he arrived at Citi Field, it would be incorrect to say that DeJong was slump ridden until breaking out of it against the Mets.

In fact DeJong now possesses a six-game hitting streak, and has hits in 11 of his last 12 games.  He is 9 for 26 (.346) over the six games.  His proclivity against the Mets aside, the entire organization is relieved to see Paul emerge from a slump that lasted the entire month of May.

The series win further helped the Cards pull themselves off the mat after this recent road trip began with a sweep at the hands of the Cubs.  True, the last 7 games have been against struggling teams in Miami and New York.  Still, St Louis has managed to win 5 of those games, and hit a little bit, too, in the process.

Well, I suppose I should say scored a bit, as they didn’t really do all that much hitting.

DeJong’s Sunday home run was one of only 3 hits the Cards had the entire game, and even though they scored 25 runs during the 4 games, they hit only .243 for the series.  This team managed just 33 hits during the four games, but 15 of them were for extra-bases (they had 7 doubles to go with 8 home runs).  They also stole 10 bases (without a caught stealing) in the series – looking at times a little like the Whitey-ball Cards of the late 80s.

Against the Marlins and Mets, the team combined to hit just .229, but still averaged 5.14 runs per game.  And are now hitting .226 fourteen games into June.  They are 18-1 in stolen bases this month, as well.

The return of Paul DeJong is unvarnished great news.  It wouldn’t be a bad thing to get a few more of the struggling hitters to turn things around.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong’s 0-for-4 on Sunday snapped a short, but very loud hitting streak for the Cardinal second baseman.  With hits in each of his 5 previous games, Kolten hit .471 (8 for 17) with a double, a home run and a .706 slugging percentage during the streak.

Like his double-play partner, Wong, coming out of a dreary May, is a hitter reborn in June.  He is hitting .333 this month (16 for 48).

Marcell Ozuna

After carrying the team for much of the last several weeks, Marcell Ozuna has started to tail off lately.  Over his last 5 games, Marcell is just 2 for 15 (.133) – both hits being singles.  Marcell has just 1 RBI over those games.

Jose Martinez

Jose Martinez got one of the biggest hits in the series – a pinch-hit, three-run home run in Friday’s 9-5 win (box score).  It was his only hit of the series.

For a brief period up through the mid-part of May, Jose was starting every day, and hitting a ton.  Since he’s been mostly moved back to the bench, he’s fallen into enough of a slump to make it difficult to push him back into the lineup.  Jose has played in 22 of the last 23 games, but has started just 8 – and is hitting just .135 (5 for 37) in those games.  He has fallen to .136 (3 for 22) in June.

Paul Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt got the scoring started on Sunday with a no-doubt two-run home run.  That was also his only hit during the series, and broke an 0-for-12.  Goldschmidt was the big get this offseason, and his early struggles have contributed significantly to the inconsistencies of the offense.  Goldy is hitting .208 (10 for 48) this month.

Starting Pitching Can’t Find Their Consistency

The recent rebound has been comforting for Cardinal fans, but the victories over the Marlins and Mets have generally come with little contribution from the rotation.  The four starters against the Mets lasted a combined 19.1 innings (leaving 16.2 innings for the bullpen to cover), and struggled to a 6.05 ERA with a .299 batting average against.  They walked 10 batters in those innings.

Over the last 7 games, the starters ERA is 4.58, and they are at 4.30 for the month.  This is not a long-term formula for success, and something management desperately hopes gets fixed soon.

Jack Flaherty

Promising right-hander Jack Flaherty has hit a rough patch in June.  He started the Thursday game (eventually won by the Cards 5-4 in 10 innings – box score).

But Jack couldn’t make it through the sixth, giving 4 runs on 6 hits in 5.1 innings.  He has made 3 starts this month, totaling 14 innings.  He has no decisions in June, with a 6.43 ERA.

Jack had three batters at the plate in this game with a chance to get a double play if he could get a ground ball.  He didn’t get the ground ball from any of them.  Jack is 0-for-11 this month in getting double plays.  He got the double play in 8 of his first 45 such opportunities this season (17.8%).

Jack is increasingly becoming an extreme flyball pitcher – and the effects haven’t been for the best.  Of the 41 batters to put the ball in play against him this month, only 11 have hit the ball on the ground.  In addition to the disappearance of the double play, Jack has also allowed 4 homers in his last 14 innings.

Jack did get 17 swinging strikes on Thursday.  Flaherty, who has 16 strikeouts in his 14 innings this month, still has the best swing-and-miss stuff among the rotation members.  Batters are missing on 29% of their swings against Jack.

The strikeout is sexy, but it does inflate the pitch count.  He threw 101 pitches on Thursday, after tossing 96 in just 3.2 innings of his previous start.  Jack threw 4.21 pitches per batter faced against the Mets.  In his three starts this month, he is throwing 4.42 pitches per batter, and is now at 4.27 for the season.  Both those figures lead all pitchers that have been with the team all year.

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha’s up again, down again season tilted back down again over the weekend.  The only decision any of the starters got against the Mets was Wacha’s Saturday night loss, 8-7 (box score).  Wacha gave six of the runs on 7 hits (including 2 home runs) over 5 innings.  Wacha has lost 3 of his last 4 decisions, allowing 7 home runs over his last 23 innings.  His ERA over that span is 7.04 with a batting line against of .326/.404/.609.

Already trailing 4-1 in the first, Michael faced a first-and-third situation with one out.  This would be just one of 5 potential double play situations Wacha would have during the game.  But, instead, the hitter, Carlos Gomez, delivered the run with a sacrifice fly.  Of the 16 times this season that Michael has been faced with that runner at third and less than two out, that runner has now made it home 10 times – a 62.5% figure that is the highest among the starters.  (By the way, he wouldn’t get a double play in any of those opportunities.)

One thing that happens when you lose velocity on your fastball is that people can’t wait to swing at it.  Of the 72 pitches that Michael threw on Saturday, the Mets swung at 39 of them – a very aggressive 54.2%.  This month, 52.5% of Wacha’s pitches have been swung at – the highest ratio among the starters.

Dakota Hudson

Dakota Hudson started the Sunday game and provided the only quality start of the series.  For Hudson – although his stuff didn’t have the bite it normally does (he allowed as many fly balls as he did ground balls – 10 of each) – it was his seventh straight quality start.

In 3 June starts, Dakota is 1-0 with a 2.33 ERA.  Over his last 7 starts, he is 3-0 with 2 other leads lost by his bullpen, with a 2.68 ERA.  He has allowed no home runs over the 43.2 innings of those starts.

In a notable oddity, although Hudson gives up buckets of ground balls, he allows the fewest infield hits of anyone in the rotation – just 3 so far this year, and none in the month of June.

Another thing that ground ball does is it keeps that runner on third from scoring.  Dakota twice had runners at third with less than two outs.  Neither scored.  For the season only 11 of 29 (37.9%) have made it home – the lowest percentage of anyone on the team who has faced that situation more than 3 times.

Of the 26 batters he faced, only 7 swung at his first pitch (26.9%) and of the 19 that took that first pitch, only 5 of them were called strikes.  This has been a visible trend against Dakota all month.  In June, only 26.8% of his first pitches are swung at (the fewest of the starters) and only 54.9% of batters total are getting first-pitch strikes – the lowest percentage of anyone on the team who has faced at least 15 batters this month.

Hudson only struck out three batters, but one of them – Pete Alonso in the third – was caught looking.  Of the 54 batters Dakota has fanned this year, 18 have looked at strike three – 33.3% which is second only to Adam Wainwright’s 37.7% among starters.

Giovanny Gallegos

Headlining a bullpen that bore 16.2 innings over the four games with a 2.16 ERA, Giovanny Gallegos pitched in two of the games, tossing 3 perfect innings.  Moreover, he inherited 6 runners on base in the two games, allowing just one to score on a sacrifice fly.

Gallegos now has 11 consecutive scoreless innings over his last 8 games, during which he has given 3 hits and no walks.  The last 34 batters to face him hold a .091/.088/.121 batting line.

This month, Gio has thrown first-pitch strikes to 23 of the 27 batters he’s faced (an eye-raising 85.2%).  That figure includes 7 of the 8 he faced over the weekend.

I’m not sure if the batters know exactly what Gallegos throws, but they are certain that they want to hit it.  Of the 33 pitches he threw over the weekend, 20 were offered at – a super-aggressive 60.6%.  This month, batters are chasing after 56.5% of his pitches – the highest figure on the staff regardless of usage.

Of the 33 pitches he threw this weekend, 75.8% were strikes.  Gallegos throws the most strikes of anyone on the staff – 70.9% for the season.

John Brebbia

Appearing twice in the series, John Brebbia faced two opportunities to get a double-play.  He got neither.  This is not a surprise.  An extreme fly ball pitcher, Brebbia is 0 for 22 this season in double-play opportunities.

Both of his strikeouts during the Met series went down swinging.  That is very much his MO.  John has 43 strikeouts this season – only 5 of them looking.  That 11.6% is the lowest of any Cardinal pitcher facing at least 100 batters this season.

Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller’s devastating swing-and-miss slider is coming back.  He pitched in three games against the Mets, and saw New York swing at 20 of his pitches.  They missed 9.  For the month of June, batters are missing on 41.5% of their swings against him.

Of the times they did make some contact, only 5 times were they able to put the ball in play.  For the month of June, Miller is allowing the ball to be put in play on just 17.1% of the swings against him – by far the lowest on the team.

Andrew is also starting to throw a lot more strikes.  67.9% of his pitches in New York were strikes.  This month, Andrew is throwing strikes with 69.1% of his pitches.

Tyler Webb

Tyler Webb also pitched a couple times in the series.  He struck out one batter – swinging, of course.  Of Webb’s 21 strikeouts this season, only 1 has gone down looking.

NoteBook

The Cardinals continue to score first.  They scored the first run in three of the four games in New York, and have scored first in 13 of the last 19 games.

Paul DeJong’s tenth inning single in the first game accounted for his fifth game-winning hit of the season.  His home run on Sunday gave him 6 already.  He is second on the team behind Marcell Ozuna, who has 8.  The Thursday hit was also his fifth late, game-changing hit of the season.  He would add his sixth and seventh with his eighth-inning homers in the Friday and Sunday games.  No other Cardinal has more than three such hits.

Paul’s 68 runs scored last year were his career high (albeit in a career that is only in its third season).  The 5 he scored this weekend give him 49 this season already.

He also finished the Met series with 72 hits on the season.  He had 105 all of last year.  He is now also up to 131 total bases for the season.  He finished last year with just 189.

Not sure if I’ve already mentioned this or not, but John Gant has already surpassed his career high in games.  Friday’s appearance was his thirty-first.  His previous career high was the 26 games he pitched in last year.

Yadier Molina’s double in the Friday game was his fifteenth of the season.  He had 20 all of last year.

His double play grounder in the Sunday game was his tenth of the season already.  He grounded into 15 all of last year.

The run scored by Kolten Wong Friday night was his twenty-eighth of the season.  Ho scored just 41 runs all last year.  Additionally, the RBI generated by that home run was his thirtieth of the season.  For all of 2018, Kolten had just 38 runs batted in.

On Sunday, Dexter Fowler played his sixty-third game of the season.  He played in 90 in all of his injury-plagued 2018 season.

Saturday’s attendance in New York of 32,589 finally pushed the Cardinals’ road attendance over the one million mark in their thirty-sixth road game.  They have now drawn 1,023,866 on the road – an average of 28,440.7.  In 33 home games, they have pulled 1,397,106 – an average of 42,336.5 per home date.

When Jose Martinez started in left for the Sunday game, it broke a streak of 56 consecutive starts in left by Ozuna.  Harrison Bader – who has started 19 straight games in center – now has the teams’ longest consecutive starts streak.

Brief Musing Over the Outfield Pecking Order

It looked for all the world like another quiet loss for the St Louis Cardinals as they went meekly into the ninth inning against the Mets trailing 4-2.  With Edwin Diaz coming into the game to close things out, it didn’t seem like it would take too long to navigate through the inning, allowing everyone to go home.  That may have been in part behind the decision to continue to play in a rain that was making things increasingly quagmirish.

And then the most unexpected thing happened.  Down to their last out, an RBI single from Kolten Wong and an RBI double from Harrison Bader tied the game.

Faced, now, with the potential for a considerably longer game, the tarps came out in earnest and – a short while later – the game was suspended, to be finished tonight before the regularly scheduled game.

So, while we wait to find out if we will be treated to a stirring comeback victory or just another tease, I thought we might spend a couple of quick paragraphs considering the outfield situation.

Currently the “fourth outfielder,” Jose Martinez has started more games than he hasn’t.  The suspended game was his forty-first start of the season.  Through the first 67 games, St Louis is 23-17 (.575), scoring 5.15 runs per game when Martinez is in the starting lineup.  They are 10-16 (.385), scoring 3.92 runs per game when he is not in the lineup.

The Martinez advantage is even more pronounced when a right-hander starts against the Cards.  So far they have faced 54 right-handers.  Jose has started 32 of those games.  The team record in those games is 20-12 (.625) while they score an average of 5.34 runs per game.  When he is not in the lineup against righties, St Louis is 8-14 (.364), scoring 3.95 runs per game.

On the other hand, Dexter Fowler has made 51 starts this season, with the team going 23-28 when Dexter is in the starting lineup, and 10-5 when he isn’t.

With Martinez currently struggling at the plate, it’s hard to make a compelling case for more playing time for him.  The numbers, though, hint at something I’ve long felt – namely, that Martinez’ defensive deficiencies in the outfield have been somewhat exaggerated.  And that, perhaps, Fowler’s defense is a tad over-rated.

If Jose should start to hit again, that could make this an easier decision for Mike Shildt.

Marlins Emphatically Deny Cardinal Sweep

So, if you are a rookie pitcher making his very first major league start – like Miami’s Jordan Yamamoto was last night – the one thing you might ask of your teammates is a little bit of a cushion.

Wish granted.

Before Cardinal starter Miles Mikolas could get out of the second inning, he was behind 5-0, and young Yamamoto carried it from there, slicing and dicing the Cardinal lineup for 7 three-hit, shutout innings.  There were more runs in the Marlins’ tank, but they didn’t need them as they rolled over the Cards 9-0 (box score).

Other than the fact that the game finally ended, there were few positives the visiting team could take from this most recent drubbing.  Few positives, but plenty of lingering concerns.

Be Concerned, Be Very, Very Concerned

As good as Jordan was on the mound, this game adds to a very long trend of offensive futility in St Louis.  Over their last 24 games, the Cards have now been shutout twice; held to 1 run three times; to 2 runs 5 times; and to 3 runs 4 other times.  St Louis is 3-11 in the 14 games where they have scored less than 4 runs.

Over the dismal 24 games, the Cardinals are hitting .214 and scoring 3.50 runs per game.  Manager Mike Shildt’s patience looks like it will have to hold out a little longer.

MattCarpenter

Hitless in 3 at bats last night, Matt Carpenter’s current slump has him with just 2 singles for his last 15 at bats (.133).  He’s had no extra base hits in his last 5 games.

Eleven games ago, Matt was re-installed as the leadoff hitter.  The change hasn’t sparked much.  Matt is hitting .226 (7 for 31) since then.

DexterFowler

After his own 0-for-3 last night, Dexter Fowler is now hitting .140 (7 for 50) over his last 17 games (13 starts). Only 2 of those hits are for extra-bases (he has a double and a home run), leading to just a .220 slugging percentage.

Dexter has drawn just 1 walk in his last 8 games, and is hitting .222 for early June.  In the Cardinal’s 24-game offensive tailspin, Fowler has the lowest average (.153) of any of the regulars.

HarrisonBader

Harrison Bader went 0-for-2 with a walk last night.  He now has just 1 hit over his last 4 games, and is hitting .200 (6 for 30) for the month.  That being said, 5 of the 6 hits have been for extra-bases, and Bader has also drawn 7 walks, so his OPS this month is actually a pretty healthy .875.

MilesMikolas

Loser of 4 games all of last year, Mikolas lost his fourth in a row last night.  Over the five starts, there haven’t been a lot of positive numbers – a 7.03 ERA, a .343/.377/.626 batting line against, and just 2 support runs.  Not a happy combination.

TylerWebb

Tyler Webb is another unsung Cardinal reliever who has been pitching very well of late.  Although he surrendered an inherited runner, Webb was the only Cardinal pitcher last night not to allow a run.

Over 12 innings in his last 10 games, Tyler has given just 2 runs on 5 hits.  The hits have been 4 singles and a double.  He holds a 1.50 ERA over those appearances, with a .132 batting average against, and a .158 slugging percentage against.

While walks have been an issue this year, Webb has walked just one batter over his last 5.1 innings, throwing 67% of his pitches for strikes in those innings.  The last home run Tyler allowed was to Yasiel Puig on April 25.  That was 17.2 innings (and 293 pitches) ago.

JohnBrebbia

A revelation earlier this year, John Brebbia has regressed to the norm with a deafening thud.  Miami put an exclamation point on last night’s win with a three-run home run off of Brebbia.

John has now been scored on in 3 of his 5 June outings – giving up at least 2 runs each time.  For the 4 total innings pitched this month, John has given 7 runs.  Opposing hitters hold a .294/.400/.765 batting line against him, and of the 11 batter to put the ball in play against him, only two have hit the ball on the ground.

Congrats to the Blues

We’ve talked baseball and football here, but until now no hockey.  But last night the St Louis Blues were finally able to lay claim to Lord Stanley’s Cup.

I have often felt that being a Blues fan was the closest a St Louisan could come to knowing what life must be like for Cubs fans.  When the Cubs finally broke their historic jinx a few years ago, I sort of felt that the same karma that had permitted the Cubs championship might take pity on the Blues.

Our jinx wasn’t nearly as long – although at 52 years it was long enough.

Some has been written about the fact that it was the Boston hockey team (the Bruins) on the other end of the ice.  It hasn’t been forgotten around here that the Cards were the opponents when the Red Sox (Boston’s baseball team) broke an impressive World Series jinx of their own in 2005.

The expansion St Louis Blues impressively made the Stanley Cup Finals in each of their first three years in existence – getting swept in each of those three final series – the last time by the Bruins.  At that point it would have been impossible to think that it would be a half century before this franchise would ever win it all.

Congratulations to the entire organization.

NoteBook

Miami was the eighth team St Louis has played this season that came to us after losing its previous series.  The Cards have now won 5 of those series, split 2 others, while losing just one (to the Padres in the opening series at home).  They are 16-7 when they get to play against a team that lost its previous series.

With 5 earned runs allowed last night, Miles Mikolas has been touched for 42 earned runs already this year in 78.1 innings.  He allowed only 63 all of last year (in 200.2 innings).

The home run he allowed was the fourteenth off of Miles already this year.  He allowed 16 all of last year.

The Worm-Slayer Rules

I don’t know if there are, in fact, any living things making their microscopic homes in the turf at the cleverly named Marlins Park.  But if there are, they must have thought the apocalypse had come.

Gaining in confidence, not to mention momentum, with every start, Cardinal rookie right-hander Dakota Hudson and his very heavy sinker is growing into his worm-slayer role.  Last night, in seven mostly dominant innings, Dakota faced 28 Miami batters.  He struck out 6 and walked 2.  He also hit one.  Of the other 19, 13 drilled the ball into the ground (68.4%).

Dakota allowed 1 run on 4 hits in earning the 7-1 win (box score).

In his two June starts, Dakota is getting groundballs from 65% of the batters who have faced him.  For the season, he leads the rotation – and probably most of baseball – by getting groundballs on 62.3% of the balls put into play against him.  Tonight’s pitcher, Miles Mikolas, is a distant second on the team, getting ground balls 50.4% of the time.

St Louis also has two elite groundball machines working in its bullpen.  Jordan Hicks is getting grounders 60.8% of the time, and Carlos Martinez – albeit after facing just 37 batters – has a groundball rate of 62.5%.

As his groundball rate climbs, Hudson’s ERA declines.  Dakota has now fired off 6 consecutive quality starts, and 7 in his last 8 games.  He is 3-2 in those games, with two more leads lost by the bullpen.  He holds a 2.40 ERA over his last 48.2 innings, while getting groundballs at a 65.8% rate.

He carries a 1.35 ERA after his two June starts.

Getting hitters to ground out isn’t pitching-sexy the way that striking out a bunch of hitters is.  But what it lacks in glamour, it more than makes up for in efficiency.  Dakota needed only 93 pitches to cover 7 innings last night.  In his 13.1 innings this month, he is averaging only 13.95 pitches thrown per inning.  He throws just 3.32 pitches per plate appearances this month, and 3.53 for the season.  Both numbers lead the staff for any pitcher facing more than 40 batters.

Dakota has also profited from significant run support for the most part this year.  They scored six for him last night, and have supported him with a team-high 47 runs (5.82 per innings).  Michael Wacha is the rotation’s leader, getting 6.91 support runs per game.

For the turfdwellers at Marlins Park, though, last night’s performance was more like a sequel.  The night before re-claimed Cardinal starter Wacha threw a very similar game.  In shutting out the Marlins during his six innings, Michael induced 14 ground balls and only two fly balls.

With the unlikely duo of Hudson and Wacha leading the way, the Cardinal pitching staff has undergone something of a rebirth as the calendar page flipped to June.  This month so far, Cardinal pitchers are getting grounders at a rate of 54.3% – contributing to a 3.12 team ERA that is closer to team expectations.  They have allowed just 6 home runs in 9 games this month.

Certainly these last two games against a last place club have helped.  And the club psyche is still stinging from the sweep in Chicago.  But the numbers are finally starting to trend in a positive direction.

GiovannyGallegos

With surprisingly little fanfare, Giovanny Gallegos is on something of a tear.  He pitched last night’s eighth inning, giving a hit but no runs while picking up a strikeout.  Gallegos now has a scoreless streak of 6 games, covering 8 innings, during which he has given just 3 hits while striking out 9.

Of the last 61 swings against him, 25 have missed the ball (41%).  He has now gone 8 appearances and 10 innings since his last walk, and has thrown 75% of his last 146 pitches for strikes.  His season ERA is down to 3.14.

For the season, 314 of his 448 pitches have been strikes – a 70.1% ratio that leads the team.

Offense Has a Day

By the end of the game, St Louis finished with 7 runs on 13 hits.  Everyone got at least one hit, even those who had been struggling recently (Paul DeJong, Jose Martinez, etc).  About the only thing not achieved was getting Tommy Edman his first major league hit.

Most of the damage came late, though, at the expense of the embattled Adam Conley.  Before he came in, the game had gone to the sixth, tied 1-1.  St Louis scored the go ahead runs on an error and a bases loaded walk.  It’s, perhaps, premature to call the hitting woes a thing of the past, but it was nice to see some people get hits who haven’t gotten many recently.

MarcellOzuna

Marcell Ozuna is enjoying his return to South Florida.  He has had 2 hits in each game, and has 7 over his last 3 games, including a home run last night.  Ozuna is still hitting .412 for the month of June (14 for 34) with a .618 slugging percentage.

YadierMolina

Missing for 9 games with a thumb injury, Yadier Molina stepped back into the game like he was never away, collecting 2 hits.

Yadi also hit the line drive that brought in the go ahead run.  Although he didn’t get a hit or an RBI, nobody on the team is better at finding a way to get that runner in from third.  This was the seventeenth time this season that Molina had a runner at third with less than two outs.  This was the thirteenth time he had delivered that runner.

Molina’s night also included a strikeout – his eighteenth this season.  All of his strikeouts have been swinging.  There is no other Cardinal who has been to the plate at least a dozen times that has not been called out on strikes at least once.

Of course, that’s understandable when you almost never take a pitch.  In his first game back, Molina saw 14 pitches and swung at 9 of them.  For the season, he has hacked at 56.8% of all pitches thrown his way – the highest percentage of any of the regulars.

He also put the ball in play with 4 of those 9 swings.  It’s something else he leads all the regular players in, as he puts the ball in play with 45.8% of his swings.

This all means that Molina’s plate appearances are over quickly.  He lasted just 2.8 pitches per last night, and for the season is averaging just 3.34 per plate appearance – also the lowest on the team.

KoltenWong

After a damaging month of May, Kolten Wong already looks much better in June.  With two more hits last night, Wong is off to a .333 start (10 for 30) in the new month.

One of Kolten’s hits last night was a bunt single.  Wong has 7 of the Cardinals’ 11 bunt hits on the season.

When Kolten came to the plate in the fourth, he had Yadier Molina on first and just one out.  If Miami had designs on turning the double play, though, they had the wrong guy up there.  Kolten is the Cardinals’ toughest player to double up, having grounded into just 1 double play this year in 38 such opportunities.  This time, he lined a single to bring up a first-and-third situation.

Miami then got the double play grounder from Dexter Fowler.

Wong is also the hardest Cardinal to throw a first-pitch strike to.  For the season, only 52.2% of the first pitches thrown to him are strikes.  Last night, he only saw one first-pitch strike.

Kolten swung the bat six times last night.  He fouled off three and put three pitches into play.  He didn’t miss on any of his swings.  He rarely does.  For the season, Kolten’s swing-and-miss rate is just 19.7%.

Of the 14 pitches that Wong took, only 1 was called a strike.  He doesn’t let many strikes go by.  So far this month, of the pitches that he’s taken, only 27.9% are called strikes.

DexterFowler

While Fowler did ground into the double play, Dexter also got two hits.  The double-play, by the way, was just the first he has grounded into this year.

In the early games in June, Dexter has shown some increased ability to put the bat on the ball.  Through April and May, Fowler missed on 26.5% of his swings.  So far – for the first 47 times he’s swung the bat in June – Dexter is missing only 21.3% of the time.  He missed only 2 of his 13 swings last night.

Dexter may also have the best eye on the team.  Last night he took 12 pitches – all called balls.  For the season, 42.1% of the pitches thrown to him are balls – the highest percentage on the team.

NoteBook

In the first two games of the Miami series, St. Louis has scored 11 runs.  In their two previous series (2 games against Cincinnati and 3 against the Cubs) they totaled 10 runs.

The Marcell Ozuna home run was his eighteenth of the season already.  During his first year in St Louis he hit just 23.  Ozuna also scored twice in the game.  After scoring just 69 runs all of last season, Marcell already has 48 this year.

Cards Can’t Seem to Add to their Leads

Of the recent losses in Chicago, perhaps the one that lingers longest in the memory is the Saturday game.  That, of course, was the evening that Marcell Ozuna gave the team a 3-0 lead with a first-inning home run, and Harrison Bader followed with a home run of his own, pushing the lead to 4-0.  That was the first inning.

From the second inning on, they managed one infield single for their final 26 at bats of the game, eventually, of course, losing the game.

A similar kind of thing happened in Miami last night.

Here, it took the Cards until the fourth inning to get that lead (just 1-0 this time), and immediately the offense shut down again.  From the moment Yairo Munoz’ double put St Louis on the board till the end of the game, Cardinal batsmen were 1 for 16.

They were lucky in this one.  The 23-41 Marlins gifted the Cards a couple of runs with an error that – with Harrison Bader’s first sacrifice fly of the season – eased St Louis into a 4-1 victory (box score).

Looking through the first 8 games of the month, it has been surprising – or perhaps not – to note how difficult it has been for the Cards to add to their leads.

On June first – as they were working on their home sweep of the Cubs, they added four tack-on runs after they opened up their 3-2 lead – these made the difference in their 7-4 victory.

The next afternoon, as they wrapped up the sweep, they took a 1-0 lead in the fifth.  When they batted in the eighth, it was still 1-0.  They had actually not had a hit since the fourth inning.  They did manage a couple of hits and one additional run in that eighth – again, a critical run in a 2-1 win.

Cincinnati came into town next, and Matt Carpenter greeted them with a leadoff home run in the first.  Not only did the Cards not score again, they only managed 5 more hits.

In game two of that series, a third inning run gave St Louis a 1-0 lead.  From that point till the seventh inning, the Cards added just 4 singles and watched Cincinnati tie the game.  Paul DeJong hit the home run in that inning that gave St Louis the lead back at 3-1.  None of the last five Cardinal batters managed a hit, but they didn’t need to as the Cards held on to that one.

During that disastrous weekend in Wrigley, the Saturday game was the only one they held a momentary lead in.

So, counting the Bader home run in the Saturday game, and the three gift runs last night, for the entire month the Cards have added a total of 9 runs to their 7 existing leads (five of those scoring in the first two games).

Even in victory, St Louis finished with just 4 hits last night.  They are 4-4 in the early part of this month, in spite of the fact that they are averaging 2.88 runs per game, and are hitting .212 as a team.

In June, they are hitting .167 (12 for 72) when they bat with a lead.  This becomes just another head-scratching issue with an offense that just will not find its gear.

In a very real sense this is also a character issue.

Ozuna

Lately, Marcell has been a one-man offense.  For much of the season, Ozuna has been a kind of modern day Dave Kingman – lots of home runs, but very little else.  But in June we have seen a very different Marcell.  He has 5 hits in the last 2 games, and is now batting .414 (12 for 29) this month.

Both of Ozuna’s hits came while the game was still scoreless. In fact, his double set up the game’s first run.  For the first 8 games in June, Marcell is 8 for 12 (.667) when batting while the game is tied.  He is 0 for 6 when batting with a lead.

For the season, Marcell hits .297 (19 for 64) with 4 doubles and 7 home runs while the game is tied – a .688 slugging percentage with 18 of his runs batted in.

Once St Louis forges ahead, his average falls to .207 (17 for 82) with 3 home runs and 14 runs batted in.

Jose Martinez

The worst slump I can ever remember Jose Martinez go through continued with his 0-for-4 last night.  In his last 18 games (7 starts), Jose is 3 for 33 (.091) – all singles with 9 strike outs.  He is 1 for 13 (.077) this month.

NoteBook

St Louis has now scored first in 9 of their last 13 games.  They are now 5-4 in those games.

Leadoff Struggles

It was a most unusual sight.  It was the top of the second inning of Sunday night’s game, and Marcell Ozuna trotted home from third to score the tying run.  It was an uncommon moment for a lot of reasons.

First of all, in the three weekend games (all losses), St Louis only scored 6 total runs, so any time a Cardinal runner crossed the plate under any circumstances, it presented a fairy unique occurrence.  Moreover, of the 6 runs the Cards did score, this was the only one that did not come courtesy of a home run, and the only time in the series that the Cards managed to tie the score once they had fallen behind.

It was also unique for what had happened 5 pitches earlier.  Ozuna grounded a ball in between short and third, and Kris Bryant – trying to make a play on the ball – threw it away, sending Marcell to second.  Thus, in the twentieth inning of this grueling and humbling beat down at the hands of the division-leading Cubs, Marcell Ozuna became the very first Cardinal leadoff man to reach base.

He wouldn’t be the last.  After going 0-for-19 to begin the series, St Louis would put 4 of their last 8 leadoff batters on base.  But only Ozuna would score.

Ozuna would lead off the fourth with another single, but would be thrown out trying to steal second.

Paul Goldschmidt would double to lead off the sixth, and Ozuna would follow with a single too hard hit to allow Paul to score.  But Paul would try to score on a ground ball from Dexter Fowler, and be thrown out at the plate.  A flyball and another grounder ended the threat.

Trailing by four, Kolten Wong walked to lead off the ninth.  He was still on first two outs later when Jose Martinez drew a walk.  But Matt Carpenter’s ground ball ended the game.

Even with the strong close, St Louis only put 4 of their 27 leadoff men on base – a scuffling .148 percentage.  And managed to score only 1 of the 4.  During April, when they averaged 5.45 runs per game, their leadoff hitters held a .361 on base percentage, and came home to roost 55% of the time they reached.  In May, as the run production slipped to just 4.30 runs per game, the leadoff on base percentage slipped as well, to .324 – and only 40% of those made their way home.

Seven games into June, and the Cardinals are scoring less than 3 runs a game (2.71).  There are many pieces that are broken, but one of them is certainly the batters leading off innings.  For the first 60 innings of the month, our leadoff hitters are batting .175 with a .217 on base percentage.  And when they do manage to get on, they are scoring only 38% of the time.

This has been a significant part of what has now been an extended team-wide offensive slump.  Over the last 21 games, the Cardinals are hitting a tepid .214, and are scoring just 3.48 runs per game.  In the last 186 offensive innings, only 51 leadoff hitters have reached base (.274) and only 21 of them (41.2%) have scored.

It’s getting to be a long, long time since this offense has shown their teeth.

MarcellOzuna

Offensive bright spots were few and far between in this series (which saw the Cardinals bat .186 over the three games).  One of the bright spots, though, was definitely Ozuna.  With his 3 hits on Sunday, Marcell finished the series 4 for 12 (.333) including a three-run home run.  He is off to a .385 start for the month (10 for 26).  Even while the rest of the team has scuffled over these last 21 games, Ozuna has been heating it up.  Now 24 for his last 80, Ozuna is hitting .300 over the last 21 games, with 4 doubles, 5 home runs, 17 runs batted in, and a .538 slugging percentage.

Ozuna was 2 for 3 as a leadoff hitter during the series. For the season, he has been one of our most consistent in that function.  He is a .294 hitter (15 for 51) with 4 doubles and 3 home runs – a .549 slugging percentage opening up innings.

PaulGoldschmidt

With his double, Goldschmidt was 1 for 2 leading off innings during the series.  Even during the 21-game offensive brown-out, Paul has still taken excellent leadoff at bats and given the team opportunities.  He has reached in 7 of the last 16 innings he has led off (.438), but – as on Sunday night – has only made it home once.  For the season, Paul has a .392 on base percentage when leading off, but scores only 40% of the times that he does reach.

HarrisonBader

Solidly re-enthroned as the everyday centerfielder, Harrison Bader’s June could have started off better.  He did hit a home run in the Saturday game, but was overall just 2 for 11 in the series, and has started June off with a .208 batting average (5 for 24) – albeit with 4 of the 5 hits going for extra-bases (2 doubles and 2 home runs).

PaulDeJong

Paul DeJong was held hitless in 4 at bats Sunday.  That put a stop to a brief five-game hitting streak.  Paul only got one hit in each of the five games, hitting .278 during the streak (5 for 18).  But the streak did include 2 home runs.

Rotation Struggles

Difficulties in the starting rotation is a bad companion to offensive woes.  Chicago had little difficulty with St Louis’ starting pitchers, hitting .348 against them while scoring 10 runs during the 12 innings that they pitched.

MilesMikolas

Friday’s starter Miles Mikolas’ recent struggles continued.  He had already served up 3 runs in 4 innings before he was removed after taking a line drive off his forearm.  Miles took the loss, and has now lost 4 in a row, with a 5.47 ERA over his last 26.1 innings.

AdamWainwright

Sent to the injured list after the Sunday game, Adam Wainwright is another pitcher trending downward.  Coming off a stretch where he threw 4 quality starts in 5 games, Adam now has just 2 such starts in his last 7.  Over his last 39.1 innings, Waino is 2-4 with a 5.03 ERA.

NoteBook

This series was St Louis’ tenth road series of the season so far.  They have now gone into the last game of half of them needing a win to avoid a sleep.  They have managed to avoid the brooms in three of the five series, falling victim only to the Cubs twice.

The Cards begin the season 11-19 on the road.

The Cubs were the eleventh team St Louis has played this season that had won its previous series – and they have also gone into the last game of five of those series facing a sweep.  As before, the Cubs (twice) are the only ones of these series that St Louis didn’t at least salvage the finale of.

The Cards are 13-20 against teams that had won their previous series.

With the Friday night loss, St Louis has lost the first game in six of their last seven series.

Last year, in 200.2 innings, Miles Mikolas allowed 16 home runs.  The home run he served up in the first inning of Friday’s game was the thirteenth already this year in just 73.1 innings.

The loss, by the way, was his sixth of the season – already a career high.  In 32 starts last year, Miles lost just 4 times.

In his abbreviated, 4.1 inning start Sunday night, Adam Wainwright did cross over the 2000 inning threshold for his career – he now has 2002.2.

The First Inning Blahs

Going into this afternoon’s contest against the Cubs, you would have found the St Louis Cardinals ranking twenty-second in all of baseball (30 teams) in first inning batting average (according to baseball reference).  They were hitting .224 in that inning.  That number has actually now dropped to .221 as they began the game in Chicago going down in order in the first.

You don’t have to look very far to figure out why.  Yesterday’s game against Cincinnati began with Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong striking out against the Reds Anthony DeSclafani.

In Mike Shildt’s almost unchanging lineups, Carpenter and DeJong have been first inning automatics.  Matt Carpenter has hit leadoff in 48 of the first 60 games.  DeJong has hit third in 51 games, and second in 6 others.  DeJong has 58 first-inning plate appearances, and Carpenter has been to the plate in the first inning 51 times.  Their combined 109 first-inning plate appearances is just under half of the teams’ 259 total plate appearances.

Almost as automatic as having Carpenter and DeJong up in the first inning, is having them out in the first.  Matt is 7 for 42 (.167) in the first.  Paul is hitting .188 (9 for 48).

The curiosity here is that both warm up notably as the game goes on.  Carpenter is a .157 hitter (13 for 83) through the game’s first three innings, and then a .269 hitter with a .477 slugging percentage from the fourth inning on (35 for 130 with 6 doubles and 7 home runs).  DeJong is even more extreme.  Through the first three innings, Paul is 15 for 82 (.183).  From the fourth inning on, Paul slashes .329/.403/.579.  He is 46 for 140 with 8 of his 9 home runs. (Note: in the just ended Chicago game, Paul hit his tenth home run – in the ninth inning).

It was Paul’s 2-run home run in the seventh that decided yesterday’s game, 3-1 (box score).

Even though they won yesterday’s game, they failed to score at least four runs for the third straight game, and for the eleventh game in the last 18.  The longer the struggle to score runs, the more you find yourself wondering if maybe someone else shouldn’t take the first two at bats of your games.

(Further Note: DeJong’s home run was the only run St Louis scored in a 3-1 loss.  That makes 4 straight and 12 of the last 19 in which the Cards have failed to score at least four runs.)

Marcell Ozuna

With two more hits yesterday, Marcell Ozuna is looking more confident at the plate.  Marcell has hits in 7 of his last 8 games, with four of them being multi-hit games.  Ozuna is hitting .414 (12 for 29) in those games, with a double, 2 home runs, 6 runs batted in, and a .655 slugging percentage.

Matt Wieters

It’s been a tough last four games for Matt Wieters, occupying Yadier Molina’s position while the indispensable Cardinal is recovering.  Hitless again yesterday, Wieters in 1 for his last 16 (.063) with 7 strikeouts.

Dakota Hudson

Twenty-four year old Dakota Hudson is rapidly becoming the story of the pitching staff this year.  A dark horse to earn a rotation spot in spring, and looking un-prepared for the opportunity through his first five starts, Mr. Hudson has been St Louis’ most consistent starter ever since.  Although he couldn’t make it through the seventh, he still nailed his fifth consecutive quality start, and his sixth in his last seven starts.

Over his last 41.2 innings, Dakota has surrendered 1 home run, while 65% of the batters who put the ball in play against him have hit it on the ground.  Dakota holds a 2.59 ERA over his last 7 starts.

John Gant

The beneficiary of the DeJong home run was John Gant, who retired all four batters he faced and was granted the win (he is now 5-0).  John is on another streak of scoreless appearances.  Over his last 7 games and 8.1 innings, John has given no runs on 3 hits and 2 walks.

NoteBook

Although Cincinnati scored the tying run in the next half inning, St Louis did score first again in this one.  That’s three games in a row, and 7 of the last 9.

Although they did give up the tying run, St Louis never trailed in this one, and haven’t trailed in four of their last six.

John Gant’s appearance yesterday afternoon was already his twenty-eighth this season.  That is already a career high.  His previous high was the 26 games he pitched for St Louis last year.

With yesterday’s steal, Kolten Wong is in double figures for steals for just the third time in his career, and the first time since he stole 15 in 2015.  His career high is the 20 he stole in 2014.

No One Comfortable Facing Castillo

It all started much too comfortably for the Cards.  The first five pitches out of Cincinnati starter Luis Castillo’s hands were all fastballs (averaging 97.3 mph).  Matt Carpenter launched the second one over the centerfield wall.  Paul DeJong collected an infield single on the fourth.  The fifth was ball one to Paul Goldschmidt.

It was a less than dazzling start from a highly regarded young right-hander who would end up dominating the Cardinals and earning his sixth victory that night.

In fact, the Cardinals would never score again, and Cincinnati would break St Louis’ four game winning streak, 4-1 (box score).

With his sixth pitch, he threw his first slider of the night.  On his sixth pitch to Goldschmidt, Paul grounded out on a change.

Through the first batter in the third – Goldschmidt, again, who walked – it was Castillo who seemed uncomfortable.  His command of the fastball was inconsistent.  The slider and change also eluded him from time to time.

The first 12 Cardinal batters had 2 hits (including the home run) and 4 walks.  But only the one run.  After that, it was all Castillo.  He set down the last 12 batters to face him – six on strikeouts.

The difference was the growing confidence in and command of that slider (and especially that wipeout change) that allowed him to throw any of his pitches – and throw them for strikes – at any time.  Five of the last six strikeouts came on the change-up (all swinging).   After the first two batters hit the second pitch, only two of the last 22 he faced put either the first or second pitch into play.  DeJong grounded out on an 0-1 slider in the second, and Marcell Ozuna flew out on a first pitch slider in the sixth.

The Cardinals would get plenty of fastballs from Luis (mostly on the corners, and some of them as hot as 98 mph), but they could never tell when, and could never sit on it, even when they were ahead in the count.

Of the 24 batters that faced Castillo in his six innings, 13 got first pitch fastballs, and 5 others got the fastball on the second pitch.  Luis threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of those Cardinal hitters.  Nine of those first pitch strikes were fastballs – and 8 of those were taken for called strikes.

In fact, of the 13 first-pitch fastballs thrown by Castillo, only one was swung at.  That’s quite a trick against a team that’s looking to hit the fastball early in the count.  And evidence that not too many Cards enjoyed a comfortable evening at the plate.

Offensive Difficulties Extended

It was an impressive display from Cincinnati’s best pitcher, but it nonetheless continues St Louis’ on-going offensive struggles.  Since they rang up 14 runs on Atlanta on May 14, St Louis is hitting .215 and scoring 3.76 runs per game over its last 17 games.

Matt Wieters

Matt Wieters is hitting his first little dry spell after inheriting the catching job from the injured Yadier Molina.  In his first 3 games as the starter, Matt went 6 for 11.  But he was hitless in 4 at bats last night, and is now 1 for his last 12 (with 5 strikeouts).

Dexter Fowler

Red hot when he was promoted to the leadoff spot ten games ago, Dexter Fowler immediately plunged into an offensive tailspin reminiscent of 2018.  Hitless last night in 4 at bats, Dexter is 3 for 31 (.097) over his last 10 games.  He finished at .171 in May (12 for 70), and is just 7 for 53 (.132) over the last 17 games.

Michael Wacha

After being knocked around in his first trip out of the bullpen, Michael Wacha entered in the fifth inning of this one and settled things down, looking much more like the Wacha we expected to see this year.  He pitched 2.2 innings, giving no runs of his own (although he did allow an inherited run to score) and showing much improved velocity.

Wacha is still getting an awfully high number of his first pitches hit, and hit hard.  Two of the 7 he faced last night hit his first pitch, and both got singles.  In May, 24 of the 108 batters he faced hit his first pitch – a 22.2% clip that is about double the league average.   Those batters hit .500 (12 for 24) with 3 doubles and 4 home runs.

Tyler Webb

One of the low profile arms in the Cardinal bullpen, Tyler Webb has been throwing quite well of late.  He retired all four batters he faced last night, and over his last 8 innings has allowed just 1 run on 3 hits.  In 11.1 innings in May, Webb posted a 3.18 ERA and a .135 batting average against.

Tyler hasn’t allowed a home run since the last time Cincinnati was in town – on April 26.  That was 55 batters, 13.2 innings, and 227 pitches ago.

NoteBook

Matt Carpenter’s first inning home run meant that St Louis has scored first in 6 of the last 8 games.  They are only 3-3 in those games.

The Cards have now lost the first game of 5 of the last 6 series.  They went 0-3-1 in the previous 4.

With last night’s six-hit effort, the team batting average now slips to .249 for the season.