Perhaps the Cardinals should start a practice routine for pitchers replacing an injured pitcher. It’s trickier business than it sounds.
Technically, a pitcher replacing an injured pitcher has as much time as desired to warm up. The problem is that the entire game comes to a complete halt, waiting for the new pitcher to proclaim himself ready. It’s difficult for the replacing pitcher not to feel a little self-conscious in that situation. More times than not, they’re not completely ready to go when they say they are – and more times than not, the batting team takes full advantage.
As the Cardinals are now making a habit of losing pitchers in action, perhaps this is something that needs to be more thoroughly rehearsed.
When Dakota Hudson walked off the mound last night before throwing his first pitch if the third inning, Austin Gomber became the fourth Cardinal pitcher in the last 10 games to be suddenly summoned to the mound. Most of those appearances have not worked out well.
The first of the pitchers to fall in the line of duty was then-closer Giovanny Gallegos. This happened in the seventh inning of the second game of the September 10 doubleheader against Detroit.
Pitching with a 2-run lead, Giovanny walked the first batter. Then, somewhere during Victor Reyes’ at bat, Gallegos strained a groin muscle. He didn’t leave immediately, laboring through two more batters (both of whom singled) before he surrendered to medical necessity. It was still a 3-2 St Louis lead when Ryan Helsley took over. Whether he was fully loose before he proclaimed himself ready is anyone’s supposition. But once he decided to get on with things, the Tigers went intentional walk, line drive double play, two-run homer and groundout – all enough to provide the Tigers a 6-3 win (boxscore).
Two games later, the Cards are in Cincinnati on September 12. After six very strong innings from Hudson, Genesis Cabrera came in to pitch the seventh. He didn’t throw a pitch. During his warm-ups he developed issues with a nail on his pitching hand and had to be summarily replaced. Tyler Webb came in, and navigated the situation as well as could be hoped – tossing 1.1 scoreless innings (boxscore).
The next night, the Cards lost John Gant.
The Cards were clinging to a 5-4 lead over the Reds, as John came in with a runner on first and one out. Tyler Stephenson – the first batter he faced – bounced a single into right, moving the tying run to second – but keeping the inning-ending double play in play.
But, on his first pitch to Aristides Aquino, Gant’s groin balked, and that was the end of the night for him.
In to manage the situation came Andrew Miller – a veteran who must have done this before. Again, his readiness for the situation is open to question. He hit the first batter he faced, walked in a run, wild pitched home a second run. A third run scored on a ground ball. Cincinnati would go on to a damaging 10-5 victory (boxscore).
This brings us to last night and Gomber. Carrying a 0.52 ERA for the season, and inheriting a 1-0 lead, Gomber was knocked around for the first time this season. He crept back to the dugout after 1.2 innings, after surrendering 4 runs on 4 hits (including the second home run allowed to a left-hander in his career) and 2 walks (boxscore).
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 4 emergency relief appearances totaling 4.2 busy innings that saw the scoring of 7 runs (in addition to the scoring of all 4 inherited runners) on 7 hits, (2 of them home runs) 4 walks (1 of those intentional) a hit batsman and a wild pitch. The 24 fortunate batters that came to the plate against these relievers slashed an impressive .368/.500/.737 leading to a 13.50 ERA. The 18% swing-and-miss rate by those batters is another tip off that, perhaps, the pitchers were not sufficiently lose.
All I’m saying is that if this is going to keep happening for the rest of the year, perhaps it’s something that should be practiced.
Two of those struggling appearances cost the team a late lead, setting up a pair of costly defeats. Gomber also surrendered a lead, but it’s more than likely the team would have lost that game anyway. With one run scored and two hits on the board, the offense was done for the day.
In losing their last two games, the Cards have managed 1 run on 4 total hits – all singles. Even that doesn’t tell the full story. Of the 4 hits, only Tommy Edman’s RBI single last night was actually well hit. The others were two dribbling singles that beat the defensive shift, and an infield grounder that was deflected by the pitcher. The Cards truly have the look of a team that could get no-hit on any given day.
Yesterday’s loss was St Louis’ seventh in its last 10 games. The pitching has contributed to the woes. They have a 5.87 ERA over the last 10 games (4.56 from the starters and 8.01 from the pen) – giving up 15 home runs over their last 79.2 innings.
For their part, the bats are hitting just .203 with only 7 home runs in those games. They have scored all of 28 runs. Manager Mike Shildt denies that the fatigue of the schedule is responsible for any of this. Some of the hitters sound (and look) like that might not be the case.
Brad Miller spent a good chunk of the summer hitting well over .300. When you remember that his career average is around .240, you can’t be too surprised to find him regressing to his norm. Over the last 10 games, Brad is hitting .194 (6 for 31) after his 0-for-3 last night.
After his 0-for-2 last night, Rangel Ravelo is now hitless over his last 16 at bats.
To no one’s shock, the Cards have lost another important pitcher. Gone for the rest of the regular season is Hudson – whose effectiveness and importance was probably second only to Adam Wainwright’s. Since the season’s re-boot, Dakota was 3-1 in 7 starts with a 2.08 ERA and a .145 opponent’s batting average.
While Austin has, indeed, pitched very well this season, in the month of September he has had surprising difficulty keeping the bases clear. Yesterday was a continuation of that trend.
Of the 10 batters Austin faced last night, 4 of them came up with the bases empty. Three of them reached – 2 singles and a walk. Batters are now hitting .462 (6 for 13) against Gomber this month when hitting with the bases empty. He has also walked 4 others, so their on base percentage against him is .588.
Tyler Webb was scuffed for the final run of the evening on a sacrifice fly. The run snaps a streak of 9 straight scoreless appearances by Webb (9 innings). He gave 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out 9 during the streak.
Although he inherited one runner, Tyler also made some of his own trouble, giving 3 hits over his 1.2 innings. Of the 7 batters he faced, 5 of them came up with runners on base. This is Webb’s norm. Whether they are other people’s runners or people he’s put on base himself, 54.8% of the plate appearances against him have come with at least one runner on base.
Andrew Miler’s outing last night was not uncommon. He walked the first batter he faced, and then hit the next batter. He then retired the last three without allowing a run. Of the 17 batters he has faced this month, 10 have come up with at least one runner on base. Those hitters are 0-for-7, with 1 walk and 2 hit batsmen.
Last night, St Louis dropped the opening game of a series for the third consecutive time. Seven of their last 9 series have begun with a loss.
My Designated Hitter Rant
As the DH seems to be a real threat in the near future – and many expect it to be universal and permanent by 2022 if not sooner – I am going to include the link to my DH rant at the bottom of all my baseball posts this year (and next, probably). If you have already read it, you should know that I added a section on July 30 after the Cards first five games with the DH. Here is the link. If this idiocy is to become law, I want to do everything I can to make sure as many people as possible understand why this is wrong.