There are games – many of them, actually – when baseball transcends the numbers it leaves in its wake. Last night was one of those games. Nothing can adequately quantify Carpenter’s heroic home run, the heartbreaking blown save, the impossible game-winning double from Wainwright, the finishing strike from Brandon Moss. Each of these occurrences is headline material. When this all happens in the same game, the emotion of the day rather dwarfs the numbers.
That being said, the 12-inning, white-knuckle ride that was the 9-3 Cardinal win (box score) did extend a few notable trends. Most gratifying, it was the team’s ninth victory in the last 13 games. And these have been gritty, grueling victories against good teams (Washington, San Francisco & Pittsburgh) and a lesser Cincinnati team that put up three spirited battles against the Cardinals. These were the stick-to-your-ribs kind of victories that you can mount a pennant run on. But I’m getting ahead of myself a little.
This recent resurgence has been fueled equally by the pitching and the hitting. Wacha’s 7-inning effort was the eighth quality start in the last 13 games. Meanwhile, the 9 runs means that St Louis has scored 78 runs in their last 13 games – 6.00 runs per game. The balance has been very good and the heroes plentiful.
As the Cardinals have ground through this tough series of games, Matt Carpenter continues to be the heavy lifter. Yes, he hit the three-run homer that flipped the score in the eighth inning, but he also had 2 walks to go with his 2 hits as his season OPS rises to .955.
Over the last 13 games, Matt has been pretty torrid. He now has 20 hits in his last 50 at bats (.400), 12 of which have been for extra bases (although last night’s home run is the only homer in the group). He has driven in 10 runs during his last 12 games and carries a .720 slugging percentage during this streak.
Earlier this season, Matt went through some struggles against right-handed pitching. In April he managed only 14 hits in 66 at bats against them. The hits were 7 singles, 2 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs – and he also worked 10 walks and 3 HBP – so his line against right handers (.212/.338/.439) wasn’t as bad as it might have been. Since the end of April, though, righties haven’t been able to keep him off base. In his last 99 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, Carpenter has amassed 12 singles, 12 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs, 20 runs batted in and 17 walks for a line of .383/.485/.765. His line against them for the season now reads .306/.419/.619.
Brandon Moss capped the twelfth-inning explosion last night with a stake-in-the-heart two-run homer. Brandon has forced his way into regular playing time by hitting .364 (12 of 33) and slugging .970 (the hits are 5 singles, a triple, and 6 home runs) during that span. He has played in only 10 of the last 13 games – and started just 7 of those – but has driven in 9 runs in those games (the third most on the team behind Adams’ 11 and Carpenter’s 10).
Moss’ home run was his team-leading 14th of the season. All have been hit off of right-handed pitchers, as were all 4 that he hit last year after coming to St Louis in a trade. According to baseball-reference.com, Brandon has only hit 16 of his 124 career home runs against left-handers.
Jhonny Peralta has hit the ground running on his return from injury. Even though his hits last night were infield hits, he still has 6 hits in his first 15 at bats (.400) and half have been for extra bases (2 doubles and a home run). He has driven in 5 runs in 4 games (only 3 of which he’s started) and is slugging .733 early on. It’s good to have him back.
Jhonny went 2-for-4 against the right-handed pitchers he saw last night and is 5 for his first 10 against them this season. At last year’s All-Star Break, Peralta carried a .313 batting average against righties with 6 home runs and 36 runs batted in. From that point on he hit a soft .252 against them, his 41 hits (in 163 at bats) being 35 singles (3 of the infield variety), 4 doubles and 2 home runs. He drove in just 19 runs against right-handers and slugged just .313 against them after the break.
Randal Grichuk’s endless summer of struggle continues. Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Randal is 6 for 46 (.130) while his team has been winning 9 of 13.
Grichuk’s night included two fruitless at bats against left handed relievers. One of the more agonizing aspects of his stubborn slump is his inability to hit left-handers. Those at bats topple him to 1 of his last 14 against lefties and leaves him at .172 (10 for 58) with 1 home run and a .259 slugging percentage against them for the season.
The two lefthanders in the Pirate bullpen held the Cards hitless in 5 at bats. For the season, St Louis is hitting .275 against right-handed pitching and .245 against lefties. The team slugging percentage against lefthanders has quieted to just .387. Against righties, the Cardinals are still carrying a .482 team slugging percentage.
In the fourth inning of the May 29th game in Washington, Michaels Wacha served up a game-winning single to National’s right-handed hitting catcher Wilson Ramos. At that point of the season, right-handed batters were hitting .319 against the Cardinal right-hander (47 for 147). From that precise point on, Wacha has allowed 3 hits to right-handed batters in their last 30 at bats against him (.100). Of the last 17 he faced last night, the only one to reach was Jordy Mercer, who walked – and later scored – in the fifth.
To this point, opposing managers have found no advantage sending left-handed batters against Seung-hwan Oh. Gregory Polanco did hit the ball well against him last night (a lineout to center), but with the out, lefties now hit .136 against Oh in his brief major league career. He has allowed 8 hits (7 singles and 1 double) in 59 left-handed at bats against him for a .153 slugging percentage. Nineteen of the 59 have struck out.
Matthew Bowman has also been better than expected against lefties. Polanco was also the only lefty Bowman faced, and Matthew got him to bounce into the game-ending double play. Lefties are 5 for 30 (.167) against Bowman this year.
Whether right-handed or left-handed, the Cardinal pitching staff has been hurt infrequently by left-handed batters. Jaso’s fifth-inning RBI single was the only hit allowed to a Pirate left-hander in 8 such at bats last night. For the season, opposing left-handed hitters have been saddled with a .232/.305/.380 line by Cardinal pitching.
The one crease in the forehead caused by last night’s effort is the blown save by Trevor Rosenthal. As the Cards have fought their way to victory over these last two weeks, they’ve had to do it in spite of their closer in several occasions. With the run allowed last night, Trevor has served up 4 in his last 5 innings. The two walks last night give him 6 in those 5 innings.
The only lefthander that Rosenthal faced last night was pinch-hitter Matt Joyce, who walked to load the bases with one out for the top of the order. Trevor has now walked 4 of the last 10 lefties he’s faced, and 10 of the 40 to face him this season.
He then promptly struck out Sean Rodriguez. Of the 48 right-handed at bats against Trevor this season, 21 have ended in strikeouts.
Adam Wainwright – the hitter – now has 6 hits on the season and is hitting .261. All 6 hits have been for extra bases (4 doubles, a triple and a home run).
After the 2015 Cardinals finished with just 36 games in which they hit more than one home run, the 2016 Cardinals – just 61 games into their season – have now accomplished this 21 times. Just 2,118 at bats into the season, St Louis has hit 82 home runs. Home run #82 in the 2015 season wasn’t hit until Matt Carpenter served one against Colorado’s Kyle Kendrick leading off game #103 – on July 31st. The Cards used that blast to springboard to a 7-0 victory behind Michael Wacha (then 12-4). The at bat was #3,477 of the year.
Last night’s game was not only the season’s longest in innings, but – at 4:16 – also in time. On May 12th the Cards and Angels took 3:56 to conclude a 12-10 Cardinal victory.