Familiar pitching issues surfaced again in yesterday afternoon’s 7-0 loss in Cincinnati (box score). Hitting issues when batting against a left-hander and issues with our own starters’ inabilities to keep us in games were the meme of the day.
Feel good stories were few and far between. One would be a recent resurgence from Tommy Pham. His two hits yesterday give him 5 in his last 10 at bats.
Pham’s second hit was a sharp single to right in the eighth inning against Cincy right-hander Raisel Iglesias. It would help a lot if Pham were more of a force against left-handers (he bats .179 against them so far this year), but he is hitting .296 against righties. Pham hit .297 against lefties last year, so his struggles against them this year are a little disappointing.
Beyond Pham, most of the rest of the hitters had an afternoon of frustration. Cincinnati lefty Brandon Finnegan pitched well, but he made his share of mistakes. There were about three of four Cardinal hitters that just got under their pitches. On another day, they would have probably had two or three home runs. But baseball is like that.
Jedd Gyorko was one of those. In his three at bats against Finnegan he flew to center on a ball he just missed on, then hit two line drive outs. He had three pretty good swings, but went 0 for 3 against the lefty. For the season, Gyorko is hitting .237 against lefthanders.
In his last at bat against the right-hander Iglesias he hit another fly ball to fairly deep left-center. Again, he just missed it. Jedd has had some troubles with right-handers since the All-Star break, hitting just .245 against them (12 for 49).
Stephen Piscotty is still fighting through his slump. He hit the home run that held up as the deciding run on Wednesday, but that is his only hit in his last 11 at bats. Stephen’s second half is off to a slow start. He is 15 for 68 since the break (.221) and has drawn only 4 walks for an on base percentage of .264.
It has been right-handed pitchers that Stephen has had the most problem solving. He struck out against Iglesias and grounded out against Jumbo Diaz after Finnegan left the game. Since the All-Star break he has now had 50 plate appearances against right handers. He has managed just 6 singles (one an infield hit), 3 doubles, 6 runs batted in, 3 walks, 13 strikeouts and 5 double-play grounders. His second half batting line against righties sits at .191/.240/.255.
Matt Holliday’s season average is back down to .237 (.220 in the second half) after his 0 for 3 yesterday. Holliday hit .188 in July.
Holliday is now hitting .229 against lefties this season after going hitless in his two at bats against Finnegan yesterday. He has been hitting lefties much better in the second half (.316 so far). His biggest problem since the break has been the same as Piscotty’s – figuring out a way to get a hit against a right-hander. With yesterday’s groundout against Iglesias, Matt is now 7 for his last 40 (.175) against right-handed pitchers.
Greg Garcia is now just 2 for his last 18 (.111) after his 0 for 3, 2 strikeout day. He is another Cardinal that has started the second half a little cold. He is now hitting .216 (11 for 51) since the All-Star Break.
As with Piscotty and Holliday, right-handers have owned Greg since the break. In his case, that’s perhaps a bit more frustrating since he is the left-handed hitter. Nonetheless, with his fly out against Iglesias, Garcia is 7 for his last 41 (.171) when facing a right-hander.
After totaling five hits for the game (and no runs), the Cards are hitting .234 as a team in the season’s second half and scoring 4.40 runs per game. For the season, St Louis is hitting .244 against left-handed pitching. Yesterday they managed 2 singles (both infield hits) in 22 at bats against Cincy left-handers Finnegan and Tony Cingrani.
While the Cardinals spent the afternoon just missing mistakes, the Reds turned all of Mike Leake’s mistakes into line drives. Sometimes when Leake struggles, you can look at plays not made behind him as a mitigating factor. Defense wasn’t an issue yesterday as Mike got scorched by his old team. Leake has now lasted 16 innings total over his last three starts, surrendering 20 runs (19 earned) and 27 hits. His ERA in those outing is 10.69.
One of the encouraging pieces of Leake’s first half was his effectiveness against lefties. They hit only .243 with a .284 on base percentage against him up till mid-July. Since the second half began, left-handed batters are 17 for 46 (.370) against Mike. Cincy’s lefties went 4 for 12 against him yesterday.
This is not to suggest that Mike has had much success at all against right-handed batters. They were 4 for 10 against him yesterday (with 3 doubles). Over his last two starts (this one and the Miami game), right-handers have gone 10 for 23 against Leake (.435), with the hits including 6 doubles and 2 home runs (.957 slugging percentage). After seeing righties hit .287 against him in the first half, Mike is being pounded at a .333 clip (16 for 48), and surrendering a .688 slugging percentage (the hits include 8 doubles and 3 home runs) to them so far in the second half.
Just as management thinks they may finally have the bullpen straightened out, the starting rotation has sprung a significant leak (pun not necessarily intended). This is now six straight games that a Cardinal starter hasn’t managed a quality start. These starters have combined to pitch 30.1 innings (leaving 20.2 for the bullpen to pick up). In those innings, the starters have been charged with 27 runs (all earned) and 40 hits. Their 8.01 ERA is accompanied by a batting line of .328/.381/.549 against them. Since the All-Star Break, the team ERA is 4.38 and the batting average against is a disturbing .271. We have had 6 quality starts in 20 games since the break – just 1 in the last 12 games.
Seth Maness did allow his inherited runners to score (both of them), but allowed no further runs. He now has pitched 10.1 scoreless innings over his last 8 appearances, allowing just 5 hits in the process. He had an 0.87 ERA in 10.1 innings in July.
The day-and-night improvement in Seth’s season has been his ability to get right-handers. In the season’s first half, right-handers pounded him to the tune of a .345 batting average and a .586 slugging percentage. Since the break, he has allowed one single in 13 at bats against right-handers (.077). Tyler Holt was the only right-hander to face Seth yesterday. He grounded into a double play.
When Dean Kiekhefer struck out Joey Votto in yesterday’s seventh inning, it gave Kiekhefer 9 strike outs among the 29 left-handed batters he’s faced this season (31%). Early results suggest that Dean may be able to perform that lefty-specialist role. Left-handers have a .179/.207/.286 batting line against him.
Overall, Cincinnati left-handers were 5 for 16 yesterday. Since the All-Star break left-handed batters are hitting .280 (86 for 307) against Cardinal pitching.
This team’s penchant for symmetry never ceases to amaze me. The same team that followed their first five-game winning streak with an immediate five-game losing streak has now followed a 5-5 home stand with a 5-5 road trip. Even the structure of the road trip shows impressive symmetry, as the road trip started 4-1 and ended 1-4.
The Cincinnati series was the thirty-fifth for the Cardinals this season. They have now won 16, lost 15 and split four.
The Atlanta Braves come into Busch tonight having won 2 of 3 from Pittsburgh and winning 6 of their last 9. They become the ninth consecutive Cardinal opponent to have won their previous series.
Matt Carpenter will be activated before tonight’s game. St Louis was 14-10 during his absence.