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 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 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.
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 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.
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.