If May was characterized by a sluggish offense that made a habit of wasting outstanding starting pitching, the 5-9 (so far) June of this strangely symmetrical season has been characterized by a fading rotation wasting some substantial offense. Last night, the Cards lost their second 7-6 game this month (box score) after Mike Leake dug them a 6-0 hole in the first two innings. To his credit, Mike battled back to finish six innings with no more damage – giving the Cards a chance to get back in the game. In the end, though, this was yet another tight game that the Cards could have won, but didn’t.
Winning one-run games has been one of many struggles for this team. Teams with high character will – over the course of the season – win most of their one-run games.
Now 9-13 on the season, the Cards have fallen to 2-3 in the 5 one-run contests played already this month – games in which the starting pitchers have managed just 1 quality start with a 6.08 ERA. In just 26.2 innings, the rotation has served up 28 hits (including 7 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs) while walking 14 other batters in games this month that have ended up as one-run games.
The rotation has now not put together a quality start since Carlos Martinez tossed his shutout against Philadelphia. Fourteen games into the month of June, the rotation has managed 3 quality starts and holds a 5-5 record with a 5.17 ERA. They have combined to serve up 11 home runs in 76.2 innings.
Through his first nine starts, Mike Leake took baseball by storm. With quality starts in all 9 games, Mike was 5-2 with a league leading 1.91 ERA. In 4 starts since then, Mike has no quality starts, an 0-4 record, and a 6.20 ERA. His batting line has fallen from the .210/.242/.339 of those early starts to .316/.370/.500 these last 4 times out.
This was the fifth of his 13 starts that ended as a one-run game, and the first of the five that Mike didn’t contribute a quality start to. He is 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA in those games. The Cards are 1-4 in those games.
Other Starters in One-Run Games
Michael Wacha is the starter most frequently involved in one-run games. Six of his eleven starts have been decided by one run (with St Louis winning only 2 of them). These include both of his starts this month, a 7-6 loss to Chicago and a 3-2 win against Philadelphia. Wacha has pitched well enough in these 6 games, with 4 quality starts, a 2-1 record, and a 3.60 ERA.
Carlos Martinez has been the rotation’s best in one-run games so far this year. Only 4 of his starts have ended in one-run differentials, but the Cards have won 3 of them (4-3 vs Chicago, 2-1 wins against Milwaukee and Los Angeles). Carlos has 3 quality starts in those games, a 2-1 record and a 0.96 ERA.
Lance Lynn has started three of these games. He is 1-0 with a 1.33 ERA in 20.1 innings in them. St Louis has lost his two non-decisions – including his duel with Clayton Kershaw that wasn’t decided until the thirteenth inning.
Adam Wainwright has started 4 of the one-run games. He is 1-1 in these games while the team is 2-2. In those four starts, Adam has no quality starts and a 5.31 ERA.
Kevin Siegrist pitched the seventh inning and – of course – allowed the run that eventually decided the game. This was the sixth time this season that Kevin has pitched on consecutive days. These appearances have totaled 5.1 innings, during which Siegrist has been touched for 6 runs on 10 hits – a 10.13 ERA and a .400 batting average against. Perhaps a trend to keep an eye on.
Siegrist has been – over his career – one of the team’s best performers in one-run games. During his first four years, he had appeared in 98 of them, going 9-7 with 30 holds and 2 saves while letting go of a lead just 8 times. His career ERA in one-run games was 2.35 with a .203 batting average against. He was especially good last year with an 0.96 ERA and a .160 batting average against in 30 one-run games (28 innings).
In 2017, Kevin has now pitched in 8 one-run games, accounting for 7.1 innings. This was the first run he has allowed in any of those games.
Offense Starting to Find Its Way
Although the Phillies and Brewers don’t boast elite pitching staffs, the Cards are starting put together a little bit of offensive consistency over their last five games. With the 6 runs last night, St Louis is now at 30 runs over these games – although they haven’t always done it with an over-abundance of hits. Last night they had a 4-run second and a two-run homer in the eighth, but finished with only 7 hits on the night. For the month of June, the team batting average slips to .249.
Matt Carpenter hit leadoff for the eighth straight game last night, and ran his corresponding hitting streak to eight games. He singled, doubled (his fifth straight game with a double), walked, was hit by a pitch and drove in his ninth run of the hitting streak. Carp is now 13 for his last 31 (.419), with 8 of the hits for extra bases (including 3 home runs) – an .871 slugging percentage.
The streak pushes his overall average for the month of June to .300 (15 for 50) and his slugging percentage to .580.
Aledmys Diaz hit the two-run eighth-inning home run that narrowed what had been a 6-0 lead to what would be a 7-6 final. Aledmys also had a single and ended up scoring two runs on the night. He has 3 hits in his last six at bats, and is now back over .260 for the season (.262), but is at .279 for the month of June (12 for 43) with a .512 slugging percentage (he has 4 doubles and 2 home runs this month).
Aledmys didn’t contribute much offensively during the 17 one-run games played in April and May (he slashed .182/.217/.242 in 66 at bats in those games), but he has been a driving force in the five played so far in June. In games that have ended up as 3-2 and 7-6 losses against Chicago, 3-2 and 6-5 wins against Philadelphia, and last night’s 7-6 loss to Milwaukee, Diaz is 8 for 19 (.421) with 5 extra-base hits and an .895 slugging percentage. In the second half of last season (after returning from the disabled list), Diaz hit .349 in the team’s final 11 one-run games.
Stephen Piscotty slides to 0 for his last 8 after last night’s 0 for 4. He hasn’t driven in a run – and in fact has only one extra-base hit – in his last 5 games – a span during which he is hitting .188 (3 for 16) and slugging .250.
Jedd Gyorko got things rolling with a two-run double against Nick Pivetta in the middle game of the Philadelphia series. He hasn’t had a hit since then – a streak that has now reached 11 at bats following his 0-for-3 last night. Gyorko has fallen back under .300 to .296 for the season, and is slashing .244/.289/.293 for the month of June, so far.
One of the interesting things about the recent offensive surge is that the Cards have done it with little contribution from their third and fourth place hitters. And just to be clear, here, a 3-for-16 skid or an 0-for-11 isn’t anything to be overly concerned about. It’s the kind of lull that attaches itself to everybody at some point during the long season. Gyorko’s 10 for 41 July (which includes no home runs and only 2 doubles) is more cause for concern, but even that is nothing to panic over. If the guys who are hot keep doing what they’re doing until Piscotty and Gyorko come around, this offense will be just fine.
From the All-Star break through the end of the season, St Louis was 17-8 in one-run games. A principle factor in this success was the bat of Jedd Gyorko, who hit .286/.348/.631 with 9 home runs in those games. Jedd has played in 18 of St Louis’ first 22 one-run games of 2017, hitting just .215 (14 for 65) with just one home run (hit off of CC Sabathia in the eighth inning in New York on April 15 as the Cards scored two late runs to trim a 3-0 deficit to a 3-2 final).
Greg Garcia took over for Kolten Wong, who left the game with tightness in his forearm (and has since returned to the disabled list). Greg has been a very useful role player, but he has also struggled at the plate this month. He is now 1 for 14 in June (.071) after his 0-for-2 last night.
Last year, Greg hit a solid .268 in 30 one-run games (19 for 71). He is now 1 for 19 (.053) in 16 one-run games in 2017.