As the season resumed following the All-Star break, the Cardinals began a ten-game road trip with swings through Pittsburgh and New York, losing four of the seven games – three in walk off fashion. Among the many areas they came up short in during those games, the hitting with runners in scoring position (RISP) could definitely have been better. Seven games into the second half of the season, the Cards had gone 13 for 55 (.236) in those situations.
Through the first seven innings yesterday in Chicago not much seemed to change. They were just 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position at that point, and just 4 for their last 27.
So, as Tommy Pham came to the plate with Matt Carpenter at second and nobody out in the eighth, you might have thought that the Cardinals were overdue to make a little noise with runners in scoring position. It is doubtful that anyone could have forseen the correction that followed. The next ten batters all reached base (5 walks, 3 singles and 2 doubles), and before the inning had ended, St Louis had chalked up 9 runs on their way to an 11-4 victory (box score). They finished the game 6 for 12 with 3 doubles and 6 walks with “ducks on the pond.” The mini-explosion pushes the team average to .281 for the month, and .264 for the year with runners in scoring position.
They are now hitting a decent .268 for the month of July, scoring 4.76 runs during the 17 games played so far this month.
It was encouraging to see a few hits from Dexter Fowler yesterday. He returned from his latest DL stint on July 7, and marked the event with a home run. Since that game, Dexter had no extra base hits, no runs scored, and no runs batted in. He broke all of those zeros last night, as his 3 for 4 night included an RBI double and a walk that turned into a run in that eighth inning. The outburst pushed his average to .275 (11 for 40) since his return.
Dexter had been 0 for 14 since his return in RISP opportunities before he drove in Pham with a third-inning double. Over the course of the season, Dexter has been one of the team’s better performers with runners in scoring position. His 2 RISP opportunities yesterday bring him to 76 for the year, during which Dexter has contributed 10 singles, 3 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 26 RBIs, 13 walks (2 intentional) and 2 sacrifice flies. This adds up to a batting line of .279/.395/.590.
Matt Carpenter had no hits yesterday until he came up in the eighth inning as the lead-off hitter. He finished the inning with two hits to round out a 2 for 5 night. For the most part, things have been falling into place for Matt in July. He is now hitting .345 this month (20 for 58) and .389 (7 for 18) since the team left Pittsburgh.
In Carpenter’s second at bat in the inning, he came up with the bases loaded and singled to drive in a run. Carpenter is now 4 for 10 in July with runners in scoring position.
The summer of Pham continued unabated as Tommy Pham added a double and a single to yesterday’s mix. Tommy has now hit in 5 straight games going 8 for 21 (.381) with 2 doubles and 2 home runs (.762 slugging percentage). He has also now hit in 9 of his last 10 – going 17 for 39 (.436). He has scored 10 and driven in 10 in those games. He is hitting .375 for July (24 of 64) and slugging .688 (6 doubles, 1 triple, and 4 home runs). He has driven in 17 runs in 17 games this month.
Tommy’s 2 RBIs yesterday came on a single in that 9-run eighth. Tommy is now 7 for 19 (.368) this month in RISP opportunities.
A revelation in April and May, Jedd Gyorko is scuffling in July. He drew an important walk in that eighth inning (one of two walks on the day for Jedd), but otherwise went 0 for 3. Jedd is hitting just .135 (5 for 37) over his last 10 games, and has no extra-base hits in his last 7. He is now just 11 for 52 (.212) this month.
Jedd lined out in the third inning in his only RISP at bat yesterday. Jedd is now hitting .133 (2 for 15) this month with runners in scoring position.
Kolten Wong has been back, now, for 8 games – 6 of them starts – and 21 at bats after yesterday’s 0 for 3. Kolten walked twice yesterday – the first times he’s walked since his return from the DL. He still has no extra-base hits and no runs batted in since his return.
Carlos Martinez wasn’t at his absolute best – and the Cubs have always battled him pretty well – but he did fight his way through six innings allowing only 2 earned runs – this in spite of the fact that they finished with 10 hits in Carlos’ 6 innings.
But one thing Carlos can do – usually, even when he isn’t razor sharp – is pitch with runners in scoring position. Yesterday Chicago had 11 shots at Martinez with runners in scoring position. They finished just 2 for 10 with a walk. For the season, batters with runners in scoring position hit just .173 (17 for 98) against Carlos.
Carlos didn’t get yesterday’s win, due – in part – to the offense’s continued neglect with their ace on the mound. Yesterday was the twelfth time in Carlos’ 20 starts that the offense scored fewer than 3 runs while he was the pitcher of record.
Here’s a surprise. I pointed out in yesterday’s post how well Matthew Bowman has been pitching of late, and when he came in during the seventh-inning of a tight game, he didn’t immediately serve up a bunch of critical runs. Granted, the only batter he faced tried to lay down a bunt, and bunted it right to him. Still that makes 11 consecutive scoreless games from Bowman during which he has held batters to a .197 average and a .214 slugging percentage. Of the last 30 batters he has faced, 57% have hit the ball on the ground, and only 1 of the last 41 batters to stand in against him has walked.
It’s only been three games since Kevin Siegrist has returned to the bullpen, but he has looked razor sharp. In three nearly perfect innings, Kevin has allowed only 1 single and 1 walk. Seven of the nine outs he’s recorded have come as strikeouts. Batters have missed on 56% of the swings they have taken against him since his return.