In a lot of ways, it was just the Cardinals night last night. Four of the 15 hits didn’t make it out of the infield, and Harrison Bader’s eighth-inning double was looped into right. For a team that finished with ten runs, there wasn’t an awful lot of hard contact.
Compounding the issue for the Rockies was the general inability of their pitchers to throw strikes. In all, four pitchers combined to hurl 185 pitches at Cardinal hitters. Of the 107 that those hitters didn’t offer at, only 28 were called strikes (26%). Of the first pitches thrown to the 46 Cardinals who came to the plate, only 12 were close enough to invite the Cards to swing at them. This takes some doing, as St Louis is about as willing to swing at a first pitch as team in baseball.
With the 10 runs and 15 hits, St Louis approaches the last four games of July hitting .275 as a team and scoring 4.86 runs per game.
Randal Grichuk had two of the infield hits awarded the Cards last night – part of a surprising 4-for-5 night that included no extra-base hits. Grichuk has now hit in all 6 games since his return from the DL, going 11 for 24 (.458) with 4 home runs (.958 slugging percentage). He has scored 6 runs and driven in 7 in those six games.
Randal is now 15 for 53 this month (.283) with 1 double and 6 home runs (.642 slugging percentage).
Grichuk was able to lay off the first pitch in 4 of his 5 at bats – and was rewarded with 3 hits in those at bats. For the month of July, Grichuk has laid off the first pitch a surprising (for him) 69.6% of the time. He has gone on to hit .361 in those at bats (13 for 36) and slug .889 as all of his extra-base hits this month have come in at bats where he has taken the first pitch.
Matt Carpenter’s 2 for 5 evening pushed his season average up to .250. Folks should be aware (especially those thinking he should be traded – and yes I saw a blog where that was suggested) that Carpenter is now hitting .319 in July (23 for 72).
In six plate appearances last night, Matt only swung at the first pitch once, fouling off Jeff Hoffman’s first-pitch fastball in the fifth. That at bat would end with the two-run double that would give the Cards a 6-4 lead. For the season, Matt is swinging at that first pitch just 15.9% of the time. During the month of July, that ratio is even lower – just 12.8% of the time. But when he does, good things usually happen. Carp is 7 for 11 (.636) so far this month in at bats where he swings at the first pitch.
It’s rare that we talk about a Cardinal game and don’t mention Tommy Pham – who was 2-for-2 last night with 2 walks. He now has 5 hits in his last 8 at bats, and 6 walks in his last 15 plate appearances. Tommy is coming down the stretch in July hitting .363 this month (29 for 80) and slugging .650 (6 doubles, 1 triple, and 5 home runs). In 22 July games, Tommy has scored 18 runs and driven in 19.
Tommy took the first pitch thrown to him 3 times in his 5 plate appearances – ending up with a single and both walks. For the season, Tommy has been taking that first pitch 73.9% of the time and hitting .346/.450/.593 when he does. Eleven of his fourteen home runs have come in at bats where Tommy has taken the first pitch.
Yadier Molina is now 21 for 73 (.288) in July after his third straight two-hit game. Even the notoriously aggressive Molina took the first pitch thrown him three of four times last night.
Carlos Martinez entered July riding a streak of 11 quality starts in 12 outings. This month, though, has been decidedly choppy for the colorful young right-hander. He picked up the win last night (his only one of the month) in spite of the fact that he gave up 5 runs in 6 innings. He gave 7 hits, including a home run – his seventh this month in just 29 innings.
Carlos has already set a career high this year, allowing 17 home runs before the end of July. His totals for the month are a 1-2 record, 5.90 ERA, .308 batting average against, and a .556 slugging percentage allowed. With Carlos’ stuff, you wouldn’t think you would see opponents’ batting .308 against him over a 29 inning stretch.
Of the 25 batters that Carlos faced last night, 17 took his first pitch. Two of those batters went on to walk, while the other 15 managed 2 singles (.133) and 7 strikeouts. The 8 that offered at his first pitch ended up 5 for 8 with a double, a home run, and all 5 runs batted in. For the month of July, batters swinging at Martinez’ first pitch are hitting .372 (16 for 43) and slugging .698 (2 doubles and 4 home runs). These are the kinds of results you would see if Martinez was either becoming too predictable, or if he was tipping his pitches.
For what it’s worth, Nolan Arenado‘s certainly looked like he was expecting the pitch that he homered on.
A Bullpen Note
The pen wrapped up the game with three scoreless innings. It is surprising to note that the bullpen has a 2.09 ERA so far this month – surprising because they’ve also blown four leads in July. They haven’t done well in pressure situations, but they have pitched very well this month when behind or way ahead.
With last night’s win, St Louis has completed a series sweep in 5 of its 7 opportunities to sweep.
Coming off a 10-3 victory over Atlanta, Arizona will be the fifth consecutive team the Cards have played that will have won its previous series.