Even before he hurt his hand in the fifth inning, the Cardinals came to the plate last night waiting to see if San Diego starter Jhoulys Chacin would get himself into trouble. Jhoulys faced 27 batters before giving up the ball with two out in the fifth. Twenty-one of the 27 took Chacin’s first pitch, and 17 of those didn’t swing until they had taken a strike.
Of the 21 batters that took Jhoulys’ first pitch, 11 ended up reaching base (5 hits, 4 hit batsmen & 2 walks – a .524 on-base percentage). Only 3 of them ended up scoring, as the Cardinals failed to fully exploit their opportunities against Chacin.
Over their last 16 games, the Cardinals are averaging 7.13 runs per game and are hitting .309 with 67 walks and 15 hit batsmen. This streak has pushed their August averages to 6.10 runs per game and a .290/.380/.487 batting line. They are scoring 5.13 runs per game since the All-Star Break.
Kolten Wong celebrated his five-hundredth major league game with 3 hits, 3 runs scored and 2 stolen bases. Kolten has been one of the principle drivers of this offense. He has now hit in six straight, hitting .423 in those games (11 for 26). Playing in 15 of the Cardinal’s last 16 games, Wong carries a .411 batting average (23 for 56), scoring 15 runs and driving in 13 in those games. Wong is now hitting .392 (29 for 74) for the month of August, and .331 (40 for 121) in the season’s second half with a .399 on base percentage (although it has now been 10 games since Kolten’s last walk).
Last night, in five plate appearances, Kolten took the first pitch 3 times – finishing those at bats with a single and a double. Since the All-Star Break, Kolten is hitting .447 (21 for 47) when he takes the first pitch of an at bat.
When Jedd Gyorko is looking good at the plate – and he has 5 hits and 6 runs batted in over his last 3 games – he is much more comfortable taking those first pitch breaking balls and waiting for that fastball later in the at bat. That happened on both of his hits last night. Over his last 49 plate appearances, Jedd has taken the first pitch 31 times with these results: 5 singles, 1 double, 2 home runs, 8 runs batted in, and 6 walks. That adds up to a batting line of .320/.452/.600.
Dexter Fowler reached twice with one of the hit by pitches and an intentional walk. But, with his 0 for 2, his six-game hitting streak ends. Dexter hit .409/.480/.636 during the streak.
With the Cardinal pitching staff riding a 12-game streak of allowing at least five runs a game, rookie starter Luke Weaver stood in the breach with seven dominating innings against the offense that scorched his team for 12 runs the night before.
Luke established his fastball early in the count, showing little concern with challenging the Padres. Only 6 of the 26 batters he faced took him up on the challenge by swinging at his first-pitch fastball. They went 0-5 with a walk, even though 4 of the 6 put that first pitch in play. The last 14 batters to offer at Luke’s first pitch – almost always a fastball – are 0 for 12 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt.
For the season, batters who hit the first pitch against Weaver are just 1 for 9 (Arizona’s David Peralta dribbled an infield hit to second base). Across all of baseball, batters who hit the first pitch of an at bat are hitting .346 and slugging .584.
Seung-hwan Oh relieved in the eighth and lasted just two batters. It was a microcosm of his recent struggles – equal parts bad luck and bad pitching. Both batters reached, Matt Szczur – completely fooled by a slider – bounced a single up the middle off an excuse me swing. Manuel Margot got a fastball up and out over the plate that he laced into right-center for a triple.
Things aren’t getting better for Oh. He has pitched in 16 games (13 innings) in the season’s second half with a 4.85 ERA and a .315 batting average against. I find the thought of him back in the closers role a bit concerning.
On the heels of Oh’s struggles, Tyler Lyons entered and stranded the runner at third. He struck out two of the batters he faced and got the other to pop out.
It seems the rest of the world is beginning to notice what I have been pointing out for some time now. Tyler Lyons is becoming one of the most effective relief pitchers in baseball. He is now unscored on over his last 16 games (14.2 innings). The last 50 batters to face him have 3 hits, 4 walks, 2 hit batters and one sacrifice fly – a .070/.180/.116 batting line.
Tyler has struck out 11 of the last 25 batters that have faced him.
The idea of Tyler as the closer is, I admit, intriguing. He doesn’t fit the profile, per se. But no one is hitting him.
Wong and Tommy Pham began the game with doubles. St Louis sent 42 batters to the plate last night. These were their only two extra base hits.