The one everyone remembers came in the eighth inning. Singles by Jedd Gyorko and Marcell Ozuna, and a walk drawn by Harrison Bader loaded the bases for the Cards with two out in a game they had trailed 2-1 since the fourth inning.
Backup catcher Matt Wieters (who had contributed one of the early hits) was due, but it was the eighth inning and manager Mike Shildt had a bench loaded with regulars who were getting the night off. The at bat would go Paul Goldschmidt, and he would be hitting against the left-hander. Washington had brought in closer Sean Doolittle to face the right-handed Bader trying to earn a four-out save.
After losing his 8-pitch battle with Bader, Doolittle would now have to face the slugger Goldschmidt with no place to put him. But also with two out, so Sean was always just one pitch away from getting out of the mess.
Goldschmidt fouled off the first three pitches, took a ball, and then flinched on a 1-2 inside fastball that was off the plate. First-base umpire Quinn Wolcott emphatically rung him up. The replays showed that it was close.
While that will be the one remembered, it was only one of several such late opportunities presented to the Cardinals, all of which slid by the boards. In fact, from the fourth inning on – the inning they fell behind – St Louis had at least one hit in every inning, and had the tying run in scoring position in three of those innings (including that eighth). But the lack of that two out hit – compounding the earlier mistakes that had put them in the hole to begin with – were too much for them to overcome, and the five-game winning streak came to an ignominious 2-1 end (box score).
The lone Cardinal run scored in the third, but the inning was greatly defused when Wieters was picked off of second after Dakota Hudson missed on an attempted bunt. Washington scored their two runs in the fourth on a throwing error and a double play. So, even though the hitters were mostly dominated for the second straight night by National starters (Stephen Strasburg last night and Max Scherzer the night before), St Louis will head to Chicago knowing they mostly let this one get away.
In the end, they finished 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position, and 0 for 3 in the sixth, seventh and eighth runners in scoring position and two out. A single by Gyorko and Matt Carpenter’s walk gave Ozuna and Tyler O’Neill the RBI opportunities in the sixth. Marcell popped out and O’Neill struck out. The seventh inning opportunity came courtesy of an infield hit from Yairo Munoz and a walk drawn by Jose Martinez. The inning ended when Kolten Wong’s foul fly decided not to go out of bounds and floated back to where right fielder Victor Robles could gather it in.
St Louis finished the game 2-for-11 (.182) with two out, ending six of their nine innings with strikeouts. For the season – in spite of the fact that they have been one of baseball’s most consistent offenses – they are hitting just .246 with two outs. An area I know they expect to be better in.
On the other hand, the Cards were 5 for 13 (.385) with no one out. They remain one of baseball’s best hitting no-out teams, raising their season average to .293 and their on base percentage to .357 in that situation. For the season, 56.7% of all Cardinal runners who reach with no outs have come home to score.
Given to pronounced slumps over recent years, Matt Carpenter is currently fighting his way through another. Last year, when his season started slowly, he had the advanced metrics to fall back on that showed he was still hitting the ball hard – just not having any luck.
Recently, though, Matt just isn’t hitting the ball at all. After last night’s 0-for-3 with 2 strikeouts, Carpenter finished the Washington series just 1 for 16 (.063) with 11 strikeouts. He is kind of a mess right now.
In his only at bat of the game with two out, Matt flew out fairly deep to center to end the first. Carpenter is now 2 for 24 (.083) on the season with two out, driving in just 1 run.
Even in defeat, the recent improvement in the Cardinal pitching remains evident. Starting with six very strong innings from Dakota Hudson, Washington ended with just 5 hits (all singles) and 11 strikeouts. Frankly they were lucky to score at all.
After being fairly battered early, the Cardinal pitching staff seems to have found its footing a bit. They have now fashioned 5 quality starts over their last 9 games, producing a 3.26 team ERA while holding opposing teams to just a .217 batting average. The once concerning rotation has contributed 52 innings over those 9 games, with a 2.77 ERA and a .229 batting average against.
This is much more according to the plan.
Better With Two Outs
One of the great improvements over the last 9 games has been in St Louis’ ability to get that third out. The first 282 batters to face the Cardinals with two out this year drew 35 walks and smacked 28 extra-base hits – including 15 two out home runs. That batting line translated into .249/.358/.494
Over the last 9 games, 110 batters have faced the Cards with two outs. They have 13 walks and just 4 extra-base hits – including just 1 home run – a batting line of .240/.336/.302. Last night, Washington was 2-for-11 with two outs – but also with two more walks.
After being battered over two games against Cincinnati (allowing 8 runs in 1.1 innings), Dominic Leone returned to form against Washington. In 1.2 scoreless innings he struck out 4.
One of the Cardinal strengths all year has been pitching with no one out, as opponents have only hit .202 against St Louis in that situation. Leone has been a solid part of that. He struck out both of the batters he faced with no outs last night. Batters are now 2-for-19 (.105) with 8 strikeouts when pitted against Leone with no one out.
Unfortunately, Dominic has also contributed to the two out struggles. The hit he gave up last night came with two out, bringing opposing hitters to 9 for 19 (.474) against Leone in that situation.