It was last Thursday that your St Louis Cardinals put on one of the most impressive displays of batsmanship with runners in scoring position (RISP) in their recent history. Finishing the game with 25 at bats with runners in scoring position, the Cards slapped out 11 hits (none of them home runs). They ground the Pittsburgh Pirates that evening to the tune of 17-4.
Last night in Atlanta, it looked like a similar team taking the field. They rode a 6-for-10 RISP performance to a 14-3 win.
The Cards are now hitting .292/.397/.491 this month with runners in scoring position, and rank second in the National League and fifth in all of baseball, hitting .278 on the season in these situations.
The Cardinals have now had 13 games this season with at least 10 RISP at bats, hitting over .400 in those at bats in three of them (they were also 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position in a 13-5 battering of Milwaukee on April 22).
It’s a great skill to have – getting that hit with the ducks on the pond (as they say). But this number also shows the all-or-nothing nature of the Cardinal offense of late. In the three games after the bludgeoning of Pittsburgh (all losses to the Pirates) St Louis was just 3-for-21 (.143) with runners in scoring position.
Among the offensive heroes of the night – as usual these days – was catcher Yadier Molina. He finished with a double and a three-run home run (one of three, three-run homers hit by St Louis on the night). Especially lately, I’m not sure that there is anyone that I would rather have at the plate than Yadi. He has now hit safely in 6 of his last 8 games, going 11-for-30 (.367). Five of those 11 hits have been for extra bases, and he has driven home 7 runs in the 8 games while slugging .667.
Yadi is up to .333 for the month (15-for-45) with 10 runs batted in in 13 games (12 starts).
Molina’s home run came on his only plate appearance of the game with runners in scoring position. He is now 6 for 13 (.462) this month in RISP opportunities. For the season, Molina is hitting .395 (17 for 43) with runners in scoring position.
In mid-April manager Mike Shildt moved Dexter Fowler from sixth to seventh in the lineup, and Fowler has thrived there. He singled, homered, and walked twice last night, and is now hitting .368 (25 for 68) in the 22 games since the move. He has also drawn 13 walks and has been hit by pitches twice – leading to a .482 on base percentage.
Gradually but surely, the Cardinal starters are serving up fewer home runs. In April, the starters served up 34 home runs in 151 innings – 2.03 per nine innings. The April batting average against the St Louis rotation was .264 – unexpectedly high against a good-stuff rotation.
Thus far in May, only 6 home runs have been hit against Cardinal starters in 76.1 innings – just 0.71 per nine innings. The batting average against these starters has also fallen to a more expected .241.
Jack Flaherty has been prominent in both trends. Jack allowed only 3 hits and no home runs over his six innings. He has now allowed just 1 home run over his last 4 starts (23.2 innings), while holding opposing batters to a .185 batting average. Walks have been a problem for him recently, though. He walked 5 last night and has walked 12 over his last 16.2 innings.
While Cardinal batsmen have done well – mostly – in RISP situations, of late the Cardinal pitchers have not been so fortunate. One of the numbers underpinning the 4-9 start to the month of May has been a general inability to get people out with runners in scoring position.
Atlanta scored 3 runs last night on only 3 hits because they were 2-for-4 against Flaherty in RISP situations. Thus far in May, opposing hitters are 5 for 12 (.417) against Flaherty with runners in scoring position, and 28 for 81 (.346) against the entire staff in those situations.
Marcell Ozuna’s first-inning home run held up as the game-winning-hit – his sixth this season. No other Cardinal has more than 3.
With his 3-run homer in the ninth, Kolten Wong now has 22 runs batted in this year. He had 38 all of last year. His career high is just the 61 he drove in in 2015.
Kolten has also already drawn 20 walks this year. Last year he walked only 31 times, and has never walked more than 41 times in a season.