The story is told of three statisticians who went duck hunting. As the first duck flew overhead, the first statistician shot at him – but his bullet flew 50 feet too high. Before the duck could disappear from sight, the second statistician also fired. His bullet went 50 feet to low, prompting the third statistician to declare, “What do you know, we got him.”
The St Louis Cardinals will take the field tonight having outscored their opponents over the last six games (four games against Pittsburgh and two against Atlanta) 39-25. This is a dominant enough differential that you might the Cards had won at least 5 of the 6 if not all of them.
Certainly, you would think the Cards would have won more than the two that they have, in fact, won. But, like the duck in the story, the Pirates and Braves have taken little lingering damage, and the Cardinals have only statistics to comfort them.
One week ago tonight, the Cardinals battered Pittsburgh 17-4 and promptly lost the next three games as the offense disappeared. On Tuesday evening, they landed on the Atlanta Braves to the tune of 14-3. Last night they struggled to come up with three hits in a 4-0 shutout loss (box score).
For all of the fact that they managed so few hits, St Louis did have opportunities. In a game that was just 2-0 until Atlanta’s last at bat, St Louis added 5 walks and a hit batsman to the mix. They had 12 plate appearances with at least one runner on base, including 6 with two or more – highlighted, of course, by Paul Goldschmidt’s bases loaded opportunity with one out and the game still scoreless in the third.
Including the double-play that Atlanta starter Mike Soroka got from Goldschmidt, St Louis was 1-for-8 batting with a runner on base, 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, and 0-for-4 with 2 double plays with two or more runners on.
Through March/April this team averaged 5.45 runs per game, scored at least once in every game, and managed at least four runs in 24 of the season’s first 28 games.
Beginning with the last game in April, this offense has been shut out 3 times, and has failed to score as many as four runs 8 times over the last 15 games – 7 times over these last 13 games. Yet, for the 13 games, St Louis is still averaging 4.38 runs per game, thanks to the intermittent outbursts.
As the losses mount, the frustration level climbs. But answers are hard to come by. So is consistency.
While not disappearing completely, Marcell Ozuna has certainly faded recently. He did hit the home run that started Tuesday’s onslaught, but that has been his only hit over the last 4 games (he is 1 for his last 17). He is just 7 for 52 (.135) over the last 13 games, and is now hitting .179 for the month of May.
The Cardinals are still waiting Matt Carpenter to find himself. Hitless in 2 at bats last night, Matt has 1 hit over his last 5 game, and is hitting .115 (3 for 26) over his last 8 games. His average for May has faded to .192 (only slightly lower than his season average of .199). Yes, there are still the walks – he walked once last night and has 8 for the month. But at some point, the Cards will need some hits from Carpenter.
Paul’s third-inning double play might have been his most telling at bat. Goldschmidt did also draw a couple of walks, but otherwise went 0-for-2. It brought a halt to Goldschmidt’s baby five-game hitting streak. During the streak, Paul hit .476 (10 for 21).
Michael Wacha failed to deliver the team’s fourth consecutive quality start, but he did give the team five innings on 90 pitches and left trailing 2-0. For the season, Wacha has been pretty good at working out of messes with runners on base (hitters carry just a .236 average against Wacha with runners on base). That success carried over last night, as the Braves were 0-for-8 against Michael with runners on.
His problem, of course, was keeping Braves off the bases in the first place. Of the 13 batters that faced Michael with the bases empty, 2 walked, 2 singled, 1 doubled and Austin Riley collected his first major league home run. While the Braves only touched him for 2 runs (1 earned), the constant traffic on the base paths added to the stress of Michael’s evening and hurried his exit.
Giovanny Gallegos isn’t a reliever we’ve paid a whole lot of attention to – and with some reason. Giovanny has had his ups and downs. He pitched a perfect seventh last night, striking out two – an inning that highlighted two things that Gallegos – in his limited opportunities – has done quite well.
First, is keeping people off base. With his perfect seventh, only 3 of the last 19 batters to face him have reached. For the season, his .244 on base percentage against with the bases empty is the second lowest on the club – behind only Tyler Webb’s .240.
The two strikeouts bring his season total to 29 in 17 innings – an average of 15.35 per nine innings.