From a mostly disastrous May, the St Louis Cardinals will have very few positives to carry with them into June. One of those positives will be the re-discovery of Dakota Hudson.
Hudson wasn’t a favorite to win a spot in the rotation during spring. Most thought he would end up in the bullpen. In April, it looked like he should have started the season in Memphis. None of his first 5 starts met the criteria for a quality start, he served up 8 home runs in 24 innings, and held a 5.63 ERA and a .327 batting average against.
The Dakota Hudson of May has been significantly different. After dispatching Philadelphia, allowing 1 run on 4 hits through 6 innings of a 5-3 victory (box score), Dakota wrapped up his second month in the rotation with 5 quality starts in 6 games, a 2.80 ERA, and just 1 home run surrendered in 35.1 innings.
Differences? There were a couple on display last night. The recurring theme would be trust.
The April Hudson tried – I think – to be too fine. Trying to locate his power sinker in the lower part of the strike zone, he had difficulty adjusting if the other team forced him to bring his pitches up. He also didn’t show a lot of trust in his other breaking pitches.
The results were 11 unintentional walks – an average of 4.88 per nine innings. More telling, Dakota missed with his first pitch to 48 batters in April. They finished with 8 singles, 2 doubles, 6 home runs, 10 walks and 1 sacrifice hit. Those 48 batters drove in 9 runs with a .432/.553/.973 batting line.
Last night, against a Philadelphia lineup that has bedeviled the Cards throughout the series, Dakota didn’t worry at all about elevating his sinker, and even if behind in the count, he didn’t hesitate to throw his entire arsenal – including a slider that has become particularly nasty.
Aside from the two intentional walks dished out to Rhys Hoskins, Dakota threw ball one to 10 of the 21 batters he faced. Six of those misplaced first pitches were sinkers – three of them low and the other three inside. Philadelphia did a credible job all evening of laying off the low sinker. What they learned was that the sinker wasn’t necessarily easier to hit when it was up in the zone.
One of those batters (Jean Segura) did end up drawing a walk. None of the other 9 reached base. Dakota came back to strike out two of them (Bryce Harper in the first and Hoskins in the second) on that nasty slider. Six of the other seven grounded out, four of them on sinkers up in the zone.
For the month of May, Dakota allowed 11 unintentional walks (2.80 per innings), while batters hit .229 against him after he missed with the first pitch. It is a much different Dakota Hudson.
There is a great benefit in having that heavy, heavy sinker – especially when you have this kind of trust in it.
What to Do About the Pen
Even deploying his presumed best arms, the bullpen almost let the game get away again. With 2 more runs allowed last night, the St Louis relief corps enters the last day of the month with an aggregate 5.08 ERA. The struggles of the starters and the offense have occupied significant attention, but a nettlesome bullpen has certainly contributed to the month’s woes.
Paul Goldschmidt continues hot. With 2 more hits last night, Paul has hit in 5 of his last 6, with multiple hits in four of the five games. He is hitting .476 (10 for 21) over that span.
An injury to Yadier Molina is never good news. His backup, Matt Wieters has taken some advantage of the opportunity. He has started 3 of the last 8 games and has had 2 hits in each of them – giving him 6 in his last 11 at bats (.545). Moreover, half the hits have been for extra bases (a double and 2 home runs).
Wieters now has 3 home runs this month in just 20 at bats, while hitting .400 in May.
Kolten Wong hit a home run in the seventh inning of the last game against Kansas City. He hasn’t had a hit since – his current hitless streak sitting at 21 at bats. He has struck out in 7 of those at bats.
Over his last 10 games, Wong is 2 for 33 (.061). He is down to .155 for the month, and .216 for the season.
In an even greater slump – if such a thing were possible – is Kolten’s double-play partner Paul DeJong. Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Paul is 1 for his last 26 (.038).
DeJong is down to .207 in the month of May.
Add Harrison Bader to the list of the slumping. He was also hitless in 4 at bats and over his last 5 games has 1 single in 14 at bats (.071).
Marcell Ozuna’s second inning home run was the game-winning RBI – the eighth this season for Ozuna. No other Cardinal has more than 3.