It is safe to say that the New York Mets are just as happy that they will probably not have to see Paul DeJong again this season.
His eighth-inning home run on Sunday snapped a 3-3 tie and sent the Cards on to a 4-3 win (box score), a 3 games to 1 series victory, and put the cherry on a series in which DeJong hit .412 (7 for 17) with 3 home runs. He drove in 5 runs over the 4 games, and slugged .941.
While things certainly turned up a notch when he arrived at Citi Field, it would be incorrect to say that DeJong was slump ridden until breaking out of it against the Mets.
In fact DeJong now possesses a six-game hitting streak, and has hits in 11 of his last 12 games. He is 9 for 26 (.346) over the six games. His proclivity against the Mets aside, the entire organization is relieved to see Paul emerge from a slump that lasted the entire month of May.
The series win further helped the Cards pull themselves off the mat after this recent road trip began with a sweep at the hands of the Cubs. True, the last 7 games have been against struggling teams in Miami and New York. Still, St Louis has managed to win 5 of those games, and hit a little bit, too, in the process.
Well, I suppose I should say scored a bit, as they didn’t really do all that much hitting.
DeJong’s Sunday home run was one of only 3 hits the Cards had the entire game, and even though they scored 25 runs during the 4 games, they hit only .243 for the series. This team managed just 33 hits during the four games, but 15 of them were for extra-bases (they had 7 doubles to go with 8 home runs). They also stole 10 bases (without a caught stealing) in the series – looking at times a little like the Whitey-ball Cards of the late 80s.
Against the Marlins and Mets, the team combined to hit just .229, but still averaged 5.14 runs per game. And are now hitting .226 fourteen games into June. They are 18-1 in stolen bases this month, as well.
The return of Paul DeJong is unvarnished great news. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to get a few more of the struggling hitters to turn things around.
Kolten Wong’s 0-for-4 on Sunday snapped a short, but very loud hitting streak for the Cardinal second baseman. With hits in each of his 5 previous games, Kolten hit .471 (8 for 17) with a double, a home run and a .706 slugging percentage during the streak.
Like his double-play partner, Wong, coming out of a dreary May, is a hitter reborn in June. He is hitting .333 this month (16 for 48).
After carrying the team for much of the last several weeks, Marcell Ozuna has started to tail off lately. Over his last 5 games, Marcell is just 2 for 15 (.133) – both hits being singles. Marcell has just 1 RBI over those games.
Jose Martinez got one of the biggest hits in the series – a pinch-hit, three-run home run in Friday’s 9-5 win (box score). It was his only hit of the series.
For a brief period up through the mid-part of May, Jose was starting every day, and hitting a ton. Since he’s been mostly moved back to the bench, he’s fallen into enough of a slump to make it difficult to push him back into the lineup. Jose has played in 22 of the last 23 games, but has started just 8 – and is hitting just .135 (5 for 37) in those games. He has fallen to .136 (3 for 22) in June.
Paul Goldschmidt got the scoring started on Sunday with a no-doubt two-run home run. That was also his only hit during the series, and broke an 0-for-12. Goldschmidt was the big get this offseason, and his early struggles have contributed significantly to the inconsistencies of the offense. Goldy is hitting .208 (10 for 48) this month.
Starting Pitching Can’t Find Their Consistency
The recent rebound has been comforting for Cardinal fans, but the victories over the Marlins and Mets have generally come with little contribution from the rotation. The four starters against the Mets lasted a combined 19.1 innings (leaving 16.2 innings for the bullpen to cover), and struggled to a 6.05 ERA with a .299 batting average against. They walked 10 batters in those innings.
Over the last 7 games, the starters ERA is 4.58, and they are at 4.30 for the month. This is not a long-term formula for success, and something management desperately hopes gets fixed soon.
Promising right-hander Jack Flaherty has hit a rough patch in June. He started the Thursday game (eventually won by the Cards 5-4 in 10 innings – box score).
But Jack couldn’t make it through the sixth, giving 4 runs on 6 hits in 5.1 innings. He has made 3 starts this month, totaling 14 innings. He has no decisions in June, with a 6.43 ERA.
Jack had three batters at the plate in this game with a chance to get a double play if he could get a ground ball. He didn’t get the ground ball from any of them. Jack is 0-for-11 this month in getting double plays. He got the double play in 8 of his first 45 such opportunities this season (17.8%).
Jack is increasingly becoming an extreme flyball pitcher – and the effects haven’t been for the best. Of the 41 batters to put the ball in play against him this month, only 11 have hit the ball on the ground. In addition to the disappearance of the double play, Jack has also allowed 4 homers in his last 14 innings.
Jack did get 17 swinging strikes on Thursday. Flaherty, who has 16 strikeouts in his 14 innings this month, still has the best swing-and-miss stuff among the rotation members. Batters are missing on 29% of their swings against Jack.
The strikeout is sexy, but it does inflate the pitch count. He threw 101 pitches on Thursday, after tossing 96 in just 3.2 innings of his previous start. Jack threw 4.21 pitches per batter faced against the Mets. In his three starts this month, he is throwing 4.42 pitches per batter, and is now at 4.27 for the season. Both those figures lead all pitchers that have been with the team all year.
Michael Wacha’s up again, down again season tilted back down again over the weekend. The only decision any of the starters got against the Mets was Wacha’s Saturday night loss, 8-7 (box score). Wacha gave six of the runs on 7 hits (including 2 home runs) over 5 innings. Wacha has lost 3 of his last 4 decisions, allowing 7 home runs over his last 23 innings. His ERA over that span is 7.04 with a batting line against of .326/.404/.609.
Already trailing 4-1 in the first, Michael faced a first-and-third situation with one out. This would be just one of 5 potential double play situations Wacha would have during the game. But, instead, the hitter, Carlos Gomez, delivered the run with a sacrifice fly. Of the 16 times this season that Michael has been faced with that runner at third and less than two out, that runner has now made it home 10 times – a 62.5% figure that is the highest among the starters. (By the way, he wouldn’t get a double play in any of those opportunities.)
One thing that happens when you lose velocity on your fastball is that people can’t wait to swing at it. Of the 72 pitches that Michael threw on Saturday, the Mets swung at 39 of them – a very aggressive 54.2%. This month, 52.5% of Wacha’s pitches have been swung at – the highest ratio among the starters.
Dakota Hudson started the Sunday game and provided the only quality start of the series. For Hudson – although his stuff didn’t have the bite it normally does (he allowed as many fly balls as he did ground balls – 10 of each) – it was his seventh straight quality start.
In 3 June starts, Dakota is 1-0 with a 2.33 ERA. Over his last 7 starts, he is 3-0 with 2 other leads lost by his bullpen, with a 2.68 ERA. He has allowed no home runs over the 43.2 innings of those starts.
In a notable oddity, although Hudson gives up buckets of ground balls, he allows the fewest infield hits of anyone in the rotation – just 3 so far this year, and none in the month of June.
Another thing that ground ball does is it keeps that runner on third from scoring. Dakota twice had runners at third with less than two outs. Neither scored. For the season only 11 of 29 (37.9%) have made it home – the lowest percentage of anyone on the team who has faced that situation more than 3 times.
Of the 26 batters he faced, only 7 swung at his first pitch (26.9%) and of the 19 that took that first pitch, only 5 of them were called strikes. This has been a visible trend against Dakota all month. In June, only 26.8% of his first pitches are swung at (the fewest of the starters) and only 54.9% of batters total are getting first-pitch strikes – the lowest percentage of anyone on the team who has faced at least 15 batters this month.
Hudson only struck out three batters, but one of them – Pete Alonso in the third – was caught looking. Of the 54 batters Dakota has fanned this year, 18 have looked at strike three – 33.3% which is second only to Adam Wainwright’s 37.7% among starters.
Headlining a bullpen that bore 16.2 innings over the four games with a 2.16 ERA, Giovanny Gallegos pitched in two of the games, tossing 3 perfect innings. Moreover, he inherited 6 runners on base in the two games, allowing just one to score on a sacrifice fly.
Gallegos now has 11 consecutive scoreless innings over his last 8 games, during which he has given 3 hits and no walks. The last 34 batters to face him hold a .091/.088/.121 batting line.
This month, Gio has thrown first-pitch strikes to 23 of the 27 batters he’s faced (an eye-raising 85.2%). That figure includes 7 of the 8 he faced over the weekend.
I’m not sure if the batters know exactly what Gallegos throws, but they are certain that they want to hit it. Of the 33 pitches he threw over the weekend, 20 were offered at – a super-aggressive 60.6%. This month, batters are chasing after 56.5% of his pitches – the highest figure on the staff regardless of usage.
Of the 33 pitches he threw this weekend, 75.8% were strikes. Gallegos throws the most strikes of anyone on the staff – 70.9% for the season.
Appearing twice in the series, John Brebbia faced two opportunities to get a double-play. He got neither. This is not a surprise. An extreme fly ball pitcher, Brebbia is 0 for 22 this season in double-play opportunities.
Both of his strikeouts during the Met series went down swinging. That is very much his MO. John has 43 strikeouts this season – only 5 of them looking. That 11.6% is the lowest of any Cardinal pitcher facing at least 100 batters this season.
Andrew Miller’s devastating swing-and-miss slider is coming back. He pitched in three games against the Mets, and saw New York swing at 20 of his pitches. They missed 9. For the month of June, batters are missing on 41.5% of their swings against him.
Of the times they did make some contact, only 5 times were they able to put the ball in play. For the month of June, Miller is allowing the ball to be put in play on just 17.1% of the swings against him – by far the lowest on the team.
Andrew is also starting to throw a lot more strikes. 67.9% of his pitches in New York were strikes. This month, Andrew is throwing strikes with 69.1% of his pitches.
Tyler Webb also pitched a couple times in the series. He struck out one batter – swinging, of course. Of Webb’s 21 strikeouts this season, only 1 has gone down looking.
The Cardinals continue to score first. They scored the first run in three of the four games in New York, and have scored first in 13 of the last 19 games.
Paul DeJong’s tenth inning single in the first game accounted for his fifth game-winning hit of the season. His home run on Sunday gave him 6 already. He is second on the team behind Marcell Ozuna, who has 8. The Thursday hit was also his fifth late, game-changing hit of the season. He would add his sixth and seventh with his eighth-inning homers in the Friday and Sunday games. No other Cardinal has more than three such hits.
Paul’s 68 runs scored last year were his career high (albeit in a career that is only in its third season). The 5 he scored this weekend give him 49 this season already.
He also finished the Met series with 72 hits on the season. He had 105 all of last year. He is now also up to 131 total bases for the season. He finished last year with just 189.
Not sure if I’ve already mentioned this or not, but John Gant has already surpassed his career high in games. Friday’s appearance was his thirty-first. His previous career high was the 26 games he pitched in last year.
Yadier Molina’s double in the Friday game was his fifteenth of the season. He had 20 all of last year.
His double play grounder in the Sunday game was his tenth of the season already. He grounded into 15 all of last year.
The run scored by Kolten Wong Friday night was his twenty-eighth of the season. Ho scored just 41 runs all last year. Additionally, the RBI generated by that home run was his thirtieth of the season. For all of 2018, Kolten had just 38 runs batted in.
On Sunday, Dexter Fowler played his sixty-third game of the season. He played in 90 in all of his injury-plagued 2018 season.
Saturday’s attendance in New York of 32,589 finally pushed the Cardinals’ road attendance over the one million mark in their thirty-sixth road game. They have now drawn 1,023,866 on the road – an average of 28,440.7. In 33 home games, they have pulled 1,397,106 – an average of 42,336.5 per home date.
When Jose Martinez started in left for the Sunday game, it broke a streak of 56 consecutive starts in left by Ozuna. Harrison Bader – who has started 19 straight games in center – now has the teams’ longest consecutive starts streak.