Random Facts to Ponder

Twenty-three games into the month of June, the Cards have managed more than 4 runs just 8 times – only 35% of the games.  This was something they did 52% of the time in the March-April time frame, and a standard they achieved 48% of the time last year.

Wednesday’s shutout was the sixth time this year the Cardinals have been kept off the scoreboard.  Last year’s team was shut out just 7 times the whole season.

The March/April version of this team scored at least 4 runs in 24 of the first 29 games.  Over the last two months, they have reached the four-run mark 25 times combined.

On June 15, after trailing 6-1 after two innings, the Cards almost came back, but lost to the Mets 8-7 when Jack Flaherty was thrown out at home  with two-out in the ninth (box score).  This was the second time this season they had scored 7 runs in a game, but lost.  Milwaukee had beaten them 10-7 back on April 15 (box score).  In that one, they rallied from a 6-2 deficit after two innings to tie it at six in the top of the sixth.  Christian Yelich then hit the three-run homer in the bottom of the inning to spark the Brewers to the victory.

Last year the Cards lost only 3 games all season long when they scored more than 6 runs.

The Cards are 4-0 this month when Dakota Hudson starts.  They are 10-5 in Hudson’s starts this year.  They are also 3-0 when Daniel Ponce de Leon starts.  They are 27-34 when anyone else takes the mound.

On Saturday, June 8 the visiting Cardinals hit the Chicago Cubs with four runs in the first.  They wouldn’t score again, and ended up getting pummeled 9-4 (box score).

This became the second time this season already that St Louis has lost a game after being ahead by 4 runs.  The other time also happened in Chicago against the Cubs on May 4.  After a three-run fourth put them ahead 5-1, the Cards again stopped scoring.  The Cubs got an answering grand slam from Taylor Davis in the bottom of that inning, and rolled on to a 6-5 victory (box score).

Through all of last year, the Cards lost just twice after leading by more than three runs.

I pointed out yesterday that St Louis’ 2-11 record in Milwaukee and Chicago represented some of the lowest moments of the season so far.  Here are a few of those moments that we may be shaking our heads over for the rest of the season.

Shutout Loss Wraps Up 4-5 Homestand

There was one out in the fourth inning – Oakland ahead at that point just 1-0.  Athletics’ starter Daniel Mengden missed over the middle of the plate with a 1-1 fastball, and Cardinal slugger Marcell Ozuna jumped on it, sending a soaring fly ball to nearly the deepest part of the park.  And that is where Oakland centerfielder Mark Canha stood waiting for it – just a step to the rightfield side of the 400’ mark in center.

Are their parks in the league that that fly ball would go out of?  Almost assuredly.  Busch’s dimensions are very moderate these days, but for whatever reason – humidity, perhaps? – Busch Stadium continues to play very big.  This, in fact, continues to be the defining difference between this team when it plays at home as opposed to when it plays on the road.  In other parks, the ball goes out.  In St Louis it just doesn’t.  It has been that way here for as long as I can remember.

In the just concluded 9-game homestand, St Louis hit 7 home runs in 312 at bats (one HR per 45 at bats).  In the 9 games they had a team slugging percentage of just .337.  They also hit just .224, and scored just 3.22 runs per game.

They have now finished the home portion of the month of June.  In their 13 home games this month (of which they’ve managed to win 7), St Louis has hit just 12 home runs, scored 3.23 runs per game, hit for a .232 average and slugged .353.  To this point, they have played three fewer games on the road this month than at home, but are scoring 4.20 runs per game on the road, and have hit as many home runs (12) despite having 108 fewer at bats on the road in June.

For the season, the Cardinals have played 5 more games on the road than at home (42-37), but have hit 15 more home runs away from home (55-40) in spite of having 103 fewer road at bats.  The team, whose slugging percentage at home (.382) is the third worst in the league, averages 1 home run for every 34.5 at bats at home – vs one per every 23.2 at bats on the road (where they are slugging .419).

A lot of the numbers that explain winning and losing in baseball are pretty straight forward.  You can score a healthy amount of runs without hitting home runs.  That has been done here in St Louis in the past.

But you can’t do it while hitting .246 (St Louis’ current season-long average at home).  You have to get hit to put hits together.

As visible as the difference in the offense is, the gap between the Cardinals’ pitching – especially the starting pitching – boarders on mind-boggling.

In the just concluded home-stand, St Louis got quality starts in 6 of the 9 games, with the starters throwing 53.2 innings (coming one out short of averaging 6 innings per).  They combined for a 3.02 ERA, a .248 batting average against, and they walked just 9 batters (1 intentionally) over the home-stand.

For the month of June, in their 13 home games, Cardinal starters have 8 quality starts, a 2.78 ERA, and a .238 batting average against.

For this same month, in their 10 road games, they have managed 3 quality starts, with a 5.29 ERA and a .295 batting average against.

In 42 home games this season so far, the starters have produced 22 quality starts, have pitched 244 innings, posted a 16-12 record, courtesy of a 3.25 ERA and a .243 batting line against.  They have allowed 33 home runs in Busch – an average of 1.22 per nine innings.

The 37 road games have seen them manage just 13 quality starts, pitch just 184.1 innings, put together a 9-16 record with (and this is not a typo) a 5.61 ERA.  The batting line against them away from home is an unimpressive .285/.362/.493.  Additionally, they have seen 34 longballs hit against them on the road – 1.66 per nine innings.

It’s hard to imagine that any team in baseball has a larger gap between starters’ ERA at home and on the road.  The home run differential is only a small piece of the puzzle.  The team’s 16-21 road record includes a combined 2-11 mark in Chicago and in Milwaukee.  These two teams are averaging 6.15 runs per game against the Cardinals when we play in there ballpark.  Without much debate, most of our worst moments this season have come on the road in Chicago and Milwaukee.  At home against these two clubs, St Louis sports a perfect 6-0 record, holding them to just 2.67 runs per game.

The good news is that St Louis will have just one more road series each in Milwaukee and Chicago.

Adam Wainwright

Although the tough-luck loser last night (box score), Adam Wainwright pitched another excellent game – allowing just the two runs over 6.2 innings.  In four June starts, Waino is now 1-2, but with a 2.96 ERA.

Three of his starts this month have come at home, where he has fashioned a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings, with last night’s home runs the only ones he allowed at home in June.

He made one road start this month, losing in Chicago on June 9 by a 5-1 score.  He lasted just 4.1 innings that day, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits.

For the season, Adam has made 8 starts at home, giving us 5 quality starts, a 4-2 record, and a 2.68 Busch ERA.  Holding with the team-wide pattern, Waino has started 7 road games, with 2 quality starts, a 1-5 record, coupled with a 6.56 ERA.

Giovanny Gallegos

Another day, another scoreless effort from Giovanny Gallegos.  That’s 13 in a row.  Over his last 15.1 scoreless innings, Giovanny has allowed 8 hits (5 singles and 3 doubles) walked nobody, struck out 18, and stranded 11 of the 13 runners he inherited.  The batting line against him during that stretch is .157/.170/.216.  He has thrown 72% of his pitches for strikes, and has a swing-and-miss percentage of 36%.

Of all the pitchers on the staff, no one has risen to the road challenge the way that Gallegos has.  Giovanny has worked in 15 road games, pitching 20.1 innings.  He holds a 1.77 ERA in those games, with a .138/.186/.215 batting line.  Gallegos has a strikeout-to-walk ratio on the road of 28 (12.39 per nine innings) to 4 – with one of the 4 being intentional.  He is unintentionally walking just 1.33 batters per nine road innings.

Tommy Edman

Looking for a spark, Tommy Edman led-off during the last game of the home stand.  Tommy responded with two hits, but nothing came of them.

Playing in his very first homestand in the major leagues, Tommy played in 7 of the 9 games, starting 2.  He was 7 for 13 (.538), including a triple and a clutch home run – leaving him with a .923 slugging percentage at Busch.

Paul DeJong

Paul DeJong collected a couple of hits in the first game of the homestand.  Thereafter, he was just 4 for 34 (.118).  For the entire homestand, he had just 2 extra-base hits (both doubles) and 2 runs batted in and slugged .211.  He is down to .222 for the month.

Paul might actually be looking forward to getting on the road.  He finished June hitting just .170 at Busch, while he’s hit .297 on the road this month.  Four of his 5 June home runs have come on the road, and 9 of his 13 on the season have been road homers.

Jose Martinez

After looking like he was about to explode out of his protracted slump, Jose Martinez has slipped back a bit, going 2 for 16 (.125) over the last 4 games.  He has no walks and 5 strikeouts in those games.  It’s been a rough month for Jose, who is now hitting .224 in June.

Going on the road has not always been beneficial for Jose.  He is 3 for 17 (.176) this month away from home, and a .247 road hitter on the year.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina has been popped right back into the lineup after his injury.  He has had moments, but hasn’t really looked like himself.  In the 15 games since he’s been back, Yadi has had 59 plate appearances.  They have produced just 11 singles, 3 doubles, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts, and 2 double-play grounders.  He has driven in just 2 runs since he’s been back, with a .246/.271/.298 batting line.

He was 0-for-4 yesterday, and hit just .242 during the homestand.

Kolten Wong

While Kolten Wong continues to flash the leather, he was another Cardinal who endured a rough homestand.  He was 0-for-3 last night, and finished the homestand hitting .185 (5 of 27).  His hits were 4 singles and 1 double.

For the season, Kolten has played 41 of the 42 home games, receiving 155 plate appearances here.  He has hit 1 home run at home, where he has a .199/277/.272 batting line.

On the road, Wong is a .286/.380/.487 hitter with 6 home runs in 138 plate appearances.

NoteBook

St Louis is now 6-5-3 in their 14 series at home.

Marcell Ozuna finished his first season in St Louis with only 16 doubles.  He hit his fifteenth of this season last night.

The Cards scored in only 1 of the 18 innings against Oakland.  Their 3 runs scored were the fewest they have scored in any series this year.

Searching for a Stopper

Last night was an evening like so many others so far in the 2019 season.  Entering play, St Louis sat 2.5 games behind the division-leading Cubs, and just 1.5 games behind second-place Milwaukee.  Both of those two worthies extended an opportunity to the Cardinals as they both lost.  Meanwhile, the home-standing birds took a 3-1 lead after two innings.

The last time the Cards had played was the Sunday night game against the Angels.  After falling behind 6-0, they put on a spirited ninth-inning rally that fell just short.  St Louis had won their last 5 games after a loss, and were an OK 20-16 on the season following a loss.

And in the middle of everything was rising superstar Jack Flaherty.  As a rookie last year, Flaherty had gone 8-9 with a 3.34 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 151 innings.  Beyond the numbers, everything about his demeanor suggested a future ace.  He even famously came to the attention of Bob Gibson, the Cardinals’ storied ace of yesteryear.

And yet – as it has so often in this most trying of years – things managed to get away from both Flaherty and the Cards.  When former Cardinal Stephen Piscotty finally knocked him out of the game with an RBI fifth-inning single, Jack’s 92-pitch effort only got him through 4.2 innings at the cost of 7 runs on 9 hits (3 of them home runs).  After absorbing the 7-3 loss (box score) his season record fell to 4-5 while his ERA soared to 4.75.  He is 0-2 with a 7.01 ERA in 5 starts this month.  They have tagged 9 home runs against him in his 25.2 June innings.

Particularly disappointing, Jack seems to have his worst outings in games after a Cardinal loss.  This was the eighth time this season Jack has had the opportunity to play stopper to a Cardinal losing streak.  In those 8 starts, Jack has fashioned 1 quality start.  In the 37.1 innings he’s survived in those games, Flaherty has seen 34 runs scored (33 earned) on 47 hits and 20 walks.  The hits include 9 home runs, 9 doubles and a triple.  His record in the stoppers’ role is 1-4 with a 7.96 ERA.  Those opposing batters succeeded against him to the tune of a .307 batting average and a .556 slugging percentage.

Flaherty, though, isn’t alone struggling in the stopper’s role.  That St Louis is 20-17 after a loss is surprising, considering their starters have been saddled with a 5.03 ERA in those games.  Subtract Dakota Hudson’s efforts (he is 3-0 with a 3.19 ERA in 7 starts after a loss) and the rest of the rotation weighs in at 5.53 when starting after a Cardinal loss.

Jack is just 23 and his future, of course, still very bright.  But the learning curve here seems steeper than it looked last year.  In the meantime, it would be helpful to the cause if some of the other starters could give us a little better response after a loss.

Tyler Webb

Lost in another disappointing loss was another solid inning from lefty Tyler Webb.  He had the ninth, and retired the side in order.  Tyler has been called on 12 times already this month.  He has walked just 2 batters in his 9.2 June innings, contributing to his 2.79 ERA,

Marcell Ozuna

One thing about Marcell Ozuna.  When he starts to heat up, you can’t not notice.  Marcell singled, doubled and walked twice last night to provide opportunities that ultimately were not taken advantage of.  Marcell neither scored nor drove in a run.

However, Ozuna has been to the plate 17 memorable times over the last four games.  He has contributed 3 singles, 1 double, 2 home runs 5 runs batted in 3 walks and a stolen base.  His batting line during this outburst has been .429/.529/.929.  As I said, he tends to draw attention to himself.

While the rest of the offense is scuffling through June, scoring 3.82 runs per game and hitting .228, Marcell is having quite a fine month.  He is now hitting .305 in June with 4 home runs and 12 runs batted in.

Most encouraging is Marcell Ozuna in games after a loss this month.  While the rest of the offense, again, has shown up infrequently (.213 batting average and 3.44 runs per game), Ozuna has come out firing in the nine June games following a loss.  He is hitting .452 (14 for 31) with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 6 RBIs and a .710 slugging percentage.

Paul Goldschmidt

Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Paul Goldschmidt is 0 for his last 9 and is down to .192 for the month (15 for 78).  He still has just 5 runs batted in for the month.

NoteBook

Jack Flaherty’s season isn’t showing the straight-line improvement that might have been hoped for him.  With the 9 hits surrendered last night, he has now given up 78 in his 85.1 innings this year.  He pitched 151 innings last year, giving up just 108 hits.  His runs allowed are now up to 46 (45 earned).  He allowed just 59 (56 earned) all of last year.

And, of course, the three home runs bring him within two of his total for his stellar 2018 season.

The three home runs also brought the team total to 102 through 77 games for the season.  Last year this team allowed the fewest home runs of any major league team – just 144 for the entire season.

Through his injury-interrupted 2018 season, Paul DeJong finished with just 436 at bats.  His 5 last night bring him to 293 already this year.  Keeping him in the lineup has made a difference.  His 2 hits last night bring him to 78 this year – he had only 105 all last year.  DeJong also popped 25 doubles last year, after driving 26 the year before.  Last night’s double was his twentieth.  He now has 139 total bases, closing quickly on the 189 he finished with last year.

Position Wars as we Approach Mid-Season

We currently sit 77 games into the championship season, with the All-Star Game looming on the other side of the upcoming road trip, and the Cardinals still have three players who have made 96% of the starts at their respective positions.  This is uncommon territory for the Cardinals.  Throughout recent history, numerous injuries have kept almost all of the Cardinal starters out of the lineup for some stretch of the season.

Even when injuries haven’t been a factor, previous Cardinal managers Mike Matheny and Tony LaRussa made sure that the bench got their chances to start games and make contributions there.  Current manager Mike Shildt is less concerned about his depth.  His job – as he perceives it – is to start as many of his regulars for as many games as possible.  The secondary players are left to their own devices to maintain game-readiness in the event they might actually get into a game.

That being the case, with half the season almost over, we don’t really have any idea what this team would look like without Paul DeJong (75 starts) at short, Paul Goldschmidt (74 starts) at first, and Marcell Ozuna (74 starts) in left field.

What’s really interesting here is what this implies for the rest of the “starters.”  Injuries at catcher and centerfield have forced a little shuffling.  But, for whatever reason, Shildt seems much more willing to insert fresh bats into the lineup at some other positions – especially when the established starter might be fighting through a bit of a slump.

Every so often we do a position wars column to see how the team responds to different players in different positions.

Catcher

Yadier Molina spent some time on the injured list this month with a tendon strain in his right thumb.  Yadi out of the lineup is never a good thing, but it did buy us an extended look at his backup Matt Wieters.

Matt has started 7 games this month, leading the team to a 4-3 record.  They are 7-5 in Yadi’s 12 June starts.  In past years, the Cards struggled to win even an occasional game if Molina was out of the lineup.  In that sense, Wieters’ addition has been significant.  In fact, for the season, Matt has made 14 starts, leading St Louis to an 8-6 record (they are just 31-30 when Molina starts) and a team-ERA of 3.82 (the team ERA when Molina starts in 4.27).

These numbers don’t suggest that the Cards need to switch catchers.  But they do suggest that this team has an exceedingly capable backup.

Right Field

The only real shifting of positions so far for the Cardinals this season not directly related to injuries has come in the outfield, and revolves around the status of Jose Martinez.  Jose began the month as an observer, but has recently taken over as the regular in right field.  Jose has made 5 straight starts there, and has been the starter in 9 of the 21 games so far in June.  Dexter Fowler has made the other 12 starts.

The team is 6-3 when Jose starts, and 6-6 with Dexter.  Curiously, the difference in the team’s performance hasn’t been so much offensive.  The numbers this month are pretty even, with the team scoring 3.89 runs per game with Fowler in right as opposed to 3.81 runs per game when Martinez starts.

The biggest difference has been defensive, where the team has a 3.28 ERA when Jose plays right and a 3.72 ERA when Dexter plays there.

For the season, so far, right field has belonged to Martinez (42 starts) more than it has to Fowler (34 starts).  St Louis is 25-17 with Jose starting there, and 15-19 when it’s Fowler.  The season long numbers fall along more expected lines, with the team ERA’s virtually the same (4.18 when Jose starts and 4.19 when it’s Dexter), but a significant uptick in offense when Martinez starts (5.05 runs per game vs 4.18).

Second Base

In 2019 Kolten Wong has gotten the one things he’s always wanted.  He’s been written into the lineup almost everyday and given a chance to show what he can do.

While the jury is still out on whether Kolten will be a consistent offensive contributor, his defense has been solid and often spectacular.  Even so, Kolten has made a few fewer starts (71) than infield mates Goldschmidt and DeJong.  In his absence, Yairo Munoz (3), Tommy Edman (2) and Jedd Gyorko (1) have had limited opportunities to show what they can do at the position.

Combined the team has gone 3-3 in those six games (they are 37-34 when Kolton starts).

Third Base

Were Gyorko not currently nursing an injury, it would be interesting to see if regular third baseman Matt Carpenter might have seen more time off as he fights his way through yet another slump.  As it is, Jedd has made 8 starts at third (Matt has started there 67 times).  The team is 35-32 when Carpenter starts and 4-4 with Gyorko.

Center Field

Center field is the other lineup spot that has shown some opportunity for movement.  Harrison Bader – valued for his elite defense – is currently entrenched here even though he is mired in a 1-for-29 slump.  He has now made 48 starts in center, with Dexter Fowler accounting for 24 others.

The numbers do certainly seem to indicate that Bader has a significant impact on the defense.  When he starts in center, the team has a 3.79 ERA with a .239/.319/.393 batting line against.  While Fowler is far from being thought as a defensive liability in center (his defense was actually one of the reasons the Cards pursued him) the teams’ numbers drop off significantly when Dexter plays in center (4.48 ERA; .238/.300/.424).

Conversely, the offense profits from Fowler’s bat – 5.29 runs per game v 4.15 with Bader.  In the bottom line, St Louis is 25-23 (.521) when Bader starts in center, and 13-11 (.542) when Fowler does.

The fun thing about these numbers is that since so much goes into wins and losses, team ERAs and such, that the relative records cannot be considered by any means conclusive.  The most they can do is suggest a relationship.

Here the suggested relationship is that – in the short term anyway – the team might benefit from seeing a little more of Fowler and a little less of Bader.  For the record, I am a firm supporter of Harrison Bader.  He hit everywhere in the minors, and I believe that he will develop into a plus hitter at the big league level.  I believe that Bader is the future of centerfield.

It is possible, though, that he may not be the best choice there for the present.

Angel Lefty Makes it Look Easy

According to the box score from Sunday’s game, Angel left-hander Tyler Skaggs only pitched 5 innings.  True as it is, I still find it surprising, as he pitched them so effortlessly.  Five innings, 4 singles, no walks, no runs (of course), 2 runners in scoring position (both getting there with two outs), and just 70 pitches.  He almost certainly could have gone a couple more.  (Not that I’m complaining, mind you.)

When your team is only hitting .226 for the month against everyone, it’s hard to point at left-handers as a particular poison.  And yet, as Tyler completely befuddled all the Cardinals sent his way, he was continuing a long-standing tradition.

Yesterday’s batting line against Tyler was a sobering .211/.211/.211.  This is only marginally better than what all left-handers have been doing to the Cardinals this month (.214/.266/.393) and this year (.229/.309/.404).

All of the “impact bats” the Cards have imported over the last three years were right-handed (Dexter Fowler being a switch hitter) and were supposed to even the scales a bit against lefties.  But whatever the secret is, the Cards haven’t found it yet.

Across all of baseball (according to baseball reference) batters do slightly better against left-handers (.254/.324/.432) than they do against right-handers (.249/.321/.428).  Only the Giants (.217) have a lower batting average against lefties.

Even though the Cards were outhit 29-23 over the weekend, they managed to win two of the three against Los Angeles – thanks to outstanding efforts from the starters.  Together, Michael Wacha, Dakota Hudson, and Miles Mikolas allowed just 3 runs (1 each) over 18 innings (1.50 ERA).  They walked just 4, and gave only 2 extra-base hits.  It was mostly enough to make the inconsistent offense they got stand up.

MarcellOzuna

Marcell Ozuna was the big bat obtained last year.  He hasn’t been much a factor against lefties so far (hitting .182 against them after going 0-for-2 against Skaggs last night).  But he has been most of the team’s offense recently against right-handers.  He was 4-for-9 over the weekend against Los Angeles’ righties (with 2 home runs), and is hitting .317 (19 for 60) against them this month.

YadierMolina

Yadier Molina picked up two singles on Sunday and is, perhaps, starting to turn things around a bit at the plate.  He had hits in all three Angel games, and has a small four-game hitting streak going – during which he is hitting .438 (7 for 16).

JoseMartinez

In spite of the fact that he was struggling at the plate. Jose Martinez has found himself back in the starting lineup.  Jose has started the last 5 games, and, right on cue, has provided some much needed offense.  He is hitting .389 (7 for 18) since returning to the lineup.

KoltenWong

Kolten Wong was the only left-hander to achieve a hit against the left-handed Skaggs.  Increasingly, this is becoming less of a fluke.  That single makes Kolten 7 for 23 (.304) against lefties this month (including a home run).  Kolten is a .274 hitter against lefties this year (17 for 62) with 3 home runs.

PaulGoldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt had another rough series.  He finished with 2 singles and no runs batted in in 11 at bats.  Paul is hitting .203 (15 for 74) in June.

Goldschmidt hasn’t had a lot of hits against lefties, but has hit three home runs off of them this month.  In June, his particular struggle has been against right-handers.  In the Angel series, he was 2 for 9 against righties, and he is hitting just .182 against them this month (10 for 55).  His 10 hits have been 7 singles and 3 doubles driving in just 1 run (he has just 5 RBIs for the month).

MattCarpenter

Things are still not turning around for Matt Carpenter.  He was 2 for 12 against the Angels, and is hitting .125 (3 for 24) over his last 6 games.  June has seen him hit .214 (15 for 70).

HarrisonBader

Harrison Bader is still in a deep, deep tailspin.  He was hitless in 7 at bats over the weekend, and has 1 hit in 29 at bats over his last 10 games.  He is now 10 for 63 (.159) in June.

PaulDeJong

But Bader’s struggles in the Angel series pale in comparison to those of Paul DeJong.  Sunday’s almost ninth-inning rally ended on a DeJong ground ball that wrapped up an 0-13 series for Paul, extending his hitless streak to 15 at bats in a row.

Not too long ago, Paul ran up a healthy seven-game hitting streak.  In the six games since the last game of that streak, Paul is 2 for 25 (.080).  At the very end of May, DeJong and Goldschmidt were flipped in the lineup, with DeJong moving to the second spot and Goldschmidt dropping to third.  Since the switch, DeJong is hitting .205 (18 for 88) and Goldschmidt is hitting .220 (18 for 82).

MichaelWacha

It’s a little hard to guess from start to start what to expect from Michael Wacha.  He pitched six mostly dominant innings to win the Friday game (box score).  In the start before that he lasted just 4 innings, getting kicked around by the Mets in an 8-7 loss.  The start before that – his first start since being returned to the rotation – he threw 6 scoreless innings against Miami in a 4-1 win.  Toss in a fine relief appearance at the beginning of the month, and Wacha holds a 2.95 ERA for the month.

The 8 left-handed batters that faced Wacha Friday night went 0-for-8 with 2 strikeouts and a double-play grounder.  That extends the right-handed Wacha’s streak to 21 straight left-handed batters who have failed to get a hit against him.  They are 0-for-19 with 1 walk, 1 hit by pitch, 7 strikeouts, and 3 double plays.

For the season, left-handed batters are hitting just .206 (20 for 97) against Michael.

Conversely, Wacha has been having an impossible time with right-handed batters.  They were 5 for 13 (.385) on Friday, 19 for 51 (.373) against him this month, and 54 for 160 (.338) this season.

DakotaHudson

Although he gave up the home run heard round the world – the one that Pujols hit on Saturday – Dakota Hudson fired his eighth straight quality start, going 7 innings in the 4-2 win (box score).

Over those last 8 starts, Hudson has given 50.2 innings, going 4-0 with a 2.49 ERA.  He also had the lead in 2 other games when he left that the bullpen couldn’t hold.  Of the last 157 batters to put the ball in play against Hudson, 97 (62%) hit the ball on the ground.  Only one of them has hit a home run.

Dakota’s ERA is down to 2.05 for the month.

Earlier this season, left-handed batters were Hudson’s kryptonite.  On Saturday, the lefties he faced went 1 for 11 against him.  This month, Dakota has held left-handed batters to 6 hits in 36 at bats (.167).

MilesMikolas

Miles Mikolas scuffled through five innings on Sunday.  Took him 90 pitches, but he only allowed 1 run.  He lost the game anyways, and has now lost 6 of his last 7 decisions.

Woodstock – St Louis Style

Of course, these three interesting games were set against the backdrop of Albert Pujols – three days of love and Albert, if you will.

The timing of it all was rather stunning.  His first at bat of the weekend was his very first in St Louis since he walked off the field as a World Champion in 2011.  His last at bat of the weekend will almost assuredly be his very last in St Louis as an active player.  So the entire past and entire future of the complicated but enduring relationship between St Louis and Albert was condensed into 12 plate appearances containing a total of 50 pitches.

Albert acquitted himself well, with 4 hits including a home run in the Saturday game that brought St Louis to its knees.  The fans acquitted themselves even better with thunderous standing ovations every time he came to the plate.  One might almost have wondered if St Louis was rooting for the Angels that weekend.

Certainly Albert transcended the game this last weekend.  For 27 innings in late June, Albert Pujols was bigger than the game that spawned him.  It’s not a singular occurrence, but still very rare.  As this opportunity will never come again, St Louis made certain that they didn’t leave any gestures of adoration unmade to the man who will always be a hero to this little community where baseball is almost everything.

A couple of thoughts that occurred to me during this love fest.

Albert, of course, walked voluntarily away from this little slice of baseball heaven.  For three days he was repeatedly reminded of what he turned his back on – reminded not just by the fans, but by the few Cardinals remaining that were his teammates.  Certainly the bond between himself and Molina was palpable.  It occurred to me that if an errant pitch during one of Albert’s at bats had come perilously close to the man of the hour, I think it would be very likely that Molina would have charged his own pitcher.

During this outpouring of emotion – none of which Albert enjoys in his new home town – I wondered if Pujols regretted tarnishing all of this by walking away.  Certainly, he would never tell anyone if he did.

The other thought concerned the Angels themselves.  Now 8 years into the Albert Pujols era, this team has made the playoffs exactly once, and was subsequently swept.  That would have been almost impossible to believe when Albert joined the Angels – especially when one considers that Albert’s first season in LA was also Mike Trout’s first season.

But something always happens to the Angels.  This year, they leave St Louis a game under .500 and fairly removed from playoff consideration.

Sometimes, there is a karma component to the business side of baseball.  It’s way too early to start invoking the “curse” of Pujols, but as the years roll on, I find myself more and more expecting the Angels to be irrelevant until the end of Albert’s playing days.

Karma can be like that.

NoteBook

Ozuna’s finished the series with 20 home runs.  He hit just 23 in his entire first season in St Louis.  His 3 runs scored in the series bring his total to 52 for the season – he had just 69 all last year.  Marcell also now has 62 RBIs on the season.  Last year’s total was just 88.

The Friday home run also accounted for his team-leading ninth game-winning-hit this season.  Paul DeJong ranks second on the team with 6.

Miles Mikolas allowed just 1 run on Sunday – his forty-third earned run allowed this season.  Last year (when he had the 2.83 ERA) he was touched for just 63 earned runs in 200.2 innings for the entire season.

As you might have guessed if you had kept an eye in the series, it was the best attended series of the year.  The three games totaled 142,248 – a per-game average of 47,416 per game.  The last time the Cubs were in town, they averaged 45,890.3 per game.  That had been the highest average attendance for a series this year until Albert came to town.

Starting to Win those One Run Games

As they took the field in Washington on May second, the St. Louis Cardinals took baseball’s best record with them.  They were 20-10 and three games ahead in their division.

Their long slide into mediocrity – at least as the playing record defines mediocrity – began that night with what would become one of their trademarks during that long and dreary month.  They lost a one-run game.

That night, they ran into Stephen Strasburg, who allowed them 1 run through 6.2 innings of a 2-1 victory.  As with most of these games, there were opportunities.  A throwing error made one of Washington’s runs unearned.  They went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.  Their one scoring inning could have been better had they not had a runner picked off second.

That’s how it is with one-run games.  One team will make one less mistake than the other – or else they will take advantage of one more opportunity.

Two days later, the Cards were in Chicago trying to avenge an opening game loss.  To that end, they opened up a 5-1 lead on the Northsiders.  But a Taylor Davis grand slam in the bottom of the fourth tied the score.  The Cubs would only score one more run for the rest of the game – on an eighth-inning home run from Javier Baez.  But that would be enough, as the Cards would be shutout over the last five innings.  They had two big chances, loading the bases with one out in the fifth, and again with two out in the seventh.  But they just couldn’t get it done.

Now it’s the next weekend – Friday May 10 – and Pittsburgh was in town.  On Thursday they had blasted the Pirates 17-4, but they would lose the last three games of that series – the Friday and Saturday games by identical 2-1 scores.  They had 10 hits in the Friday game – all singles, and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.  They only managed 2 hits in the Saturday game.

On the next two Sunday’s (May 19 & 26) they lost 10-inning one-run games started by Jack Flaherty – 5-4 in Texas and 4-3 at home against Atlanta.

Two nights later, they dropped another 4-3 game in Philadelphia.  And just that easily, they had lost seven straight one-run games in one month.  That last loss pushed St Louis back under .500 at 26-27.

More than one-third of their losses during that difficult month came by one narrow run.  Subtract the one-run games, and this team was 9-11 in May.  But of course, they all did count, giving most of us who follow along at home ample reason to question the character of this team.

But nothing with this team is that cut and dried.

On the last day of May – with the Cubs in town – Matt Carpenter ended a ten-inning affair with a long flyball single to deep left, and the Cards had their first walk-off win of the season, 2-1.

Fast forward now to last night.  After the bullpen wasted a spectacular outing by Daniel Ponce de Leon, and after the offense squandered a bases loaded, no out opportunity in the tenth, Paul Goldschmidt stepped into a hanging slider in the bottom of the eleventh inning to provide St Louis with its second walk-off win of the season – again by a 2-1 score (box score).

And just like that, St Louis has now won 5 of its last 6 one-run games.  They are 10-11 on the season in these contests, but that number doesn’t seem to adequately tell the story of the season.

Since their unfortunate series in Chicago from June 7 through 9, the Cards (5.5 games out at that point) have pulled themselves off the mat a bit.  They have won 7 of the last 10 games, (pulling themselves back to two out) with three of the victories coming by one run, and one of the losses coming by one run.

There is every indication that their one-run games will define this next part of their season the same way they defined the last part.  As always, with this team you never know from day to day.

Ponce de Leon

There aren’t enough good things to say about Daniel Ponce de Leon as he dominated Miami for 6 innings.  He has made 3 spot starts for St Louis this season, two of which have become one-run games.  St Louis has won all three, and Daniel has been terrific in all of them.

Keeping him on the major league roster was probably not in the original plan.  But at this point, they can’t really part with him.

Carlos Martinez

As soon as he was deemed healthy, Carlos Martinez was rushed into a prominent, late-inning position.  And he has frequently looked very much like he’s belonged there – but not consistently so.  After serving up the tying run in last night’s eighth inning, Carlos has given runs in 4 of his last 9 games – giving a total of 6 (5 earned) over his last 10.2 innings (4.22 ERA)

In the five games that he has not given runs, Carlos has been dominant.  Now, if we could only get that Carlos more often than every other game.

Andrew Miller

The Fish had their opportunity to salt the game away in that eighth.  When Andrew Miller came in, the game was tied at one, and Miami had runners at second and third with two out.  When Miller came in to get Curtis Granderson, Miami sent Cesar Puello – just obtained from the Angels – for his first Miami at bat.  This was no small issue.  Puello came from LA hitting .390 albeit in just 50 plate appearances.

Miller made the moment a non-event, getting Cesar to roll out to first.

It took Andrew a little while to get his mojo back, but the recent Miller has looked very much like the pitcher management hoped they were bringing in here.  Over his last 19 games, Miller has worked through 14.1 innings allowing just 3 earned runs on 11 hits – those hits being 10 singles and 1 home run.  Andrew has also struck out 21 in those 14.1 innings in which he holds a 1.88 ERA, A .220 batting average against, and a .280 slugging percentage against.

Miller has also been one of the more solid performers in the team’s one-run games.  Andrew has worked in 13 of the 21 with a 2.45 ERA over 11 innings.  In those innings, he has given 3 runs on 9 hits – the hits being 8 singles and a home run – while striking out 15.

Jordan Hicks

Jordan Hicks gave us the ninth and tenth innings in three-up-three down fashion.  As his work load has started to stabilize, Jordan is starting to become every bit as dominant as management could have hoped.  He is unscored on in his last 5 games – allowing just 1 hit in 6 innings.  His last 8 times out of the gate, Jordan has gone 9.1 innings, giving just 1 run on 2 hits.  Eighteen of the last 22 batters (82%) to put the ball in play against him have hit the ball on the ground.

John Gant

St Louis then turned to John Gant, who got the win with a perfect eleventh.  John has pitched in 4 of the last 10 games, allowing just one run in 7 innings.

John has now worked 12 of the 21 one-run games.  He has an 0.63 ERA over 14.1 innings during which he has struck out 17.

Harrison Bader

Harrison Bader entered the game late, but still finished 0-for-2.  He is now hitless in his last 18 at bats.  He is hitting .173 (9 for 52) in June.

Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna finished another tough evening.  He went 0 for 5 with 2 strikeouts and grounded into one double play.  Marcell is 0 for his last 11 and 3 for his last 22.

Marcell has played in 20 of the Cards 21 one run games.  He has hit .181 (13 for 72) in those contests.

Matt Wieters

Matt Wieters hitless streak stretched to 24 at bats after his 0-for-3 last night.

NoteBook

Dexter Fowler’s fifth-inning RBI single gave St Louis the first run of the game for the fifteenth time in the last 22 games.

Fowler’s start in center broke Harrison Bader’s team-leading streak of consecutive starts at one position.  Bader had started the previous twenty games there. The team’s new longest streak belongs to shortstop Paul DeJong, who made his ninth consecutive start last night.

This is Why You Always Have to Put the Fish Away

Of course, from the moment Starlin Castro jumped an errant slider for his fifth-inning home run, Jack Flaherty was doomed to be the losing pitcher in the contest.  With Jordan Yamamoto starting for Miami that evening, it was understood that all the Marlins would need would be any kind of run and they would be in great shape.

For Jack, though, his effort in the 6-0 loss (box score) is a kind of microcosm of his season.  Jack ended up pitching 7 innings allowing just 4 hits while striking out 8.  For six innings, he and Yamamoto were matching up in a classic pitchers’ duel.  Through six, Miami had 1 run on 2 hits, and St Louis had no runs on 1 hit – Flaherty had provided a double for his team’s only hit.

With the one-two punch of his fastball and slider keeping the Marlins under wraps, Jack had retired the first 8 batters in the game that he had gotten ahead of in the count – striking out 5 of them.

But the game spun away from him in the seventh, when he had a couple of fish backed up in the count, but couldn’t put them away.

Garrett Cooper opened the inning falling behind 1-2 in the count.  Flaherty’s next fastball wasn’t a terrible pitch, but it didn’t quite jam him, and Cooper laced it into left-center for a double.

Flaherty promptly jumped ahead of the next batter – Brian Anderson – 0-2.  But he hung the 0-2 slider, and suddenly it was a 3-0 Marlin lead.

On other days this kind of performance (3 runs in 7 innings) will usually gain you a victory.  These days in St Louis, though, the offense – such as it is – doesn’t afford much latitude.  In spite of the fact that the team is 9-7 this month, they are hitting a distressing .218 and scoring just 3.75 runs per game.  According to baseball reference, the team’s .656 OPS so far this month ranks them as the third worst in baseball – ahead of only Kansas City and Baltimore, while their batting average is better than only Cincinnati’s (.216).

These days, if you are a starting pitcher in St Louis, it is risky business to fall behind.

Jack – who has lost 3 of his last 4 decisions – has served up 8 home runs over his last 21 innings.

TylerWebb

Although the run didn’t score while he was on the mound, Tyler Webb did serve up the double to left-hander JT Riddle that set Miami’s three-run eighth into motion.  Tyler has now given runs in 3 of his last 6 games.  Over the 4 innings he has pitched in those games, the 20 batters to face him are hitting .400/.444/.667.  Tyler’s ERA for the month of June has risen to 4.26 over 6.1 innings.

JohnBrebbia

One of the team’s great assets in April and May, John Brebbia is scuffling through June.  Most of the real damage done in that eighth inning occurred with John on the mound (he allowed the inherited runner to score, and then added two more of his own runs in just two-thirds of an inning).

John has pitched 8 times this month, and given up runs in 4 of those games.  In 7 June innings, John has been banged for 9 runs (8 earned) on 9 hits and 3 walks.  It all equates to a 10.29 ERA and a .300/.364/.500 batting line.

Offense Dominated Again

Jordan Yamamoto must be thinking the majors are a piece of cake.  He has pitched only two games in the “show” and – not only has he not allowed a run in 14 innings – he has barely been threatened.  In those innings, he has given just 5 hits and 4 walks – a 0.643 WHIP.

Of course, both of those starts have come against the offensively challenged Cardinals.  His next start, I believe, should be in Philadelphia.  He may find out then that it won’t always be this easy.

As for the Cardinals, in an ironic counterpoint to the big hits Flaherty (and Brebbia, for that matter) gave up when they had two strikes on Miami’s hitters, the Cardinal batters couldn’t even taste success when they had the advantage.  St Louis was 0-for-7 against Yamamoto when they were ahead in the count.

The list of struggling Cardinal hitters remains pretty lengthy.

MattCarpenter

Hitless again in 3 at bats last night, Matt Carpenter still looks like he’s getting closer.  He is still hitting just .245 for the month of June.

PaulDeJong

Among the casualties last night was Paul DeJong’s seven-game hitting streak.  During the streak, DeJong hit .367 (11 for 30) and slugged .700.

PaulGoldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt endured another 0-for-4 at the plate.  He has 1 hit over his last 6 games (20 at bats).  For the month of June, Paul’s average has slipped to .179 (10 for 56).

MarcellOzuna

After a torrid start to the month, Marcell Ozuna is also starting to fade.  Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Marcell is just 3 for his last 17 (.176) with no extra-base hits.  Marcell’s last extra-base hit was the ninth-inning home run he hit against Miami’s Adam Conley in the blow-out win back on June 11 (23 at bats ago).

YadierMolina

Yadier Molina was 0-for-3 last night.  Over his last 7 games, Yadi is just 4 for 26, with 3 singles and a double.  He has drawn 1 walk, driven in 1 run, and struck out 7 times over that span, giving him a batting line of .154/.185/.192.

Yadi was behind in the count for all 3 plate appearances last night.  Since his return from injury, Yadi has found himself behind in the count on 46.9% of his plate appearances.

HarrisonBader

Harrison Bader’s hitless streak reached 5 games and 16 at bats after his 0-for-3 last night.  Bader is 9 for 50 (.180) for the month of June.

Bader had one of the at bats against Yamamoto where he was ahead in the count.  In the fifth inning he came up with a runner at first and two outs – the game was still 1-0 at that point.  After taking a ball, Harrison jumped on a fastball down and in and bounced to third.

All season, Bader has been unable to take advantage of being ahead in the count.  He is 2 for 12 this month when ahead in the count (.167) – both singles.  For the season, he is 9 for 42 (.214) when he has the advantage at the plate.  The hits are 7 singles (2 of them of the infield variety), 1 double, and 1 home run – a .310 slugging percentage.

If you don’t make hay when you’re ahead in the count, you will struggle to sustain a decent batting average – one reason Harrison’s has fallen to .220.

NoteBook

Here’s how the recent games have gone.  Last night’s game broke a streak of 5 straight games in which St Louis held the lead at some point.  It was also the sixth of the last seven games that the Cards had trailed in at some point.

Cards Overcome Sputtering Offense in Shutout of Miami

If it’s possible to hang a fastball, that’s what Austin Brice did in last night’s eighth inning.  It seemed to start at Dexter Fowler’s ankles, but then it rose and just spun in the middle of the zone.  For his part, Fowler launched it over the wall in right for the three-run homer that put Miami out of its misery and sent St Louis on its way to a 5-0 victory (box score).

Breakthrough opportunities were fairly rare – as has mostly been the case recently.  Two first-inning singles had given Dexter a first-and-second opportunity with two outs, but he struck out.

From that point, the Cardinals didn’t see a runner in scoring position till the fifth, when Matt Carpenter – who had made the score 1-0 with a third-inning home run – gave St Louis a two-out opportunity when he laid down a bunt-double.  The Fish gave away that run – in the first place by playing their entire infield on the right side to allow the bunt-double, and then Starlin Castro dropped Paul DeJong’s pop fly to short center to allow the run.

With DeJong advancing to second on the error, Paul Goldschmidt had the chance to deliver the key hit – but he grounded out.

The Cards followed by going down in order over the next two innings, so this final opportunity in the eighth was welcomed.

For the game, the Cards managed a .238 on base percentage with the bases empty, resulting in 21 of St Louis’ 33 batters coming to the plate with no one on.  This has been a recurring pattern.

Over the last 17 games, the Cardinals hold a .281 on base percentage when the bases are empty.  The results have been 62% of all Cardinal hitters batting with no one on, only 5 bases-loaded plate appearances all month, and 16 of the last 23 Cardinal home runs (69.6%) being solo shots.

Here’s the thing though.  St Louis has won 11 of those last 17 games.

Slowly, but consistently, the pitching is settling into the decisive factor the Cardinals have been counting on all season.  Sometimes it’s been two steps forward, one step back.  But, while it hasn’t always been pretty, the Cardinal pitching staff has put together a 3.42 ERA over these last 17 games.  That would be good enough for second in the league if they had been able to maintain that all year.

I’m not really sure that I believe in this team yet.  I would like to see them keep the streak going a little longer and, perhaps, see more wins against quality opponents.  But this is exactly the kind of thing that those who do believe in this team point to.  The fact that – even when the offense struggles to get out of its own way – the pitching can be dominant enough to keep them competitive.

A week ago they had just been swept by Chicago and sat one game under .500 and 5.5 games behind in the division.  Today they have trimmed that margin to 2.5 games, and have pushed their way to 3 over .500.  The opportunity is before them.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter continues to hint that he is about to turn the corner.  He had a big game on Monday with 3 hits, including a home run.  Carpenter has hits in 4 of his last 5 games.

Carpenter never batted last night with a runner on base.  That’s normal for him.  As he has spent most of the year as the leadoff hitter, 69% of his at bats have come with the bases empty.  Of his 10 home runs this season, 9 have been solo shots.

Paul DeJong

DeJong didn’t leave his hot streak in New York.  With 2 hits last night, Paul has pushed his hitting streak to seven games, getting multiple hits in three of them.  Over the 7 games, he is hitting .367 (11 for 30) with a double and 3 home runs.  He has driven in 6 runs during the streak, while slugging .700.  He has also hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games.

Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna rebounded from a tough series in New York to collect a couple of singles last night.  Marcell is up to .340 (18 for 53) for the month of June.

One of Marcell’s hits came in his 2 at bats with no one on base.  Throughout the last 17 games, Ozuna has been one of the few hitters to get hits with bases empty.  He is, in fact, hitting .378 on 14 hits in his last 37 such opportunities.

Paul Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt’s season stays stuck in neutral.  He was hitless in 4 at bats last night, and has just 1 hit (that two-run home run in New York) over his last 5 games (16 at bats).  Paul is down to .192 (10 for 52) on the month.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina picked up two hits in his first game back from the injured list.  In the 6 games since then, hits have been harder to come by.  After his 0-for-4 last night, Yadi is 4 for 23 (.174) with 1 double (.217 slugging percentage) since that first game back.

Harrison Bader

Harrison Bader had the big first game in New York with 3 hits, a couple stolen bases, and the big defensive play.  He’s had no hits since.  With his 0-for-3 yesterday, Harrison is hitless in his last 13 at bats, with 7 strikeouts.

Miles Mikolas

In his three June starts, Miles Mikolas has had consistent issues keeping the bases clean.  Even though he shut the Marlins out through 6 innings last night, Miami batters were still 5 for 15 (.333) when hitting against him with the bases empty.  For the month, batters are hitting .355 (11 for 31) against him with the bases empty.

Last night he was very good once a runner reached.  The Fish were only 1 for 8 when they hit against Miles with a runner on base.  In his other starts this month, he hasn’t been so efficient.

Giovanny Gallegos

First out of the bullpen in support of Mikolas was Giovanny Gallegos, who recorded a scoreless seventh.  At some point someone other than me is going to have to start taking this kid seriously.  Gallegos has now thrown 12 scoreless innings over his last 9 games, giving just 4 hits and no walks – he has been throwing his pitches for strikes 75% of the time during this streak.  The last 38 batters he’s faced have a batting line of .108/.105/.162.

John Gant

John Gant had a couple rough games early in the road trip, as he gave runs in consecutive appearances.  Still, John has been more than just solid recently.  He pitched a scoreless eighth last night.  He has pitched in 8 of the last 17 games, throwing 10.1 innings with a 2.61 ERA.

Jordan Hicks

Jordan Hicks has held the back end of the bullpen very solid over the Cards recent rise.  He earned last night’s save with a 1-2-3 ninth.  He has now pitched in 7 of the last 17 games, with a 1.23 ERA and an .083 batting average against in 7.1 innings.

NoteBook

The victory was the Cardinals’ ninth this month – tying their total for the entire month of May.

Nonetheless, St Louis had trailed at some point in five consecutive games until last night.

The Cards scored first for the third straight game and the fourteenth time in their last 20 games.

Last night was game number 64 for Dexter Fowler this year.  Between his injuries and unending slumps, Dex played in only 90 games all last year.  He also now has 193 at bats, after finishing last year with just 289.  His strikeout was also his fifty-second of the season after striking out just 75 times last year.

DeJong Continues to BeDevil the Mets

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

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).

Marcell Ozuna

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

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

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.

Jack Flaherty

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

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

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.

Giovanny Gallegos

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.

John Brebbia

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

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

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.

NoteBook

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.

Brief Musing Over the Outfield Pecking Order

It looked for all the world like another quiet loss for the St Louis Cardinals as they went meekly into the ninth inning against the Mets trailing 4-2.  With Edwin Diaz coming into the game to close things out, it didn’t seem like it would take too long to navigate through the inning, allowing everyone to go home.  That may have been in part behind the decision to continue to play in a rain that was making things increasingly quagmirish.

And then the most unexpected thing happened.  Down to their last out, an RBI single from Kolten Wong and an RBI double from Harrison Bader tied the game.

Faced, now, with the potential for a considerably longer game, the tarps came out in earnest and – a short while later – the game was suspended, to be finished tonight before the regularly scheduled game.

So, while we wait to find out if we will be treated to a stirring comeback victory or just another tease, I thought we might spend a couple of quick paragraphs considering the outfield situation.

Currently the “fourth outfielder,” Jose Martinez has started more games than he hasn’t.  The suspended game was his forty-first start of the season.  Through the first 67 games, St Louis is 23-17 (.575), scoring 5.15 runs per game when Martinez is in the starting lineup.  They are 10-16 (.385), scoring 3.92 runs per game when he is not in the lineup.

The Martinez advantage is even more pronounced when a right-hander starts against the Cards.  So far they have faced 54 right-handers.  Jose has started 32 of those games.  The team record in those games is 20-12 (.625) while they score an average of 5.34 runs per game.  When he is not in the lineup against righties, St Louis is 8-14 (.364), scoring 3.95 runs per game.

On the other hand, Dexter Fowler has made 51 starts this season, with the team going 23-28 when Dexter is in the starting lineup, and 10-5 when he isn’t.

With Martinez currently struggling at the plate, it’s hard to make a compelling case for more playing time for him.  The numbers, though, hint at something I’ve long felt – namely, that Martinez’ defensive deficiencies in the outfield have been somewhat exaggerated.  And that, perhaps, Fowler’s defense is a tad over-rated.

If Jose should start to hit again, that could make this an easier decision for Mike Shildt.