It was a most unusual sight. It was the top of the second inning of Sunday night’s game, and Marcell Ozuna trotted home from third to score the tying run. It was an uncommon moment for a lot of reasons.
First of all, in the three weekend games (all losses), St Louis only scored 6 total runs, so any time a Cardinal runner crossed the plate under any circumstances, it presented a fairy unique occurrence. Moreover, of the 6 runs the Cards did score, this was the only one that did not come courtesy of a home run, and the only time in the series that the Cards managed to tie the score once they had fallen behind.
It was also unique for what had happened 5 pitches earlier. Ozuna grounded a ball in between short and third, and Kris Bryant – trying to make a play on the ball – threw it away, sending Marcell to second. Thus, in the twentieth inning of this grueling and humbling beat down at the hands of the division-leading Cubs, Marcell Ozuna became the very first Cardinal leadoff man to reach base.
He wouldn’t be the last. After going 0-for-19 to begin the series, St Louis would put 4 of their last 8 leadoff batters on base. But only Ozuna would score.
Ozuna would lead off the fourth with another single, but would be thrown out trying to steal second.
Paul Goldschmidt would double to lead off the sixth, and Ozuna would follow with a single too hard hit to allow Paul to score. But Paul would try to score on a ground ball from Dexter Fowler, and be thrown out at the plate. A flyball and another grounder ended the threat.
Even with the strong close, St Louis only put 4 of their 27 leadoff men on base – a scuffling .148 percentage. And managed to score only 1 of the 4. During April, when they averaged 5.45 runs per game, their leadoff hitters held a .361 on base percentage, and came home to roost 55% of the time they reached. In May, as the run production slipped to just 4.30 runs per game, the leadoff on base percentage slipped as well, to .324 – and only 40% of those made their way home.
Seven games into June, and the Cardinals are scoring less than 3 runs a game (2.71). There are many pieces that are broken, but one of them is certainly the batters leading off innings. For the first 60 innings of the month, our leadoff hitters are batting .175 with a .217 on base percentage. And when they do manage to get on, they are scoring only 38% of the time.
This has been a significant part of what has now been an extended team-wide offensive slump. Over the last 21 games, the Cardinals are hitting a tepid .214, and are scoring just 3.48 runs per game. In the last 186 offensive innings, only 51 leadoff hitters have reached base (.274) and only 21 of them (41.2%) have scored.
It’s getting to be a long, long time since this offense has shown their teeth.
Offensive bright spots were few and far between in this series (which saw the Cardinals bat .186 over the three games). One of the bright spots, though, was definitely Ozuna. With his 3 hits on Sunday, Marcell finished the series 4 for 12 (.333) including a three-run home run. He is off to a .385 start for the month (10 for 26). Even while the rest of the team has scuffled over these last 21 games, Ozuna has been heating it up. Now 24 for his last 80, Ozuna is hitting .300 over the last 21 games, with 4 doubles, 5 home runs, 17 runs batted in, and a .538 slugging percentage.
Ozuna was 2 for 3 as a leadoff hitter during the series. For the season, he has been one of our most consistent in that function. He is a .294 hitter (15 for 51) with 4 doubles and 3 home runs – a .549 slugging percentage opening up innings.
With his double, Goldschmidt was 1 for 2 leading off innings during the series. Even during the 21-game offensive brown-out, Paul has still taken excellent leadoff at bats and given the team opportunities. He has reached in 7 of the last 16 innings he has led off (.438), but – as on Sunday night – has only made it home once. For the season, Paul has a .392 on base percentage when leading off, but scores only 40% of the times that he does reach.
Solidly re-enthroned as the everyday centerfielder, Harrison Bader’s June could have started off better. He did hit a home run in the Saturday game, but was overall just 2 for 11 in the series, and has started June off with a .208 batting average (5 for 24) – albeit with 4 of the 5 hits going for extra-bases (2 doubles and 2 home runs).
Paul DeJong was held hitless in 4 at bats Sunday. That put a stop to a brief five-game hitting streak. Paul only got one hit in each of the five games, hitting .278 during the streak (5 for 18). But the streak did include 2 home runs.
Difficulties in the starting rotation is a bad companion to offensive woes. Chicago had little difficulty with St Louis’ starting pitchers, hitting .348 against them while scoring 10 runs during the 12 innings that they pitched.
Friday’s starter Miles Mikolas’ recent struggles continued. He had already served up 3 runs in 4 innings before he was removed after taking a line drive off his forearm. Miles took the loss, and has now lost 4 in a row, with a 5.47 ERA over his last 26.1 innings.
Sent to the injured list after the Sunday game, Adam Wainwright is another pitcher trending downward. Coming off a stretch where he threw 4 quality starts in 5 games, Adam now has just 2 such starts in his last 7. Over his last 39.1 innings, Waino is 2-4 with a 5.03 ERA.
This series was St Louis’ tenth road series of the season so far. They have now gone into the last game of half of them needing a win to avoid a sleep. They have managed to avoid the brooms in three of the five series, falling victim only to the Cubs twice.
The Cards begin the season 11-19 on the road.
The Cubs were the eleventh team St Louis has played this season that had won its previous series – and they have also gone into the last game of five of those series facing a sweep. As before, the Cubs (twice) are the only ones of these series that St Louis didn’t at least salvage the finale of.
The Cards are 13-20 against teams that had won their previous series.
With the Friday night loss, St Louis has lost the first game in six of their last seven series.
Last year, in 200.2 innings, Miles Mikolas allowed 16 home runs. The home run he served up in the first inning of Friday’s game was the thirteenth already this year in just 73.1 innings.
The loss, by the way, was his sixth of the season – already a career high. In 32 starts last year, Miles lost just 4 times.
In his abbreviated, 4.1 inning start Sunday night, Adam Wainwright did cross over the 2000 inning threshold for his career – he now has 2002.2.