Of the recent losses in Chicago, perhaps the one that lingers longest in the memory is the Saturday game. That, of course, was the evening that Marcell Ozuna gave the team a 3-0 lead with a first-inning home run, and Harrison Bader followed with a home run of his own, pushing the lead to 4-0. That was the first inning.
From the second inning on, they managed one infield single for their final 26 at bats of the game, eventually, of course, losing the game.
A similar kind of thing happened in Miami last night.
Here, it took the Cards until the fourth inning to get that lead (just 1-0 this time), and immediately the offense shut down again. From the moment Yairo Munoz’ double put St Louis on the board till the end of the game, Cardinal batsmen were 1 for 16.
They were lucky in this one. The 23-41 Marlins gifted the Cards a couple of runs with an error that – with Harrison Bader’s first sacrifice fly of the season – eased St Louis into a 4-1 victory (box score).
Looking through the first 8 games of the month, it has been surprising – or perhaps not – to note how difficult it has been for the Cards to add to their leads.
On June first – as they were working on their home sweep of the Cubs, they added four tack-on runs after they opened up their 3-2 lead – these made the difference in their 7-4 victory.
The next afternoon, as they wrapped up the sweep, they took a 1-0 lead in the fifth. When they batted in the eighth, it was still 1-0. They had actually not had a hit since the fourth inning. They did manage a couple of hits and one additional run in that eighth – again, a critical run in a 2-1 win.
Cincinnati came into town next, and Matt Carpenter greeted them with a leadoff home run in the first. Not only did the Cards not score again, they only managed 5 more hits.
In game two of that series, a third inning run gave St Louis a 1-0 lead. From that point till the seventh inning, the Cards added just 4 singles and watched Cincinnati tie the game. Paul DeJong hit the home run in that inning that gave St Louis the lead back at 3-1. None of the last five Cardinal batters managed a hit, but they didn’t need to as the Cards held on to that one.
During that disastrous weekend in Wrigley, the Saturday game was the only one they held a momentary lead in.
So, counting the Bader home run in the Saturday game, and the three gift runs last night, for the entire month the Cards have added a total of 9 runs to their 7 existing leads (five of those scoring in the first two games).
Even in victory, St Louis finished with just 4 hits last night. They are 4-4 in the early part of this month, in spite of the fact that they are averaging 2.88 runs per game, and are hitting .212 as a team.
In June, they are hitting .167 (12 for 72) when they bat with a lead. This becomes just another head-scratching issue with an offense that just will not find its gear.
In a very real sense this is also a character issue.
Lately, Marcell has been a one-man offense. For much of the season, Ozuna has been a kind of modern day Dave Kingman – lots of home runs, but very little else. But in June we have seen a very different Marcell. He has 5 hits in the last 2 games, and is now batting .414 (12 for 29) this month.
Both of Ozuna’s hits came while the game was still scoreless. In fact, his double set up the game’s first run. For the first 8 games in June, Marcell is 8 for 12 (.667) when batting while the game is tied. He is 0 for 6 when batting with a lead.
For the season, Marcell hits .297 (19 for 64) with 4 doubles and 7 home runs while the game is tied – a .688 slugging percentage with 18 of his runs batted in.
Once St Louis forges ahead, his average falls to .207 (17 for 82) with 3 home runs and 14 runs batted in.
The worst slump I can ever remember Jose Martinez go through continued with his 0-for-4 last night. In his last 18 games (7 starts), Jose is 3 for 33 (.091) – all singles with 9 strike outs. He is 1 for 13 (.077) this month.
St Louis has now scored first in 9 of their last 13 games. They are now 5-4 in those games.