The memory is surprisingly vivid even a month later. It is June 29. The Cardinals – on the road in San Diego – were getting hammered 12-2. After the game, the young Padres were cavorting on the field. They were careless, happy and hot. Although they weren’t expected to contend, at that moment they were 42-40 and just a game and a half out of the last wildcard spot.
In the other dugout, the Cardinals (who had vowed to make it back to the playoffs this year) wandered off the field like a team caught in a nightmare that they couldn’t wake up from. That loss was their fifth in a row. It dropped them to 40-41 on the season. They were 4 games behind the Cubs in the division, and a game and a half behind San Diego in the wildcard race – three games behind the last spot, with four teams in between them and the last playoff spot.
This was the statistical half-way point of the season, and this team was under .500. They were also at that point 20-20 in games after a loss. While – to the best of my knowledge – no one else tracks games after a loss, I consider it a fairly useful barometer of a team’s character and resourcefulness.
For some background, no Cardinal team this century has finished below .500 in games after a loss. The 2017 team finished a century-worst 39-39 in games after a loss. That team finished 83-79 and 9 games out.
Throughout the century, coming into this year, the Cards (including playoffs) were 809-596 – a .576 winning percentage – after they had lost the game before. Five times this century, this team won over 60% of their games after a loss. All of those teams made the playoffs.
The seven versions of the Cardinals that have failed to make the playoffs this century are a combined 294-246 (.544) after a loss, while all of this century’s playoff teams have gone 515-350 (.595) after a loss.
The concept is simple enough. Everybody loses games now and then. But the tough teams resist getting that second loss pinned on them. Stay out of losing streaks, and things will generally pan out well for the season.
Throughout the bulk of the season, the issue in games after a loss has been on the mound. St Louis has lacked that stopper’s mentality from the next day’s pitcher. Through the end of June, the next day’s starter carried a 4.86 ERA and a .281 batting average against.
On the last day of June, Miles Mikolas put his foot in the ground and began something of a turnaround. He contained the exuberant Padres for 6 innings, leaving the game trailing, but only by a 3-2 score. With a nearly impeccable bullpen (which has been a strong part of this story) holding the line, St Louis tied the contest thanks to an eighth-inning error, winning finally in the eleventh on Matt Wieters’ two-run home run (box score).
With the end of the season’s longest losing streak, came a reversal of fortunes for both teams. Gravity has since caught up with the Padres, who have floated out of playoff contention. For their part, the Cards used that emotional win to fashion the 16-8 July record that has surged them to the top of the division.
At the close of last weekend’s series against Houston, the Cardinal momentum looked like it may have stalled, as St Louis was defeated fairly soundly on Saturday and Sunday.
And so, yesterday they again needed a starter to take the mound and put an end to the losing streak. As it has been so often over the last decade plus, that starter was Adam Wainwright.
The Cubs gave as good as they got from Waino, but by the end of his 5.2 inning stint, he held the game at a 1-1 tie. The bullpen, again, threw airtight relief, and a late home run off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt sent the Cards into sole position of first place by a 2-1 score (box score).
This was now the 147th time that Adam has taken the mound after a Cardinal loss in his storied career. The Cards are now 96-51 (.653) in those games.
Meanwhile, St Louis has gone 5-3 this month (including 4-1 over the last 5) in games after a loss – improving them to 26-23 for the season in this category. In the 8 games after a loss this month, the rotation has come up strong with a 3.40 ERA and a .245 batting average against. The bullpen has been even better in these games with a 1.88 ERA and a .152 batting average against.
Waino, by the way, has made the start in two of those games, throwing 5 solid innings against Seattle on July 3 setting up a 5-2 victory.
Last night’s game had a bit of a playoff feel to it. The birds haven’t won too many of those types of games over the last few years.
Who You Gonna Call?
After back-to-back walks in the sixth, the Cubs had their best opportunity to break the hearts of the home team fans. Bases were now loaded, two outs, and Kyle Schwarber – owner of more than one telling hit against the Cardinals in his career – was at the plate. At 95 pitches, and with the lefty up, manager Mike Shildt felt the prudent thing was to relieve Adam in an attempt to hold onto the 1-1 tie.
So, who do you call on? Giovanny Gallegos, of course. Five pitches later, Gallegos got Kyle to reach for that slider, lofting a harmless fly ball to medium deep left. And the threat was done. Giovanny has now stranded the last 8 runners that he has inherited – including the bases loaded twice. Gallegos – who has stranded 29 of the 32 batters he has inherited this season – has now come into bases loaded situations 7 times this season. He has stranded all of these gentlemen in 5 of those occasions, allowing just one of those runs in the other two occasions.
There just has not been an occasion that has been too large for the amazing Mr. Gallegos.
Gio is now unscored on in 8 straight games (11.2 innings). He has allowed 2 hits in those innings with 15 strikeouts against 3 walks. Over his last 24 games (29.2 innings), Gallegos holds an 0.61 ERA with a.131/.179/.212 batting line against. The 4 walks he has allowed in those innings more than swallowed up in his 39 strikeouts. In 12.2 innings this month Gio holds an 0.71 ERA, and has allowed just 3 hits against 18 strikeouts.
This just in. Gallegos is pretty good.
Andrew Miller – all things considered – has put together a very solid month of his own.
He also entered the game with a runner on base (first base) and two outs. Miller allowed an infield hit, but then retired slugger Kris Bryant on a fly ball to center.
For the month of July, Miller has a 1.80 ERA through 10 innings.
In recent days, Carlos Martinez has had some scary innings. None of that was in play last night. Carlos wrapped up a four-out save in perfect fashion, featuring 3 strikeouts. One of the big questions surrounding any closer is how quickly he can turn the page if he has a couple of rugged outings. Here, in a big game against the Cubs (a team he has had struggles with) Carlos was as good as could be hoped.
Throughout his career, Carlos has always pitched very well on days after a Cardinal loss. He has pitched in 5 of the 8 such games this month, giving 1 run on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 8 in 5 innings. For the season, Martinez holds a 2.79 ERA with a .206/.280/.279 batting line in 19.1 innings after a loss.
Over the course of his career, Carlos has pitched in 107 games after a Cardinal loss – starting 47 of them. He is 24-14 with 10 saves and a 3.08 ERA over 362 innings.
After a bit of a tailspin, Tommy Edman is beginning to re-emerge. He has had two hits in each of the last two games.
Tommy has had a good month in games after a loss. He has now played in 7 of them, hitting .320 (8 for 25).
Jose Martinez finished the game with two singles, stretching his hitting streak to seven games. He is hitting .333 (9 for 27) during the streak.
Speaking of hitting streaks, Goldschmidt extended his to eight straight games. It hasn’t been a quiet hitting streak either, as Paul has hit .364 (12 for 33) in those games. The hits have been 5 singles and 7 home runs. Paul has driven home 14 runs over the last 8 games (3 of them game winners) while slugging a tidy 1.000.
Dexter Fowler saw his six-game hitting streak come to an end last night. Dex was 7 for 23 (.304) with 2 doubles and 2 home runs (.652 slugging percentage) during the streak.
Paul DeJong will certainly be glad to see July end. After his 0 for 4, Paul is down to .214 for the month (18 for 84).
For the season, Paul has struggled considerably after a St Louis loss. Playing in 48 of the 49 games, DeJong is hitting .227 in those games (41 for 181). In July, after a loss, he was 3 for 30 (all singles) with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts – a .100/.156/.100 batting line.
Paul Goldschmidt’s home run accounted for his eighth game-winning RBI of the season. Only Marcell Ozuna (who has 9) has more.
The home run was Goldy’s twenty-fifth of the year. Paul has been a four-time thirty-home-run guy – including last year when he hit 33. His career high is 36, done twice. Behind his average home run pace for most of the year, Goldschmidt is now on pace to hit a career-high 38. Seven homers in eight games will do that.
Paul hasn’t started every game this season, but he has played in all of them – all 106. Goldschmidt has never played in every game in a season, but he has come close. He played in 160 with Arizona back in 2013. He has played in at least 155 games in each of the last 4 seasons – including 158 last year.
Paul is also up to 396 at bats, and is creeping up on the 593 he had last year – the second most of his career.
After getting hit by a pitch again last night, Kolten Wong has reached double figures in HBP for the third consecutive season, and the fourth time in his career. His career high is 15 set in 2015.
Kolten is also moving up on the games played list – last night was his 104th game of the season. He played just 127 last year. Kolten has never played more than the 150 games he played in 2015.
Wong is also up to 330 at bats for the season, just beneath the 353 he managed last year. Wong hasn’t been over 400 at bats in a season since that 2015 season.
His single was his eighty-sixth hit of the season – he finished last year with 88. Kolten, in his seven-year career – has exceeded 100 hits only three times. He has also nearly matched his total bases for all of last year (when he had 137). He already has 129 in 2019.
With Tuesday’s hard-fought win, St Louis has now won the opening game of five straight series.
The Cubs (coming off losing two-of-three in Milwaukee) are the fourth team in the Cards’ last five series that had lost its previous series.
St Louis fell behind again in the fourth inning. They have now surrendered the game’s first run in four straight games, and six of the last seven.