When Yairo Munoz stepped to the plate in the top of the sixth inning yesterday, the Cardinal position was a bit precarious, as they tilted on the verge of being swept in San Diego.
Trailing 3-0, St Louis had the bases loaded with two out. They were riding a streak of 0 for their last 12 with runners in scoring position. For the series, at that point, St Louis had scored all of 3 runs in 23.2 innings. With runners in scoring position (RISP), for the series to this point, St Louis had managed two infield singles in 18 previous at bats. One of those dribblers (by Michael Wacha on Friday) had accounted for the only run batted in in a RISP situation to this point of the series. Reaching back to the last game of the Oakland series – from Paul DeJong’s ground-rule double that gave the Cards a temporary 3-1 lead in the second inning – St Louis had just those two infield hits to show for their last 29 at bats with runners in scoring position.
Batting with runners in scoring position is one of those numbers that almost cannot be over-emphasized. In that Friday game, for example, the Cards finished the game with 9 hits – a solid total that included 2 doubles. But the Cards ended on the losing end of a 3-1 contest (box score) because, of the 15 total runners they had in scoring position across 11 such plate appearances, they only managed to get one of them home.
Munoz, by the way, would come through with a two-run single that was instrumental in the St Louis comeback that salvaged the finale of the series, 5-3 in 11 innings (box score).
Before the game would end, Tyler O’Neill would loop a single to right with a runner at second that would lead to the tying run.
Even with the strongish finish, St Louis would lose two of the three games – in no small part because they finished 4 for 22 (.182) with runners in scoring position. All the hits were singles, and accounted for just 3 runs batted in – while setting up a fourth run to score on an error after O’Neill’s hit.
After the All-Star Break last year, the Cards hit .274 with RISP, with a .444 slugging percentage. They added a .272 RISP batting average in April.
They faded to .253 (albeit with a .438 slugging percentage) in May opportunities with runners in scoring position. The struggling series in San Diego ended a month in which St Louis hit just .240 with “ducks on the pond,” slugging just .353 in those opportunities. In 198 such plate appearances in June, St Louis finished with 10 extra-base hits.
This futility contributed materially to a month that saw the Cards score 3.54 runs per game, while they hit .223 and slugged .357. According to baseball reference, they finished worst in all of baseball in those categories last month – along with on base percentage (.286), and of course, OPS (.643). It’s rather sobering to think that for the entire month this team was baseball’s worst in each of the batting line categories.
For the season, now, they hold the National League’s fourth lowest batting average (.241), fifth lowest on base percentage (.318), third lowest slugging percentage (.395 – they are one of only 4 teams in all of baseball whose slugging percentage is below .400), and third lowest in OPS (.713).
Against the background of all of that, one almost feels lucky that this team managed to split their 26 June games, entering July with a humble 41-41 record.
Barring any real explanation, all that is left for us to do is the same thing that manager Mike Shildt is doing. Waiting for some of these guys to start hitting.
Munoz was a welcomed spark in an offense that otherwise hit just .209 and slugged .291 in the three games in San Diego – games in which they scored a total of 8 runs.
Munoz played in all three, and started one. Yairo left San Diego with 4 hits in 7 at bats. In those 7 at bats, he led the entire team in runs batted in for the weekend. He drove in 3.
Munoz is now 7 for his last 14 (.500) over 8 games. He finished June hitting .345 (10 for 29).
Yadier Molina was the man who collected the other RISP hit of the weekend – joining the august company of Munoz, O’Neill and Wacha. With a runner at second and no one out in the second inning of the Friday game, Yadi beat out an infield hit. This moment actually set the tone for the series.
Still, with the hit Yadi remains one of the team’s top performers in RISP situations- he is hitting .317 (20 for 63) in those opportunities.
The long list of Cardinals who are still struggling begins with St Louis’ lone All-Star. Riding a stellar April, DeJong has been giving ground ever since. Paul was only 2 for 11 against San Diego (both singles) and is hitting .133 (6 for 45) over his last 11 games. Paul has only 2 extra-base hits, and 2 runs batted in over those games. He hasn’t hit a home run in 12 games.
Paul finished June with a .218 batting average (22 for 101).
Clearly Shildt would love to stick Bader in center and let him play. It’s hard to watch his elite defense and not crave his presence there on a daily basis. But a devastating slump has made this mostly impossible. An offense that looks mostly helpless on most evenings can’t afford to carry a pure defender.
At the plate, Harrison finished the San Diego series 1 for 8. Over his last 13 games (10 starts) Bader has managed just two hits (singles) in 37 at bats (.054). Harrison carried the lowest June batting average of any Cardinal regular. He hit .155 (11 for 71).
Bader was 0-for-3 during the series in RISP opportunities. He finished June 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. For the season, he is a .118 hitter (4 for 34) in this situation.
You must have guessed that Paul Goldschmidt would end up on this list. He might never in his career be happier to see a month pass than this June. Paul finished the Padre series just 1 for 12 – exactly is numbers for the Oakland series before. His 2 for 24 (.083) includes 9 strikeouts, but no runs batted in. Paul hasn’t had an extra-base hit, or a run batted in in 8 games, and it’s been 9 games since his last home run.
For June, Paul finished at .181 (17 for 94) with 3 home runs and just 5 runs batted in.
Goldschmidt has also struggled all season in RISP situations. Hitless in 2 opportunities against San Diego, Paul finished June 1 for 12 in RISP at bats. For the season, he is just 10 for 49 (.204). Nine of the 10 hits are singles – and two of those are infield hits.
The hero of the Oakland series, Tommy Edman opened the Saturday game with a home run. Leading off in all three games, that would be his only hit of the series (he finished 1 for 14).
Friday’s loser, Michael Wacha nonetheless performed admirably – pitching 7 innings, giving just 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk. With that effort, Michael completes a fairly impressive bounce back month.
Wacha made 5 appearances in June – 4 as a starter. He gave us 3 quality starts, posting a 2.84 ERA over 25.1 innings.
Although he labored through six very creditable innings on Sunday, the one big hit served up by Miles Mikolas (that would be the Manny Machado home run) came with a runner in scoring position. This is a recurring issue for Mikolas. Batters were 7 for 18 (.389) against Miles with runners in scoring position during June – with 3 of the hits being home runs.
For the season, batters are 21 for 71 (.296) against Mikolas with runners in scoring position. Seven of the hits have been home runs – leading to a .620 slugging percentage against him in that circumstance.
One of the reasons that Giovanny Gallegos is the Cards best reliever at stranding runners (he has stranded 21 of 24) is that no one hits him with runners in scoring position.
The Padres were 0-for-2 against him over the weekend in those chances. Batters went 0-for-9 against Giovanny in RISP situations during June, dropping them to just 3 for 27 (.111) for the season.
The home runs given up by Michael Wacha on Friday night were the fifteenth and sixteenth hit off of him this year in 73 innings. Last year, in 84.1 innings, he allowed just 9. His career high in home runs allowed are the 19 that he gave up in 181.1 innings back in 2015.