The second inning had been a mess. Cardinal starter Jack Flaherty labored for 39 pitches to the eight batters who made their way to the plate in that inning. After a single by Dee Gordon had tied the game at one each, Flaherty gave an infield hit and two consecutive walks to plate a second run.
But, that inning behind him, Jack needed just 29 more pitches to work his way through the next two innings, picking up four strikeouts along the way.
Now it’s the fifth inning, still 2-1 Seattle. A four-pitch walk to the first batter, Daniel Vogelbach, brought Omar Narvaez to the plate. Probably, few pitches are as predictable as the first-pitch fastball right after a four-pitch walk. It didn’t help that the fastball was right down the middle at just 92 miles per hour.
Regardless, Narvaez was ready for it, and suddenly it was a 4-1 Mariner lead.
But the game wouldn’t end there. After home runs from Jose Martinez and Yairo Munoz tied the game, St Louis gave the ball to Giovanny Gallegos to get them through the eighth. Seattle answered with pinch-hitter Tim Beckham.
Gallegos has been much praised in these pages recently – and with good reason. Giovanny has really been very good over the last several weeks.
Last night, however, Beckham gave him a worthy battle. After Tim fouled off four of the first six pitches, Giovanny threw his fifth fastball of the at bat. It was inside, but not inside enough.
And just like that, what could have been an outstanding pitching effort in a satisfying victory ends as a 5-4 loss.
While the rest of the National League Central has been marching in place waiting for the Cards to join the party (and both the Brewers and the Cubs lost again last night), the Cards have been dutifully losing six of the last seven. This loss, so reminiscent of many of the other six (the Cards have served up 15 home runs over the last seven games), and, in fact like many of the 42 lost already this year. Last year’s team allowed 144 home runs over the entire season – the fewest total in all of baseball. Through 83 games of 2019, St Louis has now surrendered 114 already. An otherwise quality outing reversed by one or two mistakes not gotten away with.
During the current 1-6 streak, Cardinal starters have contributed just 35.2 innings (Jack only gave them 4.2 last night), during which they have been pelted for 26 runs (20 earned) on 49 hits that have included 11 home runs. It all sums up to a combined 0-5 record, a 5.05 ERA, a .325 batting average against, and a .589 slugging percentage allowed (courtesy of 2.78 home runs allowed per every nine innings).
This kind of struggling from your rotation is enough – usually – to cause a losing streak regardless. But when this is the staff saddled with one of baseball’s least potent offenses – well.
At 41-42, the Cards would be 13 games out if they were in the American League East. They would be 11.5 games behind the Twins in the AL Central or the Astros in the AL West.
Anywhere in the AL, and they would be 4.5 games out of the last wildcard spot and behind four other teams.
Elsewhere in the National League, they would be 15 games behind the Dodgers in the West, and 7.5 behind Atlanta in the East (although anywhere in the NL, they wouldn’t be farther than 2.5 out of the last wildcard spot).
Some of those other situations might convince the proud Cardinal franchise to be sellers – and maybe they should be sellers. But with the Central Division waiting patiently for someone to lay in a claim, there is little (read zero) chance that St Louis will sell.
Instead this organization that is profoundly puzzled at why their hitters don’t hit and their pitchers don’t pitch will patiently wait and hope things will turn around.
Truthfully, it wouldn’t really take much. Most nights, just a couple of pitches here and there.
One of the prized young hurlers in the system, Jack Flaherty is in a troubled spot right now. The home run he served up last night means that Jack has been touched for at least one home run in each of his last 6 starts. He has given 10 of them in 30.1 innings, and 17 of the last 35 hits against him have been for extra-bases. He has an 0-2 record, and a 7.12 ERA over those starts.
Among the relievers, Tyler Webb is now starting to string some impressive appearances together. Coming in in the sixth, Tyler kept Seattle off the board for 1.1 innings. It was his sixth straight scoreless outing, during which he has given just 3 hits (singles) over 5 innings. Over his last 15 appearances, Webb has a 2.03 ERA.
Yadier Molina just can’t get anything sustained. With three hits in the first San Diego game coming close on the heels of a five-game hitting streak, it was hoped that that would be the beginning of a hot streak for Yadi. He hasn’t had a hit since, going 0-for-7 with 3 strikeouts and a double-play in the last 3 games.
Hitless in 2 at bats last night, Harrison Bader is now 2 for 39 (.051) over his last 14 games. The hits are both singles, and he has no runs batted in over that span. By all rights, of course, Harrison should have had a double last night, but a truly superior defensive play by Kyle Seager at third kept the zeros coming for Bader. That, sadly, is how things play against you when you are in that slump.
This is how quickly things can turn in baseball. In the Saturday game against San Diego, Tommy Edman led off with a home run – his second. At that point, he had 9 hits in his first 25 major league at bats – a .360 average.
That was his last hit, as Tommy is currently riding an 0-for-10.