Oh, come on, now. You didn’t really think Jack Flaherty would make it through a whole start without getting touched for a home run, did you?
The impressive and encouraging thing about the Cardinals’ last game before the All-Star break was how long it took for that ubiquitous home run to show up. Seventy-five pitches and 6.1 innings into the contest, Flaherty had not only not allowed a home run. He had given no hits whatsoever. His seventy-sixth pitch, of course, was the misbehaving slider that Evan Longoria crushed deep over the left field wall for the only run of the game (box score).
Jack has now allowed at least one home run in seven straight starts. The total is now 11 in his last 37.2 innings.
Even in defeat, though, it was a welcomed performance from Jack, who had managed only one quality start in his previous six outings.
As far as the Cardinals’ wasting excellent pitching, this was hardly an isolated moment. Eighty-eight games into the championship season, the Cards have only gotten 38 quality starts from its rotation. Eight of those 38 starters have been saddled with the loss in these games. Flaherty has now absorbed the loss in both of his last two quality starts. Of the 38 quality starts, this is now the third time that the Cardinal pitcher received no support runs at all. This has now happened to Jack (who has now gone five consecutive starts since the last time he saw at least four runs of support) twice in his last 4 starts.
In all, St Louis has failed to score more than 3 runs for their starter in 24 of their 38 quality starts. In all honesty, our rotation hasn’t been as dominant as often as expected. But, on those rare occasions when they are, it is almost to be expected that they will get minimal run support.
To this point of the season, St Louis is 25-13 (.658) when they get a quality start from their pitcher. That seems pretty strong, but if that figure holds, it would tie the Cardinals’ lowest winning percentage in quality start games in any year in this century. The 2008 team (50-26) finished at .658 when they got quality starts.
Last year’s team was 50-18 (.735). Through all the games this century up to this year, the Cards are 1187-425 (.736) when their starter puts them into position to win. They have won over 70% of these games in 15 of the first 19 full seasons of this century.
The 2017 team was the one I labeled “the team that blinks.” They lost 21 quality start games (out of 76 – a .724 winning percentage). But Sunday’s loss was so reminiscent of one of those games, it’s impossible not to take a look back.
May 20 that year was a Saturday. The evening in St Louis was a balmy 79 degrees with a few clouds.
The Cardinal pitcher was Carlos Martinez. That evening, Carlos may have thrown the best game by a Cardinal pitcher since Chris Carpenter in Game 5 against Philadelphia. In just 93 dominant pitches, Martinez tore through the Giants, walking off the mound after nine complete innings, having allowed no runs on just two hits and 1 walk.
Making the best start of his career, Carlos didn’t walk off the mound with a complete game. He wasn’t awarded a shutout. Carlos didn’t even get the win. That, of course, would be because while Martinez was turning away the Giant batters, San Francisco’s pitcher – yes, it was Jeff Samardzija that evening as well – was similarly frustrating the Cardinal batsmen.
It was a signature loss that year. Like Sunday’s loss, it was the kind of game that playoff teams rarely lose – especially against losing teams which the Giants are so far this year and were in 2017 when they lost 98 games. But not that night.
So, just like that the Cards hit the All-Star break with a .500 record. As the rest of the division has hung around waiting for them, they find themselves just two games out of the division lead.
On the other end of the spectrum – at least this time out – is Dakota Hudson. Hudson was provided with 6 support runs while he was pitcher of record, as the Cards were on their way to a 9-4 win on Friday (box score) – their only win of the series.
After throwing 8 consecutive quality starts, Hudson missed qualifying for the second consecutive start. He still navigated through 5 innings, allowing 3 runs, and took the win. Over his last 10 games, Dakota is 5-1 with two potential wins lost by the bullpen, and a 2.83 ERA.
They were only two singles, but San Fran was 2 for 3 with a sacrifice fly against Mikolas when they hit the first pitch. No pitcher on the staff has had the difficulties with his first pitch that Mikolas has.
Batters are now 25 for 52 (.481) when they hit Miles’ first pitch. The hits are generally not soft, either. Opposing hitters have 3 doubles, 2 triples and 6 home runs when jumping Miles’ first pitch – a .962 slugging percentage.
Yairo Munoz got another start Sunday afternoon – and responded with two hits. He was the only Card with multiple hits that afternoon.
Munoz – who hit .345 in sparse duty in June – is starting to work his way more and more frequently into the lineup. Much of this has been facilitated by injuries to Matt Carpenter and now Kolten Wong. But production is also in the equation. Yairo has played 6 of the last 8 games, starting 5. He is hitting .316 in those opportunities (6 for 19).
After getting 5 hits through the first two games, Dexter Fowler was held hitless on Sunday. That 0-for-4 broke a nine-game hitting streak (counting only games in which Fowler had an at bat). He was 12 for 29 during the streak (.414) with a double, a triple and two home runs. He drove in 6 runs during the streak, with a .724 slugging percentage.
Don’t look now, but Paul Goldschmidt has put together a pretty noisy seven-game hitting streak. After going 5 for 13 against San Fran, Paul is 9 for 26 (.346) during the streak. He has 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 6 runs batted in, and a .654 slugging percentage over his last 7 games.
Matt Wieters finished the Friday blow-out win with 2 hits. He went 0-for-7 through the last two games. Matt is now 4 for 19 (.211) in his cameo subbing for Yadier Molina. It should be pointed out, though, that 2 of those 4 hits have been home runs.
So far, July hasn’t been any kinder to Harrison Bader than June. Hitless in 6 at bats in San Francisco, Bader is now 5 for 52 (.096) over his last 19 games. He has no extra-base hits, or runs batted in in those games. He has drawn just 3 walks in that span – none in his last 9 games.
For July, Bader is off to a .200 (3 for 15) start.
With 4 hits in the series, Kolten Wong is now up to 68 for the season. He finished 2018 with just 88 hits. He is also up to 105 total bases after amassing just 137 all last year. Kolten is also about to pass last season’s totals in runs (34 after scoring just 41 times all last year) and runs batted in (35 after driving in 38 all of last year).
Miles Mikolas – whose ERA is up almost two full runs over his 2018 season – continues to gain quickly on all his totals from last year (which were, by the way, his career highs). The home run he allowed Saturday was his sixteenth – tying his career high. The 5 runs allowed brought him to 52 for the season, and the 4 earned runs leave him with 50 in 2019. Last year’s totals were 70 and 63 respectively in 200.2 innings.
Then, on Sunday, Jack Flaherty – whose 2019 ERA is also up precipitously – allowed his twentieth home run of the season – matching his career high from 2018. As with Mikolas, Jack is quickly reaching several other career highs set last year in hits allowed (108 – he has 87 already), runs (59 last year, 51 already this year) and earned runs (56 last year and 50 already in 2019).
St Louis is now 3-5 in rubber games this season. All 5 losses in rubber games have come against teams that had won its previous series (we are 1-5 in rubber games against those teams).
Overall, St Louis has played 14 series against teams that won their previous series. They have won 3 of those series, lost 10, and split the other. They are 17-25 when pitted against teams coming off a winning series.
The Friday game was the first time in 9 games that St Louis didn’t trail at some point, and their 5 run lead after seven was their biggest lead heading into the eighth since they held a seven-run lead on Kansas City in an eventual 10-3 win on May 22.
Meanwhile, the 1-0 loss on Sunday ended a streak of 8 straight games in which they had held a lead at some point.
At 2:19 the Sunday game was the quickest of the season. The previous quickest game was the 4-3 loss in Philadelphia on May 28. That game lasted 2:28.