Neither hit was very much, really. Not highlight reel smashes by any means. But in the professional levels of any sport, little things are frequently most important.
It is the bottom of the second inning of last night’s game in Los Angeles. St Louis is holding a 1-0 lead. The Dodgers have the tying run at third base, but there are two outs. Cardinal starter Miles Mikolas only needs to get eighth-place hitter Kristopher Negron to hold the lead into the third.
But Negron manages to float a Texas-league single into short center, and the game was tied.
Now it’s the seventh-inning. The Dodgers have added a run in the interim, and now lead 2-1. Andrew Miller is into the game for St Louis. The Dodgers have a big insurance run on second base – but again, there are two outs. Miller will be facing left-handed hitting Max Muncy. Again, all Andrew needs is an out and we go into the eighth-inning still a one-run game.
Muncy’s ensuing ground ball wasn’t exactly stung. But it was perfectly placed as it snuck through the shifted infield, driving Edwin Rios home with the extra-run that padded Los Angeles’ 3-1 win (box score). A win that sent the Cardinals to their fourth consecutive loss, and seventh in the last nine games.
All throughout the losing spell, there have been two constants. There has been a nearly total absence of offense (over their last 9 games, the Cards are hitting just .225 and scoring 2.22 runs per game).
There has also been an abundance of two-out RBI’s against them. For the month of August (in which they are 1-4), 13 of the 21 runs batted in against them have come with two outs. Over the last 9 games, 19 of the 37 runs batted in have been two-out RBIs.
The offense, of course, has had their two-out opportunities as well. Last night, they were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, 0-for-3 with two outs. A two-out, bases empty, ninth-inning single from Andrew Knizner was St Louis’ only two-out hit in 10 such at bats.
For the month they are hitting .232 with only 3 runs batted in with two outs. Over the nine games, they have just 4 two-out runs batted in.
For the Dodgers, everything is coming very easily right now. That is far from the case in St Louis these days.
Having forced their way back into contention in the division, the Cardinals are consistently coming up short in the money moments of these recent games.
In an increasingly troubled rotation, Miles Mikolas continues to be a beacon. Although he took yesterday’s loss, Miles contained the dangerous Dodger lineup to 2 runs over 6.2 innings. Since he re-tooled over the All-Star break, Miles has 4 quality starts in 5 games with a 2.18 ERA. In 33 second-half innings, Mikolas has walked just 5 batters. Although he has already served up a career high 17 home runs, he has allowed none over his last 3 games, and just 1 in the second half.
As Andrew Miller has opened the second half, he has had a little trouble early on here getting that third out. In last night’s game, he gave a two-out RBI single to Muncy in the seventh.
Since the break, Andrew has faced 17 batters with two outs. Those batters have 3 singles, a home run, and 4 walks – a .308/.471/.538 batting line.
With little fanfare, Tyler Webb has thrown the ball very, very well since his last return from the minors. With last night’s perfect eighth inning, Tyler’s last 7 games have seen him serve just 1 run on only 1 hit (a pinch home run off the bat of Oakland’s Chad Pinder in Saturday’s game). Tyler has fanned 8 of the last 16 batters to face him, and has 10 over the 7.2 innings of his last 7 games, while walking just 1 – giving him a batting average against of .042 and an on base percentage against of .080.
Webb has been quite good all season at claiming that last out. Batters facing Tyler with two out are 6 for 42 (.143) – albeit with 7 walks.
Back among the offensively downtrodden is centerpiece Paul Goldschmidt. Hitless (with 2 strikeouts) last night, Paul is now 0 for his last 11 with 5 strikeouts, and has gone 6 games without driving in a run.
July’s Player of the Month, Paul has scuffled through the early games of August. In his first 20 plate appearances this month, Goldy has 2 singles, 1 double, 1 walk and 7 strikeouts – a batting line of .158/.200/.211.
In the statistical anomaly department, all four of Paul’s at bats last night came with one out. That 0-for-4 makes him just 3 for 17 (.176) with one out over these difficult last 9 games. He has hit .308 (4 for 13) with no one out, and .333 (2 for 6) with two outs.
Last night’s attendance total of 53,070 was the largest crowd for any Cardinal game this season. The previous high was the 48,555 in St Louis’ game against Pittsburgh on Sunday May 12.
In his 18-win 2018, Miles Mikolas set all of his significant career highs, including games (32), games started (32), hits allowed (186), runs allowed (70), earned runs allowed (63) and walks (29). Mostly because his first half was difficult, Miles is closing in on surpassing all of those numbers (23 games and starts, 139 hits allowed, 61 runs – 58 earned, and 22 walks).
It’s been three years since Dexter Fowler has played in over 130 games. He played in his 102nd last night. That season (2016) was also the last time that Dex had over 450 at bats – he has 316 already this year.