Dakota Hudson has been with the team the entire year, so he’s seen everything that’s gone on. He’s watched as the team has lost 34.6% of their quality starts (which would be the highest percentage this century if it holds). He had seen the team score fewer than 4 runs in 7 of the month’s first 10 games (including the night before). He watched them lose to last night’s starter, Brad Keller, 8-2 back in May. And he knew that in his last three starts his offense backed him with a total of two runs.
So, as he watched from the dugout last night, I don’t think he could truly be shocked to watch Keller baffle his offense for six hitless innings. But through a season of offensive adversity, Dakota Hudson arrived at a game plan.
When in doubt, shut them out.
It’s certainly simplistic logic. If you don’t give up a run, you can’t lose the game. And, of course, it’s a difficult standard to maintain. But it’s an approach that’s become something of an imperative among Cardinal starters, as the offense is frequently slow to get untracked.
Across the entire season, St Louis is batting just .225 with a .693 OPS while the score of their game is tied. Since the All-Star break that number is even worse – a .220 batting average and a .652 OPS. In August, while the games are tied, Cardinal hitters are flexing their muscles to the tune of a .218 batting average and a .624 OPS.
And then, last night, six innings of zeros until they finally broke through (box score).
Meanwhile, while the no-hit spotlight settled on the Kansas City starter, Mr. Hudson quietly went about his business of shutting out Kansas City and waiting.
While simplistic, this was an element of Hudson’s game that was distinctly missing coming into the second half of the season. In his first four second half starts, while pitching in tied ballgames, Dakota was slapped around a good bit – the 19 batters that faced him in that situation stung Dakota to the tune of a .389/.421/.944. In those 4 starts, Dakota was able to hold the game even for only a total of 3.2 innings. He just never gave his slow starting offense a chance to get into the game.
Over his last three starts, while the batting line against him with the score tied has only marginally improved (.306/.381/.417), he has managed to keep the games tied for 9.2 innings – highlighted, of course, by the six zeros that he matched Keller with last night.
Over his last two starts, Dakota has faced 40 batters – only two of them with a lead. A one-run lead.
Jack Flaherty has gotten the memo. He threw 7 shutout innings the night before to get his win. Hopefully the rest of the rotation has figured this out as well.
When in doubt, shut them out.
With the back-to-back shutouts, the Cards pitching staff has started looking like the staff they thought they would be. Over the last 7 games (or since the last time they used a fifth starter), the Cards hold a 2.34 team ERA with a .220 batting average against.
As if surprises like John Gant, John Brebbia and Giovanny Gallegos weren’t enough for one bullpen, Tyler Webb has been nearly untouchable since his most recent recall. Over his last 10.2 innings, Webb has allowed 1 run on 3 hits, walking 1 while striking out 12. The batting line against him from the last 35 batters he has faced is an impressive .088/.114/.176.
For all of this, Mike Shildt still isn’t anxious to use Tyler in critical situations. Since his return, 48.6% of the batters he’s faced have come in games that were more than three runs either way.
After a little tailspin, Tommy Edman’s bat has revived. Hitless in five at bats last night, Tommy saw a five-game hitting streak end. He was 9 for 21 (.429) during the streak.
After playing in only 118 and 90 games his first two seasons in St Louis, Dexter Fowler played in his 108th game of the year last night. Dexter hasn’t crossed the 140-game threshold in any season since he played in 156 games with the Cubs in 2015.
Dexter is also up to 335 at bats on the season after finishing with 420 and 289 his first two years here.
Of course, with the increase in games and at bats comes an increase in strikeouts. He whiffed for the ninety-fifth time this season. He had 101 and 75 strikeouts his first two seasons.
Just four series ago, the Cardinal pitchers held the Cubs to just 3 runs over 3 games. That had been the fewest runs St Louis had allowed in any series so far this year.
Now, of course, they have given up 0 in the just concluded series. Yes, it was just the Royals, and yes, it was just two games, but they still leave KC allowing no runs during the series. The only other time this has happened for the Cards in this century was July 21-22, 2004. In two home games against Milwaukee, they won 1-0 and 4-0. The starting pitchers in those games were Woody Williams and Jason Marquis.
When no one is hitting or scoring, the games do tend to fly by faster. With last night’s game taking just 2:38 on the clock, the two games against the Royals averaged just 2:46 per game – the fastest series of the year by average time (yes, I know it was just two games). The previous fastest series (and still the fastest three-game series) occurred April 26-28 at home against Cincinnati. Those games averaged 2:46.7.
The Cards have now swept the last two series. Of their 39 series so far this season, the Cards have gone into the last game 10 times in a position to sweep. They have now finished off that sweep 7 times. They have had 5 sweep opportunities both at home and on the road. They have finished off 4 of the 5 at home, and now 3 of the 5 on the road.