The slider was high (at the very top of the strike zone), and Eugenio Suarez – Cincinnati’s slugging third-baseman – didn’t quite square up on it. The pitch wasn’t stung – but it was enough. As his looping liner dropped safely into center field, Nick Senzel raced around third to score the second run of the inning. And of the game. And, as it turned out, the last Cincy run of the night.
Again, it would be enough as the Reds held on for a 2-1 victory (box score).
With 7 hits, 2 walks and a hit batter, the Reds had sufficient opportunities. Of the 34 Reds that came to the plate in their 8 innings, 15 hit with at least 1 runner on base, and 6 had opportunities with multiple runners on base. But Suarez’ flare was the only hit they managed. Cincy hit .333 with the bases empty, and .083 with anyone on.
Most of the time, walking off the field having allowed just two runs should be good enough for a victory. But these days, the only certainty for the Cardinal pitching staff is to throw shutouts.
For the eighth time in 12 August games, the Cardinals were unable to score as many as four runs. They are hitting .231 this month as a team. Stretching back to the end of July, St Louis has been held to fewer than four runs 12 times in their last 16 games. It’s a stretch that has them scoring just 3.13 runs per game with a team OPS of .646.
One game after being nearly no hit in Kansas City, the birds added four more hitless innings in this one, ending up with just two hits for the evening. Offensive innings have been awfully quiet lately.
To their credit, the pitching staff has held their own under this adversity. In 12 August games, they are holding forth with a 3.24 team ERA and a .231 batting average against. It’s been enough to keep the team afloat (6-6) this month.
And they have done it largely the way that last night’s starter Michael Wacha did. By toughening up once runners reach base.
Since the All-Star break, Cardinal opponents are hitting .259/.332/.382 with the bases empty, but just .227/.317/.371 once they put a runner on. Over the month of August, these numbers have tightened up even more. While batters are slashing .248/.335/.360 with no one on base, Cardinal pitchers are allowing just .209/.283/.331 once a runner does reach.
Wacha has had some difficulties recently. Even though they couldn’t prevent his sixth loss in his last nine decisions, his five strong innings were nice to see. But as we slog through the mid part of August, this club is still waiting for its offense to show up.
Starting at third base last night, Matt Carpenter played his tenth game since coming off the injured list. He was hit on his shoe-top with a pitch and struck out twice in his three at bats.
Of all the bats in the lineup that the Cards are holding their breath for, Carpenter’s is one of the most critical. Mike Shildt is convinced that Matt is still the Matt Carpenter of old, and one of the most dynamic bats in baseball, so Carpenter is going to play. Let’s hope Mike is right.
Since his return, Matt is hitting .233 (7 for 30) and is slugging .300. He has 2 doubles in those games. Matt is hitting .222 (10 for 45) since the break, with only those 2 doubles – a .267 slugging percentage.
Stretching back to before his injury, it has been 23 games since Carpenter’s last home run.
The second run surrendered by Michael Wacha last night was the 400th off of him during his career, and the sixty-first this season. Michael’s career most are the 86 runs he allowed in 2016, one of two seasons in his career in which he has allowed 80 runs or more.
His 2 walks bring him to 44 for the season. He has never before walked more than 58 in a season. That happened over 181.1 innings back in 2015.
Kolten Wong played in game number 117 last night. He played in only 127 all last year. His 3 at bats in the game bring him to 368 this year – already more than in any season since 2015 – the only year so far in his career in which Kolten received 500 at bats.
Moreover, his double was his 100th hit of the season. Since he racked up 146 hits in 2015, Kolten has crossed the 100-hit mark only once in the last three years – he finished 2017 with 101.
The 2 total bases from last night bring Kolten to 146 for the season. Already with more than in all of 2018 (137), Wong now ties his total from 2017. His next total base will give him more than in any season since the 215 he fashioned in 2015.
His run batted in – his forty-third of the season – is also his most since 2015 when he drove in a career high 61.
With the walk he drew, Wong is now up to 39 this season. His career high is only the 41 he drew in 2017. Yesterday’s strikeout brings him to 62 this season – again, already more than in any season since 2015 when he fanned 95 times.
Kolten’s stolen base career high is 20 – achieved in 2014. Last night he swiped his sixteenth of this season.
The Cardinals had held a lead at some point in seven consecutive games before last night – every game since their August 5, 8-0 loss in Los Angeles (which was also the last time that Wacha started).