So, apparently it takes a day game after a seven-hour marathon the night before to get manager Mike Shildt to get his bench on the field. Frankly, I was a little worried that they might hurt themselves. It had been a long time since Yairo Munoz saw the light of day. Would he remember where shortstop was? I don’t even remember the last time Edmundo Sosa faced a pitcher that was actually trying to get him out. Would he remember which end of the bat to hold?
With the St Louis Cardinals coming to the grueling end of playing in sixteen consecutive days (compounding the fatigue of the 19-inning game the night before), all of the positions had new starters – the bench mafia, as they call themselves.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that it took a couple of innings for the bats to catch up to speed. Once they did, though, the Cardinal second stringers continued a strong recent upturn in the offensive production. Just two weeks ago, the Cards lost consecutive 2-1 games in Colorado. Since that time, the Birds are averaging 5.43 runs per game. They have scored at least 5 runs in 8 of the last 14 games – including the seven runs they scored last night.
Unfortunately, an important victory eluded them, as they were unable to shake a couple of damaging recent trends. With another scuffling outing from the pen, and a surprising recent lack of hitting with runners in scoring position, St Louis fell by a 9-7 count (box score), and ended up losing the last two games of a fairly critical series.
The second stringers actually provided the best RISP (runners in scoring position) game of the series – although the team was only 3 for 12 on Wednesday. In the first two games of the series they were a combined 1 for 15 – including 0 for 9 during the 19-inning game.
Over the last 14 games – even though runs have been mostly sufficient – the Cards are still just 22 for 115 (.191) with runners in scoring position.
For the bullpen, it was only one disastrous inning – a seven-run sixth – that doomed them. For the month of September, the Cardinal bullpen has lost 9 leads, allowed 18 of 48 inherited runners to score (37.5%) and holds a 4.58 ERA.
Either of those trends alone is enough to sink this team’s hopes of playing deep into October. If both continue . . .
Over the last few games, Jose Martinez has had a couple of hits fall in, and has started to find some success at the plate. He was Wednesday’s headliner, going 3 for 5. Jose is now 4 for his last 7 with a double and 2 triples. The recent spree raises Jose’s September average to .350 (7 for 20).
“Everyday” Tommy Edman added two more singles yesterday. Tommy has had two hits in five consecutive games as part of an eight-game overall hitting streak in which he has had multiple hits seven times. Edman is hitting .441 (15 for 34) during his streak. He has also hit safely in 14 of his last 15 (.390 on 23 of 59 hitting), and 18 of his last 20 (.363 on 29 of 80 hitting). Edman’s overall batting average has climbed to .299.
Tommy is already a .300 hitter (.341) for the month of September, and a .303 hitter since the All-Star break.
Randy Arozarena showed what he can do with a little playing time. He had quite the day, going 2 for 4, including his first major league home run; stealing two bases, including home; and throwing out a runner going to third. Add in Randy’s single in the 19-inning game, and he is 3 for his last 5.
Swings have been sparse for Randy, but in the season’s second half he is 6 for 19 (.316) with a double to go with his home run (.526 slugging percentage).
Rangel Ravelo got more than one at bat in a game for the first time in about two weeks. He was 0-for-3 in yesterday’s loss. Rangel went 0-for-5 in the series.
Tyler O’Neil is another hitter who has suffered recently from lack of at bats. It had been about 20 games since his last start. He was 0-for-2 yesterday, and is 0 for his last 6.
Young Junior Fernandez found himself smack in the middle of the big sixth inning. That Fernandez – whose entire big league career is just 10.2 innings – was on in the late innings of a crucial September game is evidence of the state of fatigue in the Cardinal bullpen.
Quietly making a push for a playoff roster spot is right-hander Dominic Leone. Banished to the minors for about a month, Leone may well have figured some things out. Dominic walked two more betters in yesterday’s eighth inning (a constant issue for him), but he struck out 1 and held the game at 9-5, giving the offense a chance to make it close. In 11 games since his return (covering 11 innings) Leone has a 1.64 ERA and a .220 batting average against. Batters are missing 32% of their swings against him.
The Diamondbacks went 0-for-2 against Dominic with runners in scoring position. Since the break, batters are just 1 for 10 against Leone when up with runners in scoring position – although that one hit was a three-run homer off the bat of Brandon Crawford on September 4.
The loss was St Louis’ tenth of the month (they are 15-10 with three games left). This was the first month since June (13-13) that they have lost double digit games. They were 16-9 in July, and 18-9 in August.
With the final game taking 3:52 to complete, the three game series in Arizona averaged 4:48.7 per game – the longest average time of any series St Louis has played this season. The previous long was a two game series in Pittsburgh April 1 and 3. Both extra-inning games, that series averaged 4:10 (4:50 and 3:30).
The Arizona series was the twenty-second (and final) series that the Cardinals will play against a team that had won its previous series. They were singularly unable to interrupt the momentum of these teams, losing 15 of the 22 series, winning just 6 and splitting another. They were just 27-39 against those teams.
Paul DeJong had made 23 consecutive starts at shortstop before yesterday’s bench game. It was the longest current streak of consecutive starts by any Cardinal at a particular position.
After Arizona’s seven-run sixth, St Louis came to bat in the eighth trailing in the game by four runs. Rarely so far out a game so late, this was the first time St Louis had trailed by at least four runs after seven innings since a 6-1 loss on August 17 in Cincinnati.