If the frustrating thing about being “tethered to the .500 mark” (as the Cardinals have been all year) is that they have consistently failed to sustain any kind of momentum and take charge of their season; then the comforting aspect of being tethered to the .500 mark is that the season has never spun out of control on them.
If it’s true that they have never won more than four in a row, then it’s also true that they have never lost more than four in a row. While the inconsistent offense has cost this team many opportunities to turn the corner (if you will), the frequently brilliant pitching staff keeps creating more opportunities.
For so many years an anchor on the pitching side, Adam Wainwright may have never been more valuable to his team than he has this year. Whether it’s leading his team out of quarantine, or coming up with complete games when the bullpen really needed the break, or allowing early runs in the game, but then shutting the door while the offense makes a comeback – Wainwright has been the guts of this team in all of those situations.
This has especially been true – this year and throughout his career – when pitching the game after a Cardinal loss. Six of his 9 starts this season have followed a loss the game before. He is 4-1 in those games, with a 2.68 ERA.
Last night, the Cardinals could have used a Wainwright start. Coming off the 4-1 loss that broke their longest winning streak of the year, with the final games of the season slipping past them, with their final flurry of six games in five days looming just ahead, and with Dakota Hudson (and all the innings that he might have given them) now sidelined for the rest of the season, the time was ripe for a hero to step up.
The previous loss had allowed Cincinnati to tie them for the final assured playoff spot in the division, and St Louis was, perhaps, a loss away from squandering a 13-game road trip against losing teams (they were 6-5 on the trip at the time). October was in the air, and with it came a whiff of “must-win” to the remaining games of the Kansas City series.
Yes, they certainly could have used a Wainwright game. The problem was that Adam had just pitched the night before. Someone from the bullpen would have to step into Hudson’s shoes and pull a “Waino.”
In spite of the fact that he hadn’t lasted more than 3 innings or thrown more than 63 pitches in any game this season, that pitcher was Austin Gomber.
Looking at times a little like a left-handed Wainwright, Gomber aggressively attacked the corners of the zone with a running 92-mph fastball, and then buckled a few knees with a looping 75-mph curve. When his evening finally came to a close, Austin had given the Cards 6 innings of 4-hit, walk-less, shutout ball (on 76 economic pitches). He delivered a 5-0 lead to the suddenly resurgent bullpen, and watched them carry home the much needed victory (boxscore).
The Cards are now 14-11 this year after a loss (.560), including 7-5 this month (.583). An achievement that – in its own way – bears effective testimony to the resilience of a team that will not allow themselves to be tipped over by the currents of adversity.
It should be further pointed out that they have achieved this will minimal support from the offense. In the 25 games after a loss, St Louis is scoring just 3.56 runs per game (hitting just .213). In the 12 such September games, they are averaging just 3.50 runs per game, while hitting .193. But the pitching staff – anticipated as a strength all season – has fought back admirably after most of their loses this year, to the tune of a 3.45 ERA and a .211 batting average allowed.
They have been especially effective in the games pitched this month after a loss. Gomber’s quality start was the seventh among the 12 games in support of a 3.04 ERA.
The playoff chase boils down to one more game against Kansas City and then five against Milwaukee. But, if this team has to bounce back after many more losses this season, how well they bounce back will hardly matter.
The games have all been against Pittsburgh and Kansas City, but St Louis has, nonetheless, won 5 of their last 6, led by a nearly bulletproof bullpen. In his first game off the injury list the night before last, Giovanny Gallegos was touched for a run – the only run allowed by the bullpen over its last 6 games and 17.1 innings (0.52 ERA). They have given just 6 hits in those innings, only 1 of them (the double allowed by Gallegos) for extra-bases.
They couldn’t have picked a better time to catch their second wind.
Out to handle the eighth, Genesis Cabrera turned in yet another strong outing. In 11 September games (11.1 innings) Genesis holds a 1.59 ERA.
Cabrera has also been among the very effective pitchers after a loss. He has now thrown 6 innings in those 25 games, allowing just 1 run on 4 hits.
His streak of six consecutive games allowing a home run now broken, Jake Woodford has made significant contributions this month – especially in games after a loss. He pitched the ninth last night, but is usually asked for multiple innings. He has pitched in 3 of the 12 September games after a loss, allowing just 2 runs in 6.1 total innings.
With the first 3-hit game of his career, Dylan Carlson flipped his narrative, a bit, from struggling prospect to a kid starting to put some things together. He now has multiple hits in 2 of his last 5 games, going 6 for 17 (.353) in those games. Four of the six hits have been for extra-bases (2 doubles, a triple and a home run).
With two hits last night, Kolten Wong pushed his average up to .300 for the month of September (24 for 80). He’s hitting .297 (11 for 37) this month in games after a loss.
With last night’s 0-for-3, Tommy Edman’s nine-game hitting streak came to an end. It was a fairly quiet streak, as he managed multiple hits only once. Still, he hit .313 (10 for 32) during the 9 games.
Matt Carpenter did end his 22-at-bat hitless streak with a single in the last game against Pittsburgh – and followed that up with a home run in the next game. But Matt still hasn’t really turned the corner. Hitless in 3 at bats last night, Matt is just 2 for his last 29 (.069), and is back down to .186 (11 for 59) for the month.
Carpenter is just 11 for 62 (.177) in games after a loss this year.
Dating back to the first game of the September 10 doubleheader against Detroit (a 12-2 victory), the Cardinals had trailed at some point in 15 consecutive games until last night.
After making 30 consecutive starts at shortstop, Paul DeJong sat out last night’s game. His streak had been (by far) the longest of any Cardinal at the same position. The new longest streak is just 4 games, shared by Yadier Molina at catcher and Paul Goldschmidt at first. To be clear about this, Goldy has, indeed, started every game this season, but has been the DH for a couple of them.
My Designated Hitter Rant
As the DH seems to be a real threat in the near future – and many expect it to be universal and permanent by 2022 if not sooner – I am going to include the link to my DH rant at the bottom of all my baseball posts this year (and next, probably). If you have already read it, you should know that I added a section on July 30 after the Cards first five games with the DH. Here is the link. If this idiocy is to become law, I want to do everything I can to make sure as many people as possible understand why this is wrong.