Pitching Duels on Tap in Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s starting pitching was all but untouchable as they hosted their division rivals from St Louis for a three-game mid-week series that ended yesterday.  Freddy Peralta joined co-aces Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes to make life generally miserable for a Cardinal offense that was feeling pretty good about themselves as they got off the plane.

Fresh off a convincing sweep of the Colorado Rockies, the Cards ran into a buzz-saw in Milwaukee.  For 19.2 innings, that trio dominated the St Louis hitters, allowing just 2 runs on 9 hits (8 singles and a home run).  While they walked 3 (and hit another), those guys struck out 27 St Louis batters, backing their 0.92 aggregate ERA with a .134/.183/.179 batting line against.

That being said, none of the Brewer starters earned a victory in the series, and Burnes – who allowed 1 run in 5 innings – was tagged with a loss.  As St Louis heads to San Diego to open a three-game series there, they do so having taken two of the three in Milwaukee (6-1 in 11 innings, 1-4 and 2-0) because their starting pitching was just a shade better.

While not as flashy (they only managed 16 strikeouts), the Cardinal trio of Kwang Hyun Kim, John Gant and Jack Flaherty threw 16.1 innings against the Brewers giving just 1 earned run – an 0.55 ERA.

Two playoff teams from last year who are currently sitting first and second in their division, these are two teams who believe that their pitching staffs are equal to any occasion.  If pitching duels are not your thing, perhaps you should skip the rest of the games between these teams this year.  The first game went 1-1 into the eleventh.  The second game went 1-1 into the bottom of the eighth.  The finale was a 1-0 game going into the ninth.  The series, perhaps, should have come with a warning: for purists only.

These two teams have now split their first six games, with each winning a series in enemy territory.  St Louis’ current three-game lead aside, this is shaping up to be a very tight (and probably low-scoring) race to the end.

Cards Press On

Of greatest encouragement to Cardinal fans is the pitching staff’s ability to sustain these high-level performances.  They hold a 2.83 team ERA during the month of May.  They have allowed only 4 home runs all month, and the .197 batting average against them is augmented by a .282 slugging percentage.

Over the last 22 games, Cardinal starters hold a 2.19 ERA.  Batters are hitting just .202 against them.

Best With the Bases Loaded

The lone real drag on the pitching staff is its propensity to walk (and hit) batters.  What opposing offenses can’t manage by hitting the ball against them, St Louis pitchers are inclined to do to themselves with free passes.  In 105 innings this month, Cardinal pitchers have walked 54 and hit 6 others.

One of the outcomes of all of this is a league-leading number of bases-loaded situations.  In 38 games, Cardinal pitchers have dealt with 61 bases-loaded situations – nearly two a game.  That figure stands as the most in the National League.  In the eleventh inning of the first game, Alex Reyes faced Jackie Bradley Jr. and Billy McKinney with the bases loaded.  Both struck out

For all of the struggles that put them into these situations, the St Louis pitching staff has responded in enviable fashion.  Opposing batters are hitting just .111 (5-for-45) in those at bats (the lowest average in the league).  Not only are they one of just 4 teams not to allow a grand slam so far this year, they have surrendered just 2 extra-base hits (both doubles) with the bases loaded – a .156 slugging percentage, which, along with their .418 OPS with the sacks jammed, is also the best figure in the league.

The total picture, of course, isn’t complete perfection.  While hits in these moments have been few and far between, St Louis pitchers have also issued 8 bases-loaded walks (also most in the league), hit 3 others, allowed 5 sacrifice flies, uncorked 3 wild pitches – and even committed a balk.

In a way, it’s kind of been a microcosm of the Cardinal season.

Gant

Johnny Gant has kind of been the poster boy for the Cardinal pitching staff.  In matters of contact and runs allowed, Gant has had an exemplary season – especially recently.  Over his last 4 starts, Gant has an 0.89 ERA with a .197 batting average against.  Yet – even though he has been in the rotation the entire season and hasn’t missed a start, John hasn’t pitched enough innings to be a qualifying pitcher (and his season-long 1.83 ERA would have him in the top 5 in the league right now).

His nemesis has been walks.  He walked 3 more in 5 innings on Wednesday, and has walked 16 in his last 20.1 innings.  Gant has authored 26 unintentional walks in 34.1 innings – 6.82 per game.  Consequently Gant has completed six innings just once this year, leaving a lot of innings for the bullpen.

For the season, Gant has pitched with the bases empty only 49.0% of the time – and those batters have a .395 on base percentage against him.

Flaherty

While I’ve seen him sharper, Jack Flaherty completed his second consecutive scoreless outing (he had thrown seven scoreless against Colorado in his previous effort).  Jack now has 4 consecutive quality starts as part of a seven-game winning streak.  In 43 innings over his last 7 games, Jack has been touched for just one home run while compiling a 1.47 ERA and a .174 batting average against.

Cabrera

His struggles against Philadelphia now well behind him, Genesis Cabrera is starting to settle in again.  His last five appearances (covering 6 innings) have been scoreless, and he’s allowed 1 single to the last 22 batters to face him.  Even so, he also continues to invite trouble, as he has walked 4 of those batters and only 52 of his last 90 pitches (58%) have been strikes.

Reyes

Alex Reyes faced 14 batters in 3 busy innings against Milwaukee.  When Manny Pina led off against him in the bottom of the ninth Thursday afternoon, he became the only one of the 14 to bat against Alex with the bases empty.  He drew a lead-off walk.  Even taking into account the 7 runners he’s inherited across his various appearances, and the fact that both extra innings he started began with a runner on base, Alex has pitched to only 32 of his 84 batters faced with the bases empty – just 38.1%.

Home Run Dependency

The 9 runs that St Louis scored in the series were the fewest they have scored in any series so far this year.  (The 5 they allowed were the second fewest.  In an early season sweep in Miami they allowed just 3 runs).  Six of the nine runs scored on home runs.

For the season, 86 of St Louis’ 170 runs have come via the home run – 50.6%.  The National League average is 41.7%.  This over-reliance on the home run is a contributing factor to St Louis’ inconsistencies on offense.

Arenado

When Nolan Arenado’s eight-game hitting streak ended on Wednesday, he responded with 3 hits – including the game’s only run batted in – to start another yesterday.  Nolan is 16 for 46 in May (.348) with a .609 slugging percentage (4 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs.

DeJong

Paul DeJong went 0-for-6 in Milwaukee before his rib injury sidelined him.  He has hit in only one of his last 6 games, going 2-for-20 (.100) in those games.  His average for the month of May has dipped to .205 (8-for-39).

Bullpen Home Run Watch Ends

Coming within a few days of a full month without issuing a home run, the Cardinal bullpen (in the person of Ryan Helsley) was finally taken deep (by Milwaukee’s Avisail Garcia) in Wednesday’s eighth inning.

The bullpen homer-less streak reached its twenty-fourth team game (23 with a bullpen appearance) and ended after 72.2 innings, 253 at bats, 305 plate appearances and 1252 pitches.

Up until that point, Helsley – who has been much praised in this space – had not allowed an extra-base hit all season before serving up a double and the home run on back-to-back pitches.

A Sidenote: Four innings earlier, Garcia demonstrably disagreed with a third strike call – throwing both arms in the air and engaging in an extended debate with home plate umpire John Libka.  I have seen players tossed for less.  It would be interesting to know how close Avisail came to getting ejected four inning before he would become one of the game’s heroes.

NoteBook

St Louis is now 1-and-5 in rubber games.

The series averaged 3:31 even per game – exactly what the last game took.  Considering the low scoring nature of the games, it’s a little surprising that this series was the longest by average time of any series so far this season.

The Cards are now 5-3-1 in series when they win the first game.

San Diego – who took two-of-three from Colorado – will be the fourth consecutive Cardinal opponent to have won its previous series.

Arenado’s single re-gained him the team lead in game-winning-hits.  He pulls back in front of Paul Goldschmidt, 6-5.

Thursday’s shutout was the fourth authored by the Cards in their last 11 games.

St Louis had just one at bat with the bases loaded in Milwaukee, and now have just 3 in the month of May.  They had 20 bases loaded at bats in April.

My Designated Hitter Rant

Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter.  Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH.  While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it.  So, I have re-written it here.  The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks.  I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.

RISP Woes Stymie the Brewers

The game had a promising beginning for the Milwaukee Brewers.  When Kolten Wong led off the game with a double, the Brewers had a golden opportunity to take an early lead.  Instead, it was the beginning of another frustrating evening for the Milwaukee offense.  Wong didn’t move as Cardinal starter Kwang Hyun Kim retired the next three hitters (Lorenzo Cain, Tyrone Taylor and Travis Shaw) on two strikeouts and a pop fly.

More than three hours later – the game well decided at this point – Milwaukee’s Billy McKinney (batting with the bases loaded) waved helplessly at Alex Reyes’ 0-2 slider to bring an end to the proceedings.  The final score of 6-1 was more than a bit deceiving (box score).  Milwaukee held a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning, and the game went into extra-innings tied at one run each.  Milwaukee had myriad opportunities to bury St Louis, but McKinney’s strikeout concluded a 1-for-15 effort on Milwaukee’s part with runners in scoring position (RISP).

This has been much the norm for the Brew-Crew this year.  Their .209 team RISP batting average is the National League’s worst.  The Brewers and Cardinals have now split their first four contests of the new season, with both St Louis wins looking eerily similar.

St Louis hosted Milwaukee to open their home season on April 8.  On that evening, Brewer ace Corbin Burnes simply dominated for 6 innings, shutting out the Cards on just 1 hit, walking none, and striking out 9.  But he left with just a 1-0 lead.  St Louis would come back to tie the game in the seventh, and win it on a two-run home run off the bat of Nolan Arenado in the eighth.

Milwaukee was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on that evening.

Now fast-forward to last night.  This time it is Freddy Peralta dominating the Cards.  He throws seven innings of one-hit shutout ball against them – but also leaves with just a 1-0 lead.  This time the Cards scratched out the tying run in the eighth, and the game-winning, two-run homer came off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt in the eleventh.

No one expects Milwaukee to remain at the bottom of the league stats in this category all season.  Not helping them, though, is their present matchup against a pitching staff that has been very hot – especially in RISP situations.

With the win, St Louis is now 8-2 in May, and 14-4 over their last 18 games.  Over their last 20 games, the St Louis pitching staff holds a 2.75 ERA and a collective .191 batting average against them.  The last 722 batters to face them over the last 177 innings have just 38 extra-base hits (28 doubles, 1 triple, and just 9 home runs) for an aggregate slugging percentage of just .281.

Opposing hitters are just 27-for-148 (.182) against this staff over their last 20 games with runners in scoring position.  If Milwaukee is going to shed this monkey on their back during this series, they will have to do so against a tough opponent.

Kim

Kwang Hyun still doesn’t have a quality start on the season, in spite of the fact that that he has a 1.80 ERA over his last 4 starts, never allowing more than one run in any of them.  But completing that sixth inning has proven elusive for Kim – his longest outing of the year so far lasting just 5.2 innings.

St Louis has, nonetheless, won all five of his starts.

Milwaukee was 4-for-14 against Kwang Hyun, with 3 doubles, when they hit against him without a runner in scoring position.  One of the reasons Kim has had trouble getting deep into games is that clean innings are a rarity for him.  The league is 22-for-68 (.324) against him this season when there are no runners in scoring position.  Once he finds himself in trouble, Kwang Hyun has been much more effective.

The double from Travis Shaw that drove home Lorenzo Cain from second with Milwaukee’s lone run broke an 0-for-21 that the league had against Kim with runners in scoring position.  For the season, they are 2-for-23 (.087) in their RISP at bats against Kwang Hyun.

During his stay in St Louis, batters are 8 for 57 (.140) against Kim with runners in scoring position.  Shaw’s double was the first extra-base hit Kwang Hyun has surrendered as a Cardinal in RISP situations.

More Good Work from Helsley

Ryan Helsley relieved Kim in the sixth, extinguishing the threat.  Ryan has now authored 9 consecutive scoreless outings (7.1 innings with just one hit allowed) and over his last 13.2 innings has yielded just 1 run on 5 hits – an 0.66 ERA with a .116 batting average against.  Ryan still hasn’t allowed an extra base hit this year.

Ryan has allowed only 1 of 10 inherited runners to score.

Reyes

All 9 of the batters Alex Reyes faced last night came to the plate with at least one runner in scoring position (remembering that all extra-innings this year begin with a man at second).  Those batters were 0-for-6 with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts.  This year, batters are 1-for-29 against Reyes with the ducks on the pond.  They are just 13 for 106 (.123) against him in those situations during Alex’ career.

Carlson

One of the casualties of the evening was Dylan Carlson’s hitting streak.  Although he drove in a critical run with a sacrifice fly, Dylan finished the evening 0-for-3, ending his hitting streak at seven games.  Carlson batted .476 (10-for-21) during the streak.

DeJong

Paul DeJong just can’t turn the corner.  After a scuffling start, Paul has looked on several occasions like he was about to find his stride.  But it hasn’t taken just yet.  Recently, he put together a five-game hitting streak.  In the five games since the last of those games, Paul is 2 for 18 (.111).  In spite of the hitting streak, DeJong is hitting .216 (8 for 37) for the month.

Production with runners in scoring position has been a special focus for DeJong this year.  He was 0-for-1 in RISP opportunities last night, and he is 7 for 39 (.179) in those situations for the year.

Bullpen Home Run Watch

Although it certainly seemed like they trying their best to serve up a home run last night, the Cardinal bullpen made it through another evening without allowing the long-ball.  Going back to the seventh inning on April 16, when J.T. Realmuto took Kodi Whitley deep, the bullpen has gone 23 total games (22 in which the bullpen made an appearance), 70 innings, 244 at bats, 295 plate appearances and 1214 pitches without allowing a home run.

NoteBook

At 3:55 (understandably enough, since the game took 11 innings to decide), last night’s game was the Cards longest of the season so far.

St Louis has now won the opening game of four straight series, and 6 of the last 7.

Goldschmidt’s game-winning, two-run homer ties him with Nolan Arenado for the team lead in game-winning hits.  They both have 5.

My Designated Hitter Rant

Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter.  Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH.  While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it.  So, I have re-written it here.  The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks.  I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.

Early Lineup Observations

Lineup observations after 35 games:

The Cards were 13-12 while Harrison Bader was out.  They are 8-2 in the ten games since his return.

St Louis is 11-3 when Andrew Knizner starts (most of those while Yadier Molina nursed a foot injury).  They are 10-10 in Molina’s starts.

Tyler O’Neill has started 22 of the 35 games played so far this season.  The team is 16-6 in his starts, scoring 4.95 runs per game.  They are 5-8, scoring 4.00 runs per game when he isn’t in the lineup.

St Louis is 11-12 when Justin Williams is in the starting lineup.  They are 10-2 when he is not.  In Justin’s games, they score 4.13 runs per game.  St Louis scores 5.50 runs per game when Justin starts on the bench.

The Cards are 11-0 when either Jack Flaherty (7 games) or Kwang Hyun Kim (4 games) starts.  They are 10-14 with everyone else.

Early versions of the lineup had Paul Goldschmidt batting second and Nolan Arenado hitting third.  The Cards were 7-10 when Goldy batted second and 8-10 with Arenado hitting third.

The more recent versions of the lineup have Dylan Carlson batting second (13-3), Goldy batting third (12-4), and Arenado hitting fourth (13-4).

Another Scoring Change (for those scoring at home)

Eighth-inning, April 27 against Philadelphia.  Pinch-hitter Austin Dean chops a slow roller down the third-base line.  Alec Bohm tries to make the bare-hand grab, but the ball slips out of his hand, and Dean is safe at first.  Originally called an error, this call has been re-branded as an infield hit for Dean.

My Designated Hitter Rant

Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter.  Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH.  While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it.  So, I have re-written it here.  The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks.  I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.

Any Lead Will Do

With one out in the top of the first inning on Saturday, Colorado’s Ryan McMahon lined a double down the right-field line.  It was a watershed moment on two levels.

In the first place, it was the first extra-base hit allowed by a Cardinal pitcher in 84 at bats.  If that wasn’t enough, it drove home Raimel Tapia from first base, giving Colorado a 1-0 lead.  In three games last weekend, in what has become something of a house of horrors for the Rockies, this would be their only lead of the weekend.

And it wouldn’t last long.

Cardinal starter Carlos Martinez would strand McMahon at second, retiring Charlie Blackmon on a grounder and Garrett Hampson on a fly ball.  Of the 108 Rockies who would come to the plate last weekend, these would be the only two to bat with a lead.

Batting against Colorado’s Chi Chi Gonzalez in the bottom of the first, the top of the Cardinal lineup made short work of the lead, as singles from Tommy Edman, Dylan Carlson and Paul Goldschmidt quickly tied the game.  St Louis would tack on two more before the inning ended, putting the Cardinal pitching staff back in its comfort zone – protecting a small lead.

Even though the Saturday game turned into a sloppy affair (as far as the pitching was concerned), the weekend sweep (5-0 on Friday) (9-8 on Saturday) and (2-0 on Sunday), followed the pattern of most of the Cardinal wins going back to April 20.  Over the last 19 games, St Louis is 13-6, supported by the starting rotation’s 2.42 ERA and .201 batting average against.  Against Colorado, the rotation finished with a 2.21 ERA and a .169 batting average against.

On display throughout the series, though, was just how difficult it is to take a small lead away from the Cards once they’ve gotten ahead.  For 13.2 innings during the weekend, St Louis nursed leads of one, two or three runs.  Although they flirted with disaster in many of those innings (they gave 8 walks), the team ERA with those small leads was 1.32, combined with a .130 batting average and a .152 slugging percentage.

It was evident against Colorado, but the pitching staff has been doing this all season.  For 97.1 innings so far, St Louis has clung to small leads of no more than three runs.  The team ERA in these innings is 1.66, with a .156/.264/.207 batting line (and, yes, some significant stress has been added by 41 walks and 8 hit batsmen).

A hallmark of the pitching staff in the early months of 2021 is that they have generally done their best pitching during the game’s tightest moments.  This would be a very productive trend to hold on to.

Flaherty

Jack Flaherty came two outs away from winning the season opener.  Alas, although his offense put up 11 runs for him, Jack gave 6 of those runs back and couldn’t scuffle through the 5 innings necessary to qualify.

Since that shaky outing, Jack has been every inch the elite pitcher the Cards have been expecting him to be.  In six starts since then, Jack is 6-0 with a 1.70 ERA.  He has pitched at least 5 innings in all of the games, throwing at least 6 in five of them.  He went seven scoreless in the Friday game, allowing just 3 hits.

Over his last 37 innings, the 141 batters who have faced him are hitting .172 and only have 6 extra-base hits – just 1 of them a home run – for a .234 slugging percentage.

Over the course of his seven starts, Flaherty has yet to face a single batter trailing in the contest.  Jack has pitched 11.1 innings with the game tied without yet giving up the first run.

Martinez

The starter in the Saturday game, Carlos Martinez scuffled through five innings to get the win.  Even though his streak of quality starts ended at three, Carlos, nonetheless, won his third game in a row – and now hasn’t allowed a home run in five straight starts.

Wainwright

With 8.1 innings of shutout baseball, Adam Wainwright was the star of the Sunday game.  It was his third quality start in his last 4 games.  Waino holds a 2-1 record, a 2.40 ERA, and a .198 batting average against over those starts.

Helsley

The Rockies broke through against both Giovanny Gallegos (who allowed runs in the Saturday game for the first time in a long time) and Alex Reyes (who gave up his first run the year – also, of course, in the Saturday game).

Ryan Helsley, however, keeps plugging along.  Appearing twice in the series, Ryan retired 4 of the 5 batters he faced (he allowed a walk) while picking up a save in the Sunday game.

Ryan has allowed one hit over his last 6.2 innings, and holds an 0.69 ERA over his last 13 games (13 innings).  He has allowed only 5 hits over those innings, holding opposing batsmen to a .122 average.  Ryan has yet to allow an extra-base hit this season.

Carlson

Dylan Carlson stretched his hitting streak to seven games, getting two hits in each game of the Colorado series.  Dylan finished the series 6 for 10, and is hitting .476 (10-for-21) over the course of his hitting streak.  Carlson currently sits at .367 (11-for-30) for the month, and .355 (22-for-62) since moving to the second spot in the batting order.

Arenado

Nolan Arenado is also riding a seven-game hitting streak after a very solid series against his old team.  Nolan was 4 for 12 (.333) with 2 doubles and yesterday’s home run.  Nolan is 9 for 25 (.360) with 2 doubles and 2 home runs (.680 slugging percentage) during his streak.  He is up to .364 for the month of May, with a .697 slugging percentage.  His 12 hits (in 33 at bats) include 3 doubles, and a triple to go with the 2 home runs.  He has driven in 8 runs in the 9 games this month.

During the series, Arenado was 2-for-3 when batting with the score tied – his hits were a double and the home run.  For the season, Nolan is a .343 batter (12 for 35) when he hits in a tie game.  Half those hits have gone for extra-bases (3 doubles and 3 home runs), giving him a .686 slugging percentage in those at bats.  He has 7 RBIs – including 5 game-winning hits – when the game is even.  Nolan is the first Cardinal to reach 5 game-winning hits this season.

Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt had hits in 4 of 9 at bats over the last two games of the series, leaving him 4-for-13 (.308) for the series.  Paul has looked much more locked in during May.  He is hitting .355 (11-for-31) and slugging .581 (1 double and 2 home runs) this month.

Recent Scoring Change (for those keeping score at home)

In the fifth inning of the April 29 game against Philadelphia, Andrew Knizner blooped a hit into center field in front of the on-charging Odubel Herrera.  On the dead run, Herrera tried to catch the ball on the short hop, and couldn’t handle it cleanly.  Knizner took advantage and hustled into second ahead of the throw.  Originally ruled a hit and an error, the scorers have decided that Andrew would have made second regardless (Odubel was falling as he caught up to the ball), so Knizner gets awarded a double and the error on Herrera disappears.  (And change the unearned run that Andrew eventually scored to an earned run against Aaron Nola.)

NoteBook

The attendance on Saturday (13,425) was the largest of the year – helping the series against Colorado to average 13,401.7 (also the highest of the season so far).

Exactly what the attraction of the Rockies is, I can’t say.  But it certainly wasn’t the weather.  Sunday’s game temperature of 48 degrees was the coldest since opening night in Cincinnati checked in at 37 degrees.  The entire series averaged 57.3 degrees – the coldest since opening weekend here against Milwaukee was also played in 57.3 degree average temperatures.

Friday’s win gave the Cards victories in 5 of their last 6 opening games of series.

Their win on Saturday made St Louis the first team in the National League (with San Francisco) to 20 wins.

Alex Reyes (as mentioned) was touched for his first run of the season on Saturday.  He also struck out 3 in 1.2 innings.  The second of those strikeouts (Dom Nunez) was the one-hundredth of Alex’ career, coming in just 89.1 innings.

St Louis scored first in two of the three games, and have now done so in 8 of their last 10.

In the seventh inning of the April 16 game in Philadelphia, J.T. Realmuto jumped a fastball from Kodi Whitley and launched it for a two-run homer.  That was the last home run served up by the Cardinal bullpen.  St Louis relievers have had their moments of weakness – mostly caused by control problems.  But they are also on a remarkable run of 22 games, 64.1 innings, 227 at bats, 273 plate appearances and 1132 pitches since the last home run they allowed.

My Designated Hitter Rant

Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter.  Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH.  While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it.  So, I have re-written it here.  The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks.  I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.

No Clear Front-Runners So Far

If you were to ask me how the Cardinals are doing against winning teams, then I would have to tell you that the answer would depend on which day you ask.  Records against winning teams are one of my litmus test numbers – it’s the stat that, to a large extent, defines what your actual strengths and weaknesses really are.

Much of the murkiness of the beginning of the Cardinal season derives from the uncertainty of the level of the competition they have faced so far.  Every single team they have played has been at or above .500 at some point of the season.  Granted, for Miami you have to go back to April 17 when they were 7-7.  Still, that was after a 1-6 start.  Cincinnati got off to a 6-1 start and has faded since.  Pittsburgh was 12-11 as recently as April 27.  From an 8-12 start, Washington’s recent four-game winning streak pushed their record to 12-12 on May second.

For all of the various ups and downs, as play began on this morning of May 7, only three of the Cardinal opponents so far had managed at least as many victories as defeats – the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies (both 17-15) and the New York Mets, who escaped with a split of their four-game series in St Louis and stand at 13-13.

But the shades-of-grey nature of the Cardinal early season isn’t unique to them.  All over baseball, parity is the norm.  In fact, while they have hardly been world-beaters, at 18-14 the Cardinals are tied with San Diego for the National League’s second-best record – a half-game behind the surprising 18-13 San Francisco team.

Going into the season, we all knew who the super-teams were supposed to be.  But 32 or so games into the season, none of the seeming-invincibles have managed any kind of separation from the rest of the league.  Of the hyped teams of the pre-season, the Padres have done the best with that 18-14 record.  The defending champion Dodgers are 17-15.  Atlanta is a surprising 15-16.

None of this is suggesting that these teams will finish with mediocre records for the season.  With still 130 games left, everyone, I think, shares similar expectations for them.  But the longer these teams hover around .500, the more emboldened teams like San Francisco become.

Baseball’s best record belongs to the Boston Red Sox.  At 19-13, they are only one game better than the Cards.

The four games against the Mets are a sort of microcosm of St Louis’ performance in their 14 games against .500-or-better opponents.  They managed to split the four games against New York, hitting for a decent enough average (.261) but scoring only 13 runs (3.25 per game); and the starting pitching – frequently dominant during the early season – struggled mightily against the Mets.  They managed only 18 innings, walked 12 batters in those 18 innings and hit 2 others while sinking to a 5.50 ERA.  The entire staff walked 25 Mets in 32 innings.

In two series against Philly and one each against the Mets and Brewers, the numbers are very similar.  To go along with a 6-8 record, St Louis is scoring just 3.43 runs per game, while receiving a 5.24 ERA in 68.2 innings from the rotation.

At least the areas that need improvement are pretty obvious.

Arenado

With a couple of fortunate hits against the Pirates sparking his resurgence, Nolan Arenado has started to heat things up.  He was 5-for-13 (.385) in the series with a .615 slugging percentage, and through the first 6 games in May, Nolan is 8 for 21 (.381).  The hits include 1 double, 1 triple and 1 home run.  Nolan has driven in 7 runs in 6 games in May with a .667 slugging percentage.

Edman

The Mets were the latest team that has been less than successful in slowing down Tommy Edman.  Tommy hit in each game of the series, and finished 6 for 16 (.375).  Tommy’s hits included 2 doubles and a triple – good for a .625 slugging percentage. 

Edman has started off May with a .400 batting average and a .600 slugging percentage.  He is 10 for his first 25 this month, with 3 doubles and a triple.  Going back to the end of April, Tommy has hit safely in 8 of his last 10 games, hitting .366 (15 for 41) over that span.

Edman has been the team’s most consistent against the .500 teams.  In the 14 games, he carries a .310 batting average (18 for 58).

O’Neill

Tyler O’Neill has launched a few home runs recently, even pushing his average as high as .270 at one point.  But he was 1-for-9 against the Mets, and is hitting just .214 on the season (6 for 28) against the .500 or better teams he’s faced so far this year.

Gallegos

Giovanny Gallegos contributed a couple of perfect innings in two appearances against the Mets.  So far in May, opponents are 9-up and 9-down with 4 strikeouts against Gio – who has been as dominant as they come recently.  Gallegos has thrown 8 scoreless innings over his last 7 appearances.  The last 25 batters to face Gallegos have managed one single and one hit batsmen, while 9 others have struck out – a .042/.080/.042 batting line.

Giovanny has pitched 6.1 innings against the Phillies, Brewers and Mets, giving no runs, two singles and no walks.  He has 9 strikeouts in those innings.

Helsley

If not quite as dominant as Gallegos, Ryan Helsley has been on quite a roll of his own.  He worked two of the games against the Mets, retiring 4 of the 5 batters he faced (he allowed a walk).

Over his last 11 games, Ryan has been touched for 1 run in 11.1 innings, allowing just 5 hits and striking out 13.  During those innings, his ERA has been 0.79 with a .135 batting average against.

In 5.2 innings against the .500 teams, Ryan has allowed 1 run on 2 hits.

Webb

Tyler Webb was just starting to settle in.  After a shaky first few outings, Tyler had gone 4 appearances and 2.2 innings without allowing a run.  Then, he went 9 days without an appearance between April 19 and April 28.  He’s been a bit of a mess since then. Allowing runs in all of his 4 appearances, and allowing 2 runs in each of his last 3.  Over his last 2.2 innings, Tyler has been battered for 7 runs on 4 hits and 7 walks.  The last 19 batters he has faced hold a .579 on base percentage.

NoteBook

A problem earlier in the season, St Louis has now scored first in six of their last 7 games.

Until the second game of the Wednesday doubleheader, St Louis had held the lead at some point in eight straight games.

The bullpen has allowed 6 of their last 11 inherited runners to score.

With no extra-base hits on Thursday, the team slugging percentage, once again, slips below .400 to .398.

My Designated Hitter Rant

Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter.  Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH.  While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it.  So, I have re-written it here.  The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks.  I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.

Doesn’t Anyone Want to Set the Table?

As he has been doing most of the year, Tommy Edman sparked the team from the leadoff spot in the first game of the Met series – albeit with more than a little bit of luck involved.  Met right fielder Michael Conforto lost Edman’s fly in the sun and it fell in for a leadoff triple.

By hit, walk or hit-by-pitch, Tommy has lead off the Cardinal’s first 29 games by getting on base 13 times (a .448 on base percentage).  This ranks the Cards third in the National League in putting their first batter of the game on base.

For their last seven offensive innings on Monday, only once more did the Cards put a leadoff batter on base when Paul DeJong led off the seventh with a single.  This also follows the pattern established through the first 29 games of the season.

In spite of the fact that Edman is having as much success as anyone in leading off games, the Cardinals are second worst in the league in putting their leadoff men on with a disappointing .280 on base percentage.  After the first inning, Cardinal leadoff men are slashing .189/.258/.306.

Speaking after the game (which he helped decide with a three-run homer) Nolan Arenado suggested that the team still has yet to hit its offensive stride.  To that end, may I humbly suggest that putting their leadoff man on base would go a long way toward getting them to that stride?

When St Louis does manage to put a leadoff batter on, he scores 52% of the time.  As the season is developing, it looks like the Cards’ lineup has power potential from every position.  But no one wants to set the table.

May the Force Be With Them

In geekdom, May Fourth is regarded as Star Wars Day based off of one of the worst puns to make it into common circulation in recent memory – “May the Fourth be With You.”

Whether using the light or the dark side, a couple of pitchers marked the day exchanging their wooden bats for light-sabers at the plate.  (OK, in actuality the light saber would slice through the ball.  So, the analogy doesn’t quite hold.)

Anyway, the White Sox Dylan Cease – who, I understand, hadn’t faced live pitching since he was in high school – went three-for-three with an opposite field double that nearly left the park to commemorate his 9-0 conquest in Cincinnati. 

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s Huascar Ynoa allowed only one run (unearned) in seven innings of his 6-1 victory over Washington – a game highlighted by Ynoa’s grand slam home run.  In addition to a 3-1 record and a 2.36 ERA, Huascar now has 2 home runs, 6 runs batted in, a .385 batting average and a .923 slugging percentage.

These are great stories, and pitchers who can rake give their teams such an advantage that it is hard to understand why the powers that be are so intent on taking the bats out of their hands.

By the way, pitchers with hitting ability are more common than you probably think.  This is a theme that I develop further in my DH rant (you’ll find the link below).  It is still, of course, very early, but there are already 7 pitchers with at least 10 at bats who are hitting over .200.

Which leads me right to —

My Designated Hitter Rant

Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter.  Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH.  While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it.  So, I have re-written it here.  The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks.  I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.

Early Offense Always Welcomed

When Tyler O’Neill slashed Joey Lucchesi’s sinker into left-center field to drive in what turned out to be the game-winning run, you wouldn’t normally have thought that the scoring was over for the day.

There were – at that point – two outs in the bottom of the third inning, and the batters had owned the evening.  The first 32 batters to the plate had combined to go 11 for 26 (.423), the hits including 4 doubles, 1 triple and 3 home runs (an even 1.000 slugging percentage).  They were also awarded 4 walks (1 intentional) and a hit batsman (an even .500 on base percentage).

But the slugfest ended abruptly there.  Forty-two more batters would come to the plate before the game ended.  They would muster just 5 hits in their final 37 at bats (4 singles and a double) with 5 more walks – a much more subdued batting line of .135/.238/.162.

By getting that final run in before the relievers closed the doors, St Louis secured its fifth straight win (box score), and its ninth in the last 11 games.  They wake up this morning tied for first in their division.

The last 11 games have earned acclaim for the consistency of the starting pitchers (whose combined ERA over the 11 games is still 2.33).  That element of the formula was a little lacking last night, as Adam Wainwright scuffled through 5.2 choppy innings (he gave all 5 runs).

On this evening, though, Waino was picked up by his offense, as they continued a less heralded trend that has been equally elemental to the team’s recent success – early run support.

The previous homestand began against Cincinnati.  In the first game, the Cards scored 1 in the second and added 4 more in the third for a 5-0 lead.  They wouldn’t score again, but it was enough as they held on for a 5-4 win.

The second game was an equally tight 2-0 Cardinal win, with the first run scoring in the first inning before St Louis added the second in the sixth.

Single runs in the first and second sent the Cards on their way to a 5-2 victory that Sunday.

Philadelphia was the next in town.  St Louis was held off the scoreboard until the ninth inning in the first game of that series, and lost that game, 2-1.

The birds evened the series with a 5-2 win the next day, scoring a run in the first and 2 more in the second to secure another early lead.

St Louis jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the third game, with 2 in the second and another in the third – but didn’t score again in a 5-3 loss.  They wouldn’t score until the fifth on Thursday afternoon, but would manage a 4-3, 10-inning victory anyway.

Against Pittsburgh last weekend, they scored single runs in the first, third and fourth before pulling away late in the opener.  A four-run first (and another run in the third) set the stage for a 12-5 win in the Saturday game, and Harrison Bader’s three-run home run in the second inning on Sunday was the only scoring done all day.

After the early outburst yesterday, 30 of the Cards last 52 runs (57.7%) have scored in the first three innings.  Over the last 11 games they have hit 13 home runs – 8 of them in the first 3 innings, where they hold a .321/.356/.600 batting line.  From the fourth inning on they hit .182/.262/.295.

All things considered, I think management would like to see a bit more consistency late in the game.  But there’s nothing wrong with early offense.  I doubt that any of the starters that have benefitted will complain.

Edman

Tommy Edman continues to key the offense.  With a triple and a double, Edman now has multiple hits in 4 of his last 7 games.  He is hitting .379 (11-for-29) over that span.

Batting leadoff all year, Tommy has come to the plate in each of the 29 first innings the Cards have played.  He has started the games off with 5 singles, 1 double, 2 triples 4 walks and a hit-by-pitch – a .333/.448/.542 batting line.

Wainwright

If Waino is going to get in trouble, for whatever reason, it is most likely to be in the third inning.  Six starts into his 2021 season, Adam has been saddled with a 19.06 ERA and a .500/.556/.884 batting line in that inning.  Three of the 6 home runs he has allowed have come in the third.

In all other innings, Waino holds a 1.88 ERA and a .202/.259/.327 batting line against.

Helsley

One of the “under-the-radar” developments from last night’s game came in the seventh inning.  St Louis was, of course, clinging to its one-run lead when Dominic Smith worked a two-out walk from Genesis Cabrera.  With the dangerous Kevin Pillar coming to the plate (he had homered earlier), manager Mike Shildt turned to Ryan Helsley to close out the inning – which he did, getting Pillar to pop out.

It’s noteworthy because this was Ryan’s first “hold” opportunity of the season.  In 8 of his previous 12 appearances, the Cards were behind when he came into the game.  The other four times, Helsley came in with leads of 5,6,4 and 4.

Over his last 10.1 innings (covering 10 appearances) Ryan has allowed 1 run on 5 hits, walking 3 and striking out 12.  His 0.87 ERA in those games is matched with a .147 batting average against.  Helsley has still not allowed an extra-base hit all season.

Gallegos

Giovanny Gallegos hit a little hiccup in mid-to-late April, allowing runs in 3 of 4 games.  Since then, Gio has regained his stature as one of the most unsolvable relievers in the game.  He has 7 shutout innings over his last 6 appearances.  The last 22 batters to face him have 1 single, 1 hit batter and 8 strikeouts.  They have a cumulative batting line of .048/.091/.048 while striking out 42% of the time.

NoteBook

The multiple extra base hits yesterday pushed the Cardinals’ season slugging percentage back over .400 to .402.

St Louis has won the opening game in four of their last five series.

At 82 degrees, Monday’s game was the first time this season that St Louis has played in temperatures north of 80 degrees.  It won’t be the last.

My Designated Hitter Rant

Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter.  Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH.  While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it.  So, I have re-written it here.  The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks.  I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.

Everything Goes Right in Sweep of Pirates

Paul DeJong led the decisive second inning off with a walk, and Tyler O’Neill followed by slapping a single into left-field.  DeJong would be forced at third on Andrew Knizner’s grounder, but they would provide the runners on base for Harrison Bader’s three-run home run that accounted for all of the game’s scoring on Sunday (box score).

In their sometimes on, sometimes off offensive performances here in the early days of 2021, on thing the Cardinals have managed to do with better than average consistency is score the runners who get on base with no one out.  On Sunday, the Cards put four runners on base with no one out – scoring two.  For the three game series in Pittsburgh, 11 of the 16 runners who reached base before the first out was recorded found their way home (68.8%).

For the season, now, 54.9% of the time that St Louis can get a runner on with no one out, they will push him around.

In contrast, the Pirates put 13 runners on base during the series with no one out, and only managed to get 2 of them home.  It was a frustrating series for the Pirates, who brought a .500 record into the series (12-12), but were outscored 22-8 in the three-game sweep.

A Cardinal offense that hit .266 with a .505 slugging percentage managed to share the spotlight this series with a starting rotation that continues to silence opposing offenses on a daily basis.

For 19 innings this weekend against the Cardinal starters, Pittsburgh managed just 4 runs on 14 hits – 11 singles and just 3 doubles.  St Louis starters finished another series with a cumulative ERA under 2.00 (1.89) while holding the Pirates to a .219 batting average and a .266 slugging percentage.

Over the last 12 games (8 of them Cardinal wins), the rotation has shouldered 77 innings with a 1.75 ERA and a .194 batting average against.  The organization’s belief all along was that this rotation would be capable of this kind of sustained excellence.

There’s a long way to go, but so far so good.

Martinez

With equal parts inconsistency and bad luck dominating his first three starts, Carlos Martinez took the mound on April 21 in Washington with an 0-3 record and a 7.80 ERA.  Carlos would lose that game, too, 1-0 to Max Scherzer, but that game was the beginning of his turnaround.  After his 8 shutout innings on Sunday, Carlos is 2-1 with an 0.84 ERA and a batting average against of .153 over his last three starts.  The 11 hits that he has surrendered over his last 21.1 innings have been 6 singles and 5 doubles (a .222 slugging percentage).

Carlos has been this good before.  Once upon a time, he was a two-time All-Star and the ace of the staff.  Injuries and inconsistency have cost him a couple of years.  It’s been a bit of an uphill hike, but for now Carlos looks like he’s back to pitching as well as he ever has.

Flaherty

Jack Flaherty opened the 2021 season in rather inauspicious fashion.  Staked to 11 runs of offensive support, Jack couldn’t last long enough to qualify for the win (he was pulled after 4.1 innings).

Since then, Jack has won every time out (5 for his last 5).  And while on-going run support has certainly been part of it (the Cards have scored 7 or more runs for him in 4 of his 6 starts), Jack has held up his end of the bargain was well.  Over his last 30 innings, Flaherty has been touched for just 7 earned runs on 19 hits (13 singles, 5 doubles and 1 home run).  He carried a 2.10 ERA with 32 strikeouts over those 30 innings, while holding opposing batters to a .181 batting average and a .257 slugging percentage.

Jack was the starter and winner of the Saturday game (box score).

O’Neill

As much as anyone else, Tyler O’Neill was the offensive star of the series.  He went 7-for-13 with multiple hits in each game.  Only two of the hits were pulled, the other five either went to right field (including a double hit high off the right-field wall) or to dead center – where his long home run went.

Tyler has 5 multi-hit games in his last 8 contests, and is hitting .419 (13 for 31) in that span.  His hits include the double and 4 home runs.  He has 7 runs batted in during those games, and is slugging .839 in those contests.  A .173 hitter last year, O’Neill is currently third on the team in batting average, hitting a cool .270.  The longer he keeps this up, the harder it becomes not to get excited by it.

Edman

Although held hitless on Sunday, Tommy Edman had another strong series in Pittsburgh.  He was 5 for 13 during the three games, and has now hit in 7 of his last 9, hitting .324 (12 for 37) in those games.

Tommy reached base in 4 of his 7 plate appearances with no one out, over the weekend – something that he’s been very good at this year.  In 61 plate appearances with no one out, Tommy holds a .410 on base percentage.

DeJong

Paul DeJong – in addition to his walk on Sunday – hit an important home run in the Saturday game.  He still hasn’t flipped the switch though.  Paul was 2-for-12 against Pittsburgh and is hitting .121 over his last 9 games (4 for 33).

NoteBook

The 22 runs scored in the series were the most scored by the Cards in any series so far this year.  While losing two-of-three in Cincinnati to open the season, they scored 18 runs.

The seven-run margin of victory in the Saturday game was their most since they beat Washington by that same 12-5 score on April 19.  None of the games in between were decided by more than four runs.

At 3:43, the Saturday contest was the longest since the 9-4 win in Philadelphia on April 17.  That game took 3:54 to finish.

The average attendance for the series in Pittsburgh – 6,875.7 – was the lowest since the Cards played before average crowds of 4,943.7 in Miami.

My Designated Hitter Rant

Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter.  Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH.  While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it.  So, I have re-written it here.  The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks.  I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.

Gant Perseveres

When John Gant’s five-inning, 99-pitch struggle was over he had walked 5 batters with just two strikeouts.  His first inning had been a three-up, three groundout inning.  Thereafter, John had traffic in every inning.  According to Statcast, 53 of his 99 offerings missed the strike zone.

And yet, when the dust settled, Gant had allowed 1 run on 3 hits, and would become the eventual winning pitcher as St Louis opened their season series against Pittsburgh with a 7-3 victory (box score), their sixth win in the last 8 games.

Gant’s effort continues the recent run of sterling starting pitching.  Over the last ten games, Cardinal starters have thrown 63 innings, surrendering just 12 earned runs on only 41 hits – a 1.71 ERA with a .187 batting average against.

Gant was helped immensely by a couple of unorthodox double plays.  After Ka’ai Tom drew a walk to open the third, Pirate pitcher JT Brubaker bunted him to second.  But, once there, Kim began to stray towards third.  Second baseman Tommy Edman (covering first on the bunt) noticed the aggressive turn and threw behind him, picking Tom off of second.

A single and a walk put Gant in a tight spot in the fifth, when Erik Gonzalez cuffed a little dribbler in front of the plate.  The runner at second (Wilmer Difo) couldn’t initially tell if the ball was hit or missed, and got a late break off of second.  Thinking quickly, Cardinal catcher Andrew Knizner grabbed the ball, tagged Gonzalez, and fired to third in time to get Difo.

Beyond the alert defensive plays behind him, John Gant survived by getting the Pirate hitters to chase a few pitches (9 of them – with 6 of those coming in two-strike counts).  But mostly, he simply stayed out of the middle of the strike zone.  Of his 99 pitches, only 4 strayed over the heart of the plate – and none of them resulted in any damage.

In the second inning, he hung an 0-1 curve to Bryan Reynolds, who decided not to swing.  In the second inning, he fired a first-pitch sinker (at 90.9 mph) right down the middle to Kevin Newman (who watched it go past). In the third, Gonzalez got a first-pitch, 90.1 mph fastball right down the middle – he fouled it back.  Johnny hung him a slider on the very next pitch, which Erik slashed back up the middle.  The chopper looked like it might squirt through for a hit, but Gant made a nice play, leaping to pull it down.

Gant doesn’t have radar-gun dazzling stuff.  He attacks with an assortment of breaking pitches and a sinker that he can usually hit the corners of the zone with.  But even on a day when his control eluded him, Gant was able to muffle the Pirates by simply avoiding that one big mistake.

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Bullpen Slips Again

Gant left the game with a 6-1 lead that quickly became 6-3 in the sixth, even though Pittsburgh contributed only one hit (a single) to the rally.  Two walks, a balk and a wild pitch did the rest.  While they haven’t been terrible, the Cardinal bullpen has been susceptible to the occasional hiccup.  Over the same last ten games, the pen has carried 26 innings, giving just 14 hits (.157 batting average against), but they have allowed as many earned runs as the starters (12) thanks to 18 walks, 4 hit batsmen, 3 wild pitches, and now, a balk.  Going into the season, the bullpen was advertised as every bit as much a strength as the rotation – and mostly they have been.  But they’ve been dented by a few messy innings of late.

Helsley

When the Cards added a ninth-inning run, and the game no longer presented a save situation, Mike Shildt turned the game over to Ryan Helsley.  This is where Ryan fits, currently, in the bullpen pecking order.  He gets the almost-high leverage opportunities.  Regardless of the circumstance, though, Helsley’s stock is rising.  After allowing 5 runs over his first 2.2 innings, Ryan has given just 1 additional run on 5 hits over his last 10 innings – an 0.90 ERA with a .152 batting average against.  Ryan has yet to allow an extra-base hit this season.

Today’s Statistical Oddity

Pittsburgh finished the game with only 4 hits.  Three of the four came on at bats that lasted 7 pitches or more.  Newman drove in Pittsburgh’s first run when he singled on Gant’s first pitch to him in the fourth.  Otherwise, Pittsburgh was 0-for-23 on the night on the first six pitches of any of their plate appearances (although they did also draw 7 of their 9 walks in those plate appearances).

O’Neill

Tyler O’Neill accounted for some of the early offense with a home run that was part of a three hit day – Tyler’s second three-hit game in the last three games, and his third multi-hit game in his last 6.

None of the three hits yesterday were pulled.  The home run was a monster 426-foot blast to straight-away center.  The other two were singles that were poked into right.  They pitched him away, so he went to the opposite field.

O’Neill is now 9 for 22 (.409) over his last 6 games with 4 of the hits leaving the park – a .955 slugging percentage.

This isn’t the first time that O’Neill has teased us with his considerable potential, so I’m careful not to over-react.  But Tyler is in a pretty good place right now.

Tyler is an aggressive, early in the count hitter.  55.4% of his plate appearances are over before he sees four pitches.  When he can do that – when he gets a pitch to hit before he gets into a strike-out situation – Tyler has been terrifically productive.  He is 11 for 30 (.367) in the first three pitches of an at bat, with a double and 4 home runs (an .800 slugging percentage).  His homer yesterday was on the first pitch, and the 2 singles came on the third pitch.

When he has to stay in for more than three pitches, Tyler is 2 for 24 (.083) with 16 strikeouts (and 1 walk).

NoteBook

At 3.97, the team’s ERA has finally slipped below 4.00.  They have climbed back up to number seven in the league.

At 5,953, yesterday’s attendance was the smallest crowd the Cards have played before since they left Miami.

The crowd, though, was the only thing about the game that was reminiscent of Miami.  The game-time temperature of 51 degrees was the second lowest of the season, behind only the 37 degrees they played in on opening night in Cincinnati.

My Designated Hitter Rant

Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter.  Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH.  While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it.  So, I have re-written it here.  The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks.  I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.