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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.