Sliding Past the Lefties

Nine games into an oft-interrupted 2021 season, and Cardinal starter Kwang Hyun Kim had yet to throw a quality start.  Start number ten didn’t look – at the outset – like it would break the trend.

Kwan Hyun began the evening laboring through three difficult innings, allowing the Marlins a run on 3 hits and 4 walks.  It took him 59 pitches.  In his first start back from his most recent IL trip, a quality start here seemed a decided long shot.

But, his shaky start behind him, Kim settled in brilliantly.  He breezed through the next three innings on 43 pitches, allowing just one baserunner (on a walk).  It wasn’t enough to get him the victory (as his offense only rewarded him with one run), but it set the stage for more late-game heroics, as the Cards took game two of their three-game series from Miami, 2-1 (box score).

Along the way, Kwang Hyun exploited the left-handers in the Miami lineup.  Always proficient against lefties, Kim was extra sharp against them last night.  The 11 that faced him over his 6 innings of work went 0-for-10 with a walk.  He struck out 5 – including all of the last 4.

And throughout, it was his sliders that overmatched them.  I say sliders, because Kwang Hyun really has two.  He has what I’ll call the common slider.  That’s the one that comes in looking like a fastball and then drops out of the strike zone at the last second.  He threw that one some.  But the difference maker was more of a sweeping slider.  This one starts off looking like it’s going to hit the batter in the shoulder, but then drops in altitude even as it sweeps across the plate, finally ending up just off the low-outside corner of the strike zone.

Seven of the 15 right-handers to face Kwang Hyun reached base.  But Kwang Hyun held the lefties to 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.  And, in a tight game like last night, that would make all the difference.

For the season, lefties are 8 for 47 against Kim (.170), with 15 strikeouts.  Twelve of those have come on the sliders.

Cabrera

One of the great strengths of the back of the Cardinal bullpen is that their three most trusted arms are all highly proficient against opponents who hold a platoon advantage.

In his inning of work – the seventh – Genesis Cabrera faced two right-handed batters, retiring both – one on a strikeout.  Righties are now hitting .169 this season against the lefty Cabrera (11 for 65).  Twenty of them have struck out.

Gallegos and Reyes

Like Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes each pitched hitless innings to wrap up the game.  Cabrera and Gallegos each struck out the only left-handers they faced.  Reyes retired two left-handed hitters, striking out one.  Miami’s left-handed batters finished the evening 0-for-14 with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts.

For the right-handers Gallegos and Reyes, it’s business as usual.  Lefties are now hitting .155 (9 for 58) against Giovanny, and .118 (6 for 51) against Alex.  In his fourth season in St Louis, Giovanny has faced 219 left-handed batters, holding them to a .158/.219/.296 batting line.  Over the course of his career, Alex has faced 204 left-handers.  They are hitting .188/.338/.279 against him.

Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt was the offensive hero of the evening.  He picked up 2 of St Louis’ 6 hits and drove in both runs – the last one on a dramatic walk-off, ninth-inning home run.  June continues to be a strong rebound month for Goldy, who is now hitting .311 (14 for 45) this month with 1 double, 1 triple and 3 home runs – a .578 slugging percentage.

Arenado

Since lacing a home run off of Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks in the second game of the last Cub series, Nolan Arenado’s bat has fallen silent.  He is 0-for-13 since then, although he has made better contact than that number would suggest.  Nolan has struck out just twice in those 13 at bats, and has produced exit velocities in excess of 95 miles per hour five times – exceeding 100 miles per hour 3 times.

NoteBook

While not approaching totals from the pre-COVID years, the Cardinal home attendance did cross over the half-million mark for the season last night.  The 24,736 who showed up pushed the season’s total to 516,179 (an average of 16,130.6).

Goldschmidt’s walk-off thrust him back into the team lead for game-winning hits.  Goldy now has 8, with Arenado and Yadier Molina sitting just behind him with 7 each.

His home run against Yimi Garcia means that all ten home runs hit by Cardinal batters this month have come off right-handers.  For the season, 61 of the team’s 75 home runs have been hit against righties.

Kim’s first quality start gives St Louis three in a row for only the second time this season, and the first time since they strung together four in a row from April 24-27.

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.

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