For all the complex numbers I dig up here, if you were to habitually refer to just one metric to determine the difference between victory and defeat, that number would be the RISP number – how the teams did with runners in scoring position.
Sometimes you just don’t get RSIP opportunities if you run into a dominant pitcher. Some days you do terrible in RISP opportunities, but win anyway – through some combination of circumstances. But the simplest way to understand this game is to see who took advantage of their opportunities once they’ve advanced a runner as far as second base.
Of course, you could also hit six home runs in the game. That simplifies things as well. Even then, though, the “when” of the home run can still make a substantial difference.
Last night – as the Birds launched 6 home runs in a game for the sixth time this century – they also went 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Those hits included Harrison Bader’s three-run homer and a grand slam off the bat of Yadier Molina (who added an exclamation point to his historic start catching pitcher Adam Wainwright) as the Cards homered for the cycle (with a couple home runs left over) in a 15-4 thrashing of the first place Milwaukee Brewers (box score).
This was the first time in five years that St Louis has collected a six-pack of home runs. The 2016 team did it twice (on April 15 against Cincinnati and June 26 against Seattle).
Tellingly, five of the Cards’ six six-homer games have come on the road – two of them now in Milwaukee. They were in Milwaukee the first time they hit six in a game this century on April 9, 2000.
To add to the statistical symmetry of the sixth, six-home run game this century on the night Wainwright would make his first start after his fortieth birthday – which happened to be his 300th with long-time battery-mate Molina, the Cards ended up with 15 or more runs for the fifteenth time this century. The last of those was a little over a year ago – September 1, 2020 in a 16-2 win in Cincinnati. This was only the second time in Waino’s 353 career starts that he was backed with 15 or more runs. He started against Atlanta on August 22, 2008 where he sailed to an easy 18-3 win.
As to that runners-in-scoring-position number, in their 69 victories this year the Cards are now slashing .302/.390/.552 (a .942 OPS) when hitting in RISP situations. Their opponents in those 69 wins are at just .164/.278/.238 (a .516 OPS) in their chances. In the Cardinals’ 64 losses, they are just .194/.282/.254 (a .535 OPS) in RISP chances, while their opponents have gone .292/.413/.497 (a .911 OPS) in their chances.
A lot of times it really isn’t any more complicated than this. Get the big hit and you win. Getting a lot of home runs helps, too.
Harrison added a couple of singles to his important home run. Bader now has 2 three-hit games in his last three contests. His six hits (including 2 home runs) in his last 11 at bats has pushed his average back up to .251. Harrison – whose strikeouts are way down this year – has gone four games without a strikeout.
Bader – who was 2-for-2 in RISP chances last night – has been hitting .333 (14 for 42) with runners in scoring position during the season’s second half.
Frustrated at the plate for much of the month of August, Nolan Arenado (who hit two of last night’s home runs) is starting to find his rhythm. Nolan now has hits in four straight games, getting multiple hits in two of them. He is 6 for his last 15 (.400) with 3 home runs (all hit in his last two games) for a 1.000 slugging percentage.
Coming off a very strong August (.364/.453/.618) Edmundo Sosa shows no signs yet of cooling off. He added a single and a home run last night, and has now hit safely in 6 of his last 7, with 3 of those being multi-hit games. With a .440 batting average during those games (11 for 25) and an .880 slugging percentage (1 double, 2 triples and 2 home runs), Edmundo has been as hot as anyone in the lineup. Sosa has scored 9 runs and driven in 9 over those last 7 games.
His hot streak has pushed him to a .333 average in the season’s second half (25 for 75) with a .560 slugging percentage (2 doubles, 3 triples and 3 home runs).
All of the offense stole some of the spotlight from the inexpressible brilliance of Adam Wainwright, who dominated again. August’s NL pitcher of the month (when he went 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA), Waino held the Brewers to 1 earned run over 6.1 innings. But even that doesn’t do his performance justice. He was chased from the mound in the seventh by a walk, a flair, and a well-struck grounder right to short that Sosa couldn’t quite handle. With a little better luck, this could have been another eight-inning, no runs allowed start from the ageless Wainwright.
Even so, it was his ninth consecutive quality start – a streak that has seen him throw as few as 6 innings just once and allow as many as three runs but once. Over his last 64.1 innings, Adam is 7-1 with a 1.54 ERA, while holding opposing hitters to a .189 batting average and a .233 on base percentage. Adam has walked just 11 batters in his last 9 games, and has gone 6 games since his last home run allowed.
T.J. McFarland was tabbed to get the Cards out of the seventh inning mess. He faced four batters and got four dribbly grounders, which – due to a little uncharacteristic defensive insecurity – still bled across two runs (one earned) before he could secure the final out. The runs were charged to Wainwright, so TJ’s long scoreless streak – now 16.1 innings over 16 appearances – is still intact. The last 60 batters to face McFarland have 8 singles, 3 doubles and 3 walks – a .193/.233/.246 batting line. Of the last 47 batters who have put the ball in play against him, 29 have pounded the ball into the turf – 62%.
Arizona lost last night, finally falling far enough off the page that they have become the National League’s first team to be completely eliminated from playoff consideration. They won’t be the last.
St Louis has now scored first in 9 straight games.
At 70 degrees (remember they play in a dome in Milwaukee) this was the coolest Cardinal game since July 7. They were in San Francisco during an uncharacteristically chilly July and played in 58 degree temperatures.
The 15 runs scored in the first game against the Brewers were more runs than St Louis scored in the entire series against Cincinnati. They scored 10 in three games against the Reds.
The game-winning hit was Arenado’s twelfth – tying him with Paul Goldschmidt for second on the team. Both are one behind Molina’s 13.
The 11-run win brought their road record into curious harmony. They are now 34-34 on the road, where they have scored 312 runs and allowed 312 runs.
The offensive eruption also pushed the team slugging percentage north of .400 for the season to .401.
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.