For seven innings on Tuesday night, it was like old times. Back, finally, from a knee injury, veteran catcher Yadier Molina was behind the plate. On the mound, long-time batterymate Adam Wainwright spun curveballs like it was 2006 all over again.
The Cubs had a few early opportunities. A leadoff single in the first inning disappeared after a caught stealing – as Yadi announced his presence with authority. Two-out singles by Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel in the second led to nothing. Neither did a two-out triple by Willson Contreras in the third.
And so it was that Wainwright rolled through five shoutout innings, eventually carrying a 5-0 lead into that sixth inning.
The difference between the good year that Waino is having, and the great year he had last year, has been the pesky sixth inning. In July he scuffled to a 16.20 ERA while recording just 10 outs in the sixth inning. For the season, before last night’s sixth inning, Adam held a 7.07 ERA in that inning. Batters to that point were hitting .286 (16 for 56) and slugging .571 (4 doubles and 4 home runs) in that inning. In all other innings, Wainwright’s ERA is a sparkling 2.65. Those 463 batters are hitting just .244 with a .292 on base percentage against Adam.
This sixth inning could fairly easily have turned sideways as well. Waino began by plunking Contreras with a pitch. Up next, Seiya Suzuki lofted a curve into very deep left-center field, where, after a long run, centerfielder Dylan Carlson caught up to it on the track.
In the end, it took Waino just 9 pitches – actually, the fewest pitches he would throw in any inning that night. The sixth inning behind him, Adam finished his seven shoutout innings pitching around a two-out single in the seventh. His ERA this season for the seventh – when he can get there – is 1.93.
Two relievers finished up the 6-0 shoutout (box score).
The victory gives the Cards a 10-6 record since a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia on July 9, a span that has seen them trim a 3.5-game deficit in their division down to 2.
This little run has been driven, mostly, by the offense – which is finally starting to find a little rhythm. Last night they put up 6 runs on 11 hits – four of them for extra-bases. Over the last 16 games, the Cards are hitting a robust .270. They’ve compiled 56 extra-base hits (including 26 home runs) in those games – leading to a slugging percentage of .472.
With Wainwright rising to the challenge of the sixth inning last night, the pitching staff has now responded with consecutive shutouts – the first time they’ve managed that since September 12 & 13 of last year. In the very early part of their 17-game winning streak, they shut out Cincinnati 2-0 in the last game of that series, and then opened their series against the Mets with a 7-0 win.
With a little consistency from the pitching, this could turn into a nice little run. That would be like old times as well.
This was Wainwright’s fourth start in the last 16 games. He is 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA in that time.
Nootbaars All Around
The hitting resurgence has been led by a lot of guys who have spent much of the season struggling. Once such rebounding slugger is Lars Nootbaar – who looks like he will get a chance to be an outfield regular with the trade of Harrison Bader. Lars has hit in 5 of his last 6 after collecting three singles last night. He has multiple hits in two of the five, and is hitting .444 (8 for 18) with a .667 slugging percentage (1 double and 1 home run) in those at bats.
Noot has played in 14 of the last 16 games (starting 11). He is hitting .378 in these games (14 of 37) with 5 extra-base hits (2 doubles and 3 home runs). Over the 14 games, Lars has scored 10 runs with a .676 slugging percentage.
Paul Goldschmidt has been as torrid to begin the season’s second half as he ever was in the first half. He was 2-for-3 last night with a home run. He is currently hitting .345 since the Break, (10 for 29) with his hits evenly divided between singles and home runs. Paul has driven in 11 runs in his first 7 second-half games, while slugging .862.
Nolan Arenado led the club in batting average (.338), on base percentage (.419) and slugging percentage (.635) for the month of July. He begins August in similar fashion, with a single and a home run. Over the last 16 games (Nolan has played in 12), he is 13 for 43 with 4 doubles and 3 home runs – a .302 average with a .605 slugging percentage.
The Cards scored first again last night (they were the only team to score). They have scored first in three straight games, 5 of 6, and 7 of their last 9 contests.
The win was a quick one – the game took just 2:37. The Cards haven’t played a faster game since July 8, when they lost 2-0 to Philadelphia. That game took 2:23.
Nothing like a home series against the Cubs to bring out the crowds. The announced attendance of 44,344 was the most since the last time Chicago was here. The Sunday game of that series (June 26) drew 44,824.
Goldschmidt’s 3 runs batted in included the game-winner. Paul thus increases his lead over Arenado for the team lead in GWRBI. He has 8, with Arenado second with 6. Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman are tied for third with 5 each.
Players Approaching Career Highs – Or Lows (With 59 Games Left in the Season)
Goldschmidt (as noted above) added two more hits last night. At 122 he is 60 short of his career high.
One of those hits was Goldy’s twenty-fifth home run of the season. He has never hit more than 36 in any previous season.
The 5 total bases give Paul 225 for the season, putting him well withing range of the 332 he collected in 2013.
Now with 81 runs batted in, Goldschmidt is just 44 away from the 125 he had in 2013.
Molina’s season resumed with his 0-for-4 last night. Yadi has drawn just two walks for the entire season. Always aggressive, Molina has walked at least 6 times in each of his 19 seasons (the 6 walks came in the 2020 COVID season).
Yadi has also had at least one sacrifice fly every season of his career, but doesn’t have one yet this year.
Yadi also has these last 59 games to try and lift his averages off of their historic low. If it stays where it is now, his current batting line of .207/.218/.286 would represent career worsts in all of those categories. His current career lows are .216/.274/.321 – all set in 2006 when the 23-year-old Molina was in just his second season as a regular.