Category Archives: Baseball

Cards Come From Behind for Another One-Run Win

In many ways it was a signature loss in what – at the time – looked like it was a season-defining spiral.  The date was May 28, and the Cards were in Philadelphia.  The birds had just come off a disappointing home stand, in which they had lost 3 of 5 to Kansas City and Atlanta.  Once 20-10, they had now fallen to 26-26, already 4.5 games back in the division.

Against the 31-22 Phillies, the offense got to work early.

Seventeen pitches into his evening, Phillie starter Nick Pivetta had already served up 3 runs on home runs by Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna.  But, as happened all so often in the season’s early days, the offense checked out after they put their early 3 on the board.  For the entire rest of the game, St Louis batsmen bounced two singles and drew two walks – and, of course, scored no runs while striking out 11 times.

Philadelphia began its comeback against Adam Wainwright in the third.  A two-run double from Bryce Harper brought them to within one.  In the fourth inning, a two-run homer by Cesar Hernandez gave Philadelphia the lead.  And concluded the scoring for the evening.  Not yet a legend, Giovanny Gallegos worked a six-up, six down seventh and eighth (striking out three).  But with no more offense coming, the effort availed nothing.  The Cards lost 4-3 (box score).  Philly would push them around the next night, 11-4, to complete St Louis’ 6-18 collapse, and drop them to 26-28, five games in arrears in the division.

The interest in this particular game – other than the fact that it was a general blueprint for most of their losses in May – was that it was their seventh consecutive loss in one-run games.

And that provided a very convenient storyline for 2019.  The team that was almost good.  That competitive little bunch from St Louis that’s almost good enough to win.  One-run games are one measure of a club’s character.  At that moment, the Cards were 5-15 in one run games – almost all you would need to know about a team that was two games under .500.

The season then began to turn ever so quietly.  St Louis managed to claim the finale against Philly, and braced for a visit by their rivals/nemeses from Chicago.

With the confidence of Cardinal Nation somewhat compromised, a first-inning 1-0 Cardinal lead wasn’t overly inspiring.  And sure enough, Cub pitcher Yu Darvish settled in.  St Louis only pushed one more runner into scoring position in Darvish’s six innings.

Luckily, Cardinal pitcher Miles Mikolas was as good – he held the Cubbies to 1 run over his seven innings.

The bullpens took over in the bottom of the seventh, and did so in dominant fashion, combining to retire the next ten batters.

Now, there was one out in the top of the tenth inning, and Daniel Descalso worked a walk from then closer Jordan Hicks.  A wild pitch promptly moved him into scoring position, with Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant coming up.  With the Cardinal offense looking like it would never score again, this seemed to be that moment that this game would slip away.

But Hicks stood up to the moment.  He struck out Schwarber and got Bryant on a routine grounder.

One out into the bottom of the inning, Kolten Wong stung Chicago lefty Mike Montgomery for a double.  After two walks loaded the bases, Matt Carpenter beat the Chicago shift with a looping fly ball into the wide open space down the left field line.  And St Louis had a surprising 2-1, ten-inning win (box score).

As the Cardinals’ route back into the heart of the division race has been more than a little serpentine, it is hard to call this the moment when the season turned.  However, from the moment that Carpenter’s fly ball touched down in left field through last night’s win, St Louis is 40-30.  Including, now, wins in 10 of their last 13 games, this has become the most sustained stretch of solid baseball we have seen from this club this year.

As far as one-run games go, that evening against Chicago did change everything.  Last night’s 6-5 victory (box score) was the twentieth one-run game St Louis has played since the Philadelphia loss.  They have won 13 of the 20, bringing their season record in one-run games to 18-17.  The pace has accelerated in the second half.  Since the All-Star Break, the Cards are 7-3 in one-run games.

The one sustained constant in this turnaround is the sparkling Cardinal bullpen.  Last night – in support, again, of Mikolas – the Cardinal pen closed out the last three innings giving no runs on no hits and two walks.

Over the last 20 one-run games, the bullpen has pitched to a 2.68 ERA, allowing 52 hits over the 74 innings they’ve pitched in those games – a .200 batting average against.  Only 12 of those hits have been for extra-bases (7 doubles and 5 home runs) for a slugging percentage of just .285.

This bullpen has also been central to the recent 10-3 streak.  They have worked 42.2 innings over those games with a 2.32 ERA, a .193 batting average against, and a .247 slugging percentage against.

Over the last 13 games. The Cardinal bullpen has served up just one home run (Pittsburgh’s Pablo Reyes took Andrew Miller deep in the ninth inning of the August 11, 11-9 victory).

The starting rotation has shown occasional flashes, and literally every other game the offense comes through with a handful of runs.  But the constant through it all has been a mostly dominating bullpen.

Giovanny Gallegos

Gallegos’ evening last night was brief.  He took the mound to start the eighth inning, holding a one-run lead, and facing Rockie slugger Nolan Arenado as the tying run.  Giovanny tossed 3 pitches, got a fly out, and turned the ball over to Miller.

Gallegos has now pitched 18 innings over 15 second half games.  He has given just 1 run on 6 hits (4 singles, 2 doubles), while striking out 20.  Gio holds an 0.50 ERA, while holding batters to a .100 batting average and a .133 slugging percentage.

This just in.  Gio is pretty darn good.

Gallegos has also been a big part of the bullpen dominance in one-run games.  He has pitched in 12 of the 35 with a 1.35 ERA in 13.1 innings.

Andrew Miller

Miller finished up the eighth throwing 7 pitches. All of them were strikes – an uncommonly sharp outing for the lefty who has walked 9 batters in the last 10.2 innings.  Andrew now has a 3.00 ERA and a .140 batting average against in his 15 second-half innings.

Andrew has now pitched in 23 of the 35 one-run games this season.  Like last night, these have been some of his better efforts, as he holds a 2.95 ERA across 18.1 innings in these games.  While striking out 25 batters, Miller has allowed just 12 hits – 10 singles and 2 home runs.

Miles Mikolas

After beginning the second half with a series of strong performances, Mikolas has gotten back off track.  Last night’s starter lasted six innings, giving up 5 earned runs for the third game in a row.  Over his last 16 innings, Miles holds an 8.44 ERA, and has allowed 5 home runs.  In 4 August starts, Miles is 0-2 with a 6.85 ERA and a .308/.337/.538 batting line against.

Last year, 11 of Miles’ starts ended up as one-run games.  He was 6-0 with a 2.91 ERA in those games.  He is 1-3 this year in 7 starts that have ended as one-run games, with a 4.71 ERA.

Paul Goldschmidt

Goldschmidt has been one of the key cogs in the Cardinal resurgence.  With his two singles last night, Goldy is hitting an even .300 (15 for 50) over those last 13 games.

Tommy Edman

Tommy Edman has also been hot.  After his two hits last night, Edman is hitting .354 (17 for 48) with 2 doubles, a triple and a home run over the last 13 games.

Edman has been scorching in the one-run games played in the season’s second half.  He is 16 for 37 (.432) with 4 doubles and a home run – a .622 slugging percentage.

NoteBook

Now in his seventh season, Carols Martinez has never pitched an entire big league season without making at least one start.  That seems more and more likely to happen this year.  After posting a total of 7 saves in his first six season, Carlos nailed down his fifteenth of this season last night.  It was his thirty-second game of the season.  Last year, he pitched in 33 games (18 starts, 15 relief games).  That total is the second most games he has pitched in in the majors.  In 2014, he pitched in 57 games (7 starts).

Lost in his miserable 2018 season (when he posted just a .576 OPS) was the fact that during the two previous seasons, Dexter Fowler OPSed .840 and .841.  The slump-dominated season was also the third straight season that his health was compromised.  Both of those issues seem to be behind Dexter this year.

Last night was Fowler’s 116th game of this season, leaving him with 363 at bats.  Since 2015 he hasn’t played in more than 125 games or collected more than 456 at bats.  His home run was his ninety-first hit of the season.  He has never had more than 111 during his time in St Louis.

Meanwhile, that home run was his fifteenth of this season.  His career high is the 18 he hit in 2017.  He also drove in a career high 64 runs that year.  He is up to 52 already this year.

After hovering just under 4 for the past few games, giving up 5 runs to the Rockies has pushed the team ERA back up to 4.00.

The Cards have now won the first game of four of the last five series.

Fall probably isn’t truly on its way yet, as it’s still late August.  But last night’s game temperature of 72 degrees was the second time in the last three games that the official temperature was below 80.  At 72 degrees, last night was the coolest game in St Louis since June 26.  They lost to Oakland 2-0 that evening in 70 degree weather (box score).

Of course, another sign of autumn is the starting of the school year.  Possibly, the combination of it being a school night (Thursday) and the visiting team sporting a losing record contributed to a disappointing attendance total of 36,465.  That constituted the sparsest crowd at Busch since only 35,819 showed up to an April 22 game against Milwaukee.  The folks who stayed away missed a good one – a 13-5 Cardinal win (box score).

Cardinal Righty Sends Messages and Zeros to Brewers

The first tense moment of a fairly interesting series between the Cards and the Brewers came in the top of the very first inning.  Cardinal starter Dakota Hudson had retired the first two batters to bring up Christian Yelich.  Mr. Yelich – as you might remember – was quite the trouble-maker when these two teams bumped into each other ten times in the early weeks of the season.

Now, with Hudson falling behind in the count, 2-1, the next four pitches of the game would send a series of clear messages to the visiting Brewers.

Behind in the count, Dakota threw his change-up.  The message sent: even behind in the count, these Milwaukee mashers shouldn’t expect to get fastballs.  The change dropped low, bringing the count on one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters to 3-1.

Three batters into the game, and Hudson had gone to his first three-ball count.  It would not be the last time.  Hudson would face 24 Brewers on the evening.  He would pitch behind in the count to half of them – and 10 of the 24 would work their way into three-ball counts.

Behind, now, 3-1, Dakota still didn’t bring the heat.  Yelich got a perfect 3-1 curve that dropped in for a strike.  That pitch sent two early messages.  First was that Dakota Hudson can throw that curveball for a strike at any point (both strikes in the at bat, so far, had come on curves).  The second message was that Mr. Hudson would not be caving in.  He was clearly more concerned about serving up home runs than he was the occasional walk.

On 3-2, Christian did get that fastball – that very heavy, sinking 96 mph fastball.  Throughout the bulk of the evening, Dakota would pound the low strike zone with this pitch, but this one was elevated and inviting.  Yelich took his best hack, but could only foul it off.

The seventh pitch of the at bat was the only slider that Dakota threw him this time up – and he bounced it in the dirt – ball four.  These would also be trends.  The Milwaukee at bats against Hudson would be long and grinding enough that he would walk four Brewers and expend 111 pitches to work his way through the 24 batters.

On the surface it would seem a near-perfect scenario for the Brewers.  Grinding at bats that would result in a lot of walks and eventually some damaging shots.

But the damage never came.

Stubbornly and relentlessly pounding the low strike zone, mixing his pitches fearlessly, and killing a lot of worms, Dakota Hudson stayed a step ahead of the Brewers all evening.  When he had thrown his last pitch to the last of those 24 batters, Dakota had given 4 walks and struck out 7 others.  Of the other 13, 9 hit the ball on the ground, and only 4 batters got the ball into the air.

And none of them managed a hit.  When manager Mike Shildt came to get Hudson, with a runner at first and two outs in the seventh inning, there were only zeroes showing across the board for Milwaukee.

If there was to be a no-hitter tonight (and no Cardinal pitcher has thrown a no hitter since about a week before 9/11) the bullpen would have to finish it off.  That didn’t happen, although they did come close as St Louis took game one of the series against their division rivals, 3-0 (box score), allowing just one hit.

At one point earlier this season, Dakota Hudson tossed 8 consecutive quality starts.  In those 50.2 innings, Hudson allowed just 1 home run and pitched to a 2.49 ERA while getting 62% of hitters to hit the ball on the ground.

Over his next 8 starts, though, Dakota began to get away from that.  Hitters started taking that sinker, trying to get him to elevate it.  Over his next 35.2 innings, Hudson served 9 home runs and allowed a batting line of .319/.415/.582 to go along with a 5.55 ERA.  Most telling, only 47% of the batters hit the ball on the ground.

Over his last two starts, the ground ball has come back (67%), and with it a 0.00 ERA over his last 12.2 innings.  And last night, a near no-hitter.

Giovanny Gallegos

Right-hander Giovanny Gallegos would eventually give up the hit.  A fairly soft fly ball off the bat of Yasmani Grandal dropped just fair down the right-field line in the eighth.  Gallegos would give nothing else over his inning.  Gio thus continues a remarkable second half that has seen him work 17.2 innings over 14 games allowing just 1 run on 6 hits (4 singles and 2 doubles).  He holds a 0.51 ERA over those innings.

Giovanny had Grandal backed up in the count 1-2.  The hit that ended the no-hit bid was the only hit (in 13 at bats) off Gallegos this month when he has been ahead in the count, and just the second in 27 such at bats in the second half.

Offense Still Off its Feed

Overlooked due to the outstanding pitching was another uninspiring offensive effort.  The Cards finished with 3 runs on 5 hits.  The runs scored on a groundout, a flared single into left, and a towering home run off the bat of Paul DeJong.

Over their last 20 games, the Cards are scoring 3.6 runs per game, with a .241/.301/.380 batting line.

NoteBook

Andrew Miller finished up last night’s game – his fifty-sixth game of the season.  Already appearing in more games than his injury-plagued 2018 season (37), Andrew is one appearance behind the 57 games he pitched for Cleveland in 2017.

His intentional walk of Christian Yelich was Andrew’s twenty-first walk of the season.  That is his most in any season since he became a full-time reliever in 2012.

Dexter Fowler is now up to 113 games played and 353 at bats this season.  In his two previous seasons in St Louis, he played in only 118 and 90 games, getting just 420 and 289 at bats respectively.

His RBI single was his eighty-eighth hit of the season.  His first season in St Louis he finished with 111 hits.

With his two strikeouts last night, Fowler has now gone down on strikes 102 times this season – his most as a Cardinal and the most since his 124 strikeout season with the Cubs in 2016.

When Kolten Wong played 127 games last year, it represented the second highest total of his major league career (he had played 150 in 2015).  Last night was his 121st game of this year.

The run he scored last night was Wong’s forty-fifth of the season.  He scored just 41 times all last season.  The 55 runs he scored in 2017 are the second most of his career – second to the 71 he scored in 2015.

Kolten was also plunked by a pitch for the twelfth time this season – the third consecutive season he has been hit by at least 12 pitches.  He was plunked 14 times last year.

With the shutout, the team ERA dips back below 4.00 (to 3.98).

This Rookie Can Play

If you were to glance over the Cardinal’s top 30 prospect list from last year, I wonder if the same omission would jump out to you that jumps out to me.

For nostalgia purposes, the 2018 list read Alex Reyes (1); Nolan Gorman (2); Dakota Hudson (3); Ryan Helsley (4); Andrew Knizner (5); Randy Arozarena (6).

Of the first six, only Gorman hasn’t appeared in the majors – and shown significant promise.  Continuing, we come to:

Elehuris Montero (7); Justin Williams (8); Conner Capel (9); Griffin Roberts (10); Max Schrock (11); Dylan Carlson (12) – yes Carlson, the current number 2 prospect was twelfth behind Max Schrock just a year ago.  Then we had some lower prospects who vaulted past higher rated guys:

Genesis Cabrera (13); Junior Fernandez (14); Edmundo Sosa (15).  After these guys, the rest were mostly lower level guys, but still legitimate prospects:

Luken Baker (16); Jonatan Machado (17); Jake Woodford (18); Steven Gingery (19); Ramon Urias (20); Lane Thomas – yes, that Lane Thomas was #21 last year; Seth Elledge (22); Giovanny Gallegos, believe it or not, was just our number 23 prospect last year; Wadye Ynfante (24); Johan Oviedo (25); Alvaro Seijas (26); Evan Mendoza (27); Delvin Perez (28) – remember what a big deal his selection in the first round a couple of years ago was?; Daniel Poncedeleon (now spelled Ponce de Leon) (29); and Connor Jones (30).

There are a couple of pitchers that I would have thought would have been on that list.  Austin Gomber would be one, and glaringly Jordan Hicks didn’t make the list, although he certainly would have qualified.

Also not making that list is a player who has been in the bigs slightly more than two months, and even though the positions he plays are usually manned by established major-league stars, he has so ingrained himself that manager Mike Shildt can’t keep him out of the lineup.

Yesterday afternoon, Tommy Edman (nowhere to be found on the 2018 prospect list) singled twice, drove the fifth home run of his big league career, and scored twice – every bit of that production critical as the Cards held on for a 5-4 win over Cincinnati (box score).

Fifty-four games and 185 plate appearances into his major league career, Tommy’s numbers are decidedly average.  He is hitting .271/.303/.429 for a modest .732 OPS (the major league average according to baseball reference is .761).  Nothing here – you would think – to entrench him in the lineup.

And, truthfully the numbers – at least some of the numbers – don’t suggest that Tommy is anything special.  But you don’t have to watch Mr. Edman go about his business for very long before your eyeballs tell you something the numbers don’t quite, yet.

Tommy Edman is a ballplayer.  Defensively, Edman plays everywhere.  He has started games at third, second and right field, and could play anywhere else on the diamond (not sure about catcher, but I wouldn’t be surprised).  He never seems out of place anywhere he plays.  He is a smooth, effortless fielder with a strong and accurate arm.

And he plays with a very even demeanor.  Already he has been through some slumps, but you could never tell by watching him whether he was 10 for his last 20 or 0 for his last 20.

A switch-hitter, Edman’s swing is very polished from both sides of the plate.  Already he appears very comfortable fouling off the more difficult pitches to wait for one he can put into play.

In his 16 plate appearances in Cincinnati over the long weekend, Tommy swung at 31 pitches.  He fouled off 14 of those pitches (45.2%), put 13 other pitches into play (41.9%), and missed on just 4 swings (12.9%). These numbers are mostly consistent with Edman’s performance across his brief major league stay – especially recently.

For the month of August – a month in which his 60 plate appearances ranks second to only Paul Goldschmidt’s 61 – Edman leads the team by putting the ball in play with 46.2% of his swings (the team average is just 33.7%).  He has missed on just 15.1% of his swings – which also leads the team (the average is 26.7%).

While the split in Cincinnati was a bit disappointing, those wins give St Louis victories in 7 of its last 9 games.  In those games, Tommy is 14 for 36 (.389).

For a 24-year-old rookie, Edman is very advanced.  Even if his primary numbers don’t suggest it clearly yet, everything else about Tommy suggests that he is going to be a very good player for a very long time.  For now, he is someone that Shildt will continue to find at bats for.

KoltenWong

Kolten Wong didn’t start on Sunday (possibly because Cincy was starting a lefty?) one day after his 0-for-3 interrupted a six game hitting streak (in games that he started).  There are few hitters hotter than Kolten right now.  During the streak, he hit .500 (10 for 20) and slugged .750 (2 doubles and 1 home run).

Kolten is a .381 hitter this month (16 for 42), and a .371 hitter in the second half.

DexterFowler

In game two of the series, the Cards rapped out 18 hits on their way to a 13-4 victory (box score).  For the other three games, they totaled 17 hits.  So more than one Cardinal finished the series with big numbers that were mostly the product of that one game.  Dexter Fowler is one of those.  He finished the series hitting .357 (5 for 14), with 3 of those hits coming on Friday night.

Still, Dexter has been one of the driving forces of the offense over the last 9 games.  He is slashing .310/.417/.586 over his last 36 plate appearances.

MarcellOzuna

Like Fowler, Marcell Ozuna also had 3 hits on Friday and finished the series 5 for 14 (.357).  Marcell is 10 for 31 (.323) over the last 9 games.

There has been a very subtle change in Marcell’s at bats since he returned from his injury.  Before the injury, Ozuna swung at 47.3% of the pitches thrown to him, and his at bats averaged only 4.05 pitches per.  In 16 plate appearances against Cincy, Marcell saw 72 pitches (4.50 per) and only swung at 32 (44.4%).  Since his return, the percentage of pitched that he is offering at has decreased to 40.7%, and his pitches per at bat has risen to 4.52 – the most on the team this month.

PaulGoldschmidt

Goldschmidt was 5 for 15 (.333) against the Reds, with 4 of the 5 hits going for extra-bases – including 2 home runs.  Paul is 12 for 34 (.353) over these last 9 games, with 3 home runs, 10 runs batted in, and a .676 slugging percentage.

MichaelWacha

Michael Wacha started the Thursday game and was almost on the wrong side of history (box score).  Although saddled with the close loss, Wacha did throw five encouraging innings.  Relegated to fifth starter status, Wacha has only pitched 8.2 innings this month, but in those innings Michael has induced 21 ground balls to 11 fly balls – a 65.6% ratio.  A very good sign for Wacha.

AdamWainwright

Adam Wainwright got the Friday start and the benefit of all of the runs.  Waino has had some starts where offensive support was hard to come by, but has also now had three starts since the All-Star break where the team has scored in double-digits when he’s pitched – a 12-11 win over Cincinnati on July 19, and a 14-8 conquest of Pittsburgh on July 24.

MilesMikolas

Miles Mikolas had a second consecutive rough outing on Saturday (box score).  He is 0-2 with a 6.61 ERA for the month of August, and over his last 17 starts, Miles is just 3-11 with a 4.44 ERA.

JackFlaherty

Jack Flaherty finally gave up a run this month (in the first inning of the Sunday game), but that was all the damage done against him.  In 4 August starts, Jack is 3-0 with a 0.35 ERA.  In 7 starts since the break, he holds an 0.83 ERA over 43.1 innings.

NoteBook

After making 29 consecutive starts at shortstop, Paul DeJong began Saturday’s game on the bench.  It had been the team’s longest consecutive starting streak at the same position.  That mantle reverts back to Goldschmidt, who has now made 24 consecutive starts at first base.

Ozuna drove in the first run of Friday night’s avalanche – bringing him to 10 game-winning RBIs this season, and temporarily tying him with Goldschmidt for the team lead.  Paul regained the lead with his eleventh GWRBI on Sunday.

Friday’s start was Wainwright’s twenty-third of the season.  After making just 8 starts last year and 23 in 2017, Waino is on pace to make 30 starts for the first time since he made 33 in 2016.  His 126.2 innings pitched are already his most since throwing 198.2 innings in 2016.  With 127 hits and 85 runs allowed already, Adam will also probably end up with more hits and runs given up in any season since 2016 as well.

The home run he served up on Friday night was the sixteenth hit off Adam this season – already the third highest total in his 14-year career.  His career high came in 2016 when he served up 22.

With the walk allowed, Waino has 50 for the season.  He has reached 60 walks only twice so far in his career.

Adam’s 6 strikeouts Friday bring him to 124 for the season – already more than either of the last two years.  At this pace Adam may end up with more strikeouts than in any season since he fanned 179 in 2014.

Fowler’s last healthy, full season was 2015.  He played 156 games and had 596 at bats that year, and hasn’t played in more than 125 games or had more than 456 at bats since.  Sunday was his 112th game, providing his 349th at bat of 2019.

In his three seasons in St Louis, Dexter has never had more than 111 hits.  With 5 against the Reds, Fowler already has 87 this year.  Last year he had a four-year streak of twenty or more doubles broken.  His double Friday night was his eighteenth on this season.  With his home run that night, Fowler is within 4 of his career high – 18 set in 2017.

Goldschmidt has still played in every game this year – all 122 so far.  He played 158 last year.  The closest he has come to playing all the games was 2013, when he played in 160.  He is now, also, up to 457 at bats after finishing with 593 last year.  He has been over 600 at bats in a season just once in his career.

Up, now, to 28 home runs this year, Paul is just 5 behind the 33 he hit last year.

Mikolas – Saturday’s starter – continues to gain on many of the career highs he set last year.  The start was his twenty-fifth of this year, leaving him just 7 starts away from the 32 he made last year.  The 7 hits allowed bring him to 153 already this year, after allowing 186 last year.  With 2 walks given up. Miles has walked just 25 batters this year – but walked just 29 last year.

The 5 runs scored off of him last night bring him to 72 for the season – a career high.  He allowed 70 all last year.  He also allowed 2 home runs.  Having already set a career high in that category, Mikolas reaches the 20-mark in home runs allowed for the first time in his career (he has now allowed 21).

When St Louis opened up a 12-0 lead on Cincinnati during Friday’s game, it was their biggest lead in a game since May 9, when they beat Pittsburgh by 13 runs – 17-4.

Friday’s win brought the team earned run average under 4 (3.99) for the first time all season.  The stay was brief.  After the Reds dropped 6 runs on the Cards the next night, the team ERA popped back up to 4.01.

When in Doubt, Shut Them Out

Dakota Hudson has been with the team the entire year, so he’s seen everything that’s gone on.  He’s watched as the team has lost 34.6% of their quality starts (which would be the highest percentage this century if it holds).  He had seen the team score fewer than 4 runs in 7 of the month’s first 10 games (including the night before).  He watched them lose to last night’s starter, Brad Keller, 8-2 back in May.  And he knew that in his last three starts his offense backed him with a total of two runs.

So, as he watched from the dugout last night, I don’t think he could truly be shocked to watch Keller baffle his offense for six hitless innings.  But through a season of offensive adversity, Dakota Hudson arrived at a game plan.

When in doubt, shut them out.

It’s certainly simplistic logic.  If you don’t give up a run, you can’t lose the game.  And, of course, it’s a difficult standard to maintain.  But it’s an approach that’s become something of an imperative among Cardinal starters, as the offense is frequently slow to get untracked.

Across the entire season, St Louis is batting just .225 with a .693 OPS while the score of their game is tied.  Since the All-Star break that number is even worse – a .220 batting average and a .652 OPS.  In August, while the games are tied, Cardinal hitters are flexing their muscles to the tune of a .218 batting average and a .624 OPS.

And then, last night, six innings of zeros until they finally broke through (box score).

Meanwhile, while the no-hit spotlight settled on the Kansas City starter, Mr. Hudson quietly went about his business of shutting out Kansas City and waiting.

While simplistic, this was an element of Hudson’s game that was distinctly missing coming into the second half of the season.  In his first four second half starts, while pitching in tied ballgames, Dakota was slapped around a good bit – the 19 batters that faced him in that situation stung Dakota to the tune of a .389/.421/.944.  In those 4 starts, Dakota was able to hold the game even for only a total of 3.2 innings.  He just never gave his slow starting offense a chance to get into the game.

Over his last three starts, while the batting line against him with the score tied has only marginally improved (.306/.381/.417), he has managed to keep the games tied for 9.2 innings – highlighted, of course, by the six zeros that he matched Keller with last night.

Over his last two starts, Dakota has faced 40 batters – only two of them with a lead.  A one-run lead.

Jack Flaherty has gotten the memo.  He threw 7 shutout innings the night before to get his win.  Hopefully the rest of the rotation has figured this out as well.

When in doubt, shut them out.

Pitching Resurgence

With the back-to-back shutouts, the Cards pitching staff has started looking like the staff they thought they would be.  Over the last 7 games (or since the last time they used a fifth starter), the Cards hold a 2.34 team ERA with a .220 batting average against.

Tyler Webb

As if surprises like John Gant, John Brebbia and Giovanny Gallegos weren’t enough for one bullpen, Tyler Webb has been nearly untouchable since his most recent recall.  Over his last 10.2 innings, Webb has allowed 1 run on 3 hits, walking 1 while striking out 12.  The batting line against him from the last 35 batters he has faced is an impressive .088/.114/.176.

For all of this, Mike Shildt still isn’t anxious to use Tyler in critical situations.  Since his return, 48.6% of the batters he’s faced have come in games that were more than three runs either way.

Tommy Edman

After a little tailspin, Tommy Edman’s bat has revived.  Hitless in five at bats last night, Tommy saw a five-game hitting streak end.  He was 9 for 21 (.429) during the streak.

NoteBook

After playing in only 118 and 90 games his first two seasons in St Louis, Dexter Fowler played in his 108th game of the year last night.  Dexter hasn’t crossed the 140-game threshold in any season since he played in 156 games with the Cubs in 2015.

Dexter is also up to 335 at bats on the season after finishing with 420 and 289 his first two years here.

Of course, with the increase in games and at bats comes an increase in strikeouts.  He whiffed for the ninety-fifth time this season.  He had 101 and 75 strikeouts his first two seasons.

Just four series ago, the Cardinal pitchers held the Cubs to just 3 runs over 3 games.  That had been the fewest runs St Louis had allowed in any series so far this year.

Now, of course, they have given up 0 in the just concluded series.  Yes, it was just the Royals, and yes, it was just two games, but they still leave KC allowing no runs during the series.  The only other time this has happened for the Cards in this century was July 21-22, 2004.  In two home games against Milwaukee, they won 1-0 and 4-0.  The starting pitchers in those games were Woody Williams and Jason Marquis.

When no one is hitting or scoring, the games do tend to fly by faster.  With last night’s game taking just 2:38 on the clock, the two games against the Royals averaged just 2:46 per game – the fastest series of the year by average time (yes, I know it was just two games).  The previous fastest series (and still the fastest three-game series) occurred April 26-28 at home against Cincinnati.  Those games averaged 2:46.7.

The Cards have now swept the last two series.  Of their 39 series so far this season, the Cards have gone into the last game 10 times in a position to sweep.  They have now finished off that sweep 7 times.  They have had 5 sweep opportunities both at home and on the road.  They have finished off 4 of the 5 at home, and now 3 of the 5 on the road.

Flaherty Overcomes Limping Offense to Down Royals

With 23-year-old Jack Flaherty in command, the Cards kicked off their road trip and kept their winning streak clicking up to four games.

Kansas City finished with no runs on 4 hits in the 2-0 Cardinal victory (box score).

The great pitching performance and the win makes things more palatable.  Truth be told, though, the Cards were as nearly dominated on 5 hits.  Only one of their runs was earned.

The storyline continues the same.  For the seventh time in 10 August games, the Cardinals were held to fewer than four runs.  They have scored just 37 runs this month, and are scoring just 3.07 runs per game over their last 14 games.

There are lots of pieces of the St Louis offense that aren’t exactly perking right now.  One fundamental thing that would make a significant difference – if they can do it – would be to put the leadoff man on base.

Last night, Dexter Fowler began the game by reaching on an error.  He eventually scored.  Paul DeJong began the second inning with a walk.  He was later erased trying to steal second.  Kolten Wong then led off the third with a double.  Even though he managed to run himself into as out as well, his hit set in motion the Cards second run.

Thereafter, the Cards put none of their last six leadoff batters on base.  Consequently, they never scored again, and only pushed two runners into scoring position – both with two outs.

This was not an isolated occurrence.  The Cards’ .301 on base percentage from their leadoff hitters (according to baseball reference) ranks twenty-second out of thirty teams.  Over the last 14 games, that on base percentage has faded to .289.  In the season’s second half, St Louis has put its leadoff batter on base just 72 times in 251 innings (.287).  Those hitters are batting just .222.

The April team that jumped out to a 20-10 record, profited from a .291/.361/.498 batting line from its leadoff hitters.  And once that batter reached base, he scored 55% of the time.

Since April, Cardinal leadoff hitters have limped along with a .211/.282/.347 batting line – with only 45% of those batters who reached eventually scoring.

It’s a number that supports one of the feelings that I’ve had about the team and lineup in general.  Lots of guys in the lineup are thumpers.  But too few of them seem to embrace the set-up roll.  If this one aspect of the offense could improve even marginally, the impact would be noteworthy.

KoltenWong

One of the players who has embraced the table-setting aspect of offense is Kolton Wong.  Kolten is pretty torrid right now.  He had 2 of the 5 Cardinal hits last night – including their only hit out of the leadoff spot.

Wong now has hit safely in 18 of his last 23 games, hitting .377 (26 for 69) as he has pushed his season average back up to .271.  The team’s leading hitter in July, Kolten holds that position early in August as well.  Ten games into the month, Kolten is 10 for 28 (.357).  He is also hitting .361 (30 for 83) in the second half.  That average also leads the team.

DexterFowler

Finishing 0-for-3, Dexter Fowler saw his six-game hitting streak come to an end.  Fowler hit .381 (8 for 21) and slugged .667 (3 doubles and 1 home run) in those games.

PaulDeJong

Every so often this season, Paul DeJong joins in the offense with a flurry of hits.  The last time was the beginning of this month when he popped 5 hits over the first two games.  He only has four hits in the 8 games since.  Over those last 8 games, Paul is 4 for 28 (.143) and hasn’t had an extra base hit over his last five games.  Over his last 15 games, DeJong has 3 runs batted in (just 1 in his last 7).  Over the last 14 games, DeJong has struggled to a .196 average (10 for 51).

My question, I guess, is that if Paul is going to start every game even if he doesn’t hit, perhaps he shouldn’t hit fifth?  Maybe he should bat lower in the order?

JackFlaherty

But who wants to dwell on shaky offense when you can talk about Jack Flaherty.

Of the myriad of high-ceiling arms in the Cardinal’s system, Flaherty becomes the first to really settle in and start growing into an elite pitcher.  Yes, one day Jack will allow another run, but it hasn’t happened to him yet this month.

His first 21 innings in August could hardly be better.  The 75 batters that have faced him have created no runs on just 8 hits (5 singles and 3 doubles).  He has struck out 26 of them while walking just 4.  It’s an opposing batting line of .114/.173/.157.  But this is just the very prominent tip of the iceberg.

Going back to the last game before the break, Flaherty has made seven starts with an 0.79 ERA over 45.1 innings.  Six of the seven starts have been quality.  In five of those starts, Jack has pitched 7 innings allowing 4 or fewer hits and never more than 1 run.  The batting line against him – from the last 168 batters he has faced – is a compelling .142/.208/.219.

The emergence of Jack Flaherty is one of the most important developments of the 2019 season.  He has become “must-watch” TV every time he takes the mound.

NoteBook

Paul Goldschmidt’s first-inning sacrifice fly stood up as the game-winning hit.  Goldy is the first Cardinal this season with 10 GWRBIs.

DeJong’s second inning walk was his forty-third of the season – a career high for the third year player.  More than that, it was the 100th walk of his career.  It took him 338 games and 1420 plate appearances, so Paul isn’t exactly a walk machine.  But he has been getting better.  Every year his walk total increases – as does the margin between his on base percentage and his batting average.

The shutout victory breaks a string of 8 consecutive games during which the Cards had trailed at some point.

Random Numbers After 116 Games

Some random and very deep numbers to contemplate prior to tonight’s contest against Kansas City.

Last Monday (August 5), the Cards began their series in Los Angeles getting pushed around to the tune of 8-0.  It was the first time they had lost on a Monday since a 10-7 loss in Milwaukee on April 15.  It was also the only other Monday loss this season.  St Louis is 9-2 this year on Monday.

St Louis began the second half 13-4 (.765) against the first 17 right-handers to start against them.  They are only 2-4 this month when they face a right-handed starter (as they will tonight).

On the Saturday before the All-Star break, the Cards lost their game in San Francisco by an 8-4 score.  That was the last time this season they’ve lost a game in which they’ve scored at least 4 runs.

The trouble, of course, is that they still cannot score that fourth run consistently enough.  This month, they have been held to less than four runs in 6 of their 9 games.  They have scored 3 or less in 14 of the 28 since the break.

In the season’s first half, the pitching staff served up five or more runs 37 times (42% of their games).  It was almost always too much for the offense to keep up with.  St Louis was 6-31 (.162) in those games.

While there hasn’t really been any more offensive consistency since the break, the hitters have had their moments.  In the season’s second half the Cards have already won a game where they have allowed 8 runs, another in which they have given up 9 and a memorable game against Cincinnati when they gave 11 runs and won.  That one featured a seven-run comeback. It was only the third time this century that St Louis has come back from that steep a deficit, and the first time in 17 years since this eight run comeback (also against Cincinnati).

St Louis is, in fact, 5-4 in the second half when they allow 5 or more runs.

And if offensive consistency still eludes them, in the last 28 games the consistency on the pitching side has increased noticeably.  In the season’s first 88 games, Cardinal opponents were held below 4 runs only 38 times (43%).  That has happened 16 times since the break (57%).  The Cards, of course, have still managed to lose 5 of those games.

St Louis has won 18 consecutive games in which they have lead by at least two runs.  The last time they lost a game in which they held more than a one-run lead was back on June 25 against Oakland.

On the last day of June, Matt Wieters hit the extra-inning home run that pushed the Cards past the Padres.  Calling balls and strikes that evening was Kerwin Danley.

The sight of Mr Danley behind the plate should always be taken as a good omen for the Cards.  This century, St Louis is 21-13 (.618) with Kerwin calling balls and strikes.  Curiously, that day in June was the third time already that Danley has called a Cardinal game.  St Louis is 3-0 in those games.

There has been one other year this century where the Cards won 3 games with Danley behind the plate.  They were 3-1 in his games in 2011 – with that last win coming on the season’s final day, September 28.  That was the day that Chris Carpenter shutout Houston and the Cards squeaked into the playoffs beginning their date with destiny.

On the other end of the spectrum is Tim Timmons.  For most of this century, Tim’s presence behind the plate was excellent news.  St Louis won 29 of the first 39 games he called this century (.744).  That was through 2016.  Six times in those 17 seasons St Louis had won 3 times with Tim behind the plate.

For some reason, we never saw Mr. Timmons in 2017, and our relationship has soured since.  After losing 3 of the 4 games he called last year, the Cards are 0-3 this year in Tim’s games.

Late Cardinal Rallies Keep Pirates Reeling

It’s tempting – in the aftermath of the Lane Thomas grand slam – to look at yesterday’s seventh inning as a microcosm of the series.  Remember, the Pirates opened the inning with a four-run lead, and were one strike away from closing out the inning with the entire lead intact.  This was immediately before Pittsburgh reliever Kyle Crick hit two batters and served up the big fly.  St Louis ended up reversing that deficit and winning 11-9 (box score).

But, of course, there was also the eighth inning of the Friday game.  The score was tied at two when the Cards came up for their at bat.  The Pirates gave one run outright on an error (a dropped fly ball) and left at least one other out on the field (an RBI single from Paul Goldschmidt went through the shortstop’s glove), and a tight game that could have gone either way turned into a decisive 6-2 Cardinal win (box score).

Both worthy candidates, but I am going to go with the sixth inning of the Saturday game.

Adam Frazier’s first-pitch (of the game) home run put Pittsburgh on top early – and the Pirates held leads in all three games.  St Louis tied the game in the bottom of the first, though the opportunity was much greater – they had the bases loaded with no one out.

Now it’s the sixth inning – score still 1-to-1.

Dexter Fowler baptized the inning with a flair to left for a hit – and then ran into the first out of the trying to stretch his single.

Then came Tommy Edman’s little league home run.  It began as a double into center-field.  Edman drove about three steps around second to try to draw a throw.

He did.

Shortstop Kevin Newman took the relay from Starling Marte and fired it into the Pirate dugout.  And Edman was permitted to trot home with the winning run.

But the inning wasn’t over.

Goldschmidt followed with a single, and a Marcell Ozuna double sent him to third – still with just one out (Fowler at second).

Then the ball found Newman again.

Paul DeJong’s moderately hit ground ball deep into the hole was gloved by the Pirate shortstop, who, distracted by Goldy at third, couldn’t find the handle on the ball.  Everyone was safe, Goldschmidt had scored, and the Cardinal lead was 3-1.  That would be the final (box score).

But the inning still wasn’t done.  St Louis still has runners at first and second with just the one out.

So now, perhaps trying to cross up the Pirate shift, Matt Carpenter laid down a bunt.  Catcher Elias Diaz pounced on it and tossed Carpenter (who would get credit for a sacrifice) out at first.  He then noticed that, for some reason, Ozuna was storming around third attempting to score from second on the bunt.  (Was he remembering the Edman hit and thinking that Pittsburgh might throw the ball around again?).

Anyway, he almost did make it, but an excellent swipe tag by Diaz ended the inning.

So, a few things about this sequence.

First of all, you have the less than stellar defensive work from Pittsburgh.  This was a dependable constant throughout the series.

Second, you have the Cards winning the game in an inning that they absolutely ran themselves out of – something you just don’t see that often.

Then, you have the sixth inning rally that finished the game-winning trifecta of sixth inning (on Saturday), seventh-inning (Sunday) and eighth-inning (Friday) that really was the story of the weekend.

In a three game series in which the Cards never came to the plate in the ninth inning, they hit .250, hit 1 home run and scored just 7 times through the games’ first five innings.  From the sixth-inning on (mostly working against the Pirate bullpen), they hit .425 (17 for 40), slugged .725 (3 doubles and 3 home runs), and scored 13 runs.

This (the late offense), by the way, has been something of a recurring theme in the early games of this month.  Through 9 games in August, the Cards are hitting .216 before the sixth inning, and .302 from the sixth-inning on.  In the 9 games they have scored 11 runs through the fifth, and then 24 from the sixth on, hitting 6 late home runs as opposed to just 2 in the early innings.

The cherry on top of this inning, though, was that with two outs recorded on the base-paths, DeJong’s grounder being scored a single, and Carpenter credited with a sacrifice bunt, St Louis officially batted 1.000 for that inning (5 for 5) – a very rare occurrence, indeed, for a non-walk-off situation.

The Fading Pirates

Throughout the series, Pittsburgh didn’t look like much of a team.  Their ragged play over these three games is not, I don’t think, indicative of who they truly are.

Remember that this team hit the tape at the All-Star Break with a 44-45 record, just 2.5 games out of first.  But a baseball season can get away from you, and that’s what has happened to the Pirates.  They have been a stunning 4-24 since the break.

And the Cardinals have been very fortunate to play these guys often right at this particular junction of the season.  Ten of the 28 games the Cards have played since the break have been against the Pirates.  They have won 9 of the 10.  Since the break, they are 8-10 against everyone else.

For the season, they are 12-4 against the Pirates, and 49-51 against the rest of the major leagues.

More than any other opponent, Pittsburgh has been responsible for St Louis creeping back into the division race.

Paul Goldschmidt

Nothing like the site of the Pirates to bring Goldschmidt out of his slump.  In the recent series in Pittsburgh, Paul homered in all four games.  He only hit one out of the park in this series, but was a torrid 7 for 12 (.583).

Over the sixth-through-eighth innings of this series, Goldy was 4 for 5.  He is 6 for 16 (.375) for the month in those innings.

Tommy Edman

Tommy Edman is another hitter who jolted back to life against the Pirates – hitting .538 (7 for 13) in the series, including a double and a triple.

While Tommy has had some heroic moments late in games, he has been best early on.  Against Pittsburgh, he was 2 for 3 in both the first and third innings.  For the season, Edman hits .357 (10 for 28) in the first inning, and .318 (7 for 22) in the third.

Dexter Fowler

Don’t look now, but Dexter Fowler is starting to heat up.  With his important late home run on Sunday, Fowler now has a six-game hitting streak going.  He is 8 for 21 (.381) during the streak, with 3 doubles and the home run – a .667 slugging percentage.

Dexter has been a late-inning guy all year.  He was 2-for-3 in the eighth innings in this series, with a double to go with his home run.  For the season, Dex is a .204 hitter (37 for 81) before the sixth.  From the sixth inning on, Fowler hits .302 (45 for 149) with 8 of his 13 home runs and a .530 slugging percentage.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter is one of the curiosities of the final two months of the baseball season.  Returning from an injury after a slump-ridden season, Matty is one of the hitters under the microscope.  Carpenter was 1 for 6 against the Pirates, and is hitting .229/.293/.257 with no home runs in 42 second half plate appearances.

Matt Wieters

With Yadier Molina set to return on Tuesday, Matt Wieters’ run as the primary catcher has come to an end.  Matt did very well during Molina’s absence – although he did fade a bit at the plate at the end.  Wieters went 1 for 6 against Pittsburgh, and is just 2 for his last 13 (.154).  He is hitting .238 (5 for 21) this month.

Paul DeJong

Shortstop Paul DeJong began the month with 5 hits in the first two games.  But every time this year he looks like he is starting to come out of what has essentially been a season long slump, he tilts right back.  DeJong was 1 for 11 against the Pirates, and 3 for his last 21 (.143).  DeJong is hitting .222 (22 for 99) since the break.

NoteBook

In the Friday game, Goldschmidt drove in the go ahead run just before Ozuna hit his two-run home run.  That allowed Goldy to tie Ozuna for the team lead in game-winning RBIs.  They both, now, have 9.  DeJong is a distant third with 6, followed by Jose Martinez with 5.

The single was also Goldy’s fifth late, game-changing RBI.  DeJong still leads the team in this category.  He has 7.

Paul, by the way, still has a chance to play in all 162 (whether that’s a good thing or not is worth discussing).  One hundred and sixteen games in to the season, and Paul has played in them all.  After amassing 593 at bats last year (when he played in 158 games), Paul is at 435 so far this year.  He has been over 600 at bats only once in his career (602 in 2013).

Saturday night, Adam Wainwright made his twenty-second start of the season.  He made only 8 last year, and just 23 the year before.  Waino hasn’t made 30 starts in a season since he made 33 in 2016.

After those six inning, Adam is up to 120 for the season.  Already surpassing the 40.1 he threw last year, Adam is just 3.1 innings shy of his total for 2017.  These have been better innings, too.  He has allowed 59 runs (58 earned) on just 120 hits so far this year.  He gave 73 runs (70 earned) on 140 hits in 2017.

The home run he surrendered was the fifteenth he has allowed this year.  Adam is one of the few Cardinal pitchers not on pace to set a career high in home runs allowed – although he could come close.  Waino is on pace to allow 21 home runs this year.  His career high is the 22 hit off of him in 2016.  He has already allowed more than in either of the seasons since then.

Sunday’s winner, John Gant, pitched in his forty-ninth game of the season.  For his entire three-year career before this year, Johnny had pitched in a total of 53 games.

The victory was his eighth of the season – a new career high.  He won 7 last year, and had a total of 8 career wins before this season.

Ozuna’s stolen base on Sunday was his tenth of the season.  It is the first time in his seven-year career that he has double-digit steals.  He had never stolen more than 5 bases in any previous season, and only had 14 for his career at the start of the season.  He is on pace to steal 14 this season alone.

With the three home runs allowed on Sunday, that Cards have eclipsed the 144 they surrendered all of last year (they are up to 146).  Next up is the 183 hit against this team in 2017.  St Louis is on pace to serve up 204 home runs, their first time over 200 dingers allowed since the 2003 staff saw 210 of their pitches taken over the boards.

On the other hand, the staff is striking out 8.79 batters per nine innings.  If that pace holds, (according to baseball reference) it will be the highest average in team history.  The current high is the 8.38 per nine innings they struck out in 2017.  Over the long and storied history of this franchise, they have averaged over 8 strikeouts a game in just 4 seasons – each of the last 4.

Their .989 fielding percentage – if it holds – would also be a franchise best.  The 2013 team fielded at a .988 rate.

The Pirate series was the Cards’ nineteenth home series of the year.  They have now won 10 of those series, losing 6 and splitting 3 – on their way to a 34-23 home record.  Four of those home series victories have been sweeps (in 5 opportunities to get a sweep at home).

Position Wars with 49 Games Left

Position wars is a simple comparison of team performance depending on who is starting at which position.  Since there are many, many factors that determine victory or defeat, these comparisons can’t be embraced as proof that one player should be starting over another.

However, if with a certain player in a particular position the team continues to enjoy greater success, that could be an indication.

With that disclaimer behind us, let’s look at the positional comparisons.

Catcher

Yadier Molina is not quite back yet – he has missed 35 games already this season.  In his absence, the entire second half of the season so far has been handled by his backups, Matt Wieters and Andrew Knizner.

Going into the weekend series against the Pirates, Matt has started 17 second-half games, and Andrew the other 8.  The record with Knizner back there (5-3) is somewhat better than with Wieters (9-8), although the team ERA is much better when Wieters catches (3.23 v 5.40).  In his few starts, though, Knizner seems to have sparked the offense (5.79 rpg v 3.58 when Wieters catches).

On the season as a whole, the team has done better statistically with Wieters than with either of the other catchers.  Matt has started 36 games, leading the team to a 20-16 record with a 3.54 ERA.  Yadi has made 67 starts this season, with a corresponding 32-35 record and a 4.28 ERA.  The team ERA is worst in Knizner’s 10 starts (4.86), but the team is 6-4 in those games because they score 4.97 runs per game when Andrew starts – as opposed to 4.77 with Yadi in the lineup, and 3.82 with Matt.

Among the starters, Jack Flaherty has had some of his best moments with Wieters behind the plate.  In his 7 starts with Wieters, Jack has 5 quality starts, a 2.11 ERA, and a .149 batting average against.  He throws 66% strikes, and averages just 15.47 pitches per inning.  His record in those 7 starts, though is just 1-1 because his run support in those games is just 3.38 runs per game.

The offense for Jack has been better in the 15 games he’s pitched to Yadi (4.32 runs per game), but Jack, himself has been less effective and less efficient.  His ERA with Yadi behind the plate is 4.76 with a .246 batting average against.  Only 62% of his pitches in those games have been strikes, and he averages 17.69 pitches per inning.

Miles Mikolas has also been statistically better when pitching to Wieters (3.21 ERA in 8 starts) than Molina (4.48 in 14 starts).

In both of these cases, though, the difference has been less the catcher than adjustments made by the pitcher around the All-Star break.

Both Dakota Hudson (3.91 ERA in 13 games) and Michael Wacha (4.01 ERA in 9 starts) have done better throwing to Yadi than Matt.  Hudson has a 4.10 ERA in 9 starts with Wieters catching, and Wacha’s ERA in games that Wieters has caught is 8.55.

Adam Wainwright has pitched just one game to Wieters this year.  His ERA in the 6 games Knizner has caught him (4.64) is virtually identical to the mark he’s posted in Molina’s 14 starts (4.66).

Second Base

Kolten Wong has started 100 of the first 113 games at second base.  The Cards are 51-49 in those games.  Tommy Edman has been the primary backup.  He has made 9 starts at second, with the team winning 6 of the 9

Third Base

With Matt Carpenter spending most of the second half – so far – on the injured list, Edman has been the primary third baseman.  With Tommy starting 14 of the 25 games since the break at the “hot corner,” the team has gone 8-6, scoring 4.97 runs per game.  The record might be better, but the team ERA with Edman at third is just 4.46 in the second half.

Carpenter has been active and starting at third for 8 second-half games so far.  Surprisingly, the team ERA in those games is significantly better than in Edman’s starts (3.28).  But the offense has chimed in with just 22 runs (2.88 per) in those games – leading to a 3-5 record.

For the whole season, St Louis is 38-38 in Matt Carpenter’s 76 starts at third, and 9-10 in Edman’s 19 starts.  They are 7-3 when Yairo Munoz starts at third.

Left Field

With Marcell Ozuna beginning the second half on the injured list, Tyler O’Neill made 16 second-half starts in left field.  The Cards were 11-5 in those games.  Ozuna has returned and made the last five starts in left – with the team losing all 5.

For the season, St Louis is 37-45 when Ozuna starts in left, scoring 4.22 runs per game against a team ERA of 4.20.  When O’Neill starts in left, the team is 16-8, scoring 4.71 runs per game and with a team ERA of 3.98.

Center Field

Center field has been handled primarily by two players.  Harrison Bader made 60 starts there, and Dexter Fowler has been there for 45 games.  The records are virtually identical (31-29, .517 for Bader and 23-22, .511 for Fowler), but the method of getting there was predictably different.  With the elite defender Bader in center, the team ERA was 3.60 (as opposed to 4.47 when Fowler starts).

But with Harrison in a season-long slump at the plate, the team scored just 3.98 runs per game in his starts – as opposed to the 4.84 runs per game they score when Fowler starts.

Right Field

Fowler is also part of the equation in right field, but here – ironically enough – he is the defensive option.  The other half of that time-share is Jose Martinez.

With Martinez in right, the team ERA is a not-terrible 4.27.  When Dexter plays there, though it drops significantly to 3.86.  However, the team scores just 4.09 runs per game when Fowler starts in right, vs 4.78 with Martinez.

The won-lost record favors Jose here, 37-28 (.569) vs 21-23 (.477).

Recent Scoring Changes:

In the midst of the 10-run sixth inning that flipped the July 19 game against Cincinnati (box score), Munoz reached on a ground ball to shortstop Jose Iglesias.  Originally scored an infield hit, it has since been changed to a fielder’s choice.  So subtract a hit and a total base for Munoz.

Cards Don’t Hit and Don’t Win in California

The St Louis Cardinals began their most recent road trip on a very high note.  Although closing out just a 3-3 homestand, the last game was an emphatic 8-0 trouncing of the Cubs that had put them in first place all by their lonesome.

As they pushed Chicago around, banging out 14 hits in the rout, no one would have suspected that those eight runs would be more than the team would score during the entire road trip.  No one would probably have guessed that they would lose all five games on the trip, but no one who has been paying attention this year would have been surprised by that.  There have been numerous times this year that the Cards had seemed to turn the corner, only to tumble back into the malaise that has more or less defined the season so far.

For reference, I’ll mention just one.  The last time the Cubs were in town (May 31 – June 2), St Louis swept the three game series, stretching their then-winning streak to four in a row.  During the streak, they had pulled themselves from two games under .500 and five back in the division, to two games over .500 and back to within three games of the top spot.  For all the world, they looked like they had finally hit their stride.

They then promptly lost four of their next five to fall back under .500 and found themselves back to 5.5 games out.

On this particular road trip, they finished scoring 7 runs and hitting .180 over the five games.  With only 9 extra-base hits (3 of them home runs), St Louis finished the trip with a team slugging percentage of .273.

The pitching during the trip was better than the numbers suggest.  A couple of blow-out losses tagged them with a 5.31 ERA during the five games – much of that damage coming against the middle bullpen arms.  Even so, that ERA continued a season-long trend of pitching struggles on the road.

The Cards are 31-23 at home largely due to a 3.33 ERA in their home ballpark.  They carry a 4.83 ERA on the road – a primary contributor to their 27-32 road record.  Since the All-Star Break, over 12 home games, St Louis has a 2.83 ERA.  Over 13 road games since the break, the ERA is 4.95.

Wednesday afternoon, of course, the damage came against the back of the Cardinal bullpen, as Andrew Miller and Carlos Martinez converted a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 walk-off loss (box score).

Combine the losses in 3 of the last 5 games of the previous home stand, and the birds are losers of 8 of their last 10 as they head home to face Pittsburgh.  They are 1-5 so far in August.

For the ninth time in those ten games, the Cards failed to score at least 4 runs – they have scored a total of just 21 runs over their last ten.  For the month of August, they are hitting .218.

Paul Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt is still seeking traction on this season.  Hitless in 4 at bats yesterday, Goldy is 0 for his last 15.  He has gone 7 games without a run batted in.  Paul is off to a .130/.167/.174 start to August, and is hitting just .225 with 1 walk against 10 strikeouts over the last 10 games.

Paul hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunities to hit away from Busch.  He was 2 for 18 on the road trip, and is hitting .241 on the road this year – including .217 (10 for 46) since the break.

Jack Flaherty

Heroic, again, in defeat was young right-hander Jack Flaherty.  After dominating the Cubs for 7 innings to close out the last home stand, Jack did much the same to close out the road trip – 7 shutout innings.

Since the All-Star Break, Jack has produced 4 quality starts in 5 games, courtesy of a tidy 0.86 ERA.

NoteBook

In the midst of his breakout season, Giovanny Gallegos has dropped his career ERA under the 3.00 mark.  He is now at 2.99 lifetime through 84.1 innings.  Over his 54 inning Cardinal career, Mr. Gallegos possesses an ERA of 2.00.

Two series ago, the Cards surrendered just 3 runs over 3 games against the Cubs.  Over the 3 games against the Dodgers, they scored just 2 runs – their fewest in any series this year.  Previously, they scored just 3 runs when Oakland visited St Louis June 25-26.  That, of course, was just a two-game series.  The previous offensive low for a three-game series were the 6 runs scored in Chicago June 7-9.

At 49,106 the average attendance of this series was the highest of the season for the Cards.  St Louis’ previous best attended series was Albert-stock – the weekend (June 21-23) that the Angels spent in St Louis.  Those three games averaged 47,416.

Swept in back-to-back series, the Cards have now been swept 5 times this season in 12 opportunities.

Little Things Decisive in Dodger Victory

Neither hit was very much, really.  Not highlight reel smashes by any means.  But in the professional levels of any sport, little things are frequently most important.

It is the bottom of the second inning of last night’s game in Los Angeles.  St Louis is holding a 1-0 lead.  The Dodgers have the tying run at third base, but there are two outs.  Cardinal starter Miles Mikolas only needs to get eighth-place hitter Kristopher Negron to hold the lead into the third.

But Negron manages to float a Texas-league single into short center, and the game was tied.

Now it’s the seventh-inning.  The Dodgers have added a run in the interim, and now lead 2-1.  Andrew Miller is into the game for St Louis.  The Dodgers have a big insurance run on second base – but again, there are two outs.  Miller will be facing left-handed hitting Max Muncy.  Again, all Andrew needs is an out and we go into the eighth-inning still a one-run game.

Muncy’s ensuing ground ball wasn’t exactly stung.  But it was perfectly placed as it snuck through the shifted infield, driving Edwin Rios home with the extra-run that padded Los Angeles’ 3-1 win (box score).  A win that sent the Cardinals to their fourth consecutive loss, and seventh in the last nine games.

All throughout the losing spell, there have been two constants.  There has been a nearly total absence of offense (over their last 9 games, the Cards are hitting just .225 and scoring 2.22 runs per game).

There has also been an abundance of two-out RBI’s against them.  For the month of August (in which they are 1-4), 13 of the 21 runs batted in against them have come with two outs. Over the last 9 games, 19 of the 37 runs batted in have been two-out RBIs.

The offense, of course, has had their two-out opportunities as well.  Last night, they were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, 0-for-3 with two outs.  A two-out, bases empty, ninth-inning single from Andrew Knizner was St Louis’ only two-out hit in 10 such at bats.

For the month they are hitting .232 with only 3 runs batted in with two outs.  Over the nine games, they have just 4 two-out runs batted in.

For the Dodgers, everything is coming very easily right now.  That is far from the case in St Louis these days.

Having forced their way back into contention in the division, the Cardinals are consistently coming up short in the money moments of these recent games.

Mikolas

In an increasingly troubled rotation, Miles Mikolas continues to be a beacon.  Although he took yesterday’s loss, Miles contained the dangerous Dodger lineup to 2 runs over 6.2 innings.   Since he re-tooled over the All-Star break, Miles has 4 quality starts in 5 games with a 2.18 ERA.  In 33 second-half innings, Mikolas has walked just 5 batters.  Although he has already served up a career high 17 home runs, he has allowed none over his last 3 games, and just 1 in the second half.

Miller

As Andrew Miller has opened the second half, he has had a little trouble early on here getting that third out.  In last night’s game, he gave a two-out RBI single to Muncy in the seventh.

Since the break, Andrew has faced 17 batters with two outs.  Those batters have 3 singles, a home run, and 4 walks – a .308/.471/.538 batting line.

Tyler Webb

With little fanfare, Tyler Webb has thrown the ball very, very well since his last return from the minors.  With last night’s perfect eighth inning, Tyler’s last 7 games have seen him serve just 1 run on only 1 hit (a pinch home run off the bat of Oakland’s Chad Pinder in Saturday’s game).  Tyler has fanned 8 of the last 16 batters to face him, and has 10 over the 7.2 innings of his last 7 games, while walking just 1 – giving him a batting average against of .042 and an on base percentage against of .080.

Webb has been quite good all season at claiming that last out.  Batters facing Tyler with two out are 6 for 42 (.143) – albeit with 7 walks.

Paul Goldschmidt

Back among the offensively downtrodden is centerpiece Paul Goldschmidt.  Hitless (with 2 strikeouts) last night, Paul is now 0 for his last 11 with 5 strikeouts, and has gone 6 games without driving in a run.

July’s Player of the Month, Paul has scuffled through the early games of August.  In his first 20 plate appearances this month, Goldy has 2 singles, 1 double, 1 walk and 7 strikeouts – a batting line of .158/.200/.211.

In the statistical anomaly department, all four of Paul’s at bats last night came with one out.  That 0-for-4 makes him just 3 for 17 (.176) with one out over these difficult last 9 games.  He has hit .308 (4 for 13) with no one out, and .333 (2 for 6) with two outs.

NoteBook

Last night’s attendance total of 53,070 was the largest crowd for any Cardinal game this season.  The previous high was the 48,555 in St Louis’ game against Pittsburgh on Sunday May 12.

In his 18-win 2018, Miles Mikolas set all of his significant career highs, including games (32), games started (32), hits allowed (186), runs allowed (70), earned runs allowed (63) and walks (29).  Mostly because his first half was difficult, Miles is closing in on surpassing all of those numbers (23 games and starts, 139 hits allowed, 61 runs  – 58 earned, and 22 walks).

It’s been three years since Dexter Fowler has played in over 130 games.  He played in his 102nd last night.  That season (2016) was also the last time that Dex had over 450 at bats – he has 316 already this year.