Cards Earn Rare One-Run Victory Over Cubs, 4-3

The 2015 Cardinal season was marked by outstanding pitching and a scuffling offense.  Not surprisingly, St Louis played in quite a few one-run games.  In fact, with 55 one-run games (of which they won 32), St Louis averaged one every 2.9 games.  They tied the Cubs for the most one-run games in the National League.  Last night’s walk-off winner was only the third one-run win, and only the eighth such contest they’ve played so far in 2016 (one every 5.6 games).  No team in the majors has played fewer to this point in the season.  Baltimore, Arizona and Atlanta have all also played in just 8 one-run games.  The 2015 Cardinals played in 13 one-run games in last May alone (8-5 record).  With May mostly behind us this year, St Louis just finished their third one-run game of this month (2-1).

The heroes of these one-run games so far have been the bullpen members.  Usually, one-run games begin with strong efforts by the starting pitching, but that hasn’t been the rule in St Louis so far.  Michael Wacha has started 3 of the one-run games, and has pitched well (2.95 ERA in 18.1 innings); and Jaime Garcia walked 4 in five innings, but held it together in a 2-1 loss to the Cubs (April 19th); while Carlos Martinez has yet to start a game that has been decided by one run.  But struggles by Mike Leake (2 one-run games, 12 innings, 0-1 record, 6.75 ERA) and Adam Wainwright (2 starts, 11.1 innings, 0-1, 7.94 ERA) have contributed to the rotations 5.21 ERA in one-run games.

Last year, the rotation contributed a 2.94 ERA in these games, led by Lance Lynn’s 2.12 (in 9 games), Garcia’s 2.39 (6 games), John Lackey’s (2.85 in 11 games) and Wacha’s (3.06 in 10 games).  Between starts (7) and relief appearances (5), Martinez was 5-0 with a 3.38 ERA in one-run games.

The bullpen maintained a 1.90 ERA in the one-run games of last year.  So far this year, they have allowed a 1.01 ERA in 26.2 innings.  Seung-hwan Oh, Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal (who all contributed scoreless innings last night) have now combined to pitch 15.2 shutout innings in these games, allowing 8 hits (6 singles, 2 doubles), 2 walks and 22 strikeouts – while stranding all 3 inherited runners.  The opposing batters’ line against our late inning bullpen in one-run contests is .151/.182/.189.  They have been about as good as we could ask.

Offense is almost always at a premium in one-run games.  In the 55 they played last year, St Louis hit .238 and scored 3.09 runs per contest.  This year, so far, the team average is .224 in the 8 one-run games, and they are scoring just 3.88 runs per.

Matt Adams played in 19 of the Cardinals 55 one-run games last year, and never got an extra-base hit while hitting just .176 (9-for-51) in those games and driving in 3 runs.  Matt has played in all 8 so far this year, although he’s only started four.  After his game-changing home run last night, Adams is a .389 hitter (7-for-18) in one-run games, with 2 home runs and 5 runs batted in.  He drove a two-run, eighth-inning home run against Washington on April 29th that brought St Louis to within 4-to-5, but the Cards would get no closer.

Stephen Piscotty was the principle offensive highlight in last year’s one-run games – once he appeared on the scene.  He hit .329 (24-for-73) in the 20 he played in, with 10 extra-base hits (2 of them home runs), 12 runs batted in and a .534 slugging percentage.  He has basically picked up this year where he left off in 2015.  In the 8 Cardinal one-run games, Piscotty is hitting .310 (9-for-29) with a .517 slugging percentage.

After dropping the first two games against the Dodgers, St Louis has won 5 of 8, including last night’s walk-off. Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake are carrying a 1.40 ERA over their last 4 combined starts.  The last four games that Wainwright and Leake have not started have seen the starters last just 16.1 innings, allow 30 hits and 18 runs (9.92 ERA).

Randal Grichuk has 6 hits (3 of them for extra-bases) in his last 20 at bats (.300) and a .550 slugging percentage (2 double and a home run).  Matt Adams is 6 for his last 16 (.375).  He also has 2 doubles and a home run (.813 slugging percentage)

Grichuk’s home run that ended the Cardinals 45th game was the team’s 61st of the season in 1,556 at bats.  It was also the 16th time this season that St Louis has hit two or more home runs in a game.  The 61st home run of 2015 was also plenty memorable – and also against the Cubs.  It was Greg Garcia’s eighth-inning launch against Pedro Strop that forged a 2-2 in a game St Louis would eventually win 3-2 in ten innings.  That game, of course, took place on June 26th, in team game number 73 and team at bat number 2,466.  St Louis hit multiple home runs in only 36 games all last season.

Ragged Garcia Routed by Arizona

The official word on Jaime Garcia’s game yesterday is that it was just one of those days.  Nothing to see here.  He faced 16 batters and managed first-pitch strikes to only 8 of them.  For the season, 60.3% of the batters he’s faced see strike one.  They go on to hit just .205 in those at bats.  Last night, 5 of the 8 got hits off Jaime.  Garcia, now, hasn’t made it past the fifth inning in five of his nine starts this season, and has lost his last two, allowing 8 runs in 7.1 innings.  Jaime gave us quality starts in 14 of his 20 appearances last year.  He has only 3 in his first 9 games this year.

For the season, thus far, major league hitters see a first-pitch strike about 60% of the time.  They go on to hit .242 in those at bats.  About 40% of the time, the pitcher throws ball one before he throws strike one.  In those at bats, batters are hitting .265 with a .380 on base percentage, as about 72% of all walks occur in plate appearances that begin with ball one.  About 67.5% of all strikeouts occur in plate appearances that begin with strike one.

Matthew Bowman threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of the 15 batters he faced last night.  For the season, 57 of the 87 that have faced him have seen strike one (65.5%).

Jonathan Broxton fell behind the first two batters he faced last night, but came back to get both of them on groundouts.  Ball one hasn’t really been an issue this year for Jonathan.  Batters who have taken his first pitch for ball one this year are only 3-for-22 (.136) – all singles.  Broxton, it appears, doesn’t give into the hitter though.  He has gone on to un-intentionally walk 5 other batters that he’s fallen behind 1-0.

Kolten Wong’s 2-hit night gives him hits in eight consecutive starts.  He’s hitting .393 (11-for-28) during the streak, but has driven in just one run.  In his four at bats last night, Kolten was 0-for-2 when the pitcher threw him first-pitch balls, and 2-for-2 when he saw first-pitch strikes.

In April, Kolten Wong was thrown a ball in 32 of his 62 plate appearances (51.6%).  He hit .280/.406/.280 when getting ahead early, but only .179/.200/.179 when his at bat started with strike one.

His fortunes in May have completely reversed, as Kolten has seen strike one in 31 of his 50 plate appearances so far (62%), but is hitting .333/.419/.444 when he falls behind in the count, and .235/.316/.529 when he gets ahead.

Yadier Molina, 0-for-3 last night, is now hitting .148 over his last eight games (4-for-27).  Those hits do include his first home run of the season and 4 runs batted in.

Comfortable Carpenter Helps Cards Crush Colorado

Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty led a 12 hit attack as they combined for 6 hits and 8 runs batted in, leading St Louis to a 13-7 win over the Rockies

When he is going well – and it certainly looked like he was yesterday – Carpenter is uncommonly comfortable hitting behind in the count.  His RBI double in the fourth came on an 0-2 pitch.  His 2-run double that tied the game in the fourth came on an 0-1 pitch.  He also struck out on a 1-2 pitch in the sixth.  Matt was only 5 for 30 (.167) in April when down in the count, but is now 7 for 20 (.350) in May.  Those hits now include 3 doubles and 2 home runs.  His walk-off homer against the Pirates on May 7th came on a 1-2 pitch.  His 3-run homer against Jered Weaver in Anaheim last weekend came off an 0-1 pitch.  After last year’s All-Star break, Carpenter was 30 for 109 (.275) with 8 home runs and a .587 slugging percentage when behind in the count.

In April, Carpenter also didn’t take much advantage of being ahead in the count.  He did walk 17 times in 51 plate appearances ahead in the count, but only hit .182 (6-for-33).  This is another trend that is reversing itself in May.  With the 3-run eighth-inning home run last night (on a 3-2 pitch), Carpenter is now 7 for 18 with 2 home runs, 5 runs batted in, and 12 walks when hitting ahead in the count.  His slash line this month in that situation is .389/.613/.889.

Stephen Piscotty bedeviled Colorado with his second consecutive 3-hit game.  Stephen has now hit in 22 of his last 26 games started, getting multiple hits in 12 of them.  He is hitting .381 (42-of-110) in those games with 3 home runs and 17 runs batted in.

In his only at bat of the night in which he was behind in the count (and Stephen has been behind in the count 22.4% of the time this month – the lowest percentage on the club), Piscotty beat out an infield hit on a 1-2 pitch.  Piscotty is becoming increasingly more proficient in this facet of his game.  He is now 5 for 16 (.313) for the month when batting behind.  This is a significant improvement over his rookie half-season.  Last year he was only 14 for 80 (.175) when falling behind in the count.  He wasn’t much better in April, when he hit .229 (8-for-35).

The five hits are four singles and a double.  He has no runs batted in and a .375 slugging percentage when batting behind in the count this month.  His slash line when even or ahead this month is .389/.441/.556.  Of his 5 home runs this season, he has hit 3 when even in the count, 2 when ahead, and none when behind.

With two, 2-run singles, Matt Adams is making it harder and harder for Mike Matheny to keep him out of the lineup.  Adams has hit safely in 9 of his last 13, hitting .333 (14-for-42) with 2 home runs and 13 runs batted in.

Yadier Molina suffered through an 0-for-3 last night.  Having a great season, Yadi is passing through his first dry patch of the year with 2 hits in his last 17 at bats.

One area where Michael Wacha struggled last night – and has been a problem for him this whole month – has been his recent inability to retire batters once he’s gotten ahead of them.  Last year, batters hitting behind in the count against Wacha hit only .189 with only 2 home runs.  Last night, batters that Michael got ahead of went 3 for 8 against him.  These hits included Travis Story’s 2-run double in the third (on an 0-1 pitch) and Descalso’s 2-run single in the fourth (also 0-1).  For the month of May, batters that have fallen behind Wacha in the count have 9 hits in 29 at bats (.310) and 8 runs batted in.

Tyler Lyons pitched ahead in the count to 4 of the 11 batters he faced last night, retiring all of them (2 on strikes).  For the season, now, batters are 0-for-24 when they hit behind in the count against Lyons with 12 strikeouts.  His enduring problem has been being even in the count.  Last year, batters in even counts hit .338 against Tyler with 5 home runs and a .608 slugging percentage.  Last night, the only damage done to Tyler took the form of Travis Story’s home run – on a 2-2 pitch.  Thirty-six of the 79 batters that have faced Lyons this season have ended the at bat even in the count.  Those batters are hitting .361 (13-for-36) with 5 home runs and an .861 slugging percentage.

Seung-hwan Oh generally never gets into trouble unless he gets well behind in the count.  So far this season, batters are 5 for 17 (.294) if they can get ahead of him, but just 3 for 27 (.111) with 10 strike outs in even counts and 2 for 30 (.067) with 15 strikeouts when they fall behind.  Last night he retired all three batters he faced: Reynolds grounded out on a 1-2 pitch, Descalso struck out on a 2-2 pitch, and Wolters struck out on an 0-2 pitch.

Waino Evens Home Stand Record with Gem Against Colorado

The Cardinals are now 10-11 in home games this season (5-5 in May after going 5-6 here in April).  This has already been the focus of some discussion, so let’s look what at what the home record tells us.

After seeing his eight-game hitting streak snapped on Tuesday, Stephen Piscotty was back on point with three hits last night.  He has now hit in 13 of his last 15 games, 18 of his last 22, and 21 of his last 26.  Last night was his eleventh multi-hit game in that streak, which has now seen him hitting .364 (39-for-107), with 3 home runs and 15 runs batted in.

Piscotty’s strong rookie campaign was built on success at home.  In 35 games and 127 Busch Stadium at bats, Stephen hit .346 with 4 home runs, 23 runs batted in and a .551 slugging percentage.  On the road, he was more mortal, hitting .255 in 28 games with 3 home runs and 16 runs batted in.

2016 began completely opposite for Piscotty.  He opened the season hitting .357 away from home in April (20-for-56) with 3 home runs, 11 runs batted in and a .589 slugging percentage.  At the same time, he got off to a very sluggish start at home, collecting just 7 hits in his first 35 home at bats (.200), although 5 of the 7 hits were for extra-bases (including a home run).  He drove in 4 runs in his first ten home games.

May has brought about a righting of the ship.  With his 3 hits last night, Piscotty is now hitting .390 at home this month (16-for-41) with a home run and 6 runs batted in.  He hit a more modest .280 (7 for 25) over the recently concluded road trip, with just one extra-base hit and 2 runs batted in.

Aledmys Diaz slapped a couple more hits last night.  He has now hit in 11 of his last 14 games – with five of them being multi-hit affairs.  His average has actually gone down over this span, though, as he is only hitting .333 (17-for-51).  However, 8 of those 17 hits are for extra-bases (6 doubles and 2 home runs), so he is slugging .568 while driving in 7 runs during those 14 games.

Aledmys, of course, first came into prominence during the season-opening road trip – and even though he was a modest 6 for 21 in California last week, Aledmys is still hitting .439 (25-of-57) on the road.  He hasn’t done poorly at home, though.  Last night’s hits raised his home average to .324 (22-for-68), with half of his hits going for extra bases.  He has 2 home runs and a .544 slugging percentage at Busch.

Matt Carpenter – 0-for-2 last night – is now just 1 for his last 14 (.071) over the Cardinals last two series.  That one hit is the home run that helped win the finale against the Dodgers.  He has 5 strikeouts in his last 14 at bats.

For the season, Matt is now hitting an uninspiring .250 at home.  But with two more walks last night, his on-base percentage is an admirable .356.  Six of Matt’s eight home runs this year have come on the road.  Last year, 13 of his 28 came at home.

Randal Grichuk’s season has stalled both at home (.220) and on the road (.215).  Grichuk walked last night – his ninth walk at home this season.  His home on-base percentage is a decent .324.

Last year, Randal hit just .259 at home during the season’s first half.  After the break, he lit up Busch to the tune of a .305 average (25-for-82), 8 home runs, 16 runs batted in and a .659 slugging percentage.

Yadier Molina, 0-for-4 last night, has (temporarily) lost his mojo at Busch.  In 10 home games in April, Yadi was unstoppable.  He hit .471 here that month (16-of-34), with surprising power.  No home runs, but his 5 doubles and a triple brought his slugging percentage to .676 at home.  For the month of April.

The law of averages has caught up with him a bit this month, as his May home average now slides to .194 (7-for36) and his slugging percentage to .222 (the hits are six singles and a double).

His road numbers have made the opposite correction.  Yadi was 10 for 22 (.455) on the just completed LA road trip after hitting just .250 (12-for-48) on the road in April.

Brandon Moss has also struggled since the end of the series against the Angels.  He is now 0-for-11 against the Dodgers and Rockies.

Moss’ home average is now down to .182 (10-for-55).  With two strikeouts last night, Brandon has fanned in 25 of his 55 home at bats.  Five of his ten home hits have left the park, however.  He has one more total base at home (26) than he does strikeouts at home.  He is hitting .245 on the road (12-for-49).  He has “only” 13 strikeouts during those road at bats, but also only 2 home runs.  His splits still suggest that maybe Brandon is trying too hard at Busch.

Last night’s win was the fifth time in the ten May home games that St Louis scored fewer than 3 runs.  In April, they scored 57 runs in their 11 home games (5.27 per), hit 15 home runs, batted .279, and slugged .497.  (They were even better on the road, averaging 6.46 runs per game and hitting 19 homers in 13 games).  Thus far, May is quite a bit different.  Ten home games into the month, the Cards have hit 10 home runs, scored 36 runs and are hitting .241.

At last year’s All Star Break, the Cardinals had played 42 home games and hit 25 home runs.  They have played exactly half that many home games so far this season, and have hit 25 home runs.  They hit 44 home runs in 47 pre-All-Star-break road games last year.  They have 29 in 19 road games so far this year.  In last year’s second half, with Piscotty joining the lineup and Grichuk and Carpenter getting into the swing, St Louis hit 35 home runs over its last 39 home games, and 33 over its last 34 road games.

All three of Adam Wainwright’s home starts this month have qualified as a quality start.  In addition to last night’s gem against Colorado, Adam also survived 6.1 innings against Pittsburgh, allowing just 3 runs on 7 hits on May 7th after allowing 3 runs in 6 more innings against Philadelphia on May 2.  St Louis won all three games.  His ERA in those games is 2.84 and he still hasn’t allowed a home run at Busch this season in 24.1 innings.  He has only walked 2 batters in his 19 home innings this month, and has surrendered only 4 walks at home this year.

Tonight’s starter Michael Wacha has been our best pitcher at home this year.  His record is only 1-2, but he carries a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings over four starts (3 of them quality starts.)  He has lost both of his starts at home this month, although his ERA is a very good 3.21.

Jaime Garcia, after losing the opener of the Colorado series, is just 2-3 in five home starts.  His ERA here is an excellent 2.51, but he has only thrown 32.1 innings in those games and has just 2 quality starts to show for his efforts.  Early exits are getting to be too common for Jaime.  Garcia made ten starts at home last year, going 5-2 with 8 quality starts and a 1.70 ERA.

Mike Leake turned his season around on the LA road trip.  He started and won twice, collecting his first two wins as a Cardinal and first two quality starts.  He allowed 2 runs on 11 hits over 14 innings.  Now, he needs to translate that to Busch, where he is 0-2, 5.76 ERA and no quality starts through 4 games.

As last season wore on, Kevin Siegrist sustained his terrific performance at home (where he posted a 1.59 ERA in 42 games), but faded notably on the road.  He hit the All-Star break with a 1.86 road ERA in 21 games and 31 strikeouts in 19.1 innings.  After the break, though, the struggles began.  Over his last 15.2 road innings he was reached for 7 runs (4.02 ERA).  He began 2016 on the same note, allowing a home run and three runs in his first 5 innings away from Busch this year, but has been better in May.  He pitched 2.2 innings during the LA road trip, allowing only a home run to Dodger shortstop Corey Seager.

At home, Siegrist continues to dominate.  He retired all four batters faced last night (3 on strikeouts) and now carries a 0.96 home ERA in 9.1 innings, during which he has walked none and struck out 17.

Trever Rosenthal was better away from home last year (1.41 ERA v 2.70).  At the All Star break, the numbers were quite comparable (1.86 road ERA v 1.17 home ERA), but the second half showed a puzzling separation as his 0.71 road ERA was offset by his 5.27 at home.

Rosenthal is still unscored on on the road this year (granted that’s only 6.1 innings), but served up 2 runs in 3.2 home innings in April.  May, so far, is a different story.  Including last night’s game, Trevor has appeared in only 3 of the 10 home games this month – going one inning each time (all scoreless so far).

Trevor saved 24 home games last year in 25 opportunities.  Including last night, he now has saved 3 home games this season (in 4 opportunities).  He is 5-for-5 in saves on the road.

The two walks allowed last night were only the 19th and 20th walks in the ten games St Louis has played at home this month.

When Siegrist entered last night’s seventh inning, the two runners he inherited brings to 18 the total number of runners the bullpen has inherited in the 21 home games they’ve played so far.  Only 3 (16.7%) have scored.  On the road, the pen has allowed 7 of 21 (33.3%) to come home.

Last year, your St Louis Cardinals won 55 of 81 home games.  They did that in spite of the fact that they only scored an average of 3.89 runs per game.  The pitching staff made those runs stand up, fashioning a sparkling 2.70 ERA at Busch.  They got quality starts in 56 of those 81 games.  Through 21 home games this season, the home ERA is a good 3.48, but the quality starts are only at 10.

Anyone searching for the mystery of the disappointing home record would be advised to start here.  The formula last year was dominant pitching and just enough runs to squeak by.  The formula this year has been solid pitching, exciting defense, and streaky offense.  The results last year were excellent.  This year, so far, is decidedly mixed.  When and if the pitching becomes dominant again, the home record will return to its expected performance.

Bettis Keeps Bases Empty, Muffles Cards

As Chad Bettis and his bullpen rolled through the Cardinal lineup, 22 of the 36 batters came up with the bases empty (61.1%).  For the season, Cardinal batters are up with the bases empty only 54.2% of the time. The top four batters in our lineup went 0-for-15.

Kolten Wong was a bright spot, with two more hits.  It’s only his third multi-hit game of the season, but the second in his last three.  Kolten now has a little 5-game hitting streak going, during which he has 7 hits in 17 at bats (.412).  But his third-inning walk was also significant as it came with the bases empty.

Of Kolten’s 38 plate appearances so far this month, 24 have come with the bases empty (63.2%).  Among Cardinal non-pitchers, only Matt Carpenter has been up with the bases empty a higher percentage of the time this month (69.7%).  Wong’s walk was his third this month with the bases empty, which, combined with five hits and a hit by pitch brings his on base percentage to .375 with no one on.  For the season, thus far, Kolten has been to the plate 56 times with no one on base.  His slash line for those at bats is .283/.411/.370.  Kolten has only walked 10 times this season, but 8 of them have come with the bases empty.

There’s added significance here, because Kolten wants to be included in the discussion as lead-off hitter, but hasn’t been terribly effective at getting on base unless there was already a runner on base.  Last year, Wong’s slash line was .246/.309/.364 in 369 plate appearances with the bases empty.  In 244 PA with at least one runner aboard, Kolten’s line rose to .288/.340/.420.  If he shows an improved ability to ignite, it may allow the Cardinals to drop Carpenter down in the order.

When Matt Carpenter ended the third with a strikeout, it was the first time in 20 plate appearances this month that Carpenter has struck out with a runner on base.  His other 10 strikeouts have come in 46 plate appearances with no one on base.  For the season, he has struck out in 9 of 67 plate appearances with a runner on base.  Last year he whiffed in 43 of his 229 plate appearances with a runner on base.

The Cards did have a few shots at Bettis and the Rockies, and Carpenter had a couple of them, barely missing a 3-run homer in the fifth and ending a 2-on, 2-out seventh-inning opportunity with a hot smash to second.  It’s been that kind of season for Matt.  He is now 2 for 14 (.143) for the month, and 12 for 51 (.235) for the season with runners on base.  He led the team in RBIs last year while hitting .316 (61-for-193) with runners on base.

Stephen Piscotty had no at bats last night with a runner on base – one way to silence the team’s leading hitter with runners in scoring position.  A minor quibble with Piscotty – who is having a terrific year.  He now has 39 plate appearances this month with the bases empty.  He has walked only once.  This was a functioning part of his game last year.  In his 135 bases empty at bats last year, Stephen drew 13 walks on his way to a .348 on base percentage.

One of the consequences of having the top four spots in the order hitless is that none of the guys in the middle of the order have a chance to hit with a runner on base.  Matt Holliday also had four such at bats – going 0-for-4 with the bases empty.  In his injury-interrupted 2015 season, Holliday only hit .214 with the bases empty (although he did walk 24 times in 152 plate appearances).  This includes an .097 average (3-for-31) after the All-Star break.

In April, Matt was one of our most productive hitters with the bases empty, producing a slash line of .300/.417/.500 in 48 such plate appearances.  He is now 6 for 32 (.188) with no walks in these situations in May.

Matt Adams did draw a walk, becoming the only one of the top four hitters in the order to reach base, but went 0-3 in his other at bats.  Matt is hitting .289 with 2 home runs and a .500 slugging percentage when he can hit with a runner on base.  He is now at .231 (9-for-39) with one home run and a .333 slugging percentage this year with the bases empty.

For the month of May, the Cards as a team have a .299 on base percentage, but a .458 slugging percentage with the bases empty.

Jaime Garcia, during his tumultuous fine-inning start, only pitched to 9 batters with the bases empty.  He added to his own stress by walking three of them.  He does this to himself with some frequency.  For the season, 14 of his 19 walks have come with the bases empty. During his first two starts this month, 36 of the 49 (73%) batters that faced Jaime did so with the bases empty.  Last night, 15 of the 24 he faced (62.5%) came up with at least one runner on base.

On the other hand, when he walked Mark Reynolds with a runner at third in the fifth, it was the first time this month (in 28 plate appearances) that Garcia has walked a batter with another runner already on base (and this walk had the feel of someone that Garcia was pitching around).

Seung-hwan Oh was another highlight of the game.  He pitched a 1-2-3, 3-strikeout eighth inning.  For the season so far, Oh has faced 48 batters with the bases empty and struck out 20 of them.  He has struck out only 7 of the 35 he’s faced with at least one runner on base.

RISP Notes to Contemplate

As Stephen Piscotty rose from promising prospect to line-up fixture last year, one of the aspects of his game that set him apart was his uncanny production with runners in scoring position (RISP).  The rookie – getting his first look at major league pitching – hit .390 (30-for-77) in run producing situations.

What could he do for an encore?  Well, in the first 14 games of May, Stephen has 8 hits in 15 RISP at bats (.533) and his season average so far is a team-leading .475 (19-for-40).  For his young career, Mr. Piscotty is 49 for 117 – a .419 average with runners in scoring position.

Yadier Molina – one of the team’s most accomplished hitters with runners in scoring position – has augmented that reputation so far this season.  His 2-run double that forged the lead in the seventh inning on Sunday brings Yadi’s RISP average in 2016 to .394 (13-for-33).  Last year he hit .354 (23-for-65) when he had chances with runners in scoring position.

Hits with runners in scoring position is another of the interesting comparison points between first-base candidates Matt Adams and Brandon Moss.  Going into tonight’s game against Colorado, both first basemen have had 22 RISP at bats.  Adams has 8 hits (.364), including 2 home runs and 11 runs batted in contributing to a .636 slugging percentage.  For his part, Moss has only 7 hits in his opportunities (.318), but his hits include 4 home runs and 16 RBIs.  His RISP slugging percentage is .909.

While an impact bat last year, Randal Grichuk was only 7 for 33 (.212) with runners in scoring position.  Six of the hits were for extra-bases (3 of them home runs), so he slugged .576 in those situations, but didn’t consistently come through with that hit.  He struck out in 16 of those at bats.

Through the month of April, his results weren’t much different.  He hit .238 (5-for-21 with 8 strikeouts) in RISP opportunities.  But in May – as his season is beginning to recover – Randal has hinted at more controlled at bats with ducks on the pond.  So far, he is 4 for 13 (.308) with a home run, 5 RBIs, a .538 slugging percentage – and only one strikeout – in his RISP at bats.

Matt Holliday ended April just 4 for 24 (.167) with RISP.  It is also true that all four hits were extra-base hits (2 doubles and 2 home runs).  So far in May, Holliday is still hitting .167 in RISP situations (2-for-12), with one of those hits being a double.

Looming in the not-too-distant future is at least a temporary decision on the status of Kolten Wong, the presumptive mainstay at second base.  As neither he nor Jedd Gyorko has taken control of the position, this becomes more and more an enticing option for Aledmys Diaz once Jhonny Peralta is ready to return to the lineup.  Getting some hits with runners in scoring position would go a long way to cementing a spot in the lineup.  To this point, neither has taken much advantage of these chances.

In his first season in St Louis, Gyorko has been less than compelling in RISP situations.  He’s hitting just .235 (4-for-17).  For Wong, this particular situation represents an ongoing irritation.  Last year Kolten hit just .174 (12-for-69) when he had chances to drive in a run with a hit.  To this point in 2016 his results have been worse – .136 on 3 of 22 hitting.  At some point – if he is going to stay our second baseman of the future – Kolten is going to have to start driving in some of these runs.

Thus far, closer Trevor Rosenthal leads the team in batting average against with runners in scoring position.  He has allowed one hit in 14 such at bats (.071).

Kevin Siegrist is right behind him, having hit the mid-point of May allowing 2 hits in 16 RISP at bats (.125) after holding batters to .161 (5-for-31) last year in those situations.

Seth Maness has retreated to the security of the disabled list.  Along the way, he established the team’s highest batting average against with runners in scoring position (.438 on 7-for-16 hitting).  But this has always been an issue for Seth.  Last year, his RISP batting average against was an unsatisfying .311 (14-for-45 with 2 home runs).

In 14 innings through his last two starts, Jaime Garcia has only faced three batters with a runner in scoring position.  Against Philadelphia, he faced Peter Bourjos with runners at first and third and one out.  Bourjos line into a double play to end the fifth inning.  The Angels only RISP opportunity against Jaime came in the seventh when they put runners at second and third with only one out and Johnny Giavotella and Shane Robinson coming up.  Jaime struck them both out.

There was little encouraging about Mike Leake’s first month wearing the birds on the bat – including his performance with runners in scoring position.  Eight of the first 26 he faced in those situations solved him for hits (.308).  This is another trend that has improved for Mike as April has turned into May.  Only 2 of the 11 RISP at bats against him have resulted in hits (.182).

Answers have been a long time coming this year for Adam Wainwright, who has squared his record, but has still served up 59 hits in his 45 innings (a .330 batting average against).  He hasn’t been doing any better in RISP situations, either.  Opposing hitters are 8 for 18 (.444) so far this month, and are hitting .347 (17-for-49) this year when they bat against Adam with runners in scoring position.

Scoring Change – For those keeping track at home

Howie Kendrick’s second inning ground ball Sunday night – originally ruled an error by Matt Carpenter – has been changed to an infield hit.  So, remove the error from Carpenter and change Mike Leake’s totals to show 5 hits in 6 innings (instead of 4 hits).

Victory over Dodgers pushes Cards 2 Games over in May

Even though they struggled for most of the night against yet another left-handed pitcher, at the end of the day they did just enough to win and push their May record to 8-6.  A look at some of the month’s trends at the half-way point.

With his double-play grounder in the sixth inning last night, Matt Holliday has grounded into 3 in his last 34 at bats covering the last eight games.  The team has only grounded into 5 double plays during those games.  Holliday also now possesses 4 of the 8 double plays that the Cardinals have grounded into this month.  St Louis grounded into 16 double plays in April, only one of them from Holliday.

Matt Carpenter’s home run was the 13th for the Cardinals in the last eight games and 285 at bats (one every 21.9 at bats).  So far for the month of May, St Louis has 20 home runs in 14 games and 481 at bats (one every 24 at bats).  In April, the Cards finished with 34 home runs in 24 games and 844 at bats (every 24.8 at bats).  Last year’s 137 total home runs took 5484 at bats – an average of one home run every 40 at bats.

After hitting 3 home runs in April, Carpenter now has 5 already in May.  His May slash line (after 62 plate appearances) is .306/.417/.694.  He is one of four regulars batting over .300 so far this month (Piscotty – .345, Molina – .320, and Diaz – .304 are the others along with Adams, who is hitting .310 but does not qualify as a regular).

Even as inconsistent as the offense has been this month, there’s still no regular hitting below Matt Holliday’s .259.  The same can’t be said for key bench players Brandon Moss (.216) and Jeremy Hazelbaker (.192 after hitting .317 in April).  The time-share at second is also continuing to struggle – Wong is hitting .233 and Gyorko .174 this month).

In spite of the eight strikeouts last night, the Cards in May have cut their strikeout rate by more than one per game.  April saw them whiff 201 times in 24 games (8.3 per).  Fourteen games into May, and they have only gone down on strikes 98 times (7 per game).  The baseball-wide average (believe it or not) stands at right about 8 strikeouts per team per game.  The Cards also have just 50 in the last 8 games (6.25 per).

A second successive strong performance from Mike Leake might be the best news from last night’s victory.  After a forgettable April, in which Mike was 0-3 with a 5.83 ERA in five starts, Leake is now 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA over his 3 starts in May.

In fact, almost the entire starting rotation has reversed its April trend so far in May.  Tonight’s starter, Jaime Garcia has answered a very pedestrian April (1-2, 3.73 ERA) with a (so far) exceptional May, winning both of his starts while allowing no earned runs through his first 14 innings.

But, as Leake and Garcia are rebounding, Martinez and Wacha are heading in the opposite direction.  4-0 with a 1.93 ERA, Carlos Martinez turned in quality starts all four times he took the mound in April.  He has no quality starts through his first three appearances in May, going 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA.

Michael Wacha’s five April starts produced 4 quality starts, 2 wins, 1 loss and a 3.07 ERA.  Since then, Wacha is 0-3 with only 1 QS in his last 3 games – although his ERA is still a solid 3.50.

The other starter – Adam Wainwright – is still scuffling.  His 1-3, 7.16 April has been followed with a 2-0 record in May, but the ERA shows minimal improvement at 6.23.

Jonathan Broxton spent most of April hunting for his control.  Through his first 10 innings this season, Jonathan walked 9 batters (granted, three of those were intentional).  Still, it’s a lot of walks.  Thus far in May, Broxton has issued 1 walk in six innings.

Trevor Rosenthal, in pitching the ninth-inning last night, appeared for only the fourth time in 14 games this month.  He worked in just 8 of the 24 April games.  When he walked Adrian Gonzalez, it was the seventh walk surrendered by Rosenthal in his four innings this month.  He walked only 3 in 8 innings in April.

Rosenthal notwithstanding, the walk trend among Cardinal pitchers is decidedly down.  Cardinal pitchers walked 82 batters in April (3.48 per 9 innings) leading to a .313 opponents’ on base percentage.  So far in May, there have only been 31 walks allowed (2.25 per 9 innings), contributing to an opponents’ on base percentage of just .288.

After allowing 10 unearned runs in 212.1 April innings, the Cards have already allowed 9 unearned runs in May in just 124 team innings.

The two home runs that Seager hit last night were the 17th and 18th allowed by the St Louis pitching staff in just 14 games this month.  Through 24 games in April, only 19 home runs were hit against the Cardinals.  The bullpen worked 66.2 April innings, allowing only 6 of those home runs (0.81 per 9 innings).  In May, the bullpen has already been responsible for 8 home runs in 40.2 innings (1.77 per 9 innings).

In 24 April games, Cardinal relievers inherited 28 base runners.  Nine of them came home to score – a fairly unsightly 32.1%.  Through the first 14 May games, only 9 runners have been inherited, and only one of those has scored.

Inherit the Wind Entry 7: Of Non-Verbals and Existential Moments

May 14, 2016.

It’s about a quarter to two Saturday afternoon.  We have just run through the main courtroom scene, and will be running the last scene in a few minutes.  In between, Mark has a few thoughts for us.

Director Mark Neels having a chat with the townspeople.
Director Mark Neels having a chat with the townspeople.

All About the Face

In talking about the improvements in the scene, he praised the non verbals – the faces, the focus, the interactions.  The aim is to find the life in these people.  As we run through these scenes, the essential humanity of all of these characters begins to emerge.   Mark doesn’t need to prod us anymore or coax the energy out of us.  The energy is happening on its own, now.  These are becoming very satisfying scenes.

Existential Moments

The main courtroom scene – the one that ends with Brady in the witness chair – is, of course, the critical scene of the entire play.  The drama is between Drummond and Brady, but the story is ours.  Over the course of a very long examination, the momentum of the scene switches sides several times and – gradually and individually the loyalties of the town folk (some of them) change sides.  It’s what Mark calls our “existential” moment.

The culture of this imaginary town – as with any society in general – is founded on a set of shared assumptions.  The townspeople of Hillsboro are forced to examine these assumptions.  Somewhere during this exhausting scene – in between the shouts and the amens – the good citizens of Hillboro will have (or won’t have) their own very private epiphany.  Whether they accept it or not, they will be presented with a very different universe than the one they have been brought up to believe in.

Whether or not this constitutes an imperative for the audience to examine any specific assumptions will be up to you.  I don’t think the play requires you to question your faith.  The point of the play – as we set it forth to you – is that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.  And that there’s nothing wrong with not having an answer right now.

Citizens of Hillsboro having existential moments.
Citizens of Hillsboro having existential moments.

The Set

Meanwhile, while this was going on downstairs in the cafeteria, upstairs a set was rising out of nothingness.

The set rises - May 14, 2016
The set rises – May 14, 2016

We are less than a month away, and everything (existentially speaking) is beginning to come together quite nicely.

Wacha Betrayed by Defense, Falls to Dodgers 8-4

While not his best outing by any means, Wacha’s night could have been better had he not been undone by a sloppy four-error night by his defense.  Some highs and lows:

Yadier Molina

Among the more frustrating aspects of the Cardinals’ offensive struggles last year was the inability of their right-handed batters to make a significant impact against left-handed pitchers.  Yadier Molina was a case in point.  Last year, Molina hit a soft .232 against lefty pitching, with no home runs and 14 runs batted in.  Even though he is off to a terrific offensive start this season (and he goes into tonight’s game against the lefty Kazmir with a .341 overall average), that still isn’t translating into much production against left handers.  Molina is just 7 for 29 (.241) with 4 singles, 3 doubles and 4 runs batted in against them.  Yadi has, however, managed 5 walks against lefties already this year (he walked only 16 times against them all last year) and currently owns a .353 on base percentage against them.

The bulk of Molina’s damage, then, has come at the expense of right-handed pitchers.  After his 2-for-4 last night, Yadi is now hitting .371 (36-for-97) against right handers.  Here is the note of warning, though.  In 2015 Molina maintained a .304 batting average against righties at the All-Star break.  In the season’s second half – as the workload caught up with him – his numbers against righties fell to .248.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz added a double and home run last night against Dodger right-hander Ross Stripling.  While Diaz has been plenty effective against lefties (.344/.364/.563 in 33 plate appearances), he – like most of the Cardinal right-handed hitters – has bedeviled right-handed pitchers.  Aledmys is now 32 for 79 against righties this season, with 4 home runs and 14 runs batted in.  His slash line against them is .405/.435/.734 as now 17 of those 32 hits have gone for extra-bases.

And, yes, there have been errors from time to time.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk is off to a slow start in general.  He’s actually been worse against left-handers (.161 on 5 of 31 hitting), but also hasn’t found his stroke against right-handed pitching.  After his 0-for-4 last night, Randal is now 18 for 81 (.222) when facing right-handers.  In 2015 he hit the All-Star break carrying just a .269 average against righties, but closed out the season with a .303/.398/.592 slash line against them in the second half.

Michale Wacha

Michael Wacha allowed no home runs last night, but he continues to be stung by extra-base hits by left-handed batters.  Lefties were only 2-for-7 against him last night, and are only hitting .237 against Wacha this season (14-for-59).  But both hits he allowed them were doubles (to Gonzalez and Pederson).  Of the 14 hits that left-handers have off of Wacha so far this season, 8 have been for extra-bases (3 home runs, a triple, and now 4 doubles).  Lefties are slugging .492 against Wacha thus far.

Tyler Lyons

The 192 right-handed batters that faced Tyler Lyons last year only hit .258 against him (a reasonably good number).  Then as now, the problem has been that when they hit him, they hit him hard.  He served up 9 home runs right-handed hitters (six of them after the All Star break), and surrendered his fourth to a right-handed hitter (Puig on his first pitch last night) in now just 45 at bats by right-handers against him.  Their slash line against Tyler is .289/.333/.622.

On the plus side, Lyons has gotten much better against lefties.  They are just 3 for 18 against him (.167) although one of those hits was a home run (off the bat of Jake Lamb in Arizona).

Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Broxton retired both right-handers to face him last night (one on a strikeout).  Broxton has had command issues (mostly against lefties, as he’s walked 7 of the 25 he’s faced so far this year), but he has been very strong against right-handed hitters.  They are now just 5 for 37 (.135) with 11 strikeouts against him this year.

Molina and Holliday Put On a Clinic For Old Friend

Perhaps is was just being on the field with him again, but ex-teammates Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday combined for seven hits as the Cards and Angels wrapped up their three-game series.

In outlasting Anaheim last night, the Cardinals secured their seventh win in their last ten games – and this one was a kind of a microcosm of the streak so far.  At the end of the ride, the Cards have come out ahead most of the time, but haven’t made any of it look easy.  For a team on something of a roll, they have looked all too mortal.

The offense has been at the center of this little run.  With 12 runs and 18 hits last night, they are hitting .289 and scoring 5.7 runs per game over the last ten.  They have added 16 home runs since the beginning of the Philadelphia series.  They were 5-for13 with runners in scoring position for the night and are hitting .297 (27-for-91) over the course of these games.  They hit .350 (41-for117) with seven home runs and 25 runs scored in the Angel’s series – fashioning a team slugging percentage of .590.

But the pitching staff is surrendering hits with runners in scoring position almost as fast as the offense can collect them.  Los Angeles went 5-for-11 last night, and the last ten opponents have managed a .289 average against the Cardinal staff (21-for-74) with ducks on the pond.

Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday wrapped up a bizarre series as he sandwiched Wednesday’s hitless game between a three-hit game Tuesday and last-night’s four-hit game.  He finished the series 7 for 14 (.500) with five extra-base hits (2 doubles and 3 home runs).

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina keeps on starting and keeps on hitting.  Three more hits last night brings him to .351 over the last ten games (13-for-37).  His season average now sits at .336. Molina has started all but three games behind the plate.

He did a little showing off for his friend in the other dugout, finishing the series against the Angels with 7 hits in 12 at bats (.583).

Yadi was also 1-for-2 with two strikes on him.  Over the last ten games, Molina is hitting .438 (7-for-16) with two-strikes on him.  Molina was also 2-for-2 with two-outs, and is now 6 for his last 12 batting with two outs.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s resurgence continues.  Two more hits, including another home run, brings him to 12 hits in his last 37 at bats (.324).  Eight of those hits have been for extra-bases (including four home runs in his last ten games), giving him a recent slugging percentage of .757.  He hit three of those home runs in the three games against the Angels.

Carpenter has led off an inning 19 times over the last ten games, and hasn’t drawn a walk in any of them.  He does have 9 hits (3 singles, 4 doubles and 2 home runs) so he carries a .474 on base percentage while leading off those innings.  Matt was 1-for-3 leading off last night.  During those same games, all Cardinal leadoff hitters are carrying a .296/.352/.531 slash line and are coming around to score 58% of the time they reach base.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz isn’t hitting .400 anymore, but he isn’t exactly slump-ridden, either.  A 2-for-5 night last night brings him to .333 (11-for-33) over his last nine games.

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright – after showing marginal improvement in his previous two games – took a step backwards last night.  Among the situations plaguing him are those at bats with runners in scoring position.  The Angels had hits in four of their eight RISP at bats against Adam, and over his last three starts he has surrendered hits to 8 of 18 (.444) such batters.

General Trends

Over the last ten games, St Louis has been held under 4 runs only twice, while scoring at least 5 runs in 7 of the games.  Last year, the Cardinals failed to score four runs in almost half of their games (79 games), while scoring five or more slightly more than a third of the time (53 games).  So far in 2016, the Cards have been denied a fourth run only 10 times (29%) while scoring at least five runs in 21 games (60%).  Last night’s explosion marked the eighth time already this season that St Louis has scored in double figures – a feat they managed only 9 times all year last year.

On the other hand, the Cardinal pitching staff held opposing teams to less than four runs 101 times last year (62% of their games) and surrendered five runs or more just 47 times (29%).  This year, so far, only 15 opponents have been held below 4 runs (43%), while 13 other games have seen 5 or more runs scored against them (37%).  After allowing 10 or more runs in a game only four times in all of 2015, that has already happened three times this year.

Last year, St Louis never lost a game once the fashioned at least a four-run lead, and only lost once when they led by three runs.  Conversely, they only overcame deficits of four runs or more twice last year – and only overcame 3-run deficits four times.  Already in 2016 they have surrendered a 3-run lead (the April 25th game where Arizona scored 9 runs in the sixth to win 12-7) and a four-run lead (the 9-8 loss to Cincinnati on April 16th).  On the other hand, they have already come back once from three runs down (a 10-3 win May second against Philadelphia) and twice from four-runs down (April 8th against Atlanta, 7-4; and May 4th against Philly, 5-4).

Better buckle in tight.  Looks like it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The slugging Cardinals had yet another 3-homer game last night.  Through 35 games and 1,226 team at bats, St Louis has already amassed 51 home runs.  They needed 67 games and 2,233 at bats last year to hit 51 home runs.  Yadier Molina hit that home run on June 19th (a 2-run, second-inning shot against a Philadelphia right hander named Phillipe Aumont that broke a scoreless tie and sent St Louis on its way to an eventual 12-4 win.  That team was 44-23 and five games ahead in its division.

Last night was also the 14th multiple homer game and the sixth time they’ve hit at least three in a game.  In all of 2015, St Louis managed 36 multiple home run games, hitting as many as three in a game only eight times.