The storied St Louis National League franchise has been, shall we say, enigmatic this season. And never more enigmatic than when they play at home. And pretty much at their enigmatic best last night. In the finale of their four-game, home-and-home against Kansas City, St Louis hit two more home runs, drew seven walks, drove the opposing starter from the mound after 4 innings, and received another quality start from their own starter without any subsequent disaster from the pen.
But, they managed only one hit other than the home runs, ran themselves out of their most promising inning, went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position, made three errors and two other plays that could have been errors, and struck out 12 times as they conjured a 4-2 loss (box score) out of a game that was theirs for the taking.
It’s hard to call this the most mystifying defeat of the season. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that – in consecutive starts – Wainwright, Wacha and Martinez combined to allow just 1 run over 21.2 innings of three consecutive Cardinal losses. But this one was certainly mystifying enough.
Since the emotion-driven sweep of the Cubs in Chicago that seemed certain to turn the club in the right direction, the enigmatic Cards are 2 and 5 and have given back most of the ground they made up in Chicago.
Since the emotion-driven sweep of the Pirates in Pittsburgh capped a season-best five-game winning streak that seemed certain to turn the club around, they have lost 10 of the last 15 and lost two more games in the standings. All this and we’re not quite to the halfway mark. I don’t know how much more enigmatic they can be, but I get the feeling that this season will not be for the faint of heart.
Perhaps the best news out of the surprisingly feeble offensive show last night was a second two-hit game from Jhonny Peralta. Jhonny has 4 hits in his last 8 at bats.
With Greg Garcia on first and one out in the seventh innings, Matt Carpenter flew out. He thus avoided grounding into a double play in his 33rd straight DP opportunity. Depending on whether you consider Matt Adams a regular, Carpenter is the hardest to double up among our regular players this season. He has bounced into 2 in the 42 opportunities he’s had to do so (4.8%). Adams is 2 for 46 (4.3%).
Carpenter, of course, retains the title of being the club’s most discriminating hitter when it comes to swinging at the first pitch of an at bat. He took the first pitch all four times last night, and has swung at only 44 first pitches all year (13.3%). Aledmys Diaz is the second most selective on the team (25.4%).
Carpenter, in fact, only swung at 5 of the 23 pitches thrown to him last night. Carp has only swung at 90 of the last 295 pitches thrown him (30.5%). For the season, swings at 37.3% of the pitches he sees. Aledmys Diaz is second again in this category, although at 46%, it’s a rather distant second. Thirteen of last night’s pitches to him were balls. This season, 41.5% of the pitches thrown to Matt are out of the strike zone. All of these are reasons why Carpenter sees a team-leading 4.28 pitches per plate appearance. The only other semi-regular or better on the team who is seeing at least four pitches is Matt Adams (4.07).
Kolten Wong’s brief five-game hitting streak ended last night. Kolten hit .316 during his streak (6 for 19) and has looked better at the plate since his recall, but still doesn’t have a major league extra base hit since he doubled off Zach Grienke back on May 22 – 67 at bats ago. Kolten ended June with a .227 average for the month (10 for 44). He was hitting .222 when he was sent down.
Through the end of May, Kolten had only put the ball in play on 37.8% of his swings. For the month of June, 40 of his 76 swings (52.6%) put the ball in play. This was the highest ratio on the team last month. Three of his five swings last night put the ball in play – although with little to show for it.
Partially because he fouled more pitches off during those first two months, Kolten saw 4.10 pitches per plate appearances through the end of May. He saw the team’s fewest pitches per plate appearances (3.31) in June after getting just 13 in his 4 PAs last night.
Matt Holliday was hitless in four at bats and now has 1 hit in his last 13 as his average begins to trend back down. He is 10 for his last 53 (.189), and finished June with a .224 average for the month. When he did hit, he did so with some pop – 6 home runs and 16 RBIs.
Through his first 234 plate appearances this year (during which he hit .265), Matt swung at 46.6% of the pitches he saw (and just 33.8% of first pitches thrown him). When he swung, he missed only 17.4% of the time, while putting the ball in play 43.3% of the time. Over his last 59 plate appearances (with its .189 batting average), Matt has swung at 55% of the pitches thrown him (44.1% of first pitches), missing on 26.1% of his swings and putting the ball in play just 36.5% of the time.
Matt Adams is on an 0-for-11 streak after going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts last night. He finished June with a .238 average after hitting .364 in May, losing steam as he went. Matt had only 4 hits in his last 31 at bats in June (.129) while striking out 11 times.
Adams didn’t offer at the first pitch in any of the four times he came up last night. During the month of June, St Louis had three players who swung at fewer than 20% of first pitches – Carpenter, 12.3%; Diaz, 16.5% and Matt Adams at 19.4%.
Both of Adams’ strikeouts were on swinging third strikes. All of his last eleven strikeouts, and 24 of his last 25 have been swinging. He had been called out on strikes seven times in his first 22 strikeouts this season.
Adams swung 8 times last night and put the ball in play twice. For the season, he only puts the ball in play on 31.9% of his swings.
Adams historically doesn’t take many strikes. During the season’s first two months, only 25.5% of the pitches he took were called strikes by the umpire. He took 8 pitches last night and had 5 of them called strikes. For the month of June, 35.8% of the pitches he took were called strikes.
For the month of June, Adams saw more pitches per plate appearances (4.28) than Carpenter did (4.25).
Greg Garcia’s first mini-slump of the season corresponds to the precise time the Cards need him to play while Diaz recoups. He was 0 for 2 last night and is 1 for his last 13. Month-by-month, the enigmatic Garcia hit .600 in April, .538 in May, and .172 in June. After striking out only 3 times in his first 26 at bats, Greg has fanned 9 times in his last 26.
When Garcia took a called third strike with one out in the ninth, he became St Louis’ twelfth and final strikeout victim of the night – and the only one to take a called strike three.
Mike Leake throws the fewest pitches per inning among the starters – just 14.71. He cleared 7 innings last night on just 102 pitches (14.57 per).
Home run prone all year, Morales home run was the only one that Tyler Lyons surrendered in 11 innings to the 38 batters he faced in June. This was in spite of the fact that Tyler was the second most fly-ball prone pitcher on the staff in June, as his 64.3% fly ball ratio trailed only Kevin Siegrist, who saw 66.7% of the batters who put the ball in play against him, put the ball in the air.
Tyler threw 19 of his 24 pitches for strikes. For the month of June, he threw strikes with 67.7% of his pitches – second only to Oh (67.9%).
After hitting multiple home runs only 36 times all last year, the Cardinals have now already had 28 multiple home run games this year. Through 78 games and 2,701 at bats, Cardinal batters have launched 106 home runs.
Through 78 games in 2015, St Louis possessed 62 home runs. They wouldn’t hit home run 106 until August 27 in Arizona, playing in game #127. Tony Cruz victimized Rubby De La Rosa with a lead-off homer in the second that increased the Cardinal lead to 2-0 in a game they would eventually win 5-3. This was team at bat # 4,290.