Carlos Martinez was in charge again last night, with eight much-needed scoreless innings of three-hit ball, and the offense exploded late (again). A five-run fifth-inning pushed St Louis to an 8-2 win in Arizona.
Martinez authored his fourth quality start of the season (in his fourth start). With Michael Wacha (who is 3-for-4 in quality starts), the Cardinals have seven in these eight starts. The rest of the starters combined have managed 3 over the course of the other 12 games.
Last season, Martinez threw first-pitch strikes to 63% of the batters he faced. Through his first three starts this year, 71% of the batters he faced saw first-pitch strikes. Last night, he missed with his first pitch to 16 of the 28 batters he faced. It didn’t seem to matter. The 16 batters who started off 1-0 went 1-for-16 against Martinez.
During Stephen Piscotty’s rookie campaign, the first pitch thrown him would mostly set the tone for the at bat. If you were an opposing pitcher, throwing him strike one was usually a very good thing. After a first-pitch strike, Piscotty hit only .265 (40-for-151) with just 3 walks. But, if you fell behind him 1-0, Piscotty slashed .378/.480/.622 (31-for-82 with 4 home runs).
During the early part of this season, that aspect of Stephen’s game has been missing. Going into last night’s contest, Piscotty was hitting just .192 (5-for-26) when he begins the at bat ahead 1-0.
Last night, however, four of his five at bats began with a first-pitch ball. Stephen went 3-for-4 with a walk in those at bats. He most closely resembled his 2015 self in his seventh-inning at bat as he let Dominic Leone fall behind 2-0 before he teed off on the 2-1 cutter, sending it soaring over the wall in dead-center. By degrees, Piscotty is looking closer and closer to the weapon he was last year.
After his big series against San Diego, Jedd Gyorko has started the Arizona series 0-for-8. In three of his five at bats last night, Diamondback pitchers threw him first-pitch fastballs for strikes, but kept them on the corners. It’s playing with fire a bit, but if you can get ahead of Gyorko with the first pitch, you’re better off. In at bats that begin with a first-pitch strike, Jedd is hitting .192 (5-for-26). He hits .300 (6-for-20) when the at bat starts off 1-0.
With two more doubles, two more home runs, and eight more runs scored, the Cardinals hit the twenty game mark of the season scoring 6.30 runs per game and carrying a .504 team slugging percentage. In 705 at bats they have hit 32 home runs. They now have multiple home runs in four straight games, and have done this in ten of the twenty games played so far this season. It took 39 games and 1,346 at bats last year for the Cardinals to hit their 32nd home run. Mark Reynolds authored the “dinger” in the fourth-inning of St Louis’ May 19th game against the Mets’ Jon Niese in New York. The solo shot upped St Louis’ lead to 4-0 in a game they would go on to win 10-2. Their tenth multi-homer game came last year in game number 58. St Louis managed the feat only 36 times all last year.