Amed Rosario found out first hand.
In the bottom of the second inning, ahead of Cardinal starter Adam Wainwright in the count, 2-1, Amed got an elevated sinker from Adam just on the outside corner. Rosario scorched the ball (101.3 mph off the bat) over the head of right-fielder Dylan Carlson. Or so he thought. Getting an excellent break on the ball, Carlson chased it into the right-centerfield gap. Just as the ball was about to soar over his head, and while on the dead run, Dylan leapt and pulled the liner down. Given the exit speed and launch angle, that batted ball is a hit 65% of the time – but not last night.
In the fifth inning, he came to the plate again – this time with runners at first-and-third with two outs and the Indians clinging to a 2-1 lead. This time Waino hung a first-pitch curveball to Amed who scorched it (98.4 mph) down the third base line – but right at third-baseman Nolan Arenado, who cleanly gloved the shot and tossed to second for the force-out. That smash had an expected batting average of .453.
Now it’s the eighth inning, and Giovanny Gallegos was on the mound, trying to protect a 3-2 Cardinal lead. Rosario came to the plate with the tying run at first and one out. Gallegos’ 1-1 pitch was a 94 mph fastball on the outside edge of the strike zone that Amed drove (100.2 mph) toward the inviting grass of right field. But before it could get there, Cardinal second-baseman Tommy Edman snared it as it was about to scoot by him. Tommy made an immediate pirouette and began a lightning-quick double play that took Cleveland out of the inning.
Rosario’s only hit of the evening came on his softest hit ball, a fourth inning flyball exiting the bat at 85 mph that dropped untouched into left. Ahmed took home a 1-for-4 night on an evening where he hit four baseballs with an average exit velocity of 96.225 mph with an expected batting average of .500.
The Defense Never Rests
From the day the team assembled for their first spring workouts, the Cardinal organization boasted to all who would listen about the quality of their defense. As the season has played out – and even in spite of the multiple injuries the team has sustained – the defense has been the constant.
It has been – in fact – the only aspect of the club that hasn’t disappointed at varying times during the season.
Last night in Cleveland, the Indians put 10 baseballs in play with exit velocities over 90 miles per hour. Only 2 of them resulted in hits – Jose Ramirez’ 410 foot home run to right (106.1 mph) and a single from Bradley Zimmer that left the bat at 93.6 mph and scooted cleanly into right field. Every other time, there was a Cardinal close enough by to make a play on it.
There were three other swings of the bat that carried an expected batting average of .400 or better that only resulted in outs for Cleveland. Jose Ramirez led off the ninth with a hump-backed liner to right field that carried an expected batting average of .857 – but it was hit into the shift, and Edman was waiting for it.
The first batter of the game – Cesar Hernandez – also jumped on a hanging curve from Wainwright, driving it at 100.1 mph into right – right at Carlson. That ball carried an expected batting average of .443.
In the fifth inning, Daniel Johnson sizzled a curve down the first-base line (99.8 mph off the bat) that carried an expected batting average of .413. But the ball was in Paul Goldschmidt’s glove before anyone could blink.
Cleveland finished the game with 5 hits, 3.009 fewer than their expected harvest of 8.009 hits. For the season, Cardinal pitchers have allowed 69.248 hits fewer than expected – based on exit velocity and launch angle – and the steady and frequently spectacular defense is one reason why.
In the first game against Cleveland (a 4-2 victory), there were no high-light reel plays. But there were a handful that were more than routine. Grounders like the ones to Arenado and Goldschmidt that had to be handled cleanly and the grounder to Edman that would have been a routine out at first that became a double play through the nimbleness of Edman and shortstop Paul DeJong.
In a struggling season, it’s important to be grateful for those aspects that are functioning as hoped.
Harrison Bader continued his torrid streak last night, with a home run and two doubles. Bader has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games – with last night being his third three-hit game among 8 multi-hit games in that span. Harrison is hitting .489 (22 for 45) in those games with an .822 slugging percentage (he has 6 doubles and 3 home runs during the streak). Harrison is hitting .384 (28 for 73) this month with 7 doubles and 5 home runs. He has driven home 16 runs in 20 July games while slugging .685 for the month.
Bader’s season-long batting average now sits at .301 – a shocking development considering the struggles of his early career.
Tyler O’Neill was riding an eight-game hitting streak into the last game against Chicago just after the All-Star Break. But the hitting streak ended there and initiated another skid for the Cardinal left-fielder. After an 0-for-4 last night, Tyler is just 3 for his last 19 (.158).
The hardest baseball struck off of closer Alex Reyes came off the bat of the last batter of the evening, when Harold Ramirez drove a sinker 95.8 miles per hour into center field – where Bader put it away.
Generally, hitters do well on baseballs hit with exit velocities between 90 and 99.9 miles per hour. So far, batters achieving this against Cardinal pitchers are hitting .292 with a .405 slugging percentage. That’s not the case against Reyes. Ramirez was the ninth batter this month to hit a ball in that range against Alex. Those batters are 0-for-9. For the season, batters are hitting .229 (8 for 35) with only 1 extra-base hit (a double) on balls hit between 90-99.9 mph off of the Cardinal closer.
The crowd of 19,480 was the smallest the Cards have played before since they were in San Francisco on July 7. Only 19,067 attended that one.
Bader’s third-inning home run meant that St Louis has scored first in five straight contests.
Speaking of that home run, it left the bat at 97.5 miles per hour. It was only the second of St Louis’ 29 home runs hit this month that didn’t attain an exit velocity of at least 100 mph. Harrison hit the other one, too. On July 4 in Colorado, Harrison connected with a knuckle-curve from German Marquez that left the bat at 97.1 mph and just eked over the left field wall. St Louis has hit 13 sub-100 mph home runs on the season, and Bader has 3 of them.
My Designated Hitter Rant
Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter. Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH. While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it. So, I have re-written it here. The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks. I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.