Cardinal nemesis Kyle Hendricks took the mound last night against his favorite patsies. Kyle struck out the side in order in the first. Still in there in the seventh, Kyle retired all three batters to face him on little pop ups. It took him ten pitches.
In the five innings between Hendricks’ first and last innings, the Cardinals advanced a runner into scoring position in each inning. They would finish the game with 9 hits – including 5 doubles – on their way to 15 plate appearances with a runner in scoring position (RISP).
They ended the game with no runs in a 2-0 loss (box score) that dropped them back into a first place tie with the visitors from up North.
In many offensive areas, this team has improved considerably since the break. Taking nothing way from Mr. Hendricks, who made it look easy last night, hitting with runners in scoring position is not a skill that the Cardinals are getting better at.
For the season, they are hitting .250 in RISP opportunities (second worst in the league to Milwaukee, according to baseball reference). Their .744 OPS in these situations leads only Miami’s .704. They have driven in 286 runs with ducks on the pond. The Marlins, again, are the league worst, just 13 behind the Cards at 273.
In the month of July, these numbers got even worse. In spite of the fact that St Louis finished the month with a 16-9 record, they were only 39 for 173 (.225) in RBI opportunities. Nine of the 39 hits were of the infield variety – with 5 of those failing to deliver a run.
Both of their RISP hits last night fall into that category. Infield dribblers by Miles Mikolas and Tyler O’Neill. Before the evening was over, St Louis would advance two runners to third – in both cases with less than two outs. In all, five Cardinals had opportunities with a runner at third.
But the zero on the scoreboard never did go away.
I can’t speak to games before 2012, but for the eight seasons that I have been tracking RISP at bats, this was the most in any game in which the Cards were shut out. Previously, they have had three games in which they had 11 at bats with runners in scoring position and were shutout anyway. Two of those three occurred in 2015 (May 22 – a 5-0 loss to Kansas City and August 22 in an 8-0 loss to San Diego). That 2015 team was also shut out by Atlanta 4-0 on October 2 in a game when they had 10 RISP at bats.
Many of you may remember that series right at the end of the season. The Cards had their division title wrapped, and ended the season with three meaningless games against the Braves. They were shutout in all three games, a harbinger to their losing the division series to the Cubs that year.
So this game was – I suppose – somewhat historic.
After rolling through Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on the road, the Cards have returned home to face contenders in Houston and Chicago – and abruptly have lost the ability to get that hit with the runner right there. In losing three of the last four, St Louis is 3 for 39 with ducks on the pond – with none of those hits accounting for runs. Two of those happened last night. The third came on Sunday afternoon against the Astros. It was the third inning, and the Cards already trailed 2-0, but had runners on first and second with one out against Wade Miley. O’Neill delivered the single to left, but Tommy Edman running from second couldn’t advance past third.
For those of us who still have concerns about this team’s character, this is an unsettling trend.
Paul Goldschmidt has been on quite a tear lately. He has been hitting lots of singles and home runs, but almost no doubles. Curiously, a hitter who is annually over 30 doubles had only hit 10 coming into last night’s game. He slashed 2 against Hendricks – getting left on base both times.
The hits extend Paul’s hitting streak to 9 games – games in which he is hitting .378 (14 for 37) with 9 extra base hits (7 of them home runs).
With that, Goldschmidt wraps up a month that might very well get him some votes for player of the month. Goldschmidt hit 11 home runs and drove in 27 runs for the month (25 games), while batting .308/.360/.725.
Ironically, the red-hot Goldy was the only Cardinal starter not to get a RISP opportunity last night.
Kolten Wong also ended July on a strong note. While his hitting streak hasn’t been as noisy as Goldschmidt’s it has been encouraging. With his 2 singles last night, Kolten has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 starts – hitting .390 in those games (16 for 41).
Wong ended the month as the Cardinals’ leading hitter. Kolten hit .357 in July (25 for 70).
As with Adam Wainwright the night before, Miles Mikolas came within one out of a quality start. Also, like Waino, Mikolas allowed just one run. That’s where the similarities mostly ended. Mikolas’ run was unearned, and the run Waino allowed wasn’t enough to get him beat.
Miles took another tough loss, but wrapped up an excellent month of July. In 5 starts he tossed 3 quality starts (and almost a fourth). In his 30.2 innings, he maintained a 2.93 ERA. Miles walked just 4 batters all month, while allowing just 2 home runs.
Over his last 8 starts, Miles has pitched to a 2.64 ERA.
On the reverse end of the RISP discussion, much of Mikolas’ improvement has come in this situation. Miles is a guy who gives up a lot of hits, so there are almost always RISP opportunities against him. Through the end of June, opposing hitters where battering Miles to the tune of .296 (21 for 71) when they had those shots against him.
Last night, the Cubs were just 1 for 6 against Miles in RISP situations. For the month just ended, batters were only 4 for 23 (.174) against him with ducks on the pond.
Gallegos ends July with an 0.69 ERA in 13 innings for the month. He closes the month on a 9-game scoreless streak in which he’s allowed 2 hits over 12 innings – leading to an .053 batting average against.
Giovanny has stranded all of the last 10 runners he has inherited, and has been absolutely brilliant when pitching with runners in scoring position. In July, batters were 0-for-12 in RISP at bats, and for the year they are just 3 for 39 (.077) in this vital situation.
Although the run was unearned, John Gant surrendered a run in his third straight outing. He was also touched for 2 doubles in 1.2 innings. Gant finished July with a 4.50 ERA over 10 innings.
John Brebbia gave the Cards at least the chance of a comeback with a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 ninth that featured 2 strikeouts. Since returning from paternity leave, John has pitched 15 innings over 11 games with a 2.40 ERA and a .170/.214/.226 batting line.
Miles Mikolas may not get enough credit for his durability. Miles made his twenty-second start of the season last night – after making 32 last year.
While Miles has been much better since the break, his rugged first half has him on the brink of re-setting most of the career highs he set last year. The 6 hits allowed last night bring him to 133 for the season. He allowed 186 last year. The run scored off him was the fifty-ninth of the season – he allowed 70 last year. The walk he allowed was just the twenty-first he’s given up this year, but he walked only 29 last year.
Kolten Wong, having his healthiest and perhaps best season, played in his 105th game last night. The 127 he played in last year were the second most of his career. In the only other “complete” season Kolten has had in the big leagues, he played 150 games in 2015.
Mostly because he is playing everyday, but also because he is having a better season, Kolten is already about to eclipse (and in some cases has already eclipsed) last year’s numbers with still two months left in 2019. He already has 334 at bats after getting 353 last year. With his two hits last night, Wong has equaled last year’s 88 hits. After rolling up 137 total bases last year, Wong has 131 already this year.
With his stolen base last night, Kolten has not only more than doubled the 6 he stole last year, but has matched the 15 he stole in 2015. His career high is the 20 he stole in 2014.
St Louis has now surrendered the first run in each of the last five games, and in seven of the last eight.