Over the last two days, we have looked at character games – one run games and games against winning teams. Thus far in 2017, St Louis has struggled notably in both of those situations. Today, we’ll look at my third category of character games – games after a loss. As you might expect, considering this club has already suffered through 5 three-game losing streaks, a four-game losing streak and a seven-game losing streak, the record in games after a loss is also fairly dismal (14-21).
For the first half of the month of June, it has been the starting pitching that has been most responsible for keeping this club in losing streaks. In nine previous opportunities this month to answer the previous night’s loss, the rotation has managed 1 quality start (surprisingly from Michael Wacha against Philadelphia on June 9), a 1-5 record (the win, again, belonging to Wacha), a 7.47 ERA with a batting line against of .302/.383/.497.
But last night, Carlos Martinez played stopper. In 92 pitches over 6 innings – and with a rare shower of offensive support – Martinez retired the Cardinals’ latest three-game losing streak with a convincing 11-2 victory over the floundering Baltimore Orioles (box score).
Carlos’ effort last night was his second consecutive quality start, and his ninth in his last ten games. Through his first four starts of the season, Martinez may not have completely lived up to expectations (he was 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA at that point), but has certainly played the part of the ace since. He is 6-2 over his last 10 games with a 2.26 ERA and a .173 batting average against. While the team has struggled to right itself this month, Carlos Martinez has been one of the few pillars of excellence. He is 2-1 in June with a 2.11 ERA and a soft .169 batting average against. Of the 12 hits he has allowed in 21.1 June innings, only 3 have been for extra bases – all doubles. The slugging percentage against Martinez by the 78 batters he has faced so far this month is a negligible .211.
Carlos has been warming to the stopper’s role. With a lot of losing going on, 9 of Martinez’ 14 starts have followed a loss. Carlos has come through with quality starts in 7 of the 9 games, with a 2.47 ERA. His record in those games is 4-3 (and the team is 5-4), but that speaks more to lack of run support. Last night was only the third time in those 9 games that St Louis has scored more than 2 runs.
Since he became a member of the rotation beginning in 2015, Martinez has made 34 starts in games after a Cardinal loss. He has responded with 22 quality starts and 220.2 innings during which he has allowed 189 hits (including 14 home runs) while striking out 219. He is 17-8 in those games (with three other potential wins lost by the bullpen) with a 2.94 ERA.
The fiery, passionate Martinez seems a good fit for the stopper role.
The Other Starters as Stopper
Lance Lynn has had five opportunities to halt Cardinal losing streaks. Although St Louis has only won two of those, Lynn has pitched very well in his opportunities as the stopper. He is 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA. Mike Leake has made 8 starts after a Cardinal loss. Leake is 2-5 as the stopper (and the team is 2-6 having lost the last four), but his 3.46 ERA in games after a loss suggests that Mike has pitched better than that record indicates. Michael Wacha (2-1, 5.09 in 7 starts) and Adam Wainwright (3-3, 6.16 in six starts) have struggled most as stoppers thus far. St Louis is 2-5 when Wacha starts after a loss.
Brett Cecil got off to a bad start in his relationship with Cardinal fans. Recently, he spit up a 3-run, seventh inning lead in a June 7 loss to Cincinnati. In spite of that slip, Brett has been starting to resemble the pitcher we had hoped to see this year. He threw a spotless seventh last night (yes, I know he had a 9-run lead at the time), and that difficult inning in Cincinnati was the only time in his last 12 games that he allowed an earned run.
Lots of Help From His Friends
After seeing infrequent offensive support for much of the season – and Martinez has already made three starts this year where he has pitched at least 7.1 innings without allowing a run, but has only won one of those games – Carlos has become the most recent beneficiary of the resurgent Cardinal offense. The aroused offense tallied 11 runs on 14 hits that included a double and 5 home runs. Since the second game of the Philadelphia series (the game Nick Pivetta started against them), the Cards have been averaging 6.43 runs per game, while slashing .288/.366/.515. It’s very encouraging, but there haven’t been an abundance of elite pitchers included in the barrage.
Rookie Paul DeJong played igniter last night with 3 hits, 3 runs scored and 3 runs batted in. Of the 14 major league games he’s played in, 11 have followed Cardinal losses – so this is starting to be business as usual for him. Paul is now 11 for 40 (.275) in those games.
Matt Carpenter’s hitting streak reached ten games with 2 more hits last night. It was his fourth consecutive game with at least two hits. He is 17 for 38 (.447) during the streak, with 7 doubles and 4 home runs – a .947 slugging percentage.
The streak raises Carpenter’s June batting average up to .333 (19 for 57), and his slugging percentage up to .667 for the month, with 11 runs batted in – all driven in over the last 10 games.
Carpenter has always hit very well in games after a loss. He has now played in 356 such games over his career, hitting .294/.390/.480 with 41 home runs.
Dexter Fowler also singled and homered, driving in 2 runs last night. Dexter now has hits in 6 of his last 8 games, during which he is hitting .423 (11 for 26) and slugging .846 (2 doubles and 3 home runs). He has driven in 9 runs in his last 6 games, and now has 30 for the year – 11 of them in June, where he is now hitting .306/.414/.612 for the month with 4 home runs.
Tommy Pham was one of the many offensive contributors – he also had a single and a home run. Tommy has now played in 21 games after a Cardinal loss – games in which he is hitting .313 (20 for 64) with 3 home runs and 11 runs batted in.
Stephen Piscotty was the lone starter not to join in the fun last night. Stephen’s difficult season continues. After his 0 for 4 last night, Stephen is hitting just .167 over his last 9 games (5 for 30) with just 1 extra-base hit (a double). He is down to .243 for the year.