By the second inning of yesterday’s game – with the Cards already up 6-0 – it was fairly clear that St Louis would complete its second sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the young season. The Pirates made things tighter with a three-run seventh, but in the end St Louis held them off 8-5 (box score).
St Louis is now 5-0 this year against the Bucs, and 78-51 (.605) since taking the 2013 Division Series matchup between these two teams. Series between division opponents rarely stay lopsided all season. Over the last 8 years, only the 2019 season series between these clubs (when the Cards won 14 of the 19 games) has gotten out of hand. In 2015 and 2016, the Cards won the series by the narrowest of margins (10-9). In 2014, 2017 & 2018 the margin was only slightly greater (11-8).
After an encouraging start that saw them win 12 of their first 23 games, Pittsburgh has now lost 14 of their last 19. Watching the two teams, I don’t believe that the gulf between them is that great, and by season’s end I wouldn’t be surprised to see the series standings much closer than they are now.
But for the moment, last night’s game – and the two-game series in total – had the feeling of business as usual. Nothing to see here.
The Cards, by the way, won for the seventeenth time in 25 games, moving from a season-low three games out of first to a season high 3.5 game lead in this division as they prepare to welcome the Cubs into Busch for the first time since 2019.
If nothing else, playing the Pirates right now is very good for your confidence.
After seeing his eight-game hitting streak snapped in the first game of the series, Paul Goldschmidt started another one last night. He had three hits – including the first inning double that started the scoring. None of his hits were pulled, two going to right and the other, a ringing single to center.
Paul has now hit safely in 9 of his last 10 games, hitting .317 (13 for 41) over that stretch. His hits have included 3 doubles and 2 home runs. Goldy has driven in 7 runs while slugging .537 over those last ten games.
His batting line for the month, now, is very similar. In 16 games in May, Paul is hitting .317 (20-for-63) with 4 doubles, 3 home runs, and a .524 slugging percentage.
Tommy Edman was riding an 0-for-13 streak before Pittsburgh came to town. He broke out with three very soft hits in the opener, none of them hit harder than 88.6 mph. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Tommy hit four balls yesterday, the softest leaving his bat at 98.3 mph and the other three over 100 mph – collecting two more hits in the process, and driving in a third run with a sacrifice fly.
Although he couldn’t keep his scoreless streak going, Jack Flaherty won his eighth consecutive start, throwing his fifth consecutive quality start. Jack pitched six allowing two runs. During his winning streak, Flaherty holds a 1.65 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .175 average. The last 191 batters to face him have only 9 extra base hits (7 doubles and 2 home runs) leaving them with a .251 slugging percentage. Flaherty is now 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA for the month of May.
Of the 26 batters he faced, Jack finished the at bat ahead in the count against 12 of them. Behind in the count against Flaherty is not where you want to be. Those 12 managed one single among them (.083 avg). Over his last 5 starts, he has gotten ahead in the count on 36 batters. They have two singles (one of them an infield hit) and 1 double – an .083/.083/.111 batting line with 17 strikeouts.
Pitching on consecutive days for the sixth time this season, Genesis Cabrera completed a relief shutout last night. With his scoreless inning against the Pirates, he has now allowed no runs and just 5 hits over his last 9.1 innings. He has walked 5 in those innings. Genesis has pitched in 13 of the last 25 games, with a 1.35 ERA over 13.1 innings.
The only batter that Cabrera pitched behind in the count to was Ben Gamel – who grounded out on a 3-2 pitch. Genesis is nasty to face when he gets ahead of you (batters are only 5-for-33, .152 when batting behind in the count). But getting ahead of Cabrera is no picnic either. This season batters who are ahead in the count against Cabrera are hitting .182 (4 for 22).
Alex Reyes’ dominant season as a closer continues on unabated. He pitched a scoreless ninth, dropping his ERA for the month of May to just 0.84. In 10.2 innings this month, Alex has given just 3 singles while striking out 17 (14.34 per nine innings). Alex has pitched 13 times over the last 25 games, striking out 25 in just 15.1 innings (14.67 per nine innings) with an 0.59 ERA. And both of those ERA’s are higher than his season ERA of 0.39.
Alex also pitched behind in the count just once – falling behind Gregory Polanco 3-2 before striking him out. Alex has walked some batters this season when he’s fallen behind them in the count (19 to be exact). But he has yet to give up a hit to anyone that he’s been behind. Those batters are 0 for 22.
The Cardinals managed two six-run leads (6-0 and 8-2). Those six runs were the farthest they’ve been ahead in a game since, well, the first time they faced Trevor Cahill – in a 12-5 win on May 1.
On May 3, when St Louis hosted the Mets, it looked like summer was going to skip right over spring. The game-time temperature that day was 82 degrees. Spring quickly made a comeback, and the temperature cracked 70 just once over the next 12 games. Last night’s game temperature of 77 was the second consecutive game over 70, and the highest game temperature since that game against the Mets.
That 77 degree game pushed the average for the two games to 73.5 – the highest average temperature of any series so far. The second series of the season in Miami averaged 72.7 – which was the previous high.
The Cards are now 5-for-5 in sweep opportunities.
Goldschmidt, with the game-winning hit, is now up to 6 on the season – one behind Nolan Arenado’s 7.
Edmundo Sosa was hit with a pitch again last night. That’s five times now this season in just 27 plate appearances.
Edman’s two hits bring him to an even 200 for his career (in 190 games).
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.