Tag Archives: Flaherty

Nothing to See Here

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.

Goldschmidt

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.

Edman

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.

Flaherty

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.

Cabrera

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).

Reyes

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.

NoteBook

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.

Pitching Duels on Tap in Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s starting pitching was all but untouchable as they hosted their division rivals from St Louis for a three-game mid-week series that ended yesterday.  Freddy Peralta joined co-aces Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes to make life generally miserable for a Cardinal offense that was feeling pretty good about themselves as they got off the plane.

Fresh off a convincing sweep of the Colorado Rockies, the Cards ran into a buzz-saw in Milwaukee.  For 19.2 innings, that trio dominated the St Louis hitters, allowing just 2 runs on 9 hits (8 singles and a home run).  While they walked 3 (and hit another), those guys struck out 27 St Louis batters, backing their 0.92 aggregate ERA with a .134/.183/.179 batting line against.

That being said, none of the Brewer starters earned a victory in the series, and Burnes – who allowed 1 run in 5 innings – was tagged with a loss.  As St Louis heads to San Diego to open a three-game series there, they do so having taken two of the three in Milwaukee (6-1 in 11 innings, 1-4 and 2-0) because their starting pitching was just a shade better.

While not as flashy (they only managed 16 strikeouts), the Cardinal trio of Kwang Hyun Kim, John Gant and Jack Flaherty threw 16.1 innings against the Brewers giving just 1 earned run – an 0.55 ERA.

Two playoff teams from last year who are currently sitting first and second in their division, these are two teams who believe that their pitching staffs are equal to any occasion.  If pitching duels are not your thing, perhaps you should skip the rest of the games between these teams this year.  The first game went 1-1 into the eleventh.  The second game went 1-1 into the bottom of the eighth.  The finale was a 1-0 game going into the ninth.  The series, perhaps, should have come with a warning: for purists only.

These two teams have now split their first six games, with each winning a series in enemy territory.  St Louis’ current three-game lead aside, this is shaping up to be a very tight (and probably low-scoring) race to the end.

Cards Press On

Of greatest encouragement to Cardinal fans is the pitching staff’s ability to sustain these high-level performances.  They hold a 2.83 team ERA during the month of May.  They have allowed only 4 home runs all month, and the .197 batting average against them is augmented by a .282 slugging percentage.

Over the last 22 games, Cardinal starters hold a 2.19 ERA.  Batters are hitting just .202 against them.

Best With the Bases Loaded

The lone real drag on the pitching staff is its propensity to walk (and hit) batters.  What opposing offenses can’t manage by hitting the ball against them, St Louis pitchers are inclined to do to themselves with free passes.  In 105 innings this month, Cardinal pitchers have walked 54 and hit 6 others.

One of the outcomes of all of this is a league-leading number of bases-loaded situations.  In 38 games, Cardinal pitchers have dealt with 61 bases-loaded situations – nearly two a game.  That figure stands as the most in the National League.  In the eleventh inning of the first game, Alex Reyes faced Jackie Bradley Jr. and Billy McKinney with the bases loaded.  Both struck out

For all of the struggles that put them into these situations, the St Louis pitching staff has responded in enviable fashion.  Opposing batters are hitting just .111 (5-for-45) in those at bats (the lowest average in the league).  Not only are they one of just 4 teams not to allow a grand slam so far this year, they have surrendered just 2 extra-base hits (both doubles) with the bases loaded – a .156 slugging percentage, which, along with their .418 OPS with the sacks jammed, is also the best figure in the league.

The total picture, of course, isn’t complete perfection.  While hits in these moments have been few and far between, St Louis pitchers have also issued 8 bases-loaded walks (also most in the league), hit 3 others, allowed 5 sacrifice flies, uncorked 3 wild pitches – and even committed a balk.

In a way, it’s kind of been a microcosm of the Cardinal season.

Gant

Johnny Gant has kind of been the poster boy for the Cardinal pitching staff.  In matters of contact and runs allowed, Gant has had an exemplary season – especially recently.  Over his last 4 starts, Gant has an 0.89 ERA with a .197 batting average against.  Yet – even though he has been in the rotation the entire season and hasn’t missed a start, John hasn’t pitched enough innings to be a qualifying pitcher (and his season-long 1.83 ERA would have him in the top 5 in the league right now).

His nemesis has been walks.  He walked 3 more in 5 innings on Wednesday, and has walked 16 in his last 20.1 innings.  Gant has authored 26 unintentional walks in 34.1 innings – 6.82 per game.  Consequently Gant has completed six innings just once this year, leaving a lot of innings for the bullpen.

For the season, Gant has pitched with the bases empty only 49.0% of the time – and those batters have a .395 on base percentage against him.

Flaherty

While I’ve seen him sharper, Jack Flaherty completed his second consecutive scoreless outing (he had thrown seven scoreless against Colorado in his previous effort).  Jack now has 4 consecutive quality starts as part of a seven-game winning streak.  In 43 innings over his last 7 games, Jack has been touched for just one home run while compiling a 1.47 ERA and a .174 batting average against.

Cabrera

His struggles against Philadelphia now well behind him, Genesis Cabrera is starting to settle in again.  His last five appearances (covering 6 innings) have been scoreless, and he’s allowed 1 single to the last 22 batters to face him.  Even so, he also continues to invite trouble, as he has walked 4 of those batters and only 52 of his last 90 pitches (58%) have been strikes.

Reyes

Alex Reyes faced 14 batters in 3 busy innings against Milwaukee.  When Manny Pina led off against him in the bottom of the ninth Thursday afternoon, he became the only one of the 14 to bat against Alex with the bases empty.  He drew a lead-off walk.  Even taking into account the 7 runners he’s inherited across his various appearances, and the fact that both extra innings he started began with a runner on base, Alex has pitched to only 32 of his 84 batters faced with the bases empty – just 38.1%.

Home Run Dependency

The 9 runs that St Louis scored in the series were the fewest they have scored in any series so far this year.  (The 5 they allowed were the second fewest.  In an early season sweep in Miami they allowed just 3 runs).  Six of the nine runs scored on home runs.

For the season, 86 of St Louis’ 170 runs have come via the home run – 50.6%.  The National League average is 41.7%.  This over-reliance on the home run is a contributing factor to St Louis’ inconsistencies on offense.

Arenado

When Nolan Arenado’s eight-game hitting streak ended on Wednesday, he responded with 3 hits – including the game’s only run batted in – to start another yesterday.  Nolan is 16 for 46 in May (.348) with a .609 slugging percentage (4 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs.

DeJong

Paul DeJong went 0-for-6 in Milwaukee before his rib injury sidelined him.  He has hit in only one of his last 6 games, going 2-for-20 (.100) in those games.  His average for the month of May has dipped to .205 (8-for-39).

Bullpen Home Run Watch Ends

Coming within a few days of a full month without issuing a home run, the Cardinal bullpen (in the person of Ryan Helsley) was finally taken deep (by Milwaukee’s Avisail Garcia) in Wednesday’s eighth inning.

The bullpen homer-less streak reached its twenty-fourth team game (23 with a bullpen appearance) and ended after 72.2 innings, 253 at bats, 305 plate appearances and 1252 pitches.

Up until that point, Helsley – who has been much praised in this space – had not allowed an extra-base hit all season before serving up a double and the home run on back-to-back pitches.

A Sidenote: Four innings earlier, Garcia demonstrably disagreed with a third strike call – throwing both arms in the air and engaging in an extended debate with home plate umpire John Libka.  I have seen players tossed for less.  It would be interesting to know how close Avisail came to getting ejected four inning before he would become one of the game’s heroes.

NoteBook

St Louis is now 1-and-5 in rubber games.

The series averaged 3:31 even per game – exactly what the last game took.  Considering the low scoring nature of the games, it’s a little surprising that this series was the longest by average time of any series so far this season.

The Cards are now 5-3-1 in series when they win the first game.

San Diego – who took two-of-three from Colorado – will be the fourth consecutive Cardinal opponent to have won its previous series.

Arenado’s single re-gained him the team lead in game-winning-hits.  He pulls back in front of Paul Goldschmidt, 6-5.

Thursday’s shutout was the fourth authored by the Cards in their last 11 games.

St Louis had just one at bat with the bases loaded in Milwaukee, and now have just 3 in the month of May.  They had 20 bases loaded at bats in April.

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.

Any Lead Will Do

With one out in the top of the first inning on Saturday, Colorado’s Ryan McMahon lined a double down the right-field line.  It was a watershed moment on two levels.

In the first place, it was the first extra-base hit allowed by a Cardinal pitcher in 84 at bats.  If that wasn’t enough, it drove home Raimel Tapia from first base, giving Colorado a 1-0 lead.  In three games last weekend, in what has become something of a house of horrors for the Rockies, this would be their only lead of the weekend.

And it wouldn’t last long.

Cardinal starter Carlos Martinez would strand McMahon at second, retiring Charlie Blackmon on a grounder and Garrett Hampson on a fly ball.  Of the 108 Rockies who would come to the plate last weekend, these would be the only two to bat with a lead.

Batting against Colorado’s Chi Chi Gonzalez in the bottom of the first, the top of the Cardinal lineup made short work of the lead, as singles from Tommy Edman, Dylan Carlson and Paul Goldschmidt quickly tied the game.  St Louis would tack on two more before the inning ended, putting the Cardinal pitching staff back in its comfort zone – protecting a small lead.

Even though the Saturday game turned into a sloppy affair (as far as the pitching was concerned), the weekend sweep (5-0 on Friday) (9-8 on Saturday) and (2-0 on Sunday), followed the pattern of most of the Cardinal wins going back to April 20.  Over the last 19 games, St Louis is 13-6, supported by the starting rotation’s 2.42 ERA and .201 batting average against.  Against Colorado, the rotation finished with a 2.21 ERA and a .169 batting average against.

On display throughout the series, though, was just how difficult it is to take a small lead away from the Cards once they’ve gotten ahead.  For 13.2 innings during the weekend, St Louis nursed leads of one, two or three runs.  Although they flirted with disaster in many of those innings (they gave 8 walks), the team ERA with those small leads was 1.32, combined with a .130 batting average and a .152 slugging percentage.

It was evident against Colorado, but the pitching staff has been doing this all season.  For 97.1 innings so far, St Louis has clung to small leads of no more than three runs.  The team ERA in these innings is 1.66, with a .156/.264/.207 batting line (and, yes, some significant stress has been added by 41 walks and 8 hit batsmen).

A hallmark of the pitching staff in the early months of 2021 is that they have generally done their best pitching during the game’s tightest moments.  This would be a very productive trend to hold on to.

Flaherty

Jack Flaherty came two outs away from winning the season opener.  Alas, although his offense put up 11 runs for him, Jack gave 6 of those runs back and couldn’t scuffle through the 5 innings necessary to qualify.

Since that shaky outing, Jack has been every inch the elite pitcher the Cards have been expecting him to be.  In six starts since then, Jack is 6-0 with a 1.70 ERA.  He has pitched at least 5 innings in all of the games, throwing at least 6 in five of them.  He went seven scoreless in the Friday game, allowing just 3 hits.

Over his last 37 innings, the 141 batters who have faced him are hitting .172 and only have 6 extra-base hits – just 1 of them a home run – for a .234 slugging percentage.

Over the course of his seven starts, Flaherty has yet to face a single batter trailing in the contest.  Jack has pitched 11.1 innings with the game tied without yet giving up the first run.

Martinez

The starter in the Saturday game, Carlos Martinez scuffled through five innings to get the win.  Even though his streak of quality starts ended at three, Carlos, nonetheless, won his third game in a row – and now hasn’t allowed a home run in five straight starts.

Wainwright

With 8.1 innings of shutout baseball, Adam Wainwright was the star of the Sunday game.  It was his third quality start in his last 4 games.  Waino holds a 2-1 record, a 2.40 ERA, and a .198 batting average against over those starts.

Helsley

The Rockies broke through against both Giovanny Gallegos (who allowed runs in the Saturday game for the first time in a long time) and Alex Reyes (who gave up his first run the year – also, of course, in the Saturday game).

Ryan Helsley, however, keeps plugging along.  Appearing twice in the series, Ryan retired 4 of the 5 batters he faced (he allowed a walk) while picking up a save in the Sunday game.

Ryan has allowed one hit over his last 6.2 innings, and holds an 0.69 ERA over his last 13 games (13 innings).  He has allowed only 5 hits over those innings, holding opposing batsmen to a .122 average.  Ryan has yet to allow an extra-base hit this season.

Carlson

Dylan Carlson stretched his hitting streak to seven games, getting two hits in each game of the Colorado series.  Dylan finished the series 6 for 10, and is hitting .476 (10-for-21) over the course of his hitting streak.  Carlson currently sits at .367 (11-for-30) for the month, and .355 (22-for-62) since moving to the second spot in the batting order.

Arenado

Nolan Arenado is also riding a seven-game hitting streak after a very solid series against his old team.  Nolan was 4 for 12 (.333) with 2 doubles and yesterday’s home run.  Nolan is 9 for 25 (.360) with 2 doubles and 2 home runs (.680 slugging percentage) during his streak.  He is up to .364 for the month of May, with a .697 slugging percentage.  His 12 hits (in 33 at bats) include 3 doubles, and a triple to go with the 2 home runs.  He has driven in 8 runs in the 9 games this month.

During the series, Arenado was 2-for-3 when batting with the score tied – his hits were a double and the home run.  For the season, Nolan is a .343 batter (12 for 35) when he hits in a tie game.  Half those hits have gone for extra-bases (3 doubles and 3 home runs), giving him a .686 slugging percentage in those at bats.  He has 7 RBIs – including 5 game-winning hits – when the game is even.  Nolan is the first Cardinal to reach 5 game-winning hits this season.

Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt had hits in 4 of 9 at bats over the last two games of the series, leaving him 4-for-13 (.308) for the series.  Paul has looked much more locked in during May.  He is hitting .355 (11-for-31) and slugging .581 (1 double and 2 home runs) this month.

Recent Scoring Change (for those keeping score at home)

In the fifth inning of the April 29 game against Philadelphia, Andrew Knizner blooped a hit into center field in front of the on-charging Odubel Herrera.  On the dead run, Herrera tried to catch the ball on the short hop, and couldn’t handle it cleanly.  Knizner took advantage and hustled into second ahead of the throw.  Originally ruled a hit and an error, the scorers have decided that Andrew would have made second regardless (Odubel was falling as he caught up to the ball), so Knizner gets awarded a double and the error on Herrera disappears.  (And change the unearned run that Andrew eventually scored to an earned run against Aaron Nola.)

NoteBook

The attendance on Saturday (13,425) was the largest of the year – helping the series against Colorado to average 13,401.7 (also the highest of the season so far).

Exactly what the attraction of the Rockies is, I can’t say.  But it certainly wasn’t the weather.  Sunday’s game temperature of 48 degrees was the coldest since opening night in Cincinnati checked in at 37 degrees.  The entire series averaged 57.3 degrees – the coldest since opening weekend here against Milwaukee was also played in 57.3 degree average temperatures.

Friday’s win gave the Cards victories in 5 of their last 6 opening games of series.

Their win on Saturday made St Louis the first team in the National League (with San Francisco) to 20 wins.

Alex Reyes (as mentioned) was touched for his first run of the season on Saturday.  He also struck out 3 in 1.2 innings.  The second of those strikeouts (Dom Nunez) was the one-hundredth of Alex’ career, coming in just 89.1 innings.

St Louis scored first in two of the three games, and have now done so in 8 of their last 10.

In the seventh inning of the April 16 game in Philadelphia, J.T. Realmuto jumped a fastball from Kodi Whitley and launched it for a two-run homer.  That was the last home run served up by the Cardinal bullpen.  St Louis relievers have had their moments of weakness – mostly caused by control problems.  But they are also on a remarkable run of 22 games, 64.1 innings, 227 at bats, 273 plate appearances and 1132 pitches since the last home run they allowed.

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.

Everything Goes Right in Sweep of Pirates

Paul DeJong led the decisive second inning off with a walk, and Tyler O’Neill followed by slapping a single into left-field.  DeJong would be forced at third on Andrew Knizner’s grounder, but they would provide the runners on base for Harrison Bader’s three-run home run that accounted for all of the game’s scoring on Sunday (box score).

In their sometimes on, sometimes off offensive performances here in the early days of 2021, on thing the Cardinals have managed to do with better than average consistency is score the runners who get on base with no one out.  On Sunday, the Cards put four runners on base with no one out – scoring two.  For the three game series in Pittsburgh, 11 of the 16 runners who reached base before the first out was recorded found their way home (68.8%).

For the season, now, 54.9% of the time that St Louis can get a runner on with no one out, they will push him around.

In contrast, the Pirates put 13 runners on base during the series with no one out, and only managed to get 2 of them home.  It was a frustrating series for the Pirates, who brought a .500 record into the series (12-12), but were outscored 22-8 in the three-game sweep.

A Cardinal offense that hit .266 with a .505 slugging percentage managed to share the spotlight this series with a starting rotation that continues to silence opposing offenses on a daily basis.

For 19 innings this weekend against the Cardinal starters, Pittsburgh managed just 4 runs on 14 hits – 11 singles and just 3 doubles.  St Louis starters finished another series with a cumulative ERA under 2.00 (1.89) while holding the Pirates to a .219 batting average and a .266 slugging percentage.

Over the last 12 games (8 of them Cardinal wins), the rotation has shouldered 77 innings with a 1.75 ERA and a .194 batting average against.  The organization’s belief all along was that this rotation would be capable of this kind of sustained excellence.

There’s a long way to go, but so far so good.

Martinez

With equal parts inconsistency and bad luck dominating his first three starts, Carlos Martinez took the mound on April 21 in Washington with an 0-3 record and a 7.80 ERA.  Carlos would lose that game, too, 1-0 to Max Scherzer, but that game was the beginning of his turnaround.  After his 8 shutout innings on Sunday, Carlos is 2-1 with an 0.84 ERA and a batting average against of .153 over his last three starts.  The 11 hits that he has surrendered over his last 21.1 innings have been 6 singles and 5 doubles (a .222 slugging percentage).

Carlos has been this good before.  Once upon a time, he was a two-time All-Star and the ace of the staff.  Injuries and inconsistency have cost him a couple of years.  It’s been a bit of an uphill hike, but for now Carlos looks like he’s back to pitching as well as he ever has.

Flaherty

Jack Flaherty opened the 2021 season in rather inauspicious fashion.  Staked to 11 runs of offensive support, Jack couldn’t last long enough to qualify for the win (he was pulled after 4.1 innings).

Since then, Jack has won every time out (5 for his last 5).  And while on-going run support has certainly been part of it (the Cards have scored 7 or more runs for him in 4 of his 6 starts), Jack has held up his end of the bargain was well.  Over his last 30 innings, Flaherty has been touched for just 7 earned runs on 19 hits (13 singles, 5 doubles and 1 home run).  He carried a 2.10 ERA with 32 strikeouts over those 30 innings, while holding opposing batters to a .181 batting average and a .257 slugging percentage.

Jack was the starter and winner of the Saturday game (box score).

O’Neill

As much as anyone else, Tyler O’Neill was the offensive star of the series.  He went 7-for-13 with multiple hits in each game.  Only two of the hits were pulled, the other five either went to right field (including a double hit high off the right-field wall) or to dead center – where his long home run went.

Tyler has 5 multi-hit games in his last 8 contests, and is hitting .419 (13 for 31) in that span.  His hits include the double and 4 home runs.  He has 7 runs batted in during those games, and is slugging .839 in those contests.  A .173 hitter last year, O’Neill is currently third on the team in batting average, hitting a cool .270.  The longer he keeps this up, the harder it becomes not to get excited by it.

Edman

Although held hitless on Sunday, Tommy Edman had another strong series in Pittsburgh.  He was 5 for 13 during the three games, and has now hit in 7 of his last 9, hitting .324 (12 for 37) in those games.

Tommy reached base in 4 of his 7 plate appearances with no one out, over the weekend – something that he’s been very good at this year.  In 61 plate appearances with no one out, Tommy holds a .410 on base percentage.

DeJong

Paul DeJong – in addition to his walk on Sunday – hit an important home run in the Saturday game.  He still hasn’t flipped the switch though.  Paul was 2-for-12 against Pittsburgh and is hitting .121 over his last 9 games (4 for 33).

NoteBook

The 22 runs scored in the series were the most scored by the Cards in any series so far this year.  While losing two-of-three in Cincinnati to open the season, they scored 18 runs.

The seven-run margin of victory in the Saturday game was their most since they beat Washington by that same 12-5 score on April 19.  None of the games in between were decided by more than four runs.

At 3:43, the Saturday contest was the longest since the 9-4 win in Philadelphia on April 17.  That game took 3:54 to finish.

The average attendance for the series in Pittsburgh – 6,875.7 – was the lowest since the Cards played before average crowds of 4,943.7 in Miami.

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.

Just Like a Box of Chocolates

A week in the season of the St Louis Cardinals. 

Last Monday, the Washington Nationals paid a visit to Cardinal Nation and took the first game of a three-game set by a 5-2 score.  The loss was St Louis’ third in a row, and the two runs that they did score brought their run total to just 10 for the three games. 

They answered that game with a 14-3 battering of Stephen Strasburg and several relievers.  In scoring more runs than in their previous four games combined, the Cards slashed out 15 hits (including three home runs).

The next day, of course, they were shutout by Joe Ross and company, 6-0.  They finished with four hits – two singles and two doubles.

That loss sent them on the road to Philadelphia, where they were muffled by Zach Eflin by a 9-2 score.  They finished that game with 6 hits and no walks.

That loss was answered with a 9-4 pounding of the Phillies – a game that featured 8 walks, 2 doubles and four home runs.

So, naturally, the next night they were almost no hit, as Aaron Nola never broke a sweat.  He threw a 2-hit complete game in a 2-0 win.  In addition to no extra-base hits, the Cards also failed to draw a walk or take an at bat with a runner in scoring position.

Last night they journeyed up to Washington to re-visit the Nationals, and, of course, pelted the same Joe Ross who had befuddled them just one week prior.  The Cards drove Ross from the mound in the fifth inning on their way to the 12-5 win (box score).  Their 12 hits included 2 doubles, a triple and 5 more home runs.

I wonder what happens tonight.  They are slated to face embattled left-hander Patrick Corbin, who brings an 0-2 record and a 21.32 ERA into the contest.  Honestly, if Corbin throws a no-hitter against the Cards I would a hard time working up any surprise.

The famous line from Forrest Gump couldn’t fit the Cardinal season any tighter.

Most teams in most seasons go through almost rhythmic ups and downs – alternately waning and cresting as though affected by an enormous unseen tide.  It’s rarely difficult to tell whether your team is playing well or not at any particular junction.

For the Cardinals, the shift from smoking to slumping and back again generally happens on a daily basis.  They have scored at least 5 runs in 7 different games so far this season.  They are averaging 2.17 runs per game in their next contest.  They have scored less than 4 runs 7 other times this season.  They are averaging 6.86 runs in the next game.

Eventually, of course, the turbulence will end and eventually this St Louis team will define itself.  For the moment, though, it’s almost impossible to guess what is beneath the chocolate coating.

Goldschmidt

The eventual consistency of the attack may rest – as much as anywhere else – on the shoulders of Paul Goldschmidt.  Shortly after he missed a game due to back stiffness, Paul tumbled into a small 2-for-17 slump that added to the struggles of the on-again-off-again offense.  Lately, though, Goldschmidt is showing signs of coming out of it.  With three hits last night, Paul has hit safely in 3 of his last 4 games, getting multiple hits in two of them.  He is now 6 for his last 17 (a .353 average).

Edman

One game after his 12-game hitting streak came to an end, Tommy Edman was seriously starting another with two extra-base hits in last night’s game.  Tommy is hitting .322 (19 for 59) over his last 14 games.

Edman is also leading the team in batting in games after a loss.  He has started all 8, and is 11-for-33 when the Cards have lost the previous games.  His hits include a double and 2 home runs – a .545 slugging percentage to go with his .333 batting average in those games. 

DeJong

Paul DeJong had the explosive evening – he hit two home runs, including a grand slam.  His current hitting streak has now reached six games – with this being the first in which he had multiple hits.  Paul is now 7 for his last 22 (.318).  Three of the hits have been home runs.  He has 6 runs batted in during the streak, with a .727 slugging percentage.

Williams

With Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader progressing toward a return to action, Justin Williams isn’t looking like he will go quietly back to the bench.  Justin singled and homered last night.  After suffering through a 1-for-17 start to his 2021, Williams has hit in 6 of his last 8, hitting .364 over that spell (8-for-22).  With two of those hits being home runs, Justin carries a .636 slugging percentage over those games.

Justin has played in all 8 games after a Cardinal loss this season, starting 6.  In 24 plate appearances in those games, Justin has 6 singles, 2 home runs and 4 walks (2 intentional).  When the Birds have lost their previous game, Williams has a .400/.500/.700 batting line.

Flaherty

Jack Flaherty was on his way to a dominant outing against Washington until he stumbled a bit in his final inning.  The three runs were unearned as the inning was prolonged by an error, but the frame featured two doubles and an RBI single that were all hard hit.  Even so, Jack has started to warm to the new season.

After a disappointing opening game where he was staked to 11 runs but couldn’t finish the fifth, Jack has won all of his last three starts with a 1.59 ERA and a .167 batting average against.  In his last 17 innings, the only extra base hits he’s allowed are 4 doubles (3 of them last night).  The last 68 batters to face him are slugging just .233.

NoteBook

St Louis is only 3-6 over their last 9 games, but all three wins have been by 5 runs or more.

Last night’s victory was only the second time in the last ten games that the Cards never trailed in the contest.

The 12 runs scored last night were more than the Cards scored in separate, entire three game series against Milwaukee and Philadelphia.  In those earlier three-game sets against the Brewers and Philles, St Louis managed a total of just 11 runs.

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.

Adversity . . . it’s not just for breakfast anymore

Some days ago, I suggested that there might finally be a light at the end of the tunnel.  It turns out – as the old joke goes – the light was the headlights of the oncoming train.

The thought was based on the fact that the toughest teams (by record) had already been faced.  The last 23 games on St Louis’ schedule were against teams that have losing records.

Well, in the first place, they haven’t thrived.  After winning the first game against the Tigers, the Cards have lost 5 of their last 7 by every means imaginable.  Offensively, they have hit just .224 and have scored just 3.29 runs per game.  The pitching, meanwhile, has been pushed around in a way that we wouldn’t have thought we’d see very often at the beginning of the year.

The team’s great strength – the pitching staff – has been saddled with a 6.14 ERA over those games (4.63 from the starters and 8.37 from the bullpen).  Over the last 58.2 innings, Cardinal pitchers have walked 28 batters unintentionally (4.76 per nine innings) and served up 11 home runs (1.69 per nine innings).  A distressing combination.

For the most part, the pitching staff seems to be a mixture of those pitchers who have never re-discovered their feel after the isolation (Jack Flaherty,Carlos Martinez, Ryan Helsley, Andrew Miller) and those relievers who are starting to show signs of overwork (pretty much everyone else).

Another short start pushed the bullpen through the ringer against last night, as three relievers covered 5 innings with 108 pitches.  There are a significant number of weary arms as they face yet another doubleheader today.

Beyond just that, though, now the injuries have set in.  As I write this, we have no idea about whether Kolten Wong  or John Gant will be available to play, or whether they will be joining John Brebbia, Miles Mikolas, Austin Dean, Dexter Fowler and Giovanny Gallegos on the probably-out-for-the –rest –of –the-year list.  As we prepare to start the doubleheader, they are not yet certain whether their scheduled second game starter will be cleared to pitch.  Yadi Molina was hit by a swinging bat last night, but will be starting the first game.

All of this is happening on the heels of an exhausting span in which this team has played 38 games in 32 days, and have another 15 to play over the next 12.

Forget last night’s blowout (boxscore) – which has shortened their lead over their two closest competitors.  This is a ship that is taking on water on many fronts.

It wouldn’t be astonishing – I don’t think – if the Cards would fade from contention coming down the stretch.  The demands of the schedule, the fatigue of the pitching staff, the piling up of injuries.  The Cards are currently trying to settle on their fourth closer of the season, after Jordan Hicks, Kwang Hyun Kim and Giovanny Gallegos, have all been removed from the equation for various reasons.  I don’t know too many teams that could still compete having to turn to their fourth closer.  It is unclear whether the Cardinals can.

Historically, though, this is a team that has overcome adversity that would crush lesser spirits – with the storied 2011 team as the prime example.  That this team has (at 20-21) kept itself relevant through all of this is commendable.  If they are going to go on and cover themselves with glory, though, there’s a lot more adversity ahead for them to swim through.

Flaherty

In back-to-back starts against Kansas City and Cleveland, it looked like Jack Flaherty was returning to form.  He allowed just one run in ten innings during those two games.  His last three starts have shown a significant regression.

He has pitched a total of 10.2 innings over those three starts, twice failing to get through the fourth inning, while being roughed up for 14 runs on 16 hits, including 3 home runs.  His 11.81 ERA over that span is matched by a .340 batting average against, and a .574 slugging percentage allowed.

Most of that damage came last night, of course, but even dismissing that game, Jack had still given 5 runs over the 7.2 prior innings.

That’s 6 in a row for Woodford

Through his first three appearances of the year, Jake Woodford looked like he might be a promising addition to the bullpen.  Working multiple innings each time, Jake fashioned a 1.29 ERA over his first seven innings.  He still may become that, but Jake is battling through a learning curve at the moment.

Last night, when he served up the three-run home run to Keston Hiura that really broke the game open, it marked Jake’s sixth consecutive appearance allowing a home run.  In just 18.1 innings this year, Woodford has taken over the staff lead in home runs allowed with 7.

Over the six games (11.1 innings) in which he has served up one (and only one) home run, Jake has scuffled to a 9.53 ERA, a .340 batting average allowed, and a .745 slugging percentage allowed.

Through the early part of his career, Jake (a right-hander) has had much more trouble with right-handed batters.  The righties he faced last night went 2 for 5 against him with a double and a home run.  For the season, right-handers are 12 for 37 (.324) against him with 6 home runs against him to go along with the one double – an .838 slugging percentage.  Lefties hold a .206 average against him.

Edman

In a dreary evening, Tommy Edman was the only Cardinal bright spot.  He finished with 2 hits in 4 at bats.  Tommy has hit safely in 4 of his last 6 games – with 3 of them being multi-hit games.  He is 7 for his last 22 (.318) with 5 walks (a .444 on base percentage) during those games.

Apparently one of the switch-hitter’s problems is not facing enough lefthanders.  Tommy was 2 for 3 against the lefties he saw last night, and is 4 for 8 against them this month.  For the season, Edman is a .375 hitter against left handers (9 for 24).  Four of the hits have been for extra-bases (1 double, 1 triple and 2 home runs) – a .750 slugging percentage.

He only hits .240 against right-handers this season (30 for 125).  In September, he is just 10 for 49 (.204) against them, after going 0-for-1 last night.

Ravelo

After his 0-for-4 last night, Cardinal utility guy Rangel Ravelo is now in an 0-for-12 skid.  It has dropped him to just .208 for the month (5 for 24).

Molina

Another of last night’s hitless batters, Yadier Molina (who was 0-for-3 before leaving the game with a hand injury) is now just 1 for his last 13 (.077).  Molina is just 8 for 40 (.200) this month.

All of his at bats last night were against left-handed pitchers.  Always a good hitter against lefties, Yadi is just 3 for 17 (.176) against them so far this year.

Carpenter

After a hot early series against Cincinnati, Matt Carpenter is off again.  He was 0-for-4 last night, and is hitless over his last three games (0-for-8).  His average for the month has slipped to .237.

O’Neill

Tyler O’Neill was one of the many Cardinals to hit home runs in the first game of the September 10 doubleheader against Detroit.  He hasn’t had an extra base hit since.  After his 0-for-3 last night, Tyler is 2 for 15 (.133) over his last 7 games, with 6 strikeouts.  O’Neill has started 12 of the 17 September games, but is only hitting .227 (10 for 44).

NoteBook

The 15 run loss was – of course – the largest beating the Cards have absorbed this year, eclipsing by three runs the 14-2 pounding they took from Cleveland on August 28.

On the Bruhaha

In this column I try to almost exclusively focus on the game and pass by the extra-curricular stuff.  Last night’s game turned a little ugly as the Brewers started taunting from their dugout in the midst of the blowout.  For some reason, I was a little surprised at Ryan Braun’s exaggerated whinging on a called strike with his team ahead by double digits.  In retrospect, I don’t know why I should be surprised.

The Brewers have never had the reputation of being a particularly classy team – as far back as at least the Nyjer Morgan/Zack Greinke days, so stuff like this from them shouldn’t really surprise me.

Well, taunting in a game that you’re far ahead in is easy enough to do, but it does attract the attention of the karma gods.  The 2011 team was a bit like that.  And that season didn’t end well for them.

Right now, it’s a little easy to kick this Cardinal team.  I don’t have any idea if they have anything left in the tank to answer the insults tossed their way.  I do know, though, that it’s frequently a bad idea to kick the team that’s down.

My Designated Hitter Rant

As the DH seems to be a real threat in the near future – and many expect it to be universal and permanent by 2022 if not sooner – I am going to include the link to my DH rant at the bottom of all my baseball posts this year (and next, probably).  If you have already read it, you should know that I added a section on July 30 after the Cards first five games with the DH.  Here is the link.  If this idiocy is to become law, I want to do everything I can to make sure as many people as possible understand why this is wrong.

Flaherty Dominant, But

Every time Jack Flaherty takes the mound, you wonder if this will be the night.

Last night in Arizona, Mr. Flaherty threw six more hitless innings.  The only hit he allowed in his 7-inning, 11-strikeout performance came by virtue of a grounder off the bat of Eduardo Escobar that started foul, but bounced oddly fair past first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

Over his last 15 starts, Jack has allowed no runs in 8 of them.  Three different times he has gone at least 7 innings allowing just one hit.  He has another seven-inning, two-hit outing.

Over his last 99.1 innings and 368 batters faced, Jack has been reached for just 12 runs (11 earned) on 48 hits (32 singles, 10 doubles and 6 home runs).  He has notched 124 strikeouts (more than one third of the batters to face him), a 1.00 ERA, a .142 batting average and a .224 slugging percentage against him.

His record is just 6-3, though.  In the 15 games, the Cards have scored more than two support runs for him exactly four times.  Last night was the sixth time that he was left with just one run.  Another time the birds gave him no offensive support at all.

All of those trends came together last night in a kind of a nightmare of a game.  The Cards gave Jack his one run early, but didn’t score again.  Flaherty preserved his lead with 7 scoreless innings, and the bullpen served up the lead in the ninth.

Ten innings after that, Arizona won a very damaging 3-2 decision in a marathon game that lasted almost seven hours (box score).

Five starts into September, and Mr. Flaherty holds a 0.97 ERA for the month.  It is also 0.97 for 14 second half starts.

The loss hurts as the hard-charging Milwaukee Brewers have pushed their way back to 2.5 games out (1.5 games now, after the completion of Thursday’s action).  With one game left against Cincy and three in Colorado, Milwaukee may not lose again, putting the Cards in the position of having to sweep Chicago again this weekend.

This thing, I fear, will come down to the very last pitch of the very last inning.

NoteBook

Marcell Ozuna bounced into two double plays last night – giving him a career high 20 for the season.  His previous high was the 18 he hit into 2017.

Dexter Fowler’s home run accounted for his sixty-fifth RBI of the season – a career high.  His eighteenth home run ties his career high.

Fowler’s home run also gave St Louis the first run of the game for the second straight game.  The Cards have now claimed the first run in 17 of their last 22 games.

Goldschmidt’s home run gave the Cards a brief lead in the thirteenth inning.  It was his seventh late, game-changing RBI.  He is second on the team in that category.  Paul DeJong has 10.  Matt Carpenter is third with 5.

Through 157 games, the 2019 Cardinals had never played more than eleven innings.  In this century, they have played 20 innings just twice, and 19 innings only one other time.  The 20 inning games came on April 27, 2003 in Florida (a 7-6 win – they were called the Florida Marlins back then), and on April 17, 2010 at home against the Mets (a 2-1 loss).  Their previous 19-inning game this century was on August 19, 2012.  They lost at home to Pittsburgh, 6-3.

The game against the Mets also lasted exactly 6:53, meaning that last night’s game tied that Met game for the longest Cardinal game by time this century.

The Cards have now lost 4 of their last 9 quality starts, and have lost 23 times this season when their starter has given them a quality start, their most such loses since the 2016 team lost 24 quality starts.  At 51-23 in those games, St Louis is losing 31.1% of the time that their starter throws a quality start.  If that percentage holds, it will be the team’s highest since the 2014 team lost 31.9% of its quality starts.

Starting Pitching Continues Strong

The St Louis Cardinals ended their most recent homestand with an improbable four-game series against San Francisco in which the Giants didn’t score a single run off any of the four Cardinal starters.  The encore in the first series of the road trip in Pittsburgh fell short of that exalted standard.  Just barely.

With Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty in “October form,” the Cardinal starters combined for 20 innings in the series.  They gave 14 hits (10 singles, 3 doubles and 1 triple) and all of 2 runs – an 0.90 ERA backed by a .203 batting average against and a .275 opponent’s slugging percentage.

It all continued a remarkable starting pitching renaissance that has contributed principally to St Louis’ recent surges – and the Cards have won 23 of their last 30 and 55 of their last 84.  Nine games into September, and St Louis’ starters (according to baseball reference) lead all rotations in baseball with a 1.36 ERA (Atlanta is a distant second at 2.20).  The combined slugging percentage against the Cardinal starters this month (who have allowed just 2 home runs in 9 games) is just .249 – leading the season-long slugging percentage against St Louis below .400 for the season.  Now at .397, the Cards hold baseball’s third best slugging percentage against (and second to the Dodgers’ .386 in the NL).

It’s rarefied air, and this remarkable pitching effort is one of the strongest reasons for optimism as the playoffs approach.

Miles Mikolas

The only one of the Cardinal starters this weekend not to get credit for a quality start was Mikolas, and that only because he pitched just five innings – five very strong innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits.  After enduring a rocky stretch, this would have been Miles’ third consecutive quality start.

Even at that, Mikolas has still allowed just 5 runs on 11 hits (8 singles, 2 doubles and 1 home run) over his last 17 innings.  If these numbers pale somewhat in comparison to some of the other St Louis starters, his 2.65 ERA, his .180 batting average against, and his .262 slugging percentage against over these starts is still plenty good.

Miles’ two starts this month have been against divisional opponents Cincinnati and Pittsburgh – two teams that have seen him a lot.  Interestingly, of the 44 batters he’s faced in those two games, only 3 have hit his first pitch.  Across all of baseball, about one out of every 9 batters hits the first pitch.  Apparently neither the Reds nor the Pirates were getting what they expected from Miles with that first pitch.

Bullpen Misadventures

After Mikolas left the game with a 4-1 lead, the usually reliable bullpen got knocked around for the second time in 3 games.  After the Giants punched them around on Wednesday, Pittsburgh stung them for 8 runs on 9 hits over the last three innings of the game to walk off with a 9-4 victory (box score).  One of the Cardinal strengths over the course of this season, the bullpen begins September with a 5.33 ERA (ranking twenty-fifth in baseball to this point of the month).

Jack Flaherty

It is getting to the point with Mr. Flaherty that when you look at the line score and see that he allowed 5 hits in 8 innings, you assume he didn’t have his good stuff that night – never mind the zero on the scoreboard.  Jack has now thrown consecutive eight-inning starts, allowing no runs.  He is unscored on in 3 of his last 4 starts, 6 of his last 8, and 7 of his last 10.  Over his last 9 starts, he has allowed more than 4 hits just twice, and he has allowed that many just 3 times over his last 12 starts.  Flaherty has been other-worldly of late – with an 0.80 ERA over his last 12 starts (78.1 innings).

Jack has been especially devastating over his last 8 starts.  He has thrown 7 quality starts, going 6-1 in those games, with one other lead lost by the bullpen.  Over his last 54 innings, Jack has been brushed for just 4 runs – 3 earned (an 0.50 ERA).  He has struck out 65 in those innings while allowing just 25 hits (16 singles, 7 doubles and 2 home runs).  That ERA combines with a .137 batting average and a .208 slugging percentage against.  This is a nasty, nasty stretch of pitching.

August’s pitcher of the month, Jack has begun September with 16 innings of zero.  In 11 second half starts (71.1 innings) Flaherty holds an 0.76 ERA.

Offensive Contributions

Although they only scored twice in the series finale (enough for a 2-0 win), it was another productive offensive series, as St Louis finished with 16 runs across the three games.  They are now scoring 5 runs even per game in September, and 5.02 runs in 55 games since the All-Star Break.

Matt Carpenter

After fighting through an endless slump through most of the year, Matt Carpenter is finally showing signs of fighting his way out of it.  He was the only Cardinal with two hits yesterday afternoon, and, after going 3 for 4 in the series he is now 6 for his last 8.  This recent offense has pushed Carp up to the .400 level of the month.

Paul DeJong

With his 0-for-4 on Sunday, Paul DeJong had a six-game hitting streak snapped.  DeJong was 7 for 23 (.304) during the streak, with a double, two home runs and 6 runs batted in to go with a .609 slugging percentage.

Yadier Molina

Also having his hitting streak snapped on Sunday was catcher Yadier Molina.  Molina had hit in 7 consecutive games overall, and 14 consecutive games in which he had had an official at bat.  During the 14 games, Yadi hit a very loud .379 (22 for 58) with 5 doubles, 4 home runs and a .672 slugging percentage.

Dexter Fowler

Starting to struggle of late is lead-off hitter Dexter Fowler.  After a 1-for-10 series against the Pirates, Dex is just 4 for 26 over his last six games, with all the hits being singles.  He has walked just once in those games, so his batting line for September is just .154/.185/.154.

NoteBook

Fowler initiated Saturday’s rout with an RBI single in the third inning – his only hit of the series.  It held up as his fifth game-winning hit of the season.  He is now tied for fourth on the team with four other players (Carpenter, Tommy Edman, Jose Martinez and Molina) with 5.  Just ahead of them is DeJong, who has 6.  Marcell Ozuna (13) and Paul Goldschmidt (12) are vying for the team lead.

With ten strikeouts on Sunday, Flaherty now sits at 196 for his 168.1 innings this season.  With probably 4 starts left, Jack is in great position to reach the 200 mark for the first time in just his third season.

St Louis has now won six consecutive series. In their last nine series, they have won eight and split one.  After struggling on the road for much of the season, St Louis is now 35-36 away from home.  They have won 10 series, lost 11 and split 2 others on the road.  This Pittsburgh series was also just the seventh time in the 21 times they have lost the opening game of a series that they came back to force a rubber game.  They are now 5-2 in those rubber games.

St Louis continues to be the team you don’t want to try to turn things around against.  Pittsburgh was the nineteenth team to play the Cards after having lost its previous series (Colorado will be the twentieth).  St Louis has won 15 of those series, splitting 3 others.  Only the Padres – who won 2 of 3 to open our season at home – have bounced back against the Cards.  St Louis is now 45-16 (including 5-0 in rubber games) against teams that have lost their previous series.

St Louis scored first in all 3 games against the Pirates, and have scored first in their last 4 consecutive games and 6 of their last 7.

A victory tomorrow night in Colorado will give them 24 in their last 31 games.  It has been almost exactly a decade since they have managed that (August 8 through September 11, 2009).  Their 55 wins in their last 89 games is the first time they’ve managed that since June 19 through September 26 of 2015.  This has been one of this franchise’s more impressive hot streaks in quite a while.

This Rookie Can Play

If you were to glance over the Cardinal’s top 30 prospect list from last year, I wonder if the same omission would jump out to you that jumps out to me.

For nostalgia purposes, the 2018 list read Alex Reyes (1); Nolan Gorman (2); Dakota Hudson (3); Ryan Helsley (4); Andrew Knizner (5); Randy Arozarena (6).

Of the first six, only Gorman hasn’t appeared in the majors – and shown significant promise.  Continuing, we come to:

Elehuris Montero (7); Justin Williams (8); Conner Capel (9); Griffin Roberts (10); Max Schrock (11); Dylan Carlson (12) – yes Carlson, the current number 2 prospect was twelfth behind Max Schrock just a year ago.  Then we had some lower prospects who vaulted past higher rated guys:

Genesis Cabrera (13); Junior Fernandez (14); Edmundo Sosa (15).  After these guys, the rest were mostly lower level guys, but still legitimate prospects:

Luken Baker (16); Jonatan Machado (17); Jake Woodford (18); Steven Gingery (19); Ramon Urias (20); Lane Thomas – yes, that Lane Thomas was #21 last year; Seth Elledge (22); Giovanny Gallegos, believe it or not, was just our number 23 prospect last year; Wadye Ynfante (24); Johan Oviedo (25); Alvaro Seijas (26); Evan Mendoza (27); Delvin Perez (28) – remember what a big deal his selection in the first round a couple of years ago was?; Daniel Poncedeleon (now spelled Ponce de Leon) (29); and Connor Jones (30).

There are a couple of pitchers that I would have thought would have been on that list.  Austin Gomber would be one, and glaringly Jordan Hicks didn’t make the list, although he certainly would have qualified.

Also not making that list is a player who has been in the bigs slightly more than two months, and even though the positions he plays are usually manned by established major-league stars, he has so ingrained himself that manager Mike Shildt can’t keep him out of the lineup.

Yesterday afternoon, Tommy Edman (nowhere to be found on the 2018 prospect list) singled twice, drove the fifth home run of his big league career, and scored twice – every bit of that production critical as the Cards held on for a 5-4 win over Cincinnati (box score).

Fifty-four games and 185 plate appearances into his major league career, Tommy’s numbers are decidedly average.  He is hitting .271/.303/.429 for a modest .732 OPS (the major league average according to baseball reference is .761).  Nothing here – you would think – to entrench him in the lineup.

And, truthfully the numbers – at least some of the numbers – don’t suggest that Tommy is anything special.  But you don’t have to watch Mr. Edman go about his business for very long before your eyeballs tell you something the numbers don’t quite, yet.

Tommy Edman is a ballplayer.  Defensively, Edman plays everywhere.  He has started games at third, second and right field, and could play anywhere else on the diamond (not sure about catcher, but I wouldn’t be surprised).  He never seems out of place anywhere he plays.  He is a smooth, effortless fielder with a strong and accurate arm.

And he plays with a very even demeanor.  Already he has been through some slumps, but you could never tell by watching him whether he was 10 for his last 20 or 0 for his last 20.

A switch-hitter, Edman’s swing is very polished from both sides of the plate.  Already he appears very comfortable fouling off the more difficult pitches to wait for one he can put into play.

In his 16 plate appearances in Cincinnati over the long weekend, Tommy swung at 31 pitches.  He fouled off 14 of those pitches (45.2%), put 13 other pitches into play (41.9%), and missed on just 4 swings (12.9%). These numbers are mostly consistent with Edman’s performance across his brief major league stay – especially recently.

For the month of August – a month in which his 60 plate appearances ranks second to only Paul Goldschmidt’s 61 – Edman leads the team by putting the ball in play with 46.2% of his swings (the team average is just 33.7%).  He has missed on just 15.1% of his swings – which also leads the team (the average is 26.7%).

While the split in Cincinnati was a bit disappointing, those wins give St Louis victories in 7 of its last 9 games.  In those games, Tommy is 14 for 36 (.389).

For a 24-year-old rookie, Edman is very advanced.  Even if his primary numbers don’t suggest it clearly yet, everything else about Tommy suggests that he is going to be a very good player for a very long time.  For now, he is someone that Shildt will continue to find at bats for.

KoltenWong

Kolten Wong didn’t start on Sunday (possibly because Cincy was starting a lefty?) one day after his 0-for-3 interrupted a six game hitting streak (in games that he started).  There are few hitters hotter than Kolten right now.  During the streak, he hit .500 (10 for 20) and slugged .750 (2 doubles and 1 home run).

Kolten is a .381 hitter this month (16 for 42), and a .371 hitter in the second half.

DexterFowler

In game two of the series, the Cards rapped out 18 hits on their way to a 13-4 victory (box score).  For the other three games, they totaled 17 hits.  So more than one Cardinal finished the series with big numbers that were mostly the product of that one game.  Dexter Fowler is one of those.  He finished the series hitting .357 (5 for 14), with 3 of those hits coming on Friday night.

Still, Dexter has been one of the driving forces of the offense over the last 9 games.  He is slashing .310/.417/.586 over his last 36 plate appearances.

MarcellOzuna

Like Fowler, Marcell Ozuna also had 3 hits on Friday and finished the series 5 for 14 (.357).  Marcell is 10 for 31 (.323) over the last 9 games.

There has been a very subtle change in Marcell’s at bats since he returned from his injury.  Before the injury, Ozuna swung at 47.3% of the pitches thrown to him, and his at bats averaged only 4.05 pitches per.  In 16 plate appearances against Cincy, Marcell saw 72 pitches (4.50 per) and only swung at 32 (44.4%).  Since his return, the percentage of pitched that he is offering at has decreased to 40.7%, and his pitches per at bat has risen to 4.52 – the most on the team this month.

PaulGoldschmidt

Goldschmidt was 5 for 15 (.333) against the Reds, with 4 of the 5 hits going for extra-bases – including 2 home runs.  Paul is 12 for 34 (.353) over these last 9 games, with 3 home runs, 10 runs batted in, and a .676 slugging percentage.

MichaelWacha

Michael Wacha started the Thursday game and was almost on the wrong side of history (box score).  Although saddled with the close loss, Wacha did throw five encouraging innings.  Relegated to fifth starter status, Wacha has only pitched 8.2 innings this month, but in those innings Michael has induced 21 ground balls to 11 fly balls – a 65.6% ratio.  A very good sign for Wacha.

AdamWainwright

Adam Wainwright got the Friday start and the benefit of all of the runs.  Waino has had some starts where offensive support was hard to come by, but has also now had three starts since the All-Star break where the team has scored in double-digits when he’s pitched – a 12-11 win over Cincinnati on July 19, and a 14-8 conquest of Pittsburgh on July 24.

MilesMikolas

Miles Mikolas had a second consecutive rough outing on Saturday (box score).  He is 0-2 with a 6.61 ERA for the month of August, and over his last 17 starts, Miles is just 3-11 with a 4.44 ERA.

JackFlaherty

Jack Flaherty finally gave up a run this month (in the first inning of the Sunday game), but that was all the damage done against him.  In 4 August starts, Jack is 3-0 with a 0.35 ERA.  In 7 starts since the break, he holds an 0.83 ERA over 43.1 innings.

NoteBook

After making 29 consecutive starts at shortstop, Paul DeJong began Saturday’s game on the bench.  It had been the team’s longest consecutive starting streak at the same position.  That mantle reverts back to Goldschmidt, who has now made 24 consecutive starts at first base.

Ozuna drove in the first run of Friday night’s avalanche – bringing him to 10 game-winning RBIs this season, and temporarily tying him with Goldschmidt for the team lead.  Paul regained the lead with his eleventh GWRBI on Sunday.

Friday’s start was Wainwright’s twenty-third of the season.  After making just 8 starts last year and 23 in 2017, Waino is on pace to make 30 starts for the first time since he made 33 in 2016.  His 126.2 innings pitched are already his most since throwing 198.2 innings in 2016.  With 127 hits and 85 runs allowed already, Adam will also probably end up with more hits and runs given up in any season since 2016 as well.

The home run he served up on Friday night was the sixteenth hit off Adam this season – already the third highest total in his 14-year career.  His career high came in 2016 when he served up 22.

With the walk allowed, Waino has 50 for the season.  He has reached 60 walks only twice so far in his career.

Adam’s 6 strikeouts Friday bring him to 124 for the season – already more than either of the last two years.  At this pace Adam may end up with more strikeouts than in any season since he fanned 179 in 2014.

Fowler’s last healthy, full season was 2015.  He played 156 games and had 596 at bats that year, and hasn’t played in more than 125 games or had more than 456 at bats since.  Sunday was his 112th game, providing his 349th at bat of 2019.

In his three seasons in St Louis, Dexter has never had more than 111 hits.  With 5 against the Reds, Fowler already has 87 this year.  Last year he had a four-year streak of twenty or more doubles broken.  His double Friday night was his eighteenth on this season.  With his home run that night, Fowler is within 4 of his career high – 18 set in 2017.

Goldschmidt has still played in every game this year – all 122 so far.  He played 158 last year.  The closest he has come to playing all the games was 2013, when he played in 160.  He is now, also, up to 457 at bats after finishing with 593 last year.  He has been over 600 at bats in a season just once in his career.

Up, now, to 28 home runs this year, Paul is just 5 behind the 33 he hit last year.

Mikolas – Saturday’s starter – continues to gain on many of the career highs he set last year.  The start was his twenty-fifth of this year, leaving him just 7 starts away from the 32 he made last year.  The 7 hits allowed bring him to 153 already this year, after allowing 186 last year.  With 2 walks given up. Miles has walked just 25 batters this year – but walked just 29 last year.

The 5 runs scored off of him last night bring him to 72 for the season – a career high.  He allowed 70 all last year.  He also allowed 2 home runs.  Having already set a career high in that category, Mikolas reaches the 20-mark in home runs allowed for the first time in his career (he has now allowed 21).

When St Louis opened up a 12-0 lead on Cincinnati during Friday’s game, it was their biggest lead in a game since May 9, when they beat Pittsburgh by 13 runs – 17-4.

Friday’s win brought the team earned run average under 4 (3.99) for the first time all season.  The stay was brief.  After the Reds dropped 6 runs on the Cards the next night, the team ERA popped back up to 4.01.

Flaherty Overcomes Limping Offense to Down Royals

With 23-year-old Jack Flaherty in command, the Cards kicked off their road trip and kept their winning streak clicking up to four games.

Kansas City finished with no runs on 4 hits in the 2-0 Cardinal victory (box score).

The great pitching performance and the win makes things more palatable.  Truth be told, though, the Cards were as nearly dominated on 5 hits.  Only one of their runs was earned.

The storyline continues the same.  For the seventh time in 10 August games, the Cardinals were held to fewer than four runs.  They have scored just 37 runs this month, and are scoring just 3.07 runs per game over their last 14 games.

There are lots of pieces of the St Louis offense that aren’t exactly perking right now.  One fundamental thing that would make a significant difference – if they can do it – would be to put the leadoff man on base.

Last night, Dexter Fowler began the game by reaching on an error.  He eventually scored.  Paul DeJong began the second inning with a walk.  He was later erased trying to steal second.  Kolten Wong then led off the third with a double.  Even though he managed to run himself into as out as well, his hit set in motion the Cards second run.

Thereafter, the Cards put none of their last six leadoff batters on base.  Consequently, they never scored again, and only pushed two runners into scoring position – both with two outs.

This was not an isolated occurrence.  The Cards’ .301 on base percentage from their leadoff hitters (according to baseball reference) ranks twenty-second out of thirty teams.  Over the last 14 games, that on base percentage has faded to .289.  In the season’s second half, St Louis has put its leadoff batter on base just 72 times in 251 innings (.287).  Those hitters are batting just .222.

The April team that jumped out to a 20-10 record, profited from a .291/.361/.498 batting line from its leadoff hitters.  And once that batter reached base, he scored 55% of the time.

Since April, Cardinal leadoff hitters have limped along with a .211/.282/.347 batting line – with only 45% of those batters who reached eventually scoring.

It’s a number that supports one of the feelings that I’ve had about the team and lineup in general.  Lots of guys in the lineup are thumpers.  But too few of them seem to embrace the set-up roll.  If this one aspect of the offense could improve even marginally, the impact would be noteworthy.

KoltenWong

One of the players who has embraced the table-setting aspect of offense is Kolton Wong.  Kolten is pretty torrid right now.  He had 2 of the 5 Cardinal hits last night – including their only hit out of the leadoff spot.

Wong now has hit safely in 18 of his last 23 games, hitting .377 (26 for 69) as he has pushed his season average back up to .271.  The team’s leading hitter in July, Kolten holds that position early in August as well.  Ten games into the month, Kolten is 10 for 28 (.357).  He is also hitting .361 (30 for 83) in the second half.  That average also leads the team.

DexterFowler

Finishing 0-for-3, Dexter Fowler saw his six-game hitting streak come to an end.  Fowler hit .381 (8 for 21) and slugged .667 (3 doubles and 1 home run) in those games.

PaulDeJong

Every so often this season, Paul DeJong joins in the offense with a flurry of hits.  The last time was the beginning of this month when he popped 5 hits over the first two games.  He only has four hits in the 8 games since.  Over those last 8 games, Paul is 4 for 28 (.143) and hasn’t had an extra base hit over his last five games.  Over his last 15 games, DeJong has 3 runs batted in (just 1 in his last 7).  Over the last 14 games, DeJong has struggled to a .196 average (10 for 51).

My question, I guess, is that if Paul is going to start every game even if he doesn’t hit, perhaps he shouldn’t hit fifth?  Maybe he should bat lower in the order?

JackFlaherty

But who wants to dwell on shaky offense when you can talk about Jack Flaherty.

Of the myriad of high-ceiling arms in the Cardinal’s system, Flaherty becomes the first to really settle in and start growing into an elite pitcher.  Yes, one day Jack will allow another run, but it hasn’t happened to him yet this month.

His first 21 innings in August could hardly be better.  The 75 batters that have faced him have created no runs on just 8 hits (5 singles and 3 doubles).  He has struck out 26 of them while walking just 4.  It’s an opposing batting line of .114/.173/.157.  But this is just the very prominent tip of the iceberg.

Going back to the last game before the break, Flaherty has made seven starts with an 0.79 ERA over 45.1 innings.  Six of the seven starts have been quality.  In five of those starts, Jack has pitched 7 innings allowing 4 or fewer hits and never more than 1 run.  The batting line against him – from the last 168 batters he has faced – is a compelling .142/.208/.219.

The emergence of Jack Flaherty is one of the most important developments of the 2019 season.  He has become “must-watch” TV every time he takes the mound.

NoteBook

Paul Goldschmidt’s first-inning sacrifice fly stood up as the game-winning hit.  Goldy is the first Cardinal this season with 10 GWRBIs.

DeJong’s second inning walk was his forty-third of the season – a career high for the third year player.  More than that, it was the 100th walk of his career.  It took him 338 games and 1420 plate appearances, so Paul isn’t exactly a walk machine.  But he has been getting better.  Every year his walk total increases – as does the margin between his on base percentage and his batting average.

The shutout victory breaks a string of 8 consecutive games during which the Cards had trailed at some point.