Tag Archives: Gallegos

In the Playoffs, You ride Your Bullpen

Kwang Hyun wasn’t terribly pleased with his outing.

A revelation during the season, Korean legend Kwang Hyun Kim struggled all afternoon to find that inside corner against the right handers that San Diego slotted in against him.  When, with two out in the fourth inning, Kwang Hyun walked Trent Grisham, bringing up San Diego’s wunderkind Fernando Tatis Jr., Kwang Hyun’s afternoon was over – in spite of the fact that St Louis still had a 3-run lead when Kim left.

Whether it was nerves, the mound, the strike zone, an unfamiliar opponent – or just one of those days that befall all pitchers from time to time, Kim’s inaugural major league playoff appearance yielded a disappointing line of 3.2 innings, 3 runs on 5 hits (including a triple that could have been caught) and 2 walks.  Only 44 of his 76 pitches found the strike zone (57.9%).  Until such a time as he gets another opportunity (whether it’s this year or some other time), Kwang Hyun’s playoff ERA will sit a 7.36.

It certainly could have been worse.  Spacious Petco yielded 2 sacrifice flies, but no big flies – not to the Padres at least.

Had this been an April or May game (of course, no one was playing baseball in April and May), Mike Shildt would almost certainly have given him a longer leash to let him find himself – especially a decorated veteran with a three-run lead.  But now, suddenly, it’s the playoffs.  And in the playoffs, you ride your bullpen.

Of course, we remember (those of us who have been around a while) Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson for Arizona in 2001 – and, for that matter Chris Carpenter in 2011, pitching a complete game shutout against Philadelphia and firing six excellent innings against Texas in Game Seven of that year’s World Series.  But that is, by far, the exception.

Even in St Louis’ 2011 championship year, the bullpen was the unsung hero.  Eight times in 18 playoff games, the Cardinal starter failed to last 5 innings.  Toss out Carpenter’s starts, and 7 of the other 12 starters left the bulk of the game to the pen.  For the playoffs that year, Cardinal starters accounted for 92 innings.  The bullpen threw 68.  Chris Carpenter notwithstanding, the bullpen covered 42.5% of the playoff innings.

Like it or not, in the playoffs you live or die with your relief corps.

That being the case, the St Louis bullpen took their first step forward yesterday afternoon as they covered the last 5.1 innings of St Louis’ 7-4 Game One victory (boxscore).  They allowed 1 run (unearned) on just 3 hits.  The hard-hitting Padres only hit .176 against the Cardinal bullpen – although that number comes with a few caveats.

First – as has been their pattern – the Cardinal bullpen came out throwing the ball very, very hard, but with varying degrees of control.  In their 5.1 innings they walked 2 and hit 2 others.  Putting runners on base in front of the Padre’s big bats is a concerning trend – which brings me to the other caveat.

The Padres can hit the fastball.  Alex Reyes picked up the save in his very first playoff game, retiring all 4 batters he faced.  But all four jumped on his high octane fastballs and returned them with more exit velocity than they came in with.  They were all hit at someone, but they were all well hit.

As to the bullpen, yesterday’s victory brought the reliever’s ERA down to 1.58 in 40 innings over their last 13 games.  The Cards have won 9 of the 13.

A Bit of Déjà vu

And with that, St Louis begins its latest playoff journey with a 1-0 record.  I am not even beginning to predict that this team will “go all the way.”  But I will acknowledge that this whole scenario has a very familiar feel.

The sneaking into the playoffs on the very last day evokes warm memories of both the 2006 and 2011 teams – champions both who were listed (as this team is listed) as underdogs in every series.  In 2006 St Louis lost its primary closer (Jason Isringhausen) to a hip problem in September.  Into the breach stepped Adam Wainwright (then just a rookie prospect) to stabilize the closer’s role – beginning in San Diego that year.  The 2011 team sifted through several closers before deciding on Jason Motte – a hard-throwing setup guy, who had all of 3 career saves through his first 3 seasons and 136 appearances.  This year, the closer spot has been a revolving door, again.  But – as of the last day of the regular season – it looks like the ninth-inning will belong to Reyes.  Both Reyes and Wainwright earned their first playoff saves in San Diego.

The unique adversity faced by this year’s team is reminiscent of the hardships thrust upon the 2011 team – not just the injuries, slumps, bad luck and a seemingly insurmountable 10-game deficit of the early part of the season, either.  People often forget that 2011 was the year that manager Tony LaRussa suffered through a nearly disabling bout with shingles.  It was also the year that Jeannie Duncan – pitching coach Dave Duncan’s wife – was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  Few teams have overcome so much.  Truly a season of triumph and tragedy.

If the tragedies are fewer for this team, the struggles and hardships have a familiar ring to them.  This franchise has been in this exact position before, eking its way into the playoffs where they will be facing an array of teams that they aren’t supposed to beat.  Not to make any bold predictions, but team history suggests that anything can happen.

Helsley

Taking over for Kim in the fourth, Ryan Helsley got out of trouble in that inning, and then tossed a 1-2-3 fifth.  Sent out again to start the sixth, Ryan surrendered the double to Tommy Pham that led to the unearned run.  It was the first hit off of Helsley in his last 6 innings.

Two of the 5 batters that Ryan faced found themselves in two-strike counts.  Manny Machado popped out on a 2-2 pitch and Wil Myers struck out on a 2-2.  Over his last 6 games, Ryan has backed 15 batters into two-strike counts.  They are 0-for-13 with 2 walks and 7 strikeouts.

During the season, batters are just 2 for 23 (.087) when Helsley puts them in two-strike counts.

Gallegos

It’s quite a small sample size (20 batters faced) but since Giovanny Gallegos has returned to the team after recovering from his groin strain, he has been plenty sharp.  He walked 1 of the 5 batters he faced yesterday, but otherwise had no issues, striking out 2.  Three of the batters found themselves in two-strike counts.  Tatis and Eric Hosmer both fanned, and Pham grounded out.

Batters are always in two-strike counts against Gio.  The two yesterday make 13 of the 20 he’s faced since he’s been back (65%).  Those batters are 0-12 with 1 walk and 9 strikeouts.  For the season, 68.4% of the batters that face Gallegos (39 of 57) find themselves in two-strike counts.

Reyes

Alex gave up some line drives, but finished another fine outing.  He appeared 8 times in September (11.1 innings), picking up a win and a save while posting a 2.38 ERA and a .209 batting average against.  Alex allowed just 1 extra-base hit (a double) to the 49 batters he faced in September.

Kim

Kwang Hyun continues a recent pattern of struggles from the rotation.  Even while St Louis has won 9 of 13, the starters have only a 4.16 ERA in those games.  Kim has made 3 of the starts, lasting just 14 innings with a 5.14 ERA and a .291 batting average against.

Over those games, Kim has suddenly developed difficulty in putting hitters away.  San Diego was 4-for-7 against Kwang Hyun when they had two strikes on them.  Over those last three games, batters in two-strike counts are hitting .343 (12 for 35) against Kim.

Molina

If its playoff time, that must mean that Yadier Molina is heating up.  Yadi had 3 hits yesterday, and is hitting .381 (8 for 21) over his last 6 games.

Yadi helped put the finishing touches on Padre starter Chris Paddack when he slapped a 2-2 pitch down the left-field line for a double.  When Yadi is hot he is just as dangerous with two-strikes on him as he is with none.  Over his last 11 games, Molina is 6 for 20 (.300) with a home run to go along with that double (.500 slugging percentage) in two-strike counts.

For the season, Yadi is a .221 hitter with two strikes on him – well above the major league average of .167.

Carlson

Rookie outfielder Dylan Carlson has been a vital part of the turn-around.  After his 2-for-3 with a double and 2 walk performance yesterday, Carlson is hitting .308 over the last 13 games.  He is slugging .641 in those games with 8 extra-base hit (5 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs), and has driven in 11 runs.

Dylan saw 24 pitches during his 5 plate appearances yesterday – more than anyone else on the team – and ended the day in two-strike counts in every at bat.  With his two hits, Carlson is 6 for 23 (.261) with two strikes on him over the last 13 games.

DeJong

After a seemingly endless slump, Paul DeJong is turning the corner.  With his 2 hits last night, DeJong has now hit safely in 5 of his last 6, hitting .333 (6 for 18) over that span.  He also walked twice and was hit by a pitch yesterday, bringing his on base percentage to .455 over those games.

Fowler

With his fifth-inning single, Dexter Fowler snapped an 0-for-15 skid.  He went on to add another single that drove in a run in the ninth.

Dexter’s two hits came on a 0-0 pitch from Pierce Johnson and a 2-1 pitch from Trevor Rosenthal.  Fowler hit .406 (13 for 32) during the regular season when hitting before strike two.

NoteBook

Paul Goldschmidt’s two-run first inning home run marked the sixth time in the last 9 games that the Cardinals had scored the first run of the game.

Partially as a result, they have not trailed in 5 of their last 8 games.

At 3:53, the first playoff game was the longest game played by the Cardinals since their 12-inning loss to Cleveland on August 29.  It was the longest 9-inning game since August 18 when they lost a 4:09 game in Chicago.

At 91 degrees, this was also the warmest game played by the Cardinals since August 24, when they beat Kansas City 9-3 in 95 degree heat.  The hottest road game played by the Cards this season was against the White Sox on August 15.  The first game of that doubleheader was played in 86 degree heat.

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.

Where Has All the “Slug” Gone?

Of course, the 1-0 fastball is not assured.  1-0 is still early enough in the count that most pitchers aren’t afraid to come back with a breaking pitch.  That being said, if you’re a pitcher who has a mid-nineties fast ball and you’re behind in the count 1-0, you’re probably a little more likely to come back with that fastball.  If you opt for the curve or the change, then it’s possible that you might try to be a little too perfect with it, trying not to go behind 2-0.

Whatever the approach, the 1-0 pitch is one of those that major league hitters generally look forward to.  Across all of baseball (numbers found in baseball reference), batters are hitting .352/.357/.641/.998 on that 1-0 pitch.

Would it surprise you to learn that of all major league teams, your St Louis Cardinals have baseball’s worst OPS on this particular pitch?  If you’ve been watching this team, I suspect that this wouldn’t surprise you at all.  At .731, they are more than 200 points below the league average on this count, and 30 points behind the next-worst team (Arizona at .761).  They are also last in slugging percentage (.434) on that pitch.  Anytime a hitter is ahead in the count, the major league average slugging percentage sits at .508.  Cardinals ahead in the count slug .426 (fourth worst in the majors).

What does this mean?  Let me answer that with two pitches from last night’s game.

Leading off in the first inning, Kolten Wong took the first pitch of the game for a ball.  Kansas City starter Carlos Hernandez came back with the 1-0 fastball, up a little and over the outside part of the strike zone.  Wong took it the other way, but didn’t really drive it, hitting a looping little fly to left.

Now, it’s the eighth inning.  Paul DeJong is up with two outs.  This time the count is 2-1, but the concept is the same.  A fastball count, and looking – one might assume – for something to drive.  Jesse Hahn – now on the mound for the Royals – gives Paul the fastball at about 94 mph on the upper, outside corner of the zone.  DeJong also goes the other way, but with no authority, his lazy fly ball to right closing out the inning.

It’s a trend you almost can’t help but notice.  As a team, these guys can turn reasonably well on the inside fastball.  But that outside fastball – especially in a fastball count – has been repeatedly frustrating.

Addressing the media after last night’s 4-1 loss (boxscore), manager Mike Shildt talked about the offense and it’s missing “slug.”  As of this morning, St Louis’ season-long slugging percentage sits at .374, the fourth worst in baseball.  Only Pittsburgh’s 46 home runs are fewer than St Louis’ 48.

As far as approach goes, there’s nothing wrong with the opposite field strategy.  Baseball’s elite sluggers can effectively pull the outside fastball, but even they will – more often than not – take it the other way – and to good effect.

Across all of baseball, batters hitting the ball to the opposite field are slashing .318/.314/.501/.815.  When the Cardinals hit the ball the other way, they slash .253/.243/.398/.640.  They have 4 opposite field home runs all year.

I hope you are understanding that I don’t present this as “the answer.”  The season-long hitting issues that have plagued this team are a complex question involving a lot of moving parts.

But if you’re wondering where the “slug” has gone, this is one place that it is definitely missing.

Fading Offense

After finishing with just 6 hits last night, the Cardinal team batting average sinks to .229 for the month of September.

Molina

Yadier Molina was the only Cardinal with multiple hits last night – he had 2.  Things may be starting to turn a bit for Yadi, who has two hits in two of his last 4 games – a span in which he is 5 for 13 (.385) with a home run.

Yadi got his hits in spite of being behind in the count both times.  As the most aggressive swinger on the team, Yadi as almost always behind in the count (as he was in 3 of his 4 at bats last night).  For the season, Molina ends an at bat behind In the count 40.3% of the time – the highest of any Cardinal regular.

Wong

Kolten Wong has recently been playing through a muscle issue in his side.  How much that injury is affecting his game is difficult to divine with any accuracy, but his production at the plate has fallen off.  He is 1 for 12 (.083) over his last 4 games.

DeJong

Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Paul DeJong is now riding an 0-for-11 streak, part of a larger .077 streak (2 for 26) over his last 8 games.  Both hits were singles.  Back in the second inning of the September 11 game against Cincinnati, DeJong lined a double against Luis Castillo.  That was his last extra-base hit – 44 at bats ago.

Paul is now at .215 for the month (17 for 79).  He has 2 extra-base hits this month, that double and a home run (off the Cubs Colin Rea), that was 64 at bats ago.

Paul made his thirtieth consecutive start at shortstop last night – thirty games that have accrued over the last 26 days.  When you see a guy whose bat is starting to look slow, and you notice that he plays every day, it’s hard not to wonder if fatigue is part of the issue.

O’Neill

The struggles continued for left-fielder Tyler O’Neill.  Hitless in 2 at bats before being lifted for a pinch-hitter, Tyler is hitting .135 (5 for 37) over his last 15 games.  He is down to .197 (13 for 66) for the month.

Carlson

Recently returned to the big-league scene, top prospect Dylan Carlson has had some encouraging moments.  But mostly, the struggles have continued.  Dylan was 0-for-3 last night, and is 1-for-10 over the last 3 games (with 5 strikeouts).  He is 3 for 14 (.214) since his recall, and 3 for 20 (.150) this month.

Webb

Last night’s contest did feature another excellent performance from Tyler Webb, who came in with the bases loaded and extinguished that threat in the sixth.  He then added a perfect seventh.

Over his last 12 games (13 innings) Tyler has surrendered 1 run on only 11 hits (10 singles and 1 double), while walking 3 and striking out 12.  He has an 0.69 ERA over those games, with a .229/.269/.250 batting line against.  His ERA for September is down to 0.84 (10.2 innings).  He has stranded all of the last 9 runners he has inherited.

During his outing, Webb struck out Bubba Starling on an 0-2 pitch, and then retired Nicky Lopez on an 0-1 pitch.  Tyler may not seem imposing on the mound, but he is nasty to deal with if you fall behind in the count.  Twenty-four batters have now hit against him from behind.  They have two singles to show for their efforts.

Gallegos

Erstwhile closer Giovanny Gallegos came off the injured list and got roughed up for a run in his two-thirds of an inning.  It’s been a tough September for Gallegos, who has allowed, now, 6 runs in 4 innings.  The 23 batters he’s faced in September are celebrating to a .316/.435/.526 batting line.

Even though he’s been away for awhile, true to form, Giovanny did not pitch from behind.  Only one of the five batters he faced worked his way ahead in the count (Maikel Franco managed a 7-pitch walk).  For the season, Gallegos has faced 47 batters.  Only 9 have hit ahead in the count against him.

Elledge

Seth Elledge came in to retire the last batter.  Seth is up to 6.2 innings this month, with a 1.35 ERA.  Batters only have 4 hits against Seth, and are hitting .182 against him this month.

NoteBook

With another opening game loss, the Cards have lost the first game of four straight series, six of the last seven, and eight of the last ten.

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.

Masters of the Two-Strike Count

Joey Votto took Dakota Hudson’s first three pitches of the game.  Dak got strikes on the first two before missing with the slider.  With the count now 1-2, Hudson came back with a fastball.  This pitch would serve him well on this evening, but this particular fastball was up and out over the plate.  Joey chopped it over the mound and over the second base bag.  Shortstop Paul DeJong got to it, but had no play – infield hit for Votto.

By game’s end, this would be a mere footnote in the Cards 7-5 victory (boxscore), but in a sense, they almost should have stopped the game and given Joey the ball.  That hit snapped an 0-for-27 streak that batters had against Hudson when in two-strike counts.  The streak stretched back to the first inning of the August 16 game against the White Sox when Tim Anderson bounced a 3-2 pitch through into right for a single.

Votto’s single would also be the last two-strike hit the Reds would get last night.  Thirteen more would go down against Hudson, and six more against the bullpen.

During his two-strike no-hitter (of sorts), Dak struck out 12 of the 27.  Ten others grounded out.  Of the five that managed to get the ball in the air against Dakota, two were infield pop-outs.  The last 13 Cincy batters to face Hudson with two strikes on them either struck out (7) or grounded out (6).

Clearly two-strikes is a bad place to be with Hudson on the mound.  Especially since the season re-started for the Cardinals, Dakota has employed that slider/heavy sinker combination to deadly effect.  Over his last 4 starts, batters are 2 for 42 (.048) against him in two-strike counts.

The Cardinal pitchers, who (at .133) have baseball’s third lowest batting average once they get to two strikes (according to baseball reference), have four other prominent pitchers holding batters under .100 in these counts.  Hudson’s is the lowest – the others being Alex Reyes (.063), Giovanny Gallegos (.067), Kwang Hyun Kim (.080), and Jack Flaherty (.091). 

For their part, the offense was only 3 for 19 (.158) with two strikes on them.  Yet two of those were two of the most important hits of the game – both coming with two outs as well.

With the game tied at one in the second inning, Kolten Wong fell behind Cincinnati starter Anthony DeSclafani 0-2 with runners on first and third (and two outs).  Kolten poked a fastball the other way through the left side for the single that gave the team the lead it never relinquished.

Two innings later, St. Louis loaded the bases (with two outs) for DeJong.  Paul capped a six-pitch at bat by jumping on a 3-2 slider that hung down the middle of the plate, launching it over the centerfield wall for his first career grand slam.

Few things in baseball are more deflating than surrendering important hits with two strikes and two outs.

Starters Still Flexing

For the evening, Hudson finished 7 innings allowing just 1 earned run on only 4 hits.  Hudson has tossed consecutive quality starts, and over his last 4 starts, Dak holds a 1.66 ERA.  He has surrendered just 10 hits over those innings, only 2 for extra-bases.  Opposing batters are hitting just .137 against Hudson with a .192 slugging percentage since the re-start.

Over their last 21 games, Cardinal starters hold a 2.62 ERA with a .166 batting average against.

Gallegos

Picking up where he left off last year, Giovanny Gallegos picked up last night’s save.  He has allowed no runs so far through 8 innings, and barely any hits.  Both batters Giovanny faced last night were quickly forced into two-strike counts and both struck out.  So far Gallegos has faced 24 batters this season – with 16 facing a two-strike count.  His ratio of 66.7% is the highest of any Cardinal pitcher who has faced at least 20 batters.  Of those, nearly two-third (10) strike out.  That percentage (62.5) is the highest on the staff of any pitcher who has faced at least 10 batters.

He may prove difficult to remove from the closer’s role – even after Jordan Hicks comes back next year.

Goldy

While the big hit and the due accolades will go to the other Paul in the lineup, Paul Goldschmidt was 3-3 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch last night, picking up where he left off at the end of the homestand.  Goldy is now 6 for his last 12, and is hitting .359 (23 for 64) since the team came out of quarantine.

Goldy drove in a first inning run with a double on an 0-1 pitch.  The count on him was 2-1 leading off the third when he was hit by a pitch.  He walked on a 3-1 pitch ahead of DeJong’s grand-slam in the fourth. The count was 2-1 in the sixth when he singled.  He finished in the eighth with an infield hit on a 1-1 pitch.

This seems to have become Goldschmidt’s comfort zone during a plate appearance.  He rarely offers at the first strike, but doesn’t want the pitcher to get the advantage that comes with that second strike.  So he is – especially after the re-start – sitting on that second strike.  He is 13 for his last 25 (.520) with a .760 slugging percentage in one-strike counts over the last 21 games.

Wong

Kolten’s RBI single snapped an 0-for-15 skid.  His average had dwindled to .202 before he finished with 2 hits in his last 4 at bats.

Edman

Tommy Edman continued his resurgence from a sluggish start to the season.  Edman had his second consecutive two-hit game last night, and has now hit safely in 7 of his last 8.  He is hitting .344 (11 for 32) in those games.

Much like Goldschmidt, Edman has been thriving on that one-strike pitch since the end of the quarantine.  Both of last night’s hit came on one-strike pitches, and Edman is 9-for-20 (.450) over the last 21 games on those pitches.

DeJong

About the same time that Edman started to figure things out, Paul DeJong, playing in his second game since the quarantine, also started to click in.  One game after he contributed three hits in the finale against the Indians, Paul slapped out two more hits (including the big home run) against the Reds.  DeJong has hits in 6 of his last 8 games – with four of those being multi-hit games.  He was 0-for-4 in his first game back on the field.  Since then, he is a .406 hitter (13-for-32).

B Miller

After settling into the everyday designated hitter role, Brad Miller has hit his first little dry spell of the season.  Hitless in 4 at bats last night (with 3 strikeouts), Brad is now 0 for his last 10.

Carpenter Draws a Walk

Matt Carpenter did, indeed, draw a walk (two, actually) and came around to score a run after one of them.  Matt has drawn at least one in 9 of his last 11 games, for a total of 11.  And while that certainly has value, actual hits off of Carpenter’s bat have been notably rare.  Over his last 7 games he is 1 for 18 (.056) and over the last 11, Carp is a .100 hitter (3 for 30) with only one extra-base hit.  Carpenter is down to .181 for the season.

But he is walking a lot.

Carlson

After a brief surge, Dylan Carlson’s average has plunged back below the .180 mark (he’s at .176).  Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Carlson is now 1 for his last 12 (.083).

NoteBook

Paul Goldschmidt’s first-inning RBI double drove in the first run of the game.  The Cards had gone eight games (since their August 24 game against Kansas City) without scoring the first run of a game.

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.

Cards Can’t Take Control of Central

When the Cardinals’ plane landed in Denver prior to last Tuesday’s game against the Rockies, St Louis had won 23 of 30 games and climbed from 3.5 games behind in the division to 4 games ahead.

But the magic seems to have vanished somewhere over the mountains.  Last night they were pushed around by Washington, 6-2 (box score) their fifth loss in the last eight games.

And so, the division is still sitting there for the taking.  The Cardinal lead is down now to just two games over both Chicago and Milwaukee.  St Louis has 11 games left – only four at home.  Increasingly, it is looking that the 2019 National League Central Division will be decided in Wrigley Field beginning Thursday night.

All but on life-support when they arrived in St Louis, the Milwaukee Brewers – after taking two of three from the Cards – are now well positioned to make the playoffs again.  While they do end the season with six games on the road, the Brewers have no winning teams left on their schedule.  As long as they take care of the business before them, they will almost certainly gain on either the Cards or the Cubs, as those two teams will play each other seven more times before the season ends.

And if those games are fairly even divided, Milwaukee could easily swoop in and take the division.  To say the least, it will be a very interesting two weeks.

Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna, of course, was the hero of the Monday game – his home run and double accounting for all the Cardinal offense.  He followed that performance with an 0-for-3 last night.  Unfortunately, that latter result has been much more the norm than his Monday show.

Over his last 19 games, Marcell has had multiple hits in just 2, while being held hitless in 12 of them.  Marcell is 9 for his last 69 (.130).  Counting his 4 on Monday, Ozuna has 9 runs batted in over those 19 games.

He is now a .155 hitter for the month (9 for 58).

Marcell – who was 0-for-2 against Washington starter Patrick Corbin – has been one of the most prominent right-handed bats that have never really punished left-handed pitching.  He is 13 for 72 (.181) against lefties.  He hit .314/.362/.533 against them last year.

Giovanny Gallegos

There was more damage done to the bullpen last night, as a 3-2 game got out of hand over the last two innings.  The Cardinal bullpen has slumped to a 4.67 ERA this month.

But in the midst of this trouble, Giovanny Gallegos – who was dinged for a couple of runs over a few recent games – has started to look very much like his old self.  He pitched to 4 batters last night, and struck out 3 of them.  Giovanny holds a 1.29 ERA in the second half over 28 innings.

Much valued for his ability to dominate left-handed batters, Gallegos struck out both he faced last night.  Lefties are now 0 for 12 with 7 strikeouts against Giovanny this month, and 4 for 45 (.089) with 19 strikeouts in the second half.

John Gant

It was when John Gant entered the game that things started to go seriously awry, as John continues to regress severely from his early season dominance.  Gant faced two batters, giving a hit and a walk.  One of the runners scored after he left the game.  John has seen runs scored against him in 5 of his last 10 games, a 7.1 inning span that has seen him give 10 runs (9 earned) on 10 hits and 11 walks (1 intentional).  He has allowed the last 42 batters to face him a .323 batting average and a .500 on base percentage.

He is up to 6.86 with the ERA in the second half.

NoteBook

St Louis has now lost 3 of the last 5 quality starts they’ve received from their rotation.  It brings them to 48-22 on the season in games in which they’ve received a quality start.

They have now lost more quality starts than any Cardinal team since the 2016 team finished 56-24 in those games.  They are now up to 31.4% of these games lost – the highest rate since the 2014 team (62-29) lost 31.9% of the time they got a quality start.

In allowing one of the two runners he inherited to score, Ryan Helsley has now seen 6 of his 11 inherited runners cross the plate (54.5%).

St Louis had scored first in six consecutive games prior to last night.

Cards Still Can’t Buy That Two-Out Hit

When Nolan Arenado scooped up Paul Goldschmidt’s short-hop smash to his right, his momentum carried him momentarily to the foul side of the third-base bag.  Nolan righted himself and tossed the ball to first, where Goldschmidt gained a hard-earned infield hit by sliding under Daniel Murphy’s attempted tag.

And just like that, St Louis had the tying run on first base.  It was the eighth-inning, with Colorado holding a 2-1 lead.  It was St Louis’ first two-out hit of the game.

It would also be their last.

Such a threat as the hit presented was extinguished 5 pitches later when Jairo Diaz struck out Marcell Ozuna.  One inning later, Tommy Edman’s double-play grounder ended the game – a 2-1 Rockies win (box score).

In an offensively ragged first half, the St Louis Cardinals ranked near the bottom of the majors in most offensive categories.  As the calendar has flipped to the second half, the birds have notably improved in most of those categories.  But not when it comes to hitting with two outs.  According to baseball reference, the Cards have the fourth fewest two-out runs batted in (219), the fifth fewest two-out hits (366) and two-out home runs (45), the fifth lowest two-out slugging percentage (.377), the sixth lowest two out OPS (.699), and the seventh lowest two-out batting average (.235) in all of the majors.

These situations are not improving.  Since the break, the Cards with two-outs have just 16 home runs, 89 runs batted in, and a .234/.320/.374 batting line (a .694 OPS).  The league average two-out batting line, by the way, is .244/.324/.421 for an OPS of .746.  In spite of the fact that they are 6-4 so far in September, there is still no two-out offense to speak of – a .208/.300/.321 batting line.

Most days the pitching and the runs put up before the second out is recorded are enough to get the victory.  Every so often, though, this flaw comes back to haunt.  Last night was one of those nights – particularly in the fifth when Dexter Fowler grounded out with the bases loaded, and in the seventh when Jose Martinez struck out with runners on first and third.

For the season, St Louis is hitting .216 with runners in scoring position and two outs (fourth-worst in all of baseball and second only to Miami in the National League).  Their 162 runs batted in in that circumstance is also fourth-worst in baseball and second worst (again to Miami) in the NL.

It’s not hard to see something like this costing this team in the playoffs – should they get there.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong contributed singles in successive at bats against San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner back on September 4.  Since the second of those singles, Wong – who has been the team’s offensive catalyst for most of the second half – has started to cool for the first time in a long time.  He endured his second consecutive hitless game last night, and is just 4 for his last 21.

Paul DeJong

Also in a recent slump is Kolten’s double-play partner, Paul DeJong.  Paul is also hitless over the last two games, and has 1 hit in his last 14 at bats.

Paul has hit 2 of the team’s 8 home runs this month, but among only 7 hits in 34 at bats (.206).  In addition, he has just 2 walks this month – holding him to a .243 on base percentage.

Michael Wacha

It is hard to imagine manager Mike Shildt doing this with either Jack Flaherty or Dakota Hudson, but for the second start in a row, Mike pinch-hit for starting pitcher Michael Wacha very early in the game.  Last Wednesday against San Francisco, Wacha threw 2 scoreless innings and was removed for a hitter.  Last night, he was removed after 4.  These actions suggest that Wacha doesn’t have Shildt’s total trust – and there is little reason that he should.

Since his return to the rotation seven starts ago, Wacha has been decent – but not spectacular.  He has pitched a total of 30.1 innings in those games, with an 0-3 record and a 4.45 ERA.

Getting that third out has been a sticking point for Wacha all year, but especially in the second half.  Colorado hitters were 2 for 6 with a walk with two outs against Michael last night.  Since the break, two-out batters are roughing Wacha up to the tune of .327/.403/.527.

Ryan Helsley

Ryan Helsley remains one of the intriguing arms – not just for the rest of this year, but for 2020 and beyond.  He pitched two innings of relief last night, and has worked more than one inning in 9 consecutive appearances.  Over his last 4 games, Ryan has given 1 run (unearned) on 8 hits over 9 innings, walking 2 and striking out 9.  He has a 1.04 ERA over 17.1 innings since his final recall from AAA.  In 19.1 second-half innings, Ryan has an 0.93 ERA with a .208 batting average against.  None of the last 80 batters that he has faced have managed a home run against the talented right-hander, and are slugging just .278 against him.

Ryan got a double play to end the fifth inning, so the only batter he faced with two outs last night was Sam Hilliard in the sixth.  Of all Cardinal pitchers who have faced at least 30 batters with two out in an inning, only the injured Jordan Hicks (.091) holds a lower batting average against than Helsley’s .139.  After Hilliard grounded out, those batters are 5 for 36 against Ryan.

Giovanny Gallegos

Giovanny Gallegos closed out the game with two scoreless, hitless innings.  Giovanny has scuffled a bit recently, but he still holds a 1.46 ERA over 24.2 second half innings.

NoteBook

St Louis never managed a lead in last night’s game.  At some point in each of the previous eleven games they had held at least a one-run lead.

Cards Come From Behind for Another One-Run Win

In many ways it was a signature loss in what – at the time – looked like it was a season-defining spiral.  The date was May 28, and the Cards were in Philadelphia.  The birds had just come off a disappointing home stand, in which they had lost 3 of 5 to Kansas City and Atlanta.  Once 20-10, they had now fallen to 26-26, already 4.5 games back in the division.

Against the 31-22 Phillies, the offense got to work early.

Seventeen pitches into his evening, Phillie starter Nick Pivetta had already served up 3 runs on home runs by Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna.  But, as happened all so often in the season’s early days, the offense checked out after they put their early 3 on the board.  For the entire rest of the game, St Louis batsmen bounced two singles and drew two walks – and, of course, scored no runs while striking out 11 times.

Philadelphia began its comeback against Adam Wainwright in the third.  A two-run double from Bryce Harper brought them to within one.  In the fourth inning, a two-run homer by Cesar Hernandez gave Philadelphia the lead.  And concluded the scoring for the evening.  Not yet a legend, Giovanny Gallegos worked a six-up, six down seventh and eighth (striking out three).  But with no more offense coming, the effort availed nothing.  The Cards lost 4-3 (box score).  Philly would push them around the next night, 11-4, to complete St Louis’ 6-18 collapse, and drop them to 26-28, five games in arrears in the division.

The interest in this particular game – other than the fact that it was a general blueprint for most of their losses in May – was that it was their seventh consecutive loss in one-run games.

And that provided a very convenient storyline for 2019.  The team that was almost good.  That competitive little bunch from St Louis that’s almost good enough to win.  One-run games are one measure of a club’s character.  At that moment, the Cards were 5-15 in one run games – almost all you would need to know about a team that was two games under .500.

The season then began to turn ever so quietly.  St Louis managed to claim the finale against Philly, and braced for a visit by their rivals/nemeses from Chicago.

With the confidence of Cardinal Nation somewhat compromised, a first-inning 1-0 Cardinal lead wasn’t overly inspiring.  And sure enough, Cub pitcher Yu Darvish settled in.  St Louis only pushed one more runner into scoring position in Darvish’s six innings.

Luckily, Cardinal pitcher Miles Mikolas was as good – he held the Cubbies to 1 run over his seven innings.

The bullpens took over in the bottom of the seventh, and did so in dominant fashion, combining to retire the next ten batters.

Now, there was one out in the top of the tenth inning, and Daniel Descalso worked a walk from then closer Jordan Hicks.  A wild pitch promptly moved him into scoring position, with Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant coming up.  With the Cardinal offense looking like it would never score again, this seemed to be that moment that this game would slip away.

But Hicks stood up to the moment.  He struck out Schwarber and got Bryant on a routine grounder.

One out into the bottom of the inning, Kolten Wong stung Chicago lefty Mike Montgomery for a double.  After two walks loaded the bases, Matt Carpenter beat the Chicago shift with a looping fly ball into the wide open space down the left field line.  And St Louis had a surprising 2-1, ten-inning win (box score).

As the Cardinals’ route back into the heart of the division race has been more than a little serpentine, it is hard to call this the moment when the season turned.  However, from the moment that Carpenter’s fly ball touched down in left field through last night’s win, St Louis is 40-30.  Including, now, wins in 10 of their last 13 games, this has become the most sustained stretch of solid baseball we have seen from this club this year.

As far as one-run games go, that evening against Chicago did change everything.  Last night’s 6-5 victory (box score) was the twentieth one-run game St Louis has played since the Philadelphia loss.  They have won 13 of the 20, bringing their season record in one-run games to 18-17.  The pace has accelerated in the second half.  Since the All-Star Break, the Cards are 7-3 in one-run games.

The one sustained constant in this turnaround is the sparkling Cardinal bullpen.  Last night – in support, again, of Mikolas – the Cardinal pen closed out the last three innings giving no runs on no hits and two walks.

Over the last 20 one-run games, the bullpen has pitched to a 2.68 ERA, allowing 52 hits over the 74 innings they’ve pitched in those games – a .200 batting average against.  Only 12 of those hits have been for extra-bases (7 doubles and 5 home runs) for a slugging percentage of just .285.

This bullpen has also been central to the recent 10-3 streak.  They have worked 42.2 innings over those games with a 2.32 ERA, a .193 batting average against, and a .247 slugging percentage against.

Over the last 13 games. The Cardinal bullpen has served up just one home run (Pittsburgh’s Pablo Reyes took Andrew Miller deep in the ninth inning of the August 11, 11-9 victory).

The starting rotation has shown occasional flashes, and literally every other game the offense comes through with a handful of runs.  But the constant through it all has been a mostly dominating bullpen.

Giovanny Gallegos

Gallegos’ evening last night was brief.  He took the mound to start the eighth inning, holding a one-run lead, and facing Rockie slugger Nolan Arenado as the tying run.  Giovanny tossed 3 pitches, got a fly out, and turned the ball over to Miller.

Gallegos has now pitched 18 innings over 15 second half games.  He has given just 1 run on 6 hits (4 singles, 2 doubles), while striking out 20.  Gio holds an 0.50 ERA, while holding batters to a .100 batting average and a .133 slugging percentage.

This just in.  Gio is pretty darn good.

Gallegos has also been a big part of the bullpen dominance in one-run games.  He has pitched in 12 of the 35 with a 1.35 ERA in 13.1 innings.

Andrew Miller

Miller finished up the eighth throwing 7 pitches. All of them were strikes – an uncommonly sharp outing for the lefty who has walked 9 batters in the last 10.2 innings.  Andrew now has a 3.00 ERA and a .140 batting average against in his 15 second-half innings.

Andrew has now pitched in 23 of the 35 one-run games this season.  Like last night, these have been some of his better efforts, as he holds a 2.95 ERA across 18.1 innings in these games.  While striking out 25 batters, Miller has allowed just 12 hits – 10 singles and 2 home runs.

Miles Mikolas

After beginning the second half with a series of strong performances, Mikolas has gotten back off track.  Last night’s starter lasted six innings, giving up 5 earned runs for the third game in a row.  Over his last 16 innings, Miles holds an 8.44 ERA, and has allowed 5 home runs.  In 4 August starts, Miles is 0-2 with a 6.85 ERA and a .308/.337/.538 batting line against.

Last year, 11 of Miles’ starts ended up as one-run games.  He was 6-0 with a 2.91 ERA in those games.  He is 1-3 this year in 7 starts that have ended as one-run games, with a 4.71 ERA.

Paul Goldschmidt

Goldschmidt has been one of the key cogs in the Cardinal resurgence.  With his two singles last night, Goldy is hitting an even .300 (15 for 50) over those last 13 games.

Tommy Edman

Tommy Edman has also been hot.  After his two hits last night, Edman is hitting .354 (17 for 48) with 2 doubles, a triple and a home run over the last 13 games.

Edman has been scorching in the one-run games played in the season’s second half.  He is 16 for 37 (.432) with 4 doubles and a home run – a .622 slugging percentage.

NoteBook

Now in his seventh season, Carols Martinez has never pitched an entire big league season without making at least one start.  That seems more and more likely to happen this year.  After posting a total of 7 saves in his first six season, Carlos nailed down his fifteenth of this season last night.  It was his thirty-second game of the season.  Last year, he pitched in 33 games (18 starts, 15 relief games).  That total is the second most games he has pitched in in the majors.  In 2014, he pitched in 57 games (7 starts).

Lost in his miserable 2018 season (when he posted just a .576 OPS) was the fact that during the two previous seasons, Dexter Fowler OPSed .840 and .841.  The slump-dominated season was also the third straight season that his health was compromised.  Both of those issues seem to be behind Dexter this year.

Last night was Fowler’s 116th game of this season, leaving him with 363 at bats.  Since 2015 he hasn’t played in more than 125 games or collected more than 456 at bats.  His home run was his ninety-first hit of the season.  He has never had more than 111 during his time in St Louis.

Meanwhile, that home run was his fifteenth of this season.  His career high is the 18 he hit in 2017.  He also drove in a career high 64 runs that year.  He is up to 52 already this year.

After hovering just under 4 for the past few games, giving up 5 runs to the Rockies has pushed the team ERA back up to 4.00.

The Cards have now won the first game of four of the last five series.

Fall probably isn’t truly on its way yet, as it’s still late August.  But last night’s game temperature of 72 degrees was the second time in the last three games that the official temperature was below 80.  At 72 degrees, last night was the coolest game in St Louis since June 26.  They lost to Oakland 2-0 that evening in 70 degree weather (box score).

Of course, another sign of autumn is the starting of the school year.  Possibly, the combination of it being a school night (Thursday) and the visiting team sporting a losing record contributed to a disappointing attendance total of 36,465.  That constituted the sparsest crowd at Busch since only 35,819 showed up to an April 22 game against Milwaukee.  The folks who stayed away missed a good one – a 13-5 Cardinal win (box score).

Cardinal Righty Sends Messages and Zeros to Brewers

The first tense moment of a fairly interesting series between the Cards and the Brewers came in the top of the very first inning.  Cardinal starter Dakota Hudson had retired the first two batters to bring up Christian Yelich.  Mr. Yelich – as you might remember – was quite the trouble-maker when these two teams bumped into each other ten times in the early weeks of the season.

Now, with Hudson falling behind in the count, 2-1, the next four pitches of the game would send a series of clear messages to the visiting Brewers.

Behind in the count, Dakota threw his change-up.  The message sent: even behind in the count, these Milwaukee mashers shouldn’t expect to get fastballs.  The change dropped low, bringing the count on one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters to 3-1.

Three batters into the game, and Hudson had gone to his first three-ball count.  It would not be the last time.  Hudson would face 24 Brewers on the evening.  He would pitch behind in the count to half of them – and 10 of the 24 would work their way into three-ball counts.

Behind, now, 3-1, Dakota still didn’t bring the heat.  Yelich got a perfect 3-1 curve that dropped in for a strike.  That pitch sent two early messages.  First was that Dakota Hudson can throw that curveball for a strike at any point (both strikes in the at bat, so far, had come on curves).  The second message was that Mr. Hudson would not be caving in.  He was clearly more concerned about serving up home runs than he was the occasional walk.

On 3-2, Christian did get that fastball – that very heavy, sinking 96 mph fastball.  Throughout the bulk of the evening, Dakota would pound the low strike zone with this pitch, but this one was elevated and inviting.  Yelich took his best hack, but could only foul it off.

The seventh pitch of the at bat was the only slider that Dakota threw him this time up – and he bounced it in the dirt – ball four.  These would also be trends.  The Milwaukee at bats against Hudson would be long and grinding enough that he would walk four Brewers and expend 111 pitches to work his way through the 24 batters.

On the surface it would seem a near-perfect scenario for the Brewers.  Grinding at bats that would result in a lot of walks and eventually some damaging shots.

But the damage never came.

Stubbornly and relentlessly pounding the low strike zone, mixing his pitches fearlessly, and killing a lot of worms, Dakota Hudson stayed a step ahead of the Brewers all evening.  When he had thrown his last pitch to the last of those 24 batters, Dakota had given 4 walks and struck out 7 others.  Of the other 13, 9 hit the ball on the ground, and only 4 batters got the ball into the air.

And none of them managed a hit.  When manager Mike Shildt came to get Hudson, with a runner at first and two outs in the seventh inning, there were only zeroes showing across the board for Milwaukee.

If there was to be a no-hitter tonight (and no Cardinal pitcher has thrown a no hitter since about a week before 9/11) the bullpen would have to finish it off.  That didn’t happen, although they did come close as St Louis took game one of the series against their division rivals, 3-0 (box score), allowing just one hit.

At one point earlier this season, Dakota Hudson tossed 8 consecutive quality starts.  In those 50.2 innings, Hudson allowed just 1 home run and pitched to a 2.49 ERA while getting 62% of hitters to hit the ball on the ground.

Over his next 8 starts, though, Dakota began to get away from that.  Hitters started taking that sinker, trying to get him to elevate it.  Over his next 35.2 innings, Hudson served 9 home runs and allowed a batting line of .319/.415/.582 to go along with a 5.55 ERA.  Most telling, only 47% of the batters hit the ball on the ground.

Over his last two starts, the ground ball has come back (67%), and with it a 0.00 ERA over his last 12.2 innings.  And last night, a near no-hitter.

Giovanny Gallegos

Right-hander Giovanny Gallegos would eventually give up the hit.  A fairly soft fly ball off the bat of Yasmani Grandal dropped just fair down the right-field line in the eighth.  Gallegos would give nothing else over his inning.  Gio thus continues a remarkable second half that has seen him work 17.2 innings over 14 games allowing just 1 run on 6 hits (4 singles and 2 doubles).  He holds a 0.51 ERA over those innings.

Giovanny had Grandal backed up in the count 1-2.  The hit that ended the no-hit bid was the only hit (in 13 at bats) off Gallegos this month when he has been ahead in the count, and just the second in 27 such at bats in the second half.

Offense Still Off its Feed

Overlooked due to the outstanding pitching was another uninspiring offensive effort.  The Cards finished with 3 runs on 5 hits.  The runs scored on a groundout, a flared single into left, and a towering home run off the bat of Paul DeJong.

Over their last 20 games, the Cards are scoring 3.6 runs per game, with a .241/.301/.380 batting line.

NoteBook

Andrew Miller finished up last night’s game – his fifty-sixth game of the season.  Already appearing in more games than his injury-plagued 2018 season (37), Andrew is one appearance behind the 57 games he pitched for Cleveland in 2017.

His intentional walk of Christian Yelich was Andrew’s twenty-first walk of the season.  That is his most in any season since he became a full-time reliever in 2012.

Dexter Fowler is now up to 113 games played and 353 at bats this season.  In his two previous seasons in St Louis, he played in only 118 and 90 games, getting just 420 and 289 at bats respectively.

His RBI single was his eighty-eighth hit of the season.  His first season in St Louis he finished with 111 hits.

With his two strikeouts last night, Fowler has now gone down on strikes 102 times this season – his most as a Cardinal and the most since his 124 strikeout season with the Cubs in 2016.

When Kolten Wong played 127 games last year, it represented the second highest total of his major league career (he had played 150 in 2015).  Last night was his 121st game of this year.

The run he scored last night was Wong’s forty-fifth of the season.  He scored just 41 times all last season.  The 55 runs he scored in 2017 are the second most of his career – second to the 71 he scored in 2015.

Kolten was also plunked by a pitch for the twelfth time this season – the third consecutive season he has been hit by at least 12 pitches.  He was plunked 14 times last year.

With the shutout, the team ERA dips back below 4.00 (to 3.98).

Runners, Runners Everywhere – But Not a Hit to be Had

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.

As it turned out, he never would get home.  Paul DeJong struck out and Matt Wieters grounded out.

For those of us who still have concerns about this team’s character, this is an unsettling trend.

Paul Goldschmidt

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

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).

Miles Mikolas

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.

Giovanny Gallegos

As with the night before, Giovanny Gallegos relieved in the sixth with runners on base (only two last night) and ended the inning getting a flyball from Kyle Schwarber.

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.

John Gant

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

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.

NoteBook

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.

Waino Plays Stopper Again

The memory is surprisingly vivid even a month later.  It is June 29.  The Cardinals – on the road in San Diego – were getting hammered 12-2.  After the game, the young Padres were cavorting on the field.  They were careless, happy and hot.  Although they weren’t expected to contend, at that moment they were 42-40 and just a game and a half out of the last wildcard spot.

In the other dugout, the Cardinals (who had vowed to make it back to the playoffs this year) wandered off the field like a team caught in a nightmare that they couldn’t wake up from.  That loss was their fifth in a row.  It dropped them to 40-41 on the season.  They were 4 games behind the Cubs in the division, and a game and a half behind San Diego in the wildcard race – three games behind the last spot, with four teams in between them and the last playoff spot.

This was the statistical half-way point of the season, and this team was under .500.  They were also at that point 20-20 in games after a loss.  While – to the best of my knowledge – no one else tracks games after a loss, I consider it a fairly useful barometer of a team’s character and resourcefulness.

For some background, no Cardinal team this century has finished below .500 in games after a loss.  The 2017 team finished a century-worst 39-39 in games after a loss.  That team finished 83-79 and 9 games out.

Throughout the century, coming into this year, the Cards (including playoffs) were 809-596 – a .576 winning percentage – after they had lost the game before.  Five times this century, this team won over 60% of their games after a loss.  All of those teams made the playoffs.

The seven versions of the Cardinals that have failed to make the playoffs this century are a combined 294-246 (.544) after a loss, while all of this century’s playoff teams have gone 515-350 (.595) after a loss.

The concept is simple enough.  Everybody loses games now and then.  But the tough teams resist getting that second loss pinned on them.  Stay out of losing streaks, and things will generally pan out well for the season.

Throughout the bulk of the season, the issue in games after a loss has been on the mound.  St Louis has lacked that stopper’s mentality from the next day’s pitcher.  Through the end of June, the next day’s starter carried a 4.86 ERA and a .281 batting average against.

On the last day of June, Miles Mikolas put his foot in the ground and began something of a turnaround.  He contained the exuberant Padres for 6 innings, leaving the game trailing, but only by a 3-2 score.  With a nearly impeccable bullpen (which has been a strong part of this story) holding the line, St Louis tied the contest thanks to an eighth-inning error, winning finally in the eleventh on Matt Wieters’ two-run home run (box score).

With the end of the season’s longest losing streak, came a reversal of fortunes for both teams.  Gravity has since caught up with the Padres, who have floated out of playoff contention.  For their part, the Cards used that emotional win to fashion the 16-8 July record that has surged them to the top of the division.

At the close of last weekend’s series against Houston, the Cardinal momentum looked like it may have stalled, as St Louis was defeated fairly soundly on Saturday and Sunday.

And so, yesterday they again needed a starter to take the mound and put an end to the losing streak.  As it has been so often over the last decade plus, that starter was Adam Wainwright.

The Cubs gave as good as they got from Waino, but by the end of his 5.2 inning stint, he held the game at a 1-1 tie.  The bullpen, again, threw airtight relief, and a late home run off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt sent the Cards into sole position of first place by a 2-1 score (box score).

This was now the 147th time that Adam has taken the mound after a Cardinal loss in his storied career.  The Cards are now 96-51 (.653) in those games.

Meanwhile, St Louis has gone 5-3 this month (including 4-1 over the last 5) in games after a loss – improving them to 26-23 for the season in this category.  In the 8 games after a loss this month, the rotation has come up strong with a 3.40 ERA and a .245 batting average against.  The bullpen has been even better in these games with a 1.88 ERA and a .152 batting average against.

Waino, by the way, has made the start in two of those games, throwing 5 solid innings against Seattle on July 3 setting up a 5-2 victory.

Last night’s game had a bit of a playoff feel to it.  The birds haven’t won too many of those types of games over the last few years.

Who You Gonna Call?

After back-to-back walks in the sixth, the Cubs had their best opportunity to break the hearts of the home team fans.  Bases were now loaded, two outs, and Kyle Schwarber – owner of more than one telling hit against the Cardinals in his career – was at the plate.  At 95 pitches, and with the lefty up, manager Mike Shildt felt the prudent thing was to relieve Adam in an attempt to hold onto the 1-1 tie.

So, who do you call on?  Giovanny Gallegos, of course.  Five pitches later, Gallegos got Kyle to reach for that slider, lofting a harmless fly ball to medium deep left.  And the threat was done.  Giovanny has now stranded the last 8 runners that he has inherited – including the bases loaded twice.  Gallegos – who has stranded 29 of the 32 batters he has inherited this season – has now come into bases loaded situations 7 times this season.  He has stranded all of these gentlemen in 5 of those occasions, allowing just one of those runs in the other two occasions.

There just has not been an occasion that has been too large for the amazing Mr. Gallegos.

Gio is now unscored on in 8 straight games (11.2 innings).  He has allowed 2 hits in those innings with 15 strikeouts against 3 walks.  Over his last 24 games (29.2 innings), Gallegos holds an 0.61 ERA with a.131/.179/.212 batting line against.  The 4 walks he has allowed in those innings more than swallowed up in his 39 strikeouts.   In 12.2 innings this month Gio holds an 0.71 ERA, and has allowed just 3 hits against 18 strikeouts.

This just in.  Gallegos is pretty good.

AndrewMiller

Andrew Miller – all things considered – has put together a very solid month of his own.

He also entered the game with a runner on base (first base) and two outs.  Miller allowed an infield hit, but then retired slugger Kris Bryant on a fly ball to center.

For the month of July, Miller has a 1.80 ERA through 10 innings.

CarlosMartinez

In recent days, Carlos Martinez has had some scary innings.  None of that was in play last night.  Carlos wrapped up a four-out save in perfect fashion, featuring 3 strikeouts.  One of the big questions surrounding any closer is how quickly he can turn the page if he has a couple of rugged outings.  Here, in a big game against the Cubs (a team he has had struggles with) Carlos was as good as could be hoped.

Throughout his career, Carlos has always pitched very well on days after a Cardinal loss.  He has pitched in 5 of the 8 such games this month, giving 1 run on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 8 in 5 innings.  For the season, Martinez holds a 2.79 ERA with a .206/.280/.279 batting line in 19.1 innings after a loss.

Over the course of his career, Carlos has pitched in 107 games after a Cardinal loss – starting 47 of them.  He is 24-14 with 10 saves and a 3.08 ERA over 362 innings.

TommyEdman

After a bit of a tailspin, Tommy Edman is beginning to re-emerge. He has had two hits in each of the last two games.

Tommy has had a good month in games after a loss.  He has now played in 7 of them, hitting .320 (8 for 25).

JoseMartinez

Jose Martinez finished the game with two singles, stretching his hitting streak to seven games.  He is hitting .333 (9 for 27) during the streak.

PaulGoldschmidt

Speaking of hitting streaks, Goldschmidt extended his to eight straight games.  It hasn’t been a quiet hitting streak either, as Paul has hit .364 (12 for 33) in those games.  The hits have been 5 singles and 7 home runs.  Paul has driven home 14 runs over the last 8 games (3 of them game winners) while slugging a tidy 1.000.

DexterFowler

Dexter Fowler saw his six-game hitting streak come to an end last night.  Dex was 7 for 23 (.304) with 2 doubles and 2 home runs (.652 slugging percentage) during the streak.

PaulDeJong

Paul DeJong will certainly be glad to see July end.  After his 0 for 4, Paul is down to .214 for the month (18 for 84).

For the season, Paul has struggled considerably after a St Louis loss.  Playing in 48 of the 49 games, DeJong is hitting .227 in those games (41 for 181).  In July, after a loss, he was 3 for 30 (all singles) with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts – a .100/.156/.100 batting line.

NoteBook

Paul Goldschmidt’s home run accounted for his eighth game-winning RBI of the season.  Only Marcell Ozuna (who has 9) has more.

The home run was Goldy’s twenty-fifth of the year.  Paul has been a four-time thirty-home-run guy – including last year when he hit 33.  His career high is 36, done twice.  Behind his average home run pace for most of the year, Goldschmidt is now on pace to hit a career-high 38.  Seven homers in eight games will do that.

Paul hasn’t started every game this season, but he has played in all of them – all 106.  Goldschmidt has never played in every game in a season, but he has come close.  He played in 160 with Arizona back in 2013.  He has played in at least 155 games in each of the last 4 seasons – including 158 last year.

Paul is also up to 396 at bats, and is creeping up on the 593 he had last year – the second most of his career.

After getting hit by a pitch again last night, Kolten Wong has reached double figures in HBP for the third consecutive season, and the fourth time in his career.  His career high is 15 set in 2015.

Kolten is also moving up on the games played list – last night was his 104th game of the season.  He played just 127 last year.  Kolten has never played more than the 150 games he played in 2015.

Wong is also up to 330 at bats for the season, just beneath the 353 he managed last year.  Wong hasn’t been over 400 at bats in a season since that 2015 season.

His single was his eighty-sixth hit of the season – he finished last year with 88.  Kolten, in his seven-year career – has exceeded 100 hits only three times.  He has also nearly matched his total bases for all of last year (when he had 137).  He already has 129 in 2019.

With Tuesday’s hard-fought win, St Louis has now won the opening game of five straight series.

The Cubs (coming off losing two-of-three in Milwaukee) are the fourth team in the Cards’ last five series that had lost its previous series.

St Louis fell behind again in the fourth inning.  They have now surrendered the game’s first run in four straight games, and six of the last seven.

Dakota Hudson’s New Weapon

Yes, the slider sometimes misbehaves.

It did so in the first inning of last night’s game in Pittsburgh.  After Adam Frazier led off with a single, Dakota Hudson’s 3-2 slider to Bryan Reynolds sailed high, and Pittsburgh had their first two runners on base.  The slider to the next Pirate hitter, Starling Marte, did worse than sail high.  It tailed back right over the heart of the plate and waited for Marte to smash it – which he did.

Fifteen pitches into his evening, and Dakota Hudson was down 3-0, and the slider was – in no small part – responsible.

(Parenthetically, most of the TV viewers saw Marte after the home run smile to the camera and demonstrate with his fingers 3 to zero.  In baseball this is almost always a bad idea.  Under any circumstance a three-run first inning lead is far from iron clad.  All the more so when your team has been in a pronounced slump – as Marte’s has.  And even more so when the team you are playing is starting to heat up – and the Cardinals seem – finally – to be that team.  Through most of this season, an early three run deficit did feel like a thirty run deficit.  But for the moment, anyway, the team has turned the page on those issues and is becoming a confident enough offense that three early runs don’t phase them much.  Anyway, as so often happens, Marte’s chest-thumping meant little in the long run.  He and the Pirates would not score again.)

So, back to that slider.

Fast forward to the fifth inning.  St Louis now leads 4-3.  But there is more trouble on the way for Hudson.   After another lead-off single from Frazier, Dakota fell behind both Reynolds and Marte to the point that they declined to chase Hudson’s sinker, and both drew walks.  Walks have been a growing concern over Dakota’s last several starts.

Now we had trouble.  Bases loaded.  Nobody out.  And to the plate was Pittsburgh’s blossoming superstar, switch-hitter Josh Bell.

Hudson threw two excellent fastballs under Bell’s hands that he fouled off.  On 0-2, Dakota went back to that slider.  It darted in along much the same track as the fastballs.  But, before Bell’s bat could turn on it, it dropped like a stone for the strikeout.

That was the turning point.  After that, Colin Moran bounced into a double play, and the inning was over.  Hudson and some more splashy work by the Cardinal bullpen would allow the birds to hold on to this one by that 4-3 score (box score).

Along the way, Hudson would cobble together his eleventh quality start in his last 15 games, and stretch to 17 consecutive starts his streak of not allowing more than 3 earned runs – quite a trick after he was down 3-0 before he recorded his first out.

In his early starts this season, Dakota Hudson frequently faced lineups stacked with left-handed bats.  And all too often those bats took advantage of the young Cardinal starter.

One of the adjustments that Dakota has made as the season has progressed is developing a weapon that can neutralize those left-handed bats.  More and more, now, that weapon is becoming his wipe-out slider.

In his 6.1 innings last night, Hudson finished with 5 strikeouts – all swinging.  The two right-handers that he got (Chris Archer and Jacob Stallings) both went down on fastballs.  But the three lefties that he chalked up (Bell and Moran twice) all got that nasty, nasty slider.

So, yes, Dakota has a weapon that has equalized things a bit against lefties.  Even more interesting to me is this.  All 5 of Hudson’s strikeouts came on 0-2 pitches.  None of them even prolonged the at bat to four pitches with a foul ball.  Moreover, they were the only 5 at bats of the night against Hudson that ended 0-2.  In his 22.1 innings this month, Hudson has struck out 10 of the 12 batters whose at bat ended with an 0-2 count.

This slider is now becoming a put-away pitch that batters who are backed up in the count are kind of at the mercy of.  As a companion pitch to his ground ball arsenal, this bodes very well for the future.

But it would help if he could get it to behave a little better early in games.

More Hudson

After an earlier streak where he went 7 consecutive starts without allowing a home run (and serving up just 1 home run over a ten-start stretch that reached 60.1 innings), Dakota has now given up at least one home run in six consecutive starts.

Even though his four July starts haven’t been his smoothest, Hudson has still won them all.  He is now 8-1 over his last 12 starts, carrying a 3.01 ERA in those games and getting 56% ground balls.

How Good is Giovanny Gallegos

After Hudson’s 6.1 innings, and with the Cards clinging to a one-run lead, manager Mike Shildt went to Giovanny Gallegos for 5 critical outs as he finished the seventh and worked the eighth.  In typical style, Gallegos finished them off, five-up and five-down with 3 strikeouts.

How good is he?  By the numbers, you would have to say that Giovanny is as dominant as any relief pitcher in baseball.  Here’s a taste:

Last night’s game was Gallegos’ sixth consecutive scoreless outing.  In those games, Giovanny has pitched a total of 9.2 innings allowing 2 hits and walking 1 while striking out 13.  Over his last 22 games, Gallegos has completed 27.2 innings in which he has been brushed for 2 runs on 13 hits.  His 2 walks have been offset by 37 strikeouts.  In this stretch, Giovanny has thrown 71% of his pitches for strikes.

The numbers on these last 27.2 innings add up to a 0.65 ERA and a batting line of .141/.167/.228.

This is dominance.

Not that it matters, but with all the strikes that Gallegos throws, he almost never finds himself behind in the count.  Last night he was behind only one of the 5 batters that he faced, getting Reynolds to strike out on a 3-2 pitch.

Over the last month, only 5 of the 35 batters to face Gallegos have put themselves ahead in the count.  They are 0-for-4 with a walk.  This season, Giovanny has faced 178 major league batters.  He has worked behind on only 37 of them. And as I say, it matters little.  Even the ones who do get ahead in the count against Gallegos are only hitting .172 with 1 home run.

Kolten Wong

There was a time not too long ago when Kolten Wong was daily listed among the struggling hitters.  Those days, for the moment, are past.  Wong singled, doubled and drove in St Louis’ first run of the game.  Kolten has now hit safely in five consecutive games in which he has had a plate appearance, going 7 for 17 (.412) in those games.

For the month of July, Kolten is a .348 hitter (16 for 46).

Tyler O’Neill

Tyler O’Neill’s recent slump continued last night.  Hitless in 4 at bats, Tyler is now 0 for his last 12, and 2 for 22 (.091) over his last 5 games – games in which he has no extra base hits, no walks, and 1 run batted in.  It has been 13 games since Tyler’s last walk.

Matt Wieters

On May 29, the Cardinals were planted by Philadelphia, 11-4.  That loss culminated a 6-18 spiral that knocked the team from first place in this division to two games under .500 at 26-28.

That was 46 games ago.  Since that time, St Louis has been steadily re-gaining ground in the division, winning 27 of these last 46 games.  One of the notable things about these games is that Matt Wieters has been the catcher in almost half of them.  Matt has started 22, Yadier Molina just 18 of them before his injury sidelined him, and Andrew Knizner has started the other 6.

Wieters has made some offensive contributions to the surge, including 6 home runs – most of which have been telling, even if they haven’t been terribly frequent.  After his 0-for-4 last night, Wieters is hitting .188 (15 for 80) over the last 46 games.

Yairo Munoz

In and out of the lineup, and starting the last two games in center field, Yairo Munoz has seen his batting average slip a bit recently.  Munoz was hitless in 3 at bats last night, and is just 10 for 43 (.233) for the month of July.

In last night’s ninth inning, Munoz fell behind Pittsburgh’s Chris Stratton 0-2, and struck out swinging on the next pitch (that slider out of the zone).

Perhaps hitting behind in the count is one area where a player’s lack of regular at bats may take its greatest toll.

Over his last 76 plate appearances, Munoz has found himself behind in the count 34 times.  Yairo is just 3 for 34 (.088) in those at bats with no extra-base hits (in fact, one of the three singles was an infield hit), no walks, 12 strikeouts, and 1 double play grounded into.

NoteBook

Kolten Wong’s RBI double brings him to within one run batted in of last year’s total.  He drove in 38 last year and has 37 now this year.