Tag Archives: Helsley

RISP Woes Stymie the Brewers

The game had a promising beginning for the Milwaukee Brewers.  When Kolten Wong led off the game with a double, the Brewers had a golden opportunity to take an early lead.  Instead, it was the beginning of another frustrating evening for the Milwaukee offense.  Wong didn’t move as Cardinal starter Kwang Hyun Kim retired the next three hitters (Lorenzo Cain, Tyrone Taylor and Travis Shaw) on two strikeouts and a pop fly.

More than three hours later – the game well decided at this point – Milwaukee’s Billy McKinney (batting with the bases loaded) waved helplessly at Alex Reyes’ 0-2 slider to bring an end to the proceedings.  The final score of 6-1 was more than a bit deceiving (box score).  Milwaukee held a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning, and the game went into extra-innings tied at one run each.  Milwaukee had myriad opportunities to bury St Louis, but McKinney’s strikeout concluded a 1-for-15 effort on Milwaukee’s part with runners in scoring position (RISP).

This has been much the norm for the Brew-Crew this year.  Their .209 team RISP batting average is the National League’s worst.  The Brewers and Cardinals have now split their first four contests of the new season, with both St Louis wins looking eerily similar.

St Louis hosted Milwaukee to open their home season on April 8.  On that evening, Brewer ace Corbin Burnes simply dominated for 6 innings, shutting out the Cards on just 1 hit, walking none, and striking out 9.  But he left with just a 1-0 lead.  St Louis would come back to tie the game in the seventh, and win it on a two-run home run off the bat of Nolan Arenado in the eighth.

Milwaukee was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on that evening.

Now fast-forward to last night.  This time it is Freddy Peralta dominating the Cards.  He throws seven innings of one-hit shutout ball against them – but also leaves with just a 1-0 lead.  This time the Cards scratched out the tying run in the eighth, and the game-winning, two-run homer came off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt in the eleventh.

No one expects Milwaukee to remain at the bottom of the league stats in this category all season.  Not helping them, though, is their present matchup against a pitching staff that has been very hot – especially in RISP situations.

With the win, St Louis is now 8-2 in May, and 14-4 over their last 18 games.  Over their last 20 games, the St Louis pitching staff holds a 2.75 ERA and a collective .191 batting average against them.  The last 722 batters to face them over the last 177 innings have just 38 extra-base hits (28 doubles, 1 triple, and just 9 home runs) for an aggregate slugging percentage of just .281.

Opposing hitters are just 27-for-148 (.182) against this staff over their last 20 games with runners in scoring position.  If Milwaukee is going to shed this monkey on their back during this series, they will have to do so against a tough opponent.

Kim

Kwang Hyun still doesn’t have a quality start on the season, in spite of the fact that that he has a 1.80 ERA over his last 4 starts, never allowing more than one run in any of them.  But completing that sixth inning has proven elusive for Kim – his longest outing of the year so far lasting just 5.2 innings.

St Louis has, nonetheless, won all five of his starts.

Milwaukee was 4-for-14 against Kwang Hyun, with 3 doubles, when they hit against him without a runner in scoring position.  One of the reasons Kim has had trouble getting deep into games is that clean innings are a rarity for him.  The league is 22-for-68 (.324) against him this season when there are no runners in scoring position.  Once he finds himself in trouble, Kwang Hyun has been much more effective.

The double from Travis Shaw that drove home Lorenzo Cain from second with Milwaukee’s lone run broke an 0-for-21 that the league had against Kim with runners in scoring position.  For the season, they are 2-for-23 (.087) in their RISP at bats against Kwang Hyun.

During his stay in St Louis, batters are 8 for 57 (.140) against Kim with runners in scoring position.  Shaw’s double was the first extra-base hit Kwang Hyun has surrendered as a Cardinal in RISP situations.

More Good Work from Helsley

Ryan Helsley relieved Kim in the sixth, extinguishing the threat.  Ryan has now authored 9 consecutive scoreless outings (7.1 innings with just one hit allowed) and over his last 13.2 innings has yielded just 1 run on 5 hits – an 0.66 ERA with a .116 batting average against.  Ryan still hasn’t allowed an extra base hit this year.

Ryan has allowed only 1 of 10 inherited runners to score.

Reyes

All 9 of the batters Alex Reyes faced last night came to the plate with at least one runner in scoring position (remembering that all extra-innings this year begin with a man at second).  Those batters were 0-for-6 with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts.  This year, batters are 1-for-29 against Reyes with the ducks on the pond.  They are just 13 for 106 (.123) against him in those situations during Alex’ career.

Carlson

One of the casualties of the evening was Dylan Carlson’s hitting streak.  Although he drove in a critical run with a sacrifice fly, Dylan finished the evening 0-for-3, ending his hitting streak at seven games.  Carlson batted .476 (10-for-21) during the streak.

DeJong

Paul DeJong just can’t turn the corner.  After a scuffling start, Paul has looked on several occasions like he was about to find his stride.  But it hasn’t taken just yet.  Recently, he put together a five-game hitting streak.  In the five games since the last of those games, Paul is 2 for 18 (.111).  In spite of the hitting streak, DeJong is hitting .216 (8 for 37) for the month.

Production with runners in scoring position has been a special focus for DeJong this year.  He was 0-for-1 in RISP opportunities last night, and he is 7 for 39 (.179) in those situations for the year.

Bullpen Home Run Watch

Although it certainly seemed like they trying their best to serve up a home run last night, the Cardinal bullpen made it through another evening without allowing the long-ball.  Going back to the seventh inning on April 16, when J.T. Realmuto took Kodi Whitley deep, the bullpen has gone 23 total games (22 in which the bullpen made an appearance), 70 innings, 244 at bats, 295 plate appearances and 1214 pitches without allowing a home run.

NoteBook

At 3:55 (understandably enough, since the game took 11 innings to decide), last night’s game was the Cards longest of the season so far.

St Louis has now won the opening game of four straight series, and 6 of the last 7.

Goldschmidt’s game-winning, two-run homer ties him with Nolan Arenado for the team lead in game-winning hits.  They both have 5.

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.

No Clear Front-Runners So Far

If you were to ask me how the Cardinals are doing against winning teams, then I would have to tell you that the answer would depend on which day you ask.  Records against winning teams are one of my litmus test numbers – it’s the stat that, to a large extent, defines what your actual strengths and weaknesses really are.

Much of the murkiness of the beginning of the Cardinal season derives from the uncertainty of the level of the competition they have faced so far.  Every single team they have played has been at or above .500 at some point of the season.  Granted, for Miami you have to go back to April 17 when they were 7-7.  Still, that was after a 1-6 start.  Cincinnati got off to a 6-1 start and has faded since.  Pittsburgh was 12-11 as recently as April 27.  From an 8-12 start, Washington’s recent four-game winning streak pushed their record to 12-12 on May second.

For all of the various ups and downs, as play began on this morning of May 7, only three of the Cardinal opponents so far had managed at least as many victories as defeats – the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies (both 17-15) and the New York Mets, who escaped with a split of their four-game series in St Louis and stand at 13-13.

But the shades-of-grey nature of the Cardinal early season isn’t unique to them.  All over baseball, parity is the norm.  In fact, while they have hardly been world-beaters, at 18-14 the Cardinals are tied with San Diego for the National League’s second-best record – a half-game behind the surprising 18-13 San Francisco team.

Going into the season, we all knew who the super-teams were supposed to be.  But 32 or so games into the season, none of the seeming-invincibles have managed any kind of separation from the rest of the league.  Of the hyped teams of the pre-season, the Padres have done the best with that 18-14 record.  The defending champion Dodgers are 17-15.  Atlanta is a surprising 15-16.

None of this is suggesting that these teams will finish with mediocre records for the season.  With still 130 games left, everyone, I think, shares similar expectations for them.  But the longer these teams hover around .500, the more emboldened teams like San Francisco become.

Baseball’s best record belongs to the Boston Red Sox.  At 19-13, they are only one game better than the Cards.

The four games against the Mets are a sort of microcosm of St Louis’ performance in their 14 games against .500-or-better opponents.  They managed to split the four games against New York, hitting for a decent enough average (.261) but scoring only 13 runs (3.25 per game); and the starting pitching – frequently dominant during the early season – struggled mightily against the Mets.  They managed only 18 innings, walked 12 batters in those 18 innings and hit 2 others while sinking to a 5.50 ERA.  The entire staff walked 25 Mets in 32 innings.

In two series against Philly and one each against the Mets and Brewers, the numbers are very similar.  To go along with a 6-8 record, St Louis is scoring just 3.43 runs per game, while receiving a 5.24 ERA in 68.2 innings from the rotation.

At least the areas that need improvement are pretty obvious.

Arenado

With a couple of fortunate hits against the Pirates sparking his resurgence, Nolan Arenado has started to heat things up.  He was 5-for-13 (.385) in the series with a .615 slugging percentage, and through the first 6 games in May, Nolan is 8 for 21 (.381).  The hits include 1 double, 1 triple and 1 home run.  Nolan has driven in 7 runs in 6 games in May with a .667 slugging percentage.

Edman

The Mets were the latest team that has been less than successful in slowing down Tommy Edman.  Tommy hit in each game of the series, and finished 6 for 16 (.375).  Tommy’s hits included 2 doubles and a triple – good for a .625 slugging percentage. 

Edman has started off May with a .400 batting average and a .600 slugging percentage.  He is 10 for his first 25 this month, with 3 doubles and a triple.  Going back to the end of April, Tommy has hit safely in 8 of his last 10 games, hitting .366 (15 for 41) over that span.

Edman has been the team’s most consistent against the .500 teams.  In the 14 games, he carries a .310 batting average (18 for 58).

O’Neill

Tyler O’Neill has launched a few home runs recently, even pushing his average as high as .270 at one point.  But he was 1-for-9 against the Mets, and is hitting just .214 on the season (6 for 28) against the .500 or better teams he’s faced so far this year.

Gallegos

Giovanny Gallegos contributed a couple of perfect innings in two appearances against the Mets.  So far in May, opponents are 9-up and 9-down with 4 strikeouts against Gio – who has been as dominant as they come recently.  Gallegos has thrown 8 scoreless innings over his last 7 appearances.  The last 25 batters to face Gallegos have managed one single and one hit batsmen, while 9 others have struck out – a .042/.080/.042 batting line.

Giovanny has pitched 6.1 innings against the Phillies, Brewers and Mets, giving no runs, two singles and no walks.  He has 9 strikeouts in those innings.

Helsley

If not quite as dominant as Gallegos, Ryan Helsley has been on quite a roll of his own.  He worked two of the games against the Mets, retiring 4 of the 5 batters he faced (he allowed a walk).

Over his last 11 games, Ryan has been touched for 1 run in 11.1 innings, allowing just 5 hits and striking out 13.  During those innings, his ERA has been 0.79 with a .135 batting average against.

In 5.2 innings against the .500 teams, Ryan has allowed 1 run on 2 hits.

Webb

Tyler Webb was just starting to settle in.  After a shaky first few outings, Tyler had gone 4 appearances and 2.2 innings without allowing a run.  Then, he went 9 days without an appearance between April 19 and April 28.  He’s been a bit of a mess since then. Allowing runs in all of his 4 appearances, and allowing 2 runs in each of his last 3.  Over his last 2.2 innings, Tyler has been battered for 7 runs on 4 hits and 7 walks.  The last 19 batters he has faced hold a .579 on base percentage.

NoteBook

A problem earlier in the season, St Louis has now scored first in six of their last 7 games.

Until the second game of the Wednesday doubleheader, St Louis had held the lead at some point in eight straight games.

The bullpen has allowed 6 of their last 11 inherited runners to score.

With no extra-base hits on Thursday, the team slugging percentage, once again, slips below .400 to .398.

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.

Early Offense Always Welcomed

When Tyler O’Neill slashed Joey Lucchesi’s sinker into left-center field to drive in what turned out to be the game-winning run, you wouldn’t normally have thought that the scoring was over for the day.

There were – at that point – two outs in the bottom of the third inning, and the batters had owned the evening.  The first 32 batters to the plate had combined to go 11 for 26 (.423), the hits including 4 doubles, 1 triple and 3 home runs (an even 1.000 slugging percentage).  They were also awarded 4 walks (1 intentional) and a hit batsman (an even .500 on base percentage).

But the slugfest ended abruptly there.  Forty-two more batters would come to the plate before the game ended.  They would muster just 5 hits in their final 37 at bats (4 singles and a double) with 5 more walks – a much more subdued batting line of .135/.238/.162.

By getting that final run in before the relievers closed the doors, St Louis secured its fifth straight win (box score), and its ninth in the last 11 games.  They wake up this morning tied for first in their division.

The last 11 games have earned acclaim for the consistency of the starting pitchers (whose combined ERA over the 11 games is still 2.33).  That element of the formula was a little lacking last night, as Adam Wainwright scuffled through 5.2 choppy innings (he gave all 5 runs).

On this evening, though, Waino was picked up by his offense, as they continued a less heralded trend that has been equally elemental to the team’s recent success – early run support.

The previous homestand began against Cincinnati.  In the first game, the Cards scored 1 in the second and added 4 more in the third for a 5-0 lead.  They wouldn’t score again, but it was enough as they held on for a 5-4 win.

The second game was an equally tight 2-0 Cardinal win, with the first run scoring in the first inning before St Louis added the second in the sixth.

Single runs in the first and second sent the Cards on their way to a 5-2 victory that Sunday.

Philadelphia was the next in town.  St Louis was held off the scoreboard until the ninth inning in the first game of that series, and lost that game, 2-1.

The birds evened the series with a 5-2 win the next day, scoring a run in the first and 2 more in the second to secure another early lead.

St Louis jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the third game, with 2 in the second and another in the third – but didn’t score again in a 5-3 loss.  They wouldn’t score until the fifth on Thursday afternoon, but would manage a 4-3, 10-inning victory anyway.

Against Pittsburgh last weekend, they scored single runs in the first, third and fourth before pulling away late in the opener.  A four-run first (and another run in the third) set the stage for a 12-5 win in the Saturday game, and Harrison Bader’s three-run home run in the second inning on Sunday was the only scoring done all day.

After the early outburst yesterday, 30 of the Cards last 52 runs (57.7%) have scored in the first three innings.  Over the last 11 games they have hit 13 home runs – 8 of them in the first 3 innings, where they hold a .321/.356/.600 batting line.  From the fourth inning on they hit .182/.262/.295.

All things considered, I think management would like to see a bit more consistency late in the game.  But there’s nothing wrong with early offense.  I doubt that any of the starters that have benefitted will complain.

Edman

Tommy Edman continues to key the offense.  With a triple and a double, Edman now has multiple hits in 4 of his last 7 games.  He is hitting .379 (11-for-29) over that span.

Batting leadoff all year, Tommy has come to the plate in each of the 29 first innings the Cards have played.  He has started the games off with 5 singles, 1 double, 2 triples 4 walks and a hit-by-pitch – a .333/.448/.542 batting line.

Wainwright

If Waino is going to get in trouble, for whatever reason, it is most likely to be in the third inning.  Six starts into his 2021 season, Adam has been saddled with a 19.06 ERA and a .500/.556/.884 batting line in that inning.  Three of the 6 home runs he has allowed have come in the third.

In all other innings, Waino holds a 1.88 ERA and a .202/.259/.327 batting line against.

Helsley

One of the “under-the-radar” developments from last night’s game came in the seventh inning.  St Louis was, of course, clinging to its one-run lead when Dominic Smith worked a two-out walk from Genesis Cabrera.  With the dangerous Kevin Pillar coming to the plate (he had homered earlier), manager Mike Shildt turned to Ryan Helsley to close out the inning – which he did, getting Pillar to pop out.

It’s noteworthy because this was Ryan’s first “hold” opportunity of the season.  In 8 of his previous 12 appearances, the Cards were behind when he came into the game.  The other four times, Helsley came in with leads of 5,6,4 and 4.

Over his last 10.1 innings (covering 10 appearances) Ryan has allowed 1 run on 5 hits, walking 3 and striking out 12.  His 0.87 ERA in those games is matched with a .147 batting average against.  Helsley has still not allowed an extra-base hit all season.

Gallegos

Giovanny Gallegos hit a little hiccup in mid-to-late April, allowing runs in 3 of 4 games.  Since then, Gio has regained his stature as one of the most unsolvable relievers in the game.  He has 7 shutout innings over his last 6 appearances.  The last 22 batters to face him have 1 single, 1 hit batter and 8 strikeouts.  They have a cumulative batting line of .048/.091/.048 while striking out 42% of the time.

NoteBook

The multiple extra base hits yesterday pushed the Cardinals’ season slugging percentage back over .400 to .402.

St Louis has won the opening game in four of their last five series.

At 82 degrees, Monday’s game was the first time this season that St Louis has played in temperatures north of 80 degrees.  It won’t be the last.

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.

Gant Perseveres

When John Gant’s five-inning, 99-pitch struggle was over he had walked 5 batters with just two strikeouts.  His first inning had been a three-up, three groundout inning.  Thereafter, John had traffic in every inning.  According to Statcast, 53 of his 99 offerings missed the strike zone.

And yet, when the dust settled, Gant had allowed 1 run on 3 hits, and would become the eventual winning pitcher as St Louis opened their season series against Pittsburgh with a 7-3 victory (box score), their sixth win in the last 8 games.

Gant’s effort continues the recent run of sterling starting pitching.  Over the last ten games, Cardinal starters have thrown 63 innings, surrendering just 12 earned runs on only 41 hits – a 1.71 ERA with a .187 batting average against.

Gant was helped immensely by a couple of unorthodox double plays.  After Ka’ai Tom drew a walk to open the third, Pirate pitcher JT Brubaker bunted him to second.  But, once there, Kim began to stray towards third.  Second baseman Tommy Edman (covering first on the bunt) noticed the aggressive turn and threw behind him, picking Tom off of second.

A single and a walk put Gant in a tight spot in the fifth, when Erik Gonzalez cuffed a little dribbler in front of the plate.  The runner at second (Wilmer Difo) couldn’t initially tell if the ball was hit or missed, and got a late break off of second.  Thinking quickly, Cardinal catcher Andrew Knizner grabbed the ball, tagged Gonzalez, and fired to third in time to get Difo.

Beyond the alert defensive plays behind him, John Gant survived by getting the Pirate hitters to chase a few pitches (9 of them – with 6 of those coming in two-strike counts).  But mostly, he simply stayed out of the middle of the strike zone.  Of his 99 pitches, only 4 strayed over the heart of the plate – and none of them resulted in any damage.

In the second inning, he hung an 0-1 curve to Bryan Reynolds, who decided not to swing.  In the second inning, he fired a first-pitch sinker (at 90.9 mph) right down the middle to Kevin Newman (who watched it go past). In the third, Gonzalez got a first-pitch, 90.1 mph fastball right down the middle – he fouled it back.  Johnny hung him a slider on the very next pitch, which Erik slashed back up the middle.  The chopper looked like it might squirt through for a hit, but Gant made a nice play, leaping to pull it down.

Gant doesn’t have radar-gun dazzling stuff.  He attacks with an assortment of breaking pitches and a sinker that he can usually hit the corners of the zone with.  But even on a day when his control eluded him, Gant was able to muffle the Pirates by simply avoiding that one big mistake.

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Bullpen Slips Again

Gant left the game with a 6-1 lead that quickly became 6-3 in the sixth, even though Pittsburgh contributed only one hit (a single) to the rally.  Two walks, a balk and a wild pitch did the rest.  While they haven’t been terrible, the Cardinal bullpen has been susceptible to the occasional hiccup.  Over the same last ten games, the pen has carried 26 innings, giving just 14 hits (.157 batting average against), but they have allowed as many earned runs as the starters (12) thanks to 18 walks, 4 hit batsmen, 3 wild pitches, and now, a balk.  Going into the season, the bullpen was advertised as every bit as much a strength as the rotation – and mostly they have been.  But they’ve been dented by a few messy innings of late.

Helsley

When the Cards added a ninth-inning run, and the game no longer presented a save situation, Mike Shildt turned the game over to Ryan Helsley.  This is where Ryan fits, currently, in the bullpen pecking order.  He gets the almost-high leverage opportunities.  Regardless of the circumstance, though, Helsley’s stock is rising.  After allowing 5 runs over his first 2.2 innings, Ryan has given just 1 additional run on 5 hits over his last 10 innings – an 0.90 ERA with a .152 batting average against.  Ryan has yet to allow an extra-base hit this season.

Today’s Statistical Oddity

Pittsburgh finished the game with only 4 hits.  Three of the four came on at bats that lasted 7 pitches or more.  Newman drove in Pittsburgh’s first run when he singled on Gant’s first pitch to him in the fourth.  Otherwise, Pittsburgh was 0-for-23 on the night on the first six pitches of any of their plate appearances (although they did also draw 7 of their 9 walks in those plate appearances).

O’Neill

Tyler O’Neill accounted for some of the early offense with a home run that was part of a three hit day – Tyler’s second three-hit game in the last three games, and his third multi-hit game in his last 6.

None of the three hits yesterday were pulled.  The home run was a monster 426-foot blast to straight-away center.  The other two were singles that were poked into right.  They pitched him away, so he went to the opposite field.

O’Neill is now 9 for 22 (.409) over his last 6 games with 4 of the hits leaving the park – a .955 slugging percentage.

This isn’t the first time that O’Neill has teased us with his considerable potential, so I’m careful not to over-react.  But Tyler is in a pretty good place right now.

Tyler is an aggressive, early in the count hitter.  55.4% of his plate appearances are over before he sees four pitches.  When he can do that – when he gets a pitch to hit before he gets into a strike-out situation – Tyler has been terrifically productive.  He is 11 for 30 (.367) in the first three pitches of an at bat, with a double and 4 home runs (an .800 slugging percentage).  His homer yesterday was on the first pitch, and the 2 singles came on the third pitch.

When he has to stay in for more than three pitches, Tyler is 2 for 24 (.083) with 16 strikeouts (and 1 walk).

NoteBook

At 3.97, the team’s ERA has finally slipped below 4.00.  They have climbed back up to number seven in the league.

At 5,953, yesterday’s attendance was the smallest crowd the Cards have played before since they left Miami.

The crowd, though, was the only thing about the game that was reminiscent of Miami.  The game-time temperature of 51 degrees was the second lowest of the season, behind only the 37 degrees they played in on opening night in Cincinnati.

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.

Molina Among the Sluggers

There’s a spot that you throw to with significant caution when the big thumpers are at the plate. It’s that high fastball about two inches inside of the plate, about level with the hitter’s biceps. With the ordinary hitters, they’ll jam themselves on the pitch – if they can get around on it at all. But the big guys will turn on that pitch and soar it over the wall.

If you can jam it in there at very high velocity – say 98 mph or higher – you’ve got a chance. But Cincinnati’s Sonny Gray doesn’t have that kind of gas. Last night against St Louis, Sonny threw 86 pitches – none faster than 93.5 mph. This one – the dangerous inside pitch – rode in at 93.1 mph. Not enough.

St Louis’ powerful slugger launched the pitch 400 feet down the left-field line for the home run that set the Cardinals on the path to their 5-4 victory (box score).

And who was this slugger that Gray was so careless with? It was probably Nolan Arenado – a multiple 40 homer man. No? Well, both Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong have 30 homer seasons on their resumes. Surely it would be – no? Dylan Carlson and Tyler O’Neill both hit a lot of home runs in the minors. It guess it could be either of them.

No. It was St Louis’ most dangerous power hitter – thirty-eight-year-old catcher Yadier Molina. Molina, whose fifth home run of the season tied DeJong for the team lead. Yadi – whose .661 slugging percentage leads the team by nearly .150 points. Yadier Molina – who has never hit more than 22 home runs or slugged higher than .501 in any major league season.

Gray can perhaps be forgiven for this one. Maybe he didn’t get the memo that Molina has joined the mashers of the league.

With early season numbers – and, yes, it’s still just April – you always wonder if it’s real or a mirage that will dissipate as spring devolves into summer. Time will tell, but everything about Yadi’s swing and approach at the plate so far this season suggest that Molina – now in his eighteenth major league season – has worked to re-invent himself. On his page at baseball reference (which I will link again here), below the “Standard Batting” and “Player Value – Batting” sections, they have a section called “Advanced Batting.”

I can’t vouch for the collection of these numbers (I think there is a fair amount of subjectivity in determining – for example – what is a line drive and what is a fly ball), but I do consider them useful and probably more accurate than not.

The big takeaway from this section is that Yadi is pulling the ball more frequently than any time in his career. His groundballs and line drives are also way down, and his fly-balls are way up. He is also striking out a lot more than he has previously in his career.

This is a slugger’s profile. Yadi even looks thicker – somehow more barrel chested than I remember him. My feeling is that this is not accidental or a little hot streak. It looks to me like Molina has prepared for the 2021 season with the intent of being a legit middle-of-the order power source for this team.

Whether he can sustain this remains to be seen. Can he adjust as the pitchers adjust? Will he hold up during the heat of the end of the season? All great questions.

Molina, by the way, is not in the lineup today after turning his foot on a swing last night. Durability at baseball’s toughest position is also a concern for his 38-year-old body.

There are a lot of good questions, but for however long it lasts I could get used to seeing this new Yadi at the plate.

More Molina

If Yadi has, in fact, made the leap from slap hitter to slugger, he has done so keeping all his former aggressiveness. Yadi has never been a great taker of pitches. He swung at 7 of the 11 thrown him last night – including both first pitch curveballs he saw from Gray. Nobody swings at first pitch curves – but Yadi did twice, fouling off the first one before hitting his home run. His second time up he slapped that curve into the gap in right-center for an RBI double.

In the National League so far this year, only 28.9% of plate appearances are over before the pitcher can throw ball one, and only 57.4% don’t make it to ball two. Fully 35.3% of Yadi’s PA’s are over before he has seen ball one, and 67.6% don’t make it to ball two. When Yadi is hot, this works very well for him. Thus far he is 11 for 23 when hit hits before seeing ball one (.478) with 3 doubles and 3 home runs (a 1.000 slugging percentage). His home run and double last night came on an 0-1 pitch and an 0-0 pitch, respectively.

There are a lot of sluggers around the league who like to work the count and get the pitcher in trouble. However much Yadi has re-invented himself, I don’t well ever see him morph into that kind of hitter.

Edman

Torrid early in the season, leadoff hitter Tommy Edman has cooled of late. In the 5 games since the last game of his 12-game hitting streak, Tommy is 3 for 19 (.158).

Helsley

He allowed a seeing-eye single, but otherwise Ryan Helsley – one of the fire-ballers I wrote about yesterday – turned in another fine inning. Before his 2021 season was 3 innings old, Ryan had already served up 5 runs. Since then, though, he’s been as advertised.

In his last 7 appearances, Helsley has given just one additional run over 8.1 innings, during which he’s walked 2 and struck out 10. The 31 batters he’s faced in those games are hitting .172 against him – all singles, as Ryan has yet to allow an extra-base hit this year.

Cabrera

Similarly, Genesis Cabrera has strung together a series of excellent outings after he was knocked around a little in the opening series against the Reds. Genesis has pitched 7 innings over his last 7 outings, giving just 1 earned run on 4 hits, walking just 1 and striking out 10. 69 of his last 98 pitches have been strikes (70%). The last 28 batters to face Cabrera are hitting .148 with a .179 on base percentage. 18 of the last 59 swings taken against him come up empty (31%).

Hicks

In a kind of follow up to yesterday’s post, Jordan Hicks got himself in trouble again with control. Half of the 4 batters he faced worked him into three-ball counts, and both walked. And both scored.

Jordan has faced 32 batters this season. 13 have worked him into three-ball counts (40.6%) and 8 of the 13 have ended up walking. It’s a concern.

Reyes

Likewise, command issues from closer Alex Reyes turned a comfortable win into a nail biter. Alex, in a 23-pitch two-thirds of an inning, went three balls to 3 of the 4 batters he faced – and is going deep in the count to almost every batter he faces. Of the 37 he’s faced so far, Alex has gone to three-ball counts 16 times (43.2%). Almost 60% of the batters he faces (22 of 37) have gone to at least two-ball counts.

Alex has also tossed 4 wild pitches in his last 5 innings.

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.

If We Can Just Get a Little More Chase

One hundred mile-per-hour stuff is a nice asset for a pitcher to have.  It doesn’t guarantee success, of course.  But it’s a great place to start.

The back of the bullpen for this year’s St Louis Cardinals features three high-octane right-handers.  To date, only Jordan Hicks has exceeded the 100 mph mark this season (32 of the 127 pitches he’s thrown have exceeded 100 on the gun), Alex Reyes and Ryan Helsley have both been in that neighborhood, though.  Helsley has been over 99 on three pitches this season – topping at 99.4.  Reyes has hit 98.5.

Of the three, only Helsley’s ERA has taken notable damage.  Allowing 6 runs over his first 10 innings of 2021, Ryan is currently saddled with a 5.40 ERA.  Hicks (1.29 in 7 innings) and Reyes (0.00 in 7.2 innings) have done superficially better.  But underneath, all three are experiencing a common problem.  They are constantly behind hitters.  It has led to a concerning number of walks (each pitcher has already walked 6 batters in their few innings so far) and elevated pitch counts.  Helsley’s 10 innings have cost him 190 pitches.  In 7.2 innings, Reyes has thrown 135 (17.6 pitches per), and Hicks (as mentioned) has already thrown 127 in 7 innings (18.1 per).  For guys who aren’t giving up hits (just 17 in their combined 24.2 innings) it’s a lot of pitches thrown.

There are two dynamics behind this.  First, of course, is the pure control issue.  A lot of times an elite fastball can be hard to command.  The average major league pitcher hits the strike zone with about 49.9% of his pitches.  The second dynamic – and the one that’s causing real problems for Helsley and Reyes – is something called chase rate.

Just outside of the strike zone proper is an area called the “shadow” of the strike zone.  Not technically strikes, pitches in this area (which extends roughly three inches all around the perimeter of the zone) are generally close enough to be called strikes, and – with two strikes on a batter – could be considered “too close to take.”  Just beyond is the “chase zone.”  Pitches in this region – which extends about another three inches – are far enough out of the zone that batters shouldn’t swing at them, but do with some frequency – the major league average is about 20%.

The impact of chase should be obvious.  The pitcher that can get the hitter to chase his 2-1 slider out of the zone has evened the count at 2-2 instead of falling behind 3-1 – dramatically altering the rest of the at bat.

The three Cardinal righties all rank in the bottom fourth in the league in chase rate, and this remains the next significant advancement for all of them.

Helsley

Ryan is actually in the strike zone slightly more than average, with 50.5% of his pitches hitting their mark.  But 41 of his 190 pitches have slipped into that chase zone.  Of those pitches, batters have chased just 3.  All three of the chases have come against Ryan’s cutter, but then his cutter accounts for 21 of his 41 pitches into the chase zone.  He has also thrown 1 changeup, 5 curveballs and 14 four-seam fastballs – all of them taken for balls.

Ryan has faced 45 batters this season and has finished the at bat behind 20 of them (44.4%).  Those batters are 5 for 14 (.357) with all 6 walks (.550 on base percentage).  These batters have accounted for 5 of the 6 runs Ryan has allowed.  The 12 batters that Ryan has managed to stay ahead of are 1 for 11 (.091) with a sacrifice fly.  (On opening night, Cincinnati’s Jonathan India opened the sixth by jumping all over Ryan’s 0-1 fastball and lining it into left-center for a single.)

Reyes

Alex is significantly less accurate from the outset, only hitting the strike zone with 43.9% of his pitches.  In his situation, the chase – or lack thereof – becomes more critical.

Alex has been in the chase zone with 32 of his pitches so far this season.  Only four have been offered at (although Alex did get a surprise called strike on a curveball well outside the zone).

Thus, Reyes has finished behind in the count on 16 of the 33 batters he has faced this season (48.5%).  These batters are 0-for-10, but also have the six walks (a .375 on base percentage).  Alex has only finished ahead of 6 batters this season.  They are 0-for-6 with 3 strikeouts.

Hicks

Fully 70 of Jordan Hicks’ 127 pitches have missed the strike zone (55.1%).  The problem isn’t the hard stuff.  Seventeen of Jordan’s 32 100-mph pitches have been in the zone.  His problem is the secondary pitches that he can’t quite command.  He has thrown 29 cutters, finding the strike zone with only 6 of them.  He’s also missed on 2 of his 3 changeups and half of his 4 sliders.

Of all of these pitches, Jordan has found the chase zone with 34 of them.  He’s gotten swings on 9 of them – which works out to 26%, which seems like it would be above the 21% average, but the savant site that provides a gateway to the Statcast data still ranks him in the 26th percentile for chase (here).  The sinker and the cutter have each been chased 4 times.

I think it’s fair to say that Jordan’s issues are less with the chase than simply finding the strike zone with those secondary pitches.

Nonetheless, Jordan has finished behind in an at bat at a much higher rate than the other two.  Seventeen of the 28 batters Hicks has faced finished ahead in the count – (60.7%).  Only one of them managed a hit (Miami’s Jesus Aguilar bounced a 99.9 MPH sinker into right for a single), but with the 6 walks, that works out to a .412 on base percentage.  Jordan has only stayed ahead of 5 batters so far this year.  They are 0-for-5 with 2 strikeouts.

Combined, the three power right-handers have faced 106 batters this year, and have stayed behind exactly half of them.  Those 53 hold a slash line of .171/.453/.171.  The 23 that they’ve stayed ahead of are .045/.043/.045 – an amusing .089 OPS.

Clearly, you don’t want to get behind in the count against the explosive fire-ballers.  It’s incumbent, now, on Helsley, Reyes and Hicks to figure out how to get them in that position with more consistency.

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.

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.

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.