The first 3-2 pitch that Dylan Carlson saw in the big leagues was a fastball from the White Sox’ Lucas Giolito. There were two out in the fifth inning, and Giolito brought it at 94 miles an hour. The pitch was up, but a bit away, and Carlson skied it to fairly deep right-center field, where it was easily caught.
The most recent 3-2 pitch that Dylan saw came in last night’s sixth inning, with Dexter Fowler on first base and the Cards up 3-1. This, too, was a fastball (delivered this time by Milwaukee’s Cory Knebel). It was virtually in the same spot as Giolito’s fastball – and a little faster at 96-mph. But this time Carlson wasn’t of the disposition to pull the ball.
With the relaxed, confident swing that Cards have been waiting all summer to see, Dylan sent a scorching line drive off the left-center field wall for an RBI double.
I’m not sure that there are any two swings that more dramatically show the difference between Dylan Carlson before he went back to camp and after.
The difference is clear in the numbers. Dylan limped back to camp carrying a .162/.215/.243 batting line. Since his return – and after driving in 3 runs last night with a home run and that double – Dylan is succeeding to the tune of .320/.333/.760. Not coincidentally, the Cards have won 6 of the 8 games since Carlson has been back.
But the difference has been in more than the numbers.
The Dylan of summer quickly became pull-conscious, and shortly thereafter became prone to chasing pitches. His swings became increasingly tentative and off-balanced.
The Dylan of fall has found his calm. He is much less given to chasing breaking balls (he seems to be seeing them very well right now) and is comfortable in driving outside pitches the other way – and doing so with authority.
Even hitting late in the count doesn’t ripple his calm. All of his at bats last night lasted at least 4 pitches, and he saw at least 2 balls each time up.
In his 27 plate appearances since returning, Dylan has hit in two- or three-ball counts 59.3% of the time (16 of the 27). He is 6 for 15 (.400) with a walk in those at bats, with 4 extra-base hits (including both of his home runs since his return). He is slugging .933 in deep counts since his resurrection. He is 2 for his last 4 in full count at bats. The major leagues as a whole hit .223/.391/.391 after ball two is thrown, and .188/.448/.326 once the count goes full.
It’s a small sample size, but the prospect who returned looks so decidedly different from the one who went down that it is almost difficult to believe that they are the same individual.
St Louis has waited through about 50 of their scheduled 60 games to find one of their young outfielders who would lay claim to a job. They have been, effectively, waiting for a hero.
Even though the season has dwindled to the final few games, it is not too late. Improbably – given the adversity set before them – the playoffs are still within grasp. If Dylan Carlson has an extended hot streak in him, now is not a bad time. He just needs to keep his calm.
Tommy Edman contributed a couple of singles to the attack, hitting a 1-0 pitch from Corbin Burnes in the third, and a 1-1 pitch from Ray Black in the eighth. The Tommy Edman from 2019 is still very much alive and well – but only when he hits early in the count. Before the count reaches ball two, Tommy is hitting .357 with all 4 of his home runs (and 10 of his 12 extra-base hits). He is a .108 hitter with a .135 slugging percentage once the count reaches ball two.
Yadier Molina rode his recent hot streak to his 2000th career hit, a clean, line-drive single off a 98-mph fastball from Justin Topa. Yadi has 4 multi-hit games over his last 7, and is hitting .375 (9 for 24) in those games.
The landmark single came after an uncharacteristically long at bat for Yadi – a 7-pitch duel. The fastball came on a 2-2 pitch. Of Molina’s four plate appearances, that was the only one that reached a two-ball count. For the season, 38.4% of Yadi’s at bats are over before the pitcher throws ball one – the highest percentage of anyone on the team with more than 40 plate appearances; and 69.2% of his at bats don’t make it until ball two. That is also the highest percentage on the team for anyone with at least 20 plate appearances.
Just back off the DL, Dexter Fowler looks OK at the plate, but things haven’t quite fallen in place yet for him. He is 2 for 11 (.182) in his early at bats back. He has, however, drawn 3 walks.
Dexter extended three of his four at bats to a ball three count. For the season, Dex ends up in three-ball counts 31.5% of the time – tied with Brad Miller for most on the team.
Kwang Hyun Kim was the starter and winner with another solid start. After allowing 1 run over 5 innings, Kim finishes September with a 2-0 record and a 2.01 ERA.
Genesis Cabrera is starting to string together fine outings. He retired 4 of the 5 to face him last night, and over his last 6 consecutive scoreless innings, Genesis has allowed just 3 hits – all singles. He has struck out 9. He has a 1.42 ERA in 12.2 innings this month.
When Eric Sogard poked his opposite field single against Andrew Miller, he interrupted quite a hitless streak against him. The previous 26 batters to face Miller had gone 0-for-21 – albeit with 3 hit batters and 2 walks. Miller has a 1.35 ERA for the month of September in 6.2 innings.
At 3:43, last night’s game was the longest contest the Cardinals have participated in since August 29, when it took them 4:06 to lose a 2-1 game to Cleveland. That, of course, was a 12-inning game. The previous longest 9-inning game came the night before – a 14-2 pounding they received at the hands of those Indians that took 3:51.
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.