The first batter Trevor Rosenthal faced in the eighth inning (holding a 5-2 lead) was Jake Lamb. Trevor got ahead quickly 0-2. But two strikes were to be all he would manage against Lamb. Trevor missed with his next three pitches (two of them changeups). With the count now 3-2, and the changeup not finding the zone, Jake may well have suspected that he would get a fastball – and he did – all 98-mph of it. But it was up a bit and Jake – not trying to do too much with it – slapped it up the middle for a leadoff hit.
After a Brandon Drury groundout moved the runner to second, Daniel Descalso came to the plate. Again, after two pitches, the count was two strikes. But Rosenthal missed with the next two fastballs to even the count. To this point, Descalso had swung the bat at only 1 of the four fastballs he’d seen. Is he waiting for the change?
If he was, he guessed correctly, because that’s what he got next – a change (elevated a bit) that he stroked into right for an RBI single. Now it was a 5-3 game.
With Chris Iannetta up next, Trevor threw two fastballs followed by two sliders, setting Iannetta up at 2-2. But his 2-2 slider bounced and Ianneta fouled off the next 99-mph fastball. Chris walked when the next pitch – another slider – missed. The Diamondbacks had the tying runs on with one out.
A hit-batsman would complicate the inning, but Trevor would work his way out of the inning allowing only one more run (could have been much worse).
Not pretty (or terribly effective) but Rosenthal did get the game to closer Seung-hwan Oh with a one-run lead. For one batter, at least. Oh got ahead of leadoff hitter David Peralta, 1-2. Again, two strikes on the batter. But Oh’s subsequent change floated on him and Peralta flicked it over the left-field wall for an opposite field, game-tying home run.
Across all of baseball, batters are hitting .176 with two strikes on them. But in the bottom of the tenth inning, Arizona came through with its fourth crushing two-strike hit in the game’s last three innings when Chris Herrmann guided Matthew Bowman’s miss-located 3-2 fastball up the middle for the single that drove in the game-winning run in the Diamondbacks’ come-from-behind 6-5 victory (box score).
One third strike in any of these moments would have greatly enhanced the Cardinal’s chances of winning.
Arizona finished 4 for 9 against the Cardinal bullpen when they had two strikes on them. St Louis has now lost 4 games this season where they led after seven innings. In three of those games, the lead was at least two runs.
Over 14 games going back to Marco Gonzales’ abbreviated start against Milwaukee in the second game of the June 13 doubleheader, St Louis is 5-9 with a 5.13 team ERA with a .269 batting average allowed.
Over his last 7 games, Trevor has lasted a total of 5 innings, seeing 6 runs score on 9 hits and 4 walks. All of those hits have been singles, but that still adds up to a .391 batting average and a .483 on base percentage.
During those innings, Trevor had 20 of the 29 batters he faced in two-strike counts. Those 20 batters have hit .438 (7 for 16) with 4 walks (a .550 on base percentage).
Oh’s troubling streak stretches, now, to his last 8 games and 8 innings, during which it has rained hits (12) runs (7) and home runs (3) on the Cardinal closer. The 36 batters he’s faced in those innings are hitting .343 and slugging .600 against Seung-hwan. He is also seeing 71% of the balls hit against him put in the air – a strong evidence of his pitches elevating.
Oh shares Rosenthal’s recent struggles with batters in two-strike counts. During the month of June, 66% of the batters to face Oh (31 of 47) have ended with two strikes on them. They are hitting .323 (10 for 31 with no walks). For the season, the batting average against Oh with two strikes on the batter is now .281. Five of the six home runs he’s surrendered have come with the batter in a two-strike count.
Brett Cecil walked a batter in last night’s seventh inning – the first he’s walked in 8.2 innings – but threw an otherwise uneventful inning. I hate to do this, because it seems like every time I point out how well a particular reliever is doing, he immediately blows up.
But, if Mike Matheny and his staff are entertaining ideas for someone who could slide into that closer’s role while Oh and Rosenthal try to figure things out, Brett might be an option. Over 9 innings in his last 9 games, Brett has allowed no runs, last night’s walk, 2 singles and 1 double. His 0.00 ERA is backed by .107/.138/.143 batting line against, plus he has stranded all of his last three inherited runners. Of the last 22 batters to put the ball in play against Brett, 17 have hit it on the ground (77%).
The last 22 batters to face him that have found themselves in two-strike counts have gone 0 for 21 with one walk.
Even if Matheny and company still have utmost faith in Oh/Rosenthal (and I agree that they should – over the long haul), the fact is that no team can afford to hemorrhage games when they take leads into the late innings. For a while these guys may have to throw in lower leveraged situations till they get things worked out.
In the interim, a guy like Cecil could be an option.
It’s getting difficult to quantify the impact that Carlos Martinez has on the pitching staff. He quieted the potent Arizona offense for six innings last night, striking out 10. Ultimately, two sixth-inning walks were all that stood between Carlos and six scoreless innings.
Martinez has now thrown quality starts in 11 of his last 12 outings, his 6-3 record matched with a 2.37 ERA and a .182 batting average against. He finished up a 2-2 June that saw him contribute 4 of the 10 quality starts the entire team has so far this month. His ERA this month is 2.43. The rest of the rotation checks in at 6.35 for June.
Offense Still Scoring Runs, But . . .
St Louis finished the afternoon with 6 hits – all singles – to go with 5 walks. They went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and left 8 runners on base. But they ended the day with 5 runs, which should be enough on most days. Still. With runners at second and third and one out in the first, Jedd Gyorko grounded to second. A run scored, but . . .
Yadier Molina then ended the threat with a grounder.
St Louis pushed ahead 2-0 in the sixth, but they had the bases loaded with one out. Paul DeJong brought in the run with a flyball, but Greg Garcia’s lineout to first closed out the potential big inning with just the one run.
When the Cards scored three in the seventh, they began the inning putting their first four batters on base – so even that inning could have been bigger.
The offense then followed by going 9 up and 9 down through the eighth, ninth and tenth innings, offering not a hint of life against the Arizona bullpen while the Diamondback hitters kept the Cardinal bullpen under constant pressure.
The Cards have averaged 4.81 runs per game this month. But . . .
Matt Carpenter’s game kind of typifies his recent string of games – and to some extent the entire Cardinal offense. Matt was 0 for 2 in the game (pulling his season average down to .234), but he walked twice and scored twice. Over his last 9 games, Carpenter is 3 for 28 (.107), but has walked 13 times (a .390 on base percentage), and has scored 7 runs.