Although Cardinal starter Michael Wacha was very, very good last night, the 1-0 loss was the fourth loss in the first five games of the home stand, and the fifth in the last six games.
The team batting totals over the last six games are a little deceptive. St Louis has scored just 16 runs (2.67 per game) and is batting just .221. The reality of the situation is significantly different. It’s considerably worse. Poor as these numbers are, they are substantially inflated by the 10-run outburst Monday night. Remove that game from the totals, and St Louis is hitting just .186 (30-for-161) in the “other” five games, with only 2 home runs (they hit five on Monday), 6 runs scored and 54 strikeouts. They have now been shut out twice in those other games.
Zero-for-three last night, St. Louis is just 5 for its last 26 (.139) with runners in scoring position. They were also 0-for-7 with runners on base, and are just 12 for their last 74 (.162) with any runners on base.
In a bit of a departure, most of the recent offensive struggles have come against right-handed pitchers (Rubby De La Rosa, Joe Ross, Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola). Over the last six games, they are hitting .308 (8-for-26) with a .615 slugging percentage against the lefty relievers they’ve faced. Over that same span, they are hitting .208 (36-for-173) against right handed pitching.
Matt Carpenter led off the game with a double. This would be the only time in the game that the Cardinals would put a lead-off man on. That being said, production leading off an inning is on the rise this year. In 2015, Cardinal leadoff hitters carried an uninspiring .318 on base percentage, scoring 44% of the times that they reached. So far this year, that on base figure is .377, with the runner scoring 50% of the time.
Howard’s home run last night off Michael Wacha was the ninth served up by Cardinal pitching over the last six games. During this span, the St Louis starters have held opposing hitters to a .209 batting average (31-for-148), but 14 of those hits have been for extra bases, including 8 of the home runs allowed by the staff. The opposing slugging percentage against the last six Cardinal starters is .412, and their ERA – despite the low batting average – is 4.39.
This has, in fact, been the recurring image from the recent losses to Arizona, Washington and Philadelphia. A very credible performance by a Cardinal starter that is decided by a game-changing homer.
Matt Holliday’s last walk came in the sixth inning of the April 23rd game in San Diego, 32 plate appearances ago.
Matt Adams saw 18 pitches during his 4 plate appearances. But grinding out at bats is still not Matt’s strong suit, as he went 0-for-4 in those appearances. While Adams is 4 for his last 5 when he hits the first pitch, he is now just 2 for his last 14 (.143) if the at bat extends to a second pitch.
One of the significant features of this recent downturn is the first protracted slump by Aledmys Diaz. Off to a record-setting hot start, Diaz was 0-for-3 yesterday with 2 strikeouts. He now has just 2 hits in his last 18 at bats (.111). One of the defining traits of major league hitters is the ability to work their way out of slumps. The next several games will be very revealing about Aledmys.
Michael Wacha has now been twice victimized by lack of any run support during the downturn, which started when he was shut out by De La Rosa in Arizona, 3-0. Over his last two starts, Wacha has given the Cardinals 15 innings allowing just 4 runs on 10 hits (a 2.40 ERA), while striking out 17. But, eight of the 10 hits allowed have been for extra bases, including three home runs, which have accounted for all the runs against him.
The most significant damage done against Wacha have come of the bats of the left-handers he’s faced in those starts. Last night, lefties were only 3-for-12 (.250) against him, but that included Ceasar Hernandez’ double as well as the Howard home run. Over his last two stars, left-handed hitters haven’t hit much against him (.238 on 5-of-21 hitting), but four of the five hits have been for extra-bases, including the game winning home runs by Howard and Chris Hermann.
Right-handers, by contrast, were 2-for-15 last night against Wacha (.133) and just 5-for-31 (.161) over his last 15 innings.
Seven of the eight extra-base hits he’s surrendered have come with the bases empty. Over his last two starts, once a runner reaches base, the next batters are just 1-for-11 (.091) against Wacha, including 0-for-6 last night. That lone hit, of course, was the Hermann home run.
Batters who hit Wacha’s first or second pitch went 4 for 12 (.333) with two doubles and the home run. Batters that didn’t get him early, pretty much didn’t get him. Everyone else went 1 for 15 (.067). In Wacha’s starts against Arizona and Philadelphia, batters who reached him early were 5 for 14 (.357) with a .786 slugging percentage. Thereafter, Michael allowed just 5 hits to the other 38 batters (.132).