Attack of the Killer Innings
Remember back in the day when the St. Louis Cardinals had to worry about the dreaded “Lynning“? Lance Lynn would be speeding through the opponent’s lineup. Then something wouldn’t go his way, maybe a walk or a bloop hit, and the wheels would fall off. After the inning was over things would return to normal, but with the Cardinals at a sudden disadvantage on the scoreboard.
Lynn seems to have put a lot of that behind him, while the condition has spread to the rest of the Cardinals roster. Aided in particular by bad bullpen work, and defensive and base-running miscues.
This has been an issue all season long, especially against the Cubs. The Cardinals have led in 7 of 9 games against the Cubs. Including multi-run leads in all 3 games of an eventual Chicago sweep June 2nd – 4th, against a Cubs team coming off a 6 game losing streak which included getting swept by the last place San Diego Padres. The Padres!
Yet with all those leads the St. Louis Cardinals only came away with 3 victories. And in one of those victories they squandered a 3-0 lead and required a walk-off double from Randall Grichuk.
These killer innings seem to brought on by three distinct areas. Bad baserunning, bad defense, and bad bullpen work.
To lead off the series against the Cincinnati Reds on June 5th the Cardinals got out to another 2-0 lead only to lose 2-4 with all of the Reds runs coming in a single inning. Thanks in part to a bullpen appearance by Kevin Siegrist in which he entered and promptly gave up a double scoring both inherited runners.
The bullpen’s woes have been widely reported and any number of stats can show the issues. But we’ll look at the hard numbers. In the 7th and 8th inning of games this season the Cardinals have given up 37 and 44 runs respectively. That’s 81 out of 231 total runs. 35% of the runs the Cardinals give up are in the 7th and 8th inning. A time when you need to lock it down.
Leading to a solid 18 blown leads.
Two big plays from the Cubs series were misplays by Stephen Piscotty, the one Cardinals batter actually trending upwards offensively. He lost a ball in the sun that led to a Jason Heyward RBI “double”, and wiffed on a hopping grounder that turned an 1 RBI double into a 2 RBI triple.
In Cincinnati, the Reds were aided when Dexter Fowler couldn’t quite get back to a ball in center that hit off his glove. The play resulted in a 2-2 game, 1 out, with runners on 2nd and 3rd instead of a 2-1 game with 2 outs and runners on 1st and 2nd1.
In steps Siegrist, and the Cardinals are down 2. Which seems insurmountable when you’ve been scoring 2 runs a game for the last week.
Nothing is more frustrating than running into outs. And the Cardinals have been doing that in spades. While maintaining a 2-0 lead the Cardinals managed to get runners thrown out at 3rd and home with less than 2 outs… by the same outfielder.
DeJong getting thrown out at home came during a stretch where the Cardinals hitters had 7 hits in 10 at bats against the Reds starter Asher Wojciechowski, with the heart of the lineup due up. Suddenly instead of 1 outs, bases loaded with Carpenter at the plate, you have 2 outs and runners at 1st and 2nd. Carpenter flies out and the threat ends.
The biggest issue seems to be the manager thinks of it as being aggressive. But I’m hard pressed to remember the last time the aggressive base running paid off. Maybe when Tommy Pham got picked off by Jon Lester? Or how about when Matt Carpenter attempted to stretch a double into a triple to lead off the bottom of the 9th in a 0-0 game? Which he learned nothing from.
This level of ill-advised base running hasn’t been seen since the Colorado Rockies decided it was a good idea to run on Rick Ankiel.
Had to end on a good note.