5.22.19

Page 27

05.22.2019 • WedneSday • M 1

BASEBALL

ST. LOUIS POST-dISPaTCH • B5

Poor road starting pitching plagues Cards Slugging percentage also low despite high ‘hard contact’ rate

AVERAGES Batting Munoz DeJong J.Martinez Wieters Fowler Molina Bader Goldschmidt Wong Ozuna Carpenter Gyorko Team

BY RICK HUMMEL

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Cardinals will have 11 of their next 14 games at home, beginning with Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader with Kansas City. That was created by Tuesday’s scheduled contest being postponed because of foreboding weather. Because the Cardinals are 14-9 at home and 10-14 on the road, that should augur well — in addition to the fact that five of the 11 games will be contested against lastplace teams Kansas City and Cincinnati. The rotation’s earned-run average is 3.45 at home, which is laudable. It is 5.81 on the road, which is horrible and that failing has the attention of John Mozeliak, the club’s president of baseball operations. “The month of May certainly has been frustrating at times when you look at the simple view of wins (five) and losses (13),” Mozeliak said after Tuesday’s game was bagged. “A lot of times when a team is struggling, it’s usually the inconsistencies. Sometimes you pitch well and don’t hit well. Sometimes you hit well and don’t pitch well. Overall we have to be more consistent in our play. “In terms of the rotation on the road, it’s definitely struggled, there’s no denying that. Clearly, we need to do a better job.” The Cardinals have played in some hitters’ parks on the road, such as Milwaukee (twice), Monterrey, Mexico, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. But the numbers on the road nonetheless are jarring. Even counting the staff’s relative success at home, none of the starting pitchers has an ERA under 4.00. None has one over 5.00, either, but anything over 4.00 generally isn’t considered good. Asked if changes are on the horizon, Mozeliak said, “I don’t think you rule anything out or speak in absolutes. But you do want, and you do need, to start seeing some improvement.” There are options at Memphis in righthander Daniel Ponce de Leon, who was up with the big club for one impressive start; lefthander Austin Gomber, who pitched well before encountering a minor biceps problem; righthander Jake Woodford, who probably has been Memphis’ best pitcher but who isn’t on the 40-man roster yet, and hard-throwing lefthander Genesis Cabrera, who has been better lately although he had a 6.95 ERA entering Tuesday’s game at Nashville. “Internally we’ve had discussions,” Mozeliak said. “We’re certainly not oblivious to what’s happened with the rotation, but we’re going to be home for a few days and hope that some of these pitchers pitch well and build some confidence.” Mozeliak said that moving John Gant, outstanding in relief, to the rotation had been discussed. “But I don’t feel at this point it would be

Pitching C.Martinez Gant Brebbia Hicks Helsley Gallegos Flaherty Hudson Wainwright Miller Mikolas Wacha Webb Team

ROBERT COHEN, RCOHEN@POST-DISPATCH.COM

Daniel Ponce de Leon is a candidate to be promoted from the minors for a spot in the struggling big-league pitching rotation.

Royals at Cardinals 12:15 and 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, FSM Game 1: Keller (2-5, 4.66) vs. Wacha (3-1, 4.93) Game 2: Bailey (4-4, 5.36) vs. Wainwright (3-4, 4.75) an immediate answer,” he said. Alex Reyes, he said, will need two or three starts at least in the minors after recovering from a broken left hand. And Carlos Martinez, who had had a bad shoulder, will remain in the big-league bullpen. “What we saw out of him this past weekend (in Texas) we’ve had some positive feedback from,” Mozeliak said. “He feels good. But starting to put too much on his

plate might not make the most sense physically.” Before he repaired to his couch to watch the Blues play Tuesday night, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said lately he had been diving into piles of statistics and had come to the conclusion that the two biggest problem areas had been too many walks issued by Cardinals pitchers — they have given the 11th most out of 30 teams — and too low a slugging percentage. Shildt said that the rotation swoon this month came after a good stretch of starts in April. But he said, “Ultimately, we’ve walked too many people. We’ve gotten behind and got into unfavorable counts and that has driven up the damage.” That part of the Cardinals game is a “controllable,” as Shildt likes to say. The lineup for the doubleheader, Shildt said, will look a little different only because there are two games and many po-

AVG AB .371 35 .320 178 .319 141 .300 20 .273 121 .267 172 .259 85 .254 181 .242 149 .233 172 .205 171 .179 39 .257 1596 W L 0 0 3 0 1 2 1 2 0 0 1 0 4 3 3 3 3 4 1 2 4 4 3 1 0 0 24 23

R 6 38 21 1 18 16 15 32 18 34 27 2 237

H 13 57 45 6 33 46 22 46 36 40 35 7 410

2B 2 17 8 0 7 13 4 4 6 9 8 0 81

3B 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 3

HR 0 8 3 1 3 4 4 10 5 13 5 0 58

RBI 0 26 21 6 12 31 11 24 22 40 12 2 221

BB SO SB E 1 6 0 1 25 34 4 2 11 30 1 2 0 6 1 0 23 33 2 2 6 14 3 1 13 29 0 1 27 57 0 3 22 22 6 4 20 42 3 0 28 45 2 3 3 13 1 2 182 384 25 24

ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO 0.00 2 0 0 1.2 0 0 0 0 1 2 1.37 22 0 2 26.1 11 4 4 3 7 27 1.78 21 0 0 25.1 15 5 5 3 9 30 2.81 17 0 9 16.0 10 5 5 1 7 21 2.84 3 0 0 6.1 3 2 2 2 0 7 3.86 16 0 0 18.2 12 8 8 3 6 31 4.19 10 10 0 53.2 47 26 25 9 20 58 4.40 10 9 1 47.0 58 31 23 9 22 36 4.75 9 9 0 47.1 45 26 25 7 19 39 4.86 21 0 1 16.2 16 11 9 5 9 22 4.88 10 10 0 55.1 56 31 30 10 10 37 4.93 8 8 0 42.0 43 25 23 8 26 39 5.27 16 0 0 13.2 6 8 8 2 6 14 4.40 47 47 13 413.2 371 217 202 71 168 409

sition players will get at least one start. So don’t look for any long-term drastic changes just yet, and rest assured that Matt Carpenter, 20 for 45 (.444) against Kansas City starter Homer Bailey, will be in the lineup. Other Cardinals who had large success against Bailey when he was with the Reds are Paul DeJong (.429, two homers), Yadier Molina (.400, three homers) and Jose Martinez (.467, one homer). Dexter Fowler and Marcell Ozuna also have slugged homers against Bailey. But there hasn’t been a whole of lot of slugging lately. “Our slugging percentage (.420) is probably our biggest outlier,” Shildt said, referring to the Cardinals’ 15th-place standing out of 30 big-league teams. “We haven’t done much damage and our OPS is down — for three or four of our guys (Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt among others) somewhat significantly.” But Shildt points to the Cardinals’ drawing more walks striking out less. “When you look at the on-base opportunities, the lineup still works,” he said. “We haven’t been able to get the big hit and do much damage. “It’s hard to say how much we’ve controlled the slugging percentage,” he added. “Nobody wants to hear any more about hard outs. But the reality of it is that our hard contact has improved.” The statistics Shildt cited said the Cardinals’ hard contact rate was 42.5 percent in March/April and 43.6 percent of balls hit in May for one of the top couple of hard contact rates in the majors. “Our walks have increased by half a percentage point in May and our strikeouts have gone down 2.6 percent,” Shildt said. “You literally scratch your head.” Rick Hummel @cmshhummel on Twitter rhummel@post-dispatch.com

Cast of unknowns, reclamations has Yankees in first BY DAVE SHEININ

The Washington Post

BALTIMORE — Even given 50 guesses, before the start of this season, as to which New York Yankees player would be the key to a pivotal three-week stretch in May in which the team surged into first place in the American League’s toughest division — and even handed the giveaway hint that the team would place 17 different players on the injured list, 13 of them concurrently — not even the most die-hard fan would have come up with the name Gio Urshela. No one could have guessed in February, March or April that it would be Urshela, a 27-year-old third baseman in his third organization in 12 months, who would lead the Yankees with 10 RBIs this month, including a handful that have tied or won games; who would be hitting .414 with runners in scoring position this season; who would be looked upon with admiration and gratitude by teammates who probably didn’t know his name last August, when the Yankees acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays without giving up a single player in return. “He’s probably our MVP at this point,” reliever Adam Ottavino said last week. But by now, maybe we should have seen it coming. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the Yankees would kick over a rock one August (paying cash considerations to the Blue Jays for Urshela, a .225/.274/.315 career hitter to that point) and by the next May have on their hands a new building block — a player who, even when the Yankees return to something approximating full strength, appears to have earned a spot on the roster. Because that is precisely what the Yankees do now, as well as any big-market team in the majors — and maybe as well as any team in the game, period. Yes, the modern Yankees are still defined in part by their massive payrolls — roughly $210 million this season, third-highest in the majors. But with much of that giant payroll now parked on the injured list, they are also defined these days by a sharp, shrewd resourcefulness that helps explain how they have survived one of the worst runs of injuries of any contender in recent memory. According to data at Spotrac, the Yankees have lost a total of 650 player days to the injured list this season, 101 more than any other team in the majors, and 218 more than any other AL team. Even now, with players slowly making their way back to the roster, their current injured list includes MVPcaliber sluggers (Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton), ace-caliber starting pitchers (Luis Severino, James Paxton), a top setup man (Dellin Betances) and last year’s AL rookie of the year runner-up (Miguel Andujar). Into this void has stepped a cast of unknowns, reclamations and other finds who

FRANK FRANKLIN II, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Yankees’ Luke Voit follows through on an RBI single last week in New York. have combined to not only keep the Yankees afloat but, at 29-17 following Monday’s win over the Baltimore Orioles,in first place in the AL East by a game over the Tampa Bay Rays. “We’ve had a lot of our guys in various roles gain a lot of experience,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously, a lot of guys have done well with it, have had some success. I think that leads to confidence and knowing they can not only play here, but thrive here. We’ve needed every bit of it. And these are guys who have a chance to not only play a short-term role for us, but also a long-term role — and hopefully we’ll benefit from that as the season unfolds, and also down the stretch.” It isn’t just Urshela. It’s also first baseman Luke Voit, buried a year ago on the Cardinals’ depth chart, now posting an .873 OPS with 11 homers while holding down the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in the lineup most nights. It’s infielder Thairo Estrada, best known for missing nearly the entire 2018 season after being shot during a botched robbery attempt in his native Venezuela, now hitting .303/.324/.545 for the Yankees since an April call-up. It’s righthander Do-

mingo German, a one-time middling Miami Marlins prospect and middling Yankees swingman, now 8-1 with a 2.50 ERA as the de facto ace of their rotation. “You always wonder, what was it that his original team didn’t see, but that the Yankees did,” lefty reliever Zach Britton said. “Take Luke Voit — the way [the Yankees’ analytics staff] ran the numbers and thought that type of player with consistent at-bats would be great in our stadium. You’re like, ‘Why would St. Louis not see that?’ “ With Urshela, the Yankees were initially attracted to his glove work — not exactly a big secret,with scouts across the industry rating him as one of the best defensive third base prospects.But they also thought he might be able to hit enough to make an impact in the majors. Urshela held the same belief. “Basically, it’s more confidence. To me it’s more mental than mechanic,” Urshela said of his rise as a hitter. “I had a pretty good season [in the minors] in 2014. But I think the difference between that year and this year is, in 2014 I was hitting but I wasn’t sure why. I was just swinging, swinging, swinging. This year, the big difference is I know what I’m

doing. I know what’s helping me be more consistent in the box.” Urshela’s emergence has helped the Yankees survive the most devastating of their 2019 injuries, the only one that will cost them the services of a star player for the rest of this season — that of Andujar, who underwent shoulder surgery last week and will be out at least until next spring. Pretty much everyone else of note is either back already (catcher Gary Sanchez, center fielder Aaron Hicks) or due to return in the next few weeks (Judge, Stanton, Betances, Paxton, shortstop Didi Gregorius) or months (Severino). Given the Yankees’ surprising hold on first place despite the many injuries, the effect of getting all those players back is likely to be similar to that of a contending team adding multiple superstar-caliber players at the trade deadline. “When you don’t feel like you need to go out and make a trade to add great pieces, and you’ve got all-stars you’re waiting to get back,” Britton said, “you would assume we’re going to be a better, more wellrounded team when they all get back.”