That was a frustrating game, for a lot of the right reasons. For one thing: Blake Hawksworth was really not so bad! Again! Hawksworth-the-starter appears to have two pitches, three when he works in the occasional cutter or curveball—a fastball he tries to put on the outside corner until he gets to two strikes, and a changeup that usually isn't a strike. As Suppan has shown us, anything can be reasonably effective when a pitcher is hitting the corners, and Hawksworth was using a 93-94 mile per hour fastball instead of Suppan's 85 mph Suppanball.
And that made the changeup an extremely effective pitch. Hawksworth got nine swinging strikes on it last night, five of them belonging to Prince Fielder, in the course of earning his seven strikeouts. He proved as combustible as ever, but with Suppan categorically replaceable and Adam Ottavino no less combustible Hawksworth is an interesting fourth or fifth starter until his services are no longer required. But the Cardinals couldn't put any sustained runs together.
For another thing: the Cardinals couldn't put any sustained runs together against Randy Wolf! Wolf's been a fine starter for the last two years, so his FIP heading into today's game was probably not an extremely accurate gauge of his talents. But now was a bad time for the Cardinals to help him step away from the walks crown, which he held heading into last night's game.
So the Cardinals got a great outing from, numerically, at least, their worst starter, and squandered it against a pitcher who was leading the league in walks. Albert Pujols hit a home run, but nobody was on base; they walked three times in 2 2/3 innings after the reigning league leader in walks left the game. Bad Timing, substandard execution, and an excellent catch from none other than Jim Edmonds—who didn't even get one of the home runs, which is all I really could have asked for. (15 more to 400!)
After the jump, a look at the offense of the 13-13 June that was.
One thing the Cardinals did incredibly well in June, despite being regularly called listless, disinterested, too loose, and, that old chestnut, too reliant on the home run: steal bases. The Cardinals stole 21 bases in 26 attempts in June, the most they'd stolen since June of 2005, when Reggie Sanders stole eight without being caught to lead the team to a 23-for-29 mark. (Sanders stole six the rest of the year, but was caught just once.) This month the credit goes to Brendan Ryan and Albert Pujols, who collectively stole nine; erstwhile thievery champion Yadier Molina made just one attempt, which was unsuccessful. Shockingly, those stolen bases did not make up for the Cardinals failing to put additional runners on base.
For the second month in three the offense was provided by Colby Rasmus, whose nine home runs gave him a team-leading .286/.341/.643 line. The walks weren't there like they were in April, but nine home runs—I'll take it. Coming up just behind him were Matt Holliday and Pujols, who hit .302/.387/.583 and .298/.402/.543. What's striking, though, is how reliant the Cardinals were on those three—after Adam Wainwright, who hit .333/.467/.417 in 17 plate appearances, the next best line belonged to Skip Schumaker, who hit just .311/.350/.378.
Offensive problems are so often attributed to the best players on the team and so rarely caused by the best players on the team; in June the Cardinals' supporting cast disappeared. Schumaker's success was counteracted by poor performances from Brendan Ryan, Felipe Lopez, and especially David Freese (.540 OPS) and Yadier Molina (.496.) It's one thing to say that Pujols hit a home run with the runners empty despite having runners on base later on—the problem is that those runners just aren't consistently there.