Don't Stop Believin'
With their win tonight the Pirates now have a 2.5-game lead on the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. In terms of securing at least the final playoff spot, the standings now look like this:
Diamondbacks 10 gb
Nationals 13.5 gb
Rockies 15 gb
Phillies 15 gb
Don't Stop Believin' 2.0 (Clint Barmes' walk up song)
Tonight Clint Barmes continued what has been something of an offensive breakout for him this month, going 2-for-3, with a double and a RBI. For July Barmes is now batting .296/.367/.407.
After the game the Pirates' shortstop talked about how an adjustment he has made to his swing, which involves a higher leg kick, has helped to get him on track offensively.
"It definitely helps my timing. I'm not worried about getting beat or blown up by a fastball. With no stride I had issues trying to time it and stay back. Like tonight, with the leg kick and getting up I was a little late getting down and still able to get a pretty swing on a ball and get something out of it, hitting a ball over the first baseman and getting a double. I feel confident in it and I feel great at the plate right now."
Barmes said he had played around with the leg kick in the past and that one day this season he was messing around with it during batting practice and decided that he was going to take "one of those slow-pitch softball hacks at it and see what happens, more out of frustration than anything." Barmes continued, "It was funny I picked my leg up about as high as I could, come down and hit a line drive with back spin and went ‘wow, so that's what that feels like.' And so I just started to tinker with it at that point. ... It's worked out. At this point I'm going to keep rolling with it."
Strand rate meet RISP, or "You regress!" "No, you regress!"
Perhaps no two statistics carry with them a higher expectation of regression than Jeff Locke's strand rate and the Cardinals' hitting with runners in scoring position. Entering tonight's game Locke had the highest strand rate among qualified starters in the Major Leagues, 84.3 percent; the Cardinals were (are) on pace for the highest batting average with RISP in the history of the game, .334. Tonight the statistics went mano-a-mano with one them having to give.
The winner tonight was the Cardinals' RISP: St. Louis went 4-for-12 vs. Jeff Locke with RISP, thus equaling their season rate. Locke's strand rate for the night was 63.6 percent.
In the first inning, Starling Marte drew a walk from Adam Wainwright and later came around to score perhaps the least likely run of the season. Why do I say it is possibly the least likely run of the season? Consider the odds of Marte getting on first the way he did:
- Starling Marte has the fifth lowest walk rate in Major League Baseball, 3.7 percent.
- Before his first inning walk, he was the only player with 200 plus plate appearances to have more HBPs than walks.
- Adam Wainwright, on the other hand, owns the lowest walk rate among qualified starters in the Majors, 2.8 percent.
The odds of Marte getting on base the way he did were ... well ... very low.
The Bucs send Charlie Morton to the mound tomorrow as they go for the five-game sweep. The Pirates will also be looking to extend their seven-game winning streak against the Cardinals.
The Pirates' longest winning streak against the Cardinals is 13 games, set in 1992.