About the ESPN Hot Zone
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1. The Cardinals enter the day with the best record in baseball (40-22) and are 21-10 on the road. The biggest key to the Cardinals' success is timely hitting.
Highest BA with RISP
The team is hitting .339 with runners in scoring position. The last NL team to hit at least .300 in those situations over a full season was the 2000 Rockies (.309).
No other NL team is even hitting .300.
The team has five of the NL's top 15 in hitting with runners in scoring position, including major league leader Carlos Beltran (22-for-47, .468).
2. The pitching matchup pits Lance Lynn against Bronson Arroyo. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Lynn is one of three pitchers in the past 20 seasons to win at least eight of his first nine decisions in back-to-back years, joining Curt Schilling and Kevin Brown.
Arroyo has a rough recent history against the Cardinals (1-7 in his last 11 starts) but has been great at home this season (5-1 with a 2.64 ERA). His 48 wins at Great American Ball Park are 11 more than any other pitcher.
3. The Cardinals have a couple of hot hitters. One of them is David Freese, who enters the game with the longest current hitting streak in the majors at 18 games. Should Freese get a hit tonight, he'd have the longest hitting streak by a Cardinals third baseman since Terry Pendleton hit in 19 straight games in 1987.
The last Cardinals third baseman with a 20-game hitting streak was Joe Torre, who hit in 22 straight games en route to the NL MVP in 1971.
Notable for Freese is that he's been able to get hits against pitches out of the strike zone (you can see the two red squares near the right-hand batter's box in our interactive heat map above).
Freese has seven hits on pitches out of the zone during the streak. He had only two all season prior to that.
4. The other red-hot Cardinals hitter is Matt Carpenter, whose hitting streak is currently 17 games. Carpenter has been a huge boost to the leadoff spot since taking it over on May 2. Prior to that, Cardinals leadoff hitters were batting .211 with a .295 on-base percentage. Since then, those numbers are a major league best .361 and .456.
Carpenter is among the NL's most disciplined hitters. His swing rate of 39 percent ranked second-lowest in the NL entering Sunday. His rate of missing swings was just 10 percent, ranking eighth in the league.
But one hitter who has been particularly valuable this year is cleanup batter Brandon Phillips.
Phillips is hitting .429 with runners in scoring position (fourth in the NL) and an NL-best .328 with two strikes. Phillips is on pace for the first 100-RBI season of his career.
For more notes, stats and trends on the game, follow along with the "Sunday Night Baseball" Gamecast, which can be found on the Scoreboard page.