Andrew McCutchen struggled down the stretch last season, but has been red hot this August.
The St. Louis Cardinals have won two in a row after enduring a tough stretch over which the team lost 13 of 17 games. They’re now two games back of the Pittsburgh Pirates for first place in the NL Central as they host the Bucs Wednesday in Game two of their three-game series (8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN).
Here are five stats to know going into tonight’s action at Busch Stadium.
1. Shelby Miller takes the mound for the Cardinals coming off a start in which he threw just two pitches and left after being hit in the elbow by a Carl Crawford line drive. Although he has struggled as of late - going 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA in his last 10 starts - his fastball remains a force to be reckoned with.
Miller throws his fastball 74 percent of the time; the second-highest fastball usage among MLB starters behind Bartolo Colon (85 percent).Only teammate Lance Lynn has more strikeouts with his fastball (105) than Miller this season (102).
2. Whereas Miller is a fastball pitcher, Francisco Liriano uses his slider as often as any pitcher in baseball. As a lefty, he throws more sliders to righties than any other pitcher (min 10 starts). Among left-handed pitchers, only Chris Sale throws his slider more often against lefty batters.
Opponents are hitting just .144 against Liriano’s slider this season. That’s the fourth-lowest average among pitchers with at least 150 plate appearances ending with the pitch.
3. The Cardinals lead the league by a wide margin in batting average with runners in scoring position, batting .334. They have five of the top 10 hitters with RISP this season.
Highest BA with RISP
Cardinals This Season
How are they performing so much better with runners in scoring position?
One way is by cutting down strikeouts. The team has struck out in 19 percent of plate appearances with the bases empty, the 10th-lowest rate in MLB. But with RISP, the team has struck out in only 16 percent of plate appearances, the lowest rate in baseball.
4. After slumping down the stretch last year, Andrew McCutchen is doing the exact opposite this year. He’s batting .471 in August, second in MLB behind Jayson Werth (.531) and has multiple hits in seven of his last 10 games.
While McCutchen has reversed his late-season trend from last year, overall, he is still better in his home park. McCutchen is hitting .362 at home this season, third-best in the majors, but just .263 on the road, 84th in MLB.
Most Runs Out of Leadoff Spot
5. Starling Marte has provided a boost at the top of the order for the Pirates this season. Last year, the Pirates’ .291 OBP out of the leadoff spot was the fourth-worst in the majors. This year, Pirates leadoff hitters have a .334 OBP and Starling Marte’s 75 runs out of the top spot are second-most in the majors.