Stats & Info: Carlos Beltran

Top stats to know: Yankees at Indians

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7

AP Photo/Kyndell HarknessNext week, Derek Jeter will make his ninth All-Star start at shortstop for the American League.
The New York Yankees take on the Cleveland Indians on Monday night as both clubs look to make up ground in their divisional races heading into the All-Star break.

Here's a look at some of the top storylines for both teams entering the day, including All-Star selections, a recent trade and an absent offense.

Jeter an All-Star again

Fans elected Derek Jeter a starter in next week’s All-Star Game. It will be his ninth career All-Star start at shortstop. Only Mickey Mantle (13) and Yogi Berra (11) will have started more All-Star Games as a Yankee. (Joe DiMaggio also has nine starts.)

Jeter hit his 2,542nd single Sunday, which moved him into fourth place in MLB history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Pete Rose leads the league with 3,215 singles all time.

Yankees bring in McCarthy

On Sunday, the Yankees traded Vidal Nuno to the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy entered Sunday with a 1.22 run difference between his ERA (5.01) and fielding independent pitching (3.79), the largest of any pitcher who was qualified for the ERA title. FIP is an ERA estimator based on strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed.

With McCarthy arriving, the Yankees designated Alfonso Soriano for assignment. Soriano ranked 1,020th out of 1,022 position players in wins above replacement this season.

Offense Absent for Free Agents

When New York brought in Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, it added proven veterans who had delivered consistently over their careers. However, both have struggled this season.

McCann is hitting line drives at a higher rate, up to 23 percent from 21 percent this past season. But he’s not hitting the ball as hard as he did in 2013, and his hard-hit average has fallen from .209 to .155. McCann's lack of power has led to one of the worst offensive seasons of his career.

For Beltran, his power has also disappeared. Dips in his line-drive rate (19 percent) and hard-hit average (.170) have Beltran on pace for career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Beltran's offensive difficulties have the new Yankee on pace for his first season with negative wins above replacement (minus-0.6).

Masterson's ups and downs

Since shifting to primarily a starter role in 2010, Justin Masterson has seen his year-to-year ERA fluctuate wildly.

Masterson has especially struggled against left-handed batters this season and has seen his opponents' batting average jump from .248 in 2013 to .315 this year.

But Masterson has been remarkably steady for the Indians at home since 2010. His home ERA has been between 3.09 and 3.62 in each of his past four seasons.

Kernels: Walk-offs and 13s abundant

June, 22, 2014
Jun 22
Our look at the interesting and unusual in Major League Baseball features an eventful week in the walk-off department and some good use of lucky number 13.

• After nine scoreless innings Wednesday, Chris Parmelee gave the Minnesota Twins a lead with a solo homer in the 10th. The Boston Red Sox turned that into a one-run victory when David Ortiz and Mike Napoli hit back-to-back homers in the bottom.

The last team to score its only two runs on a tying homer back-to-back with a walk-off homer was the Cleveland Indians, who did it on April 16, 2000 (Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome). The Red Sox are the first team in the live-ball era to do it in extra innings. And according to Elias, it's the third time in Red Sox history they've hit tying and walk-off homers back-to-back. None other than Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx did it on July 3, 1940, and Darren Lewis and Jeff Frye duplicated the feat in 1999.

• The Pittsburgh Pirates had the literal version of the "walk"-off on Thursday when Cincinnati Reds reliever Tony Cingrani gave up a single, an intentional walk, hit a batter, and then passed Russell Martin on five pitches. Gaby Sanchez was forced home with the third "walk"-off in the majors this season. It was the Pirates' first since Jose Bautista walked against the Cubs' Ryan Dempster in August 2006. And they hadn't received one so late in a game (two outs in the 12th) since Jim Fregosi forced home Ed Ott against the Braves on July 24, 1977.

• The Indians surrendered two runs in the top of the 10th Thursday, then loaded the bases in the bottom half on a double and two walks. Nick Swisher lofted a ball into the front row for a walk-off grand slam, the fourth in the majors this year. It was just the third walk-off grand slam in extra innings in Indians history.

Carlos Martinez hit one to beat the Mariners in September 1992; and their first one was by Don Dillard to cap a doubleheader sweep of the Detroit Tigers on July 4, 1962.

• Carlos Beltran capped the New York Yankees' Friday comeback with a three-run walk-off homer. It was their first walk-off victory of the year; the Yankees had been battling the Kansas City Royals to be the final team without one. The last time the Yankees hit a walk-off homer while trailing by at least two runs was on May 17, 2002, when Jason Giambi's grand slam gave them a 13-12 win over the Twins. Beltran joins Darryl Strawberry as the only two players to hit walk-off homers for both the Yankees and Mets.

After last week had 13-inning games on three straight days (including one on Friday the 13th), there were two more of note on Monday:

• The Philadelphia Phillies scored five times in the 13th to down the Atlanta Braves 6-1. It was the first time the Phillies had scored 5+ in any inning numbered 13 or higher in nearly 98 years. On August 19, 1916, they won another 6-1 game in 14 innings in Cincinnati. (Pitcher Eppa Rixey threw all 14 innings, and then pitched 15T more innings in his next start!)

• Chicago Cubs pitcher Travis Wood pinch-hit in the 13th and doubled home Junior Lake for a win over the Miami Marlins. Although Carlos Zambrano had two pinch-hit singles in extra innings, Wood is the first Cubs pitcher-as-pinch-hitter with an extra-base hit in extra innings since Les Sweetland had an 11th-inning double off then-Dodger Jack Quinn on July 18, 1931.

Combined with Yovani Gallardo's walk-off double a few weeks ago, it's the first season since 1990 where two pitchers have had pinch-hit RBI in extras. Zane Smith of the Expos and Dennis Rasmussen of the Padres did it that year.

• Sean Doolittle ot the Oakland Athletics pinch-hit on Sunday in the bottom of the 10th and had a chance to be the third. He grounded out to end the game. But in so doing, he became the first A's pitcher to appear in a game as a pinch hitter since Bob Welch hit into a game-ending double play against the Royals on May 13, 1994.

• By the way, care to take a guess at how many 13-inning games have been played so far this season? Yep. Thirteen.

Big Papi's incredible World Series career

October, 30, 2013

US Presswire
David Ortiz has carried the Red Sox this World Series. Can he help them clinch it tonight?

David Ortiz has the highest batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in World Series history, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of his World Series dominance.

David Ortiz has played 13 World Series games in his career

• In six of them, he's either scored or driven in a run on the play with the largest Win Probability Added in the game. In other words, he's scored a run or had an RBI on the most important play of the game in almost half of his World Series games.

•  He gets better depending on how many outs there are, hitting .538 with a 1.623 OPS with two outs.

• He's hitting more than 100 points higher and slugging more than 150 points higher against lefties than righties.

• He's reached base safely in all 13 games, tied for the 10th-longest streak to begin a World Series career (Hank Greenberg - 18).

• He's had a hit in 11 of the 13 games, scored a run in nine of them, and had an RBI in more than half of them (seven).

How do you stop Big Papi?

David Ortiz is on fire in the World Series, but after examining every pitch thrown to him, here is what pitchers have to do to get him out:

• On one of the first two pitches, the pitcher has to throw an offspeed pitch on the outer third for a strike.

Ortiz is 5-for-5 on the first two pitches of an AB in this World Series, and all five hits are against fastballs.

And he’s ignoring any other pitch, with just two swings against 13 offspeed pitches.

• After that, pitchers can’t throw him a fastball (unless it is 97 mph with movement), and they have to keep the ball down in the zone.

Ortiz is 9-for-9 with just two whiffs on 19 swings against fastballs in the World Series (one of them was a check swing).

The only out he’s made against a fastball was inches from being a grand slam before Carlos Beltran snagged it out of the bullpen.

Wacha has the stuff

Ortiz has been crushing fastballs, but that’s also how Michael Wacha has been limiting hitters. Batters are just 7-for-51 (.137) in at-bats ending in Wacha’s fastball this postseason.

But all three of Wacha’s at-bats against Ortiz in the Fall Classic have ended in changeups. The lone pitch Wacha left up and in the strike zone against Ortiz was one of those changeups in Game 2, that Ortiz launched 375-feet into the Monster seats.

For Wacha to contain Ortiz, he’ll have to rely on his offspeed pitches and work down in the zone. That, or hope first base is open.

Top stats to know: Cardinals vs. Red Sox

October, 23, 2013
The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox will meet in the World Series for the fourth time, starting with Game 1 tonight at Fenway Park. It's a matchup of the teams that shared the best record in baseball.

Each has 104 wins, including postseason. The team that gets to 108 will be crowned champion.

Here are some of the notes and numbers you'll see and hear discussed on Baseball Tonight and on the ESPN Radio game broadcast with Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser.

Game 1 pitching matchup
Adam Wainwright is 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in three starts this postseason. He has 20 strikeouts and one walk in 23 innings.

Wainwright won't be fazed by the big stage. He's allowed exactly one run in five of his seven postseason starts and is one of two pitchers who pitched in 2013 to have at least four postseason wins and four postseason saves in his career (the other being Mariano Rivera).

Jon Lester is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA this postseason. He'll be the third Red Sox lefty to start Game 1 of the World Series. The other two -- Babe Ruth (1918 against the Cubs) and Bruce Hurst (1986 against the Mets) pitched a combined 17 scoreless innings.

Key returnee: Allen Craig
The Cardinals get Allen Craig back after he missed the first two rounds of the postseason due to a foot injury.

As the heat map above shows, a good chunk of Craig’s value is how he fared in prime RBI opportunities, as he hit .454 with runners in scoring position during the regular season.

Only two players fared better in that situation in the last 40 seasons- George Brett (.469 in 1980) and Tony Gwynn (.459 in 1997).

The Cardinals as a team hit .330 with runners in scoring position during the regular season (the best mark ever recorded for a team since 1961, the first year for which full play-by-play data is available). In the NLCS win over the Dodgers, they bumped that to .349.

Endgame: The unhittable Uehara
American League Championship Series MVP Koji Uehara will try to finish off what has been an amazing run to the end of the 2013 season.

Since he became the closer on June 26, Uehara has posted a 0.51 ERA (three earned runs in 53 1/3 IP) and 0.39 WHIP (19 hits, two walks) in 49 appearances.

None of the Cardinals have seen Uehara before in the regular season or postseason, save for Carlos Beltran, who is 1-for-3 in his career against him.

The heat maps below show that Uehara has had success with pitches thrown almost anywhere.

Did You Know?
• This is the third time in the Wild Card era that the team with the best record in the American League has faced the team with the best record in the National League in the World Series. The other instances were 1995 (Braves defeated Indians) and 1999 (Yankees defeated Braves).

• There are three World Series matchups that have taken place more often than the Red Sox and Cardinals-- Dodgers versus Yankees (11 times), Giants versus Yankees (seven times) and Cardinals versus Yankees (five times).

• The Red Sox have reached the World Series a season after finishing in last place in the AL East.

They are the third team in the last seven seasons to go from last place to the World Series, joining the 2007 Rockies and 2008 Rays. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the most recent team to go from last place to winning the World Series is the 1991 Twins.

• The Cardinals have 18 homegrown players on their roster (acquired either via the amateur draft or signed as an amateur free agent). That's the most on any team's World Series roster since 1995, the year of the first World Series in the Wild Card era.

How do you pitch to Carlos Beltran?

October, 22, 2013
The Stats & Information team offers a look at a key hitter on each World Series team and uses Next-Level data to analyze how he might best be approached by opposing pitchers. This article looks at Carlos Beltran

As a right-handed hitter
Beltran will see left-handed pitching in Games 1 and 5 when the Red Sox start Jon Lester. He’ll also be a prime candidate to see lefties like Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales given his .252/.281/.448 slashline from the right side (combining regular and postseason) in 2013.

Attackable inside with the hard stuff
In years past, Beltran creamed inside pitches as a right-handed hitter, but that hasn’t happened as much in 2013.

The chart on the right shows why you’ll likely see Lester do something he likes to do to righties: Jam them inside with his fastball and his cutter.

Later in the count, Beltran may see Lester's changeup. Beltran is adept at taking the outside changeup and pulling it into left field for soft singles.

The good news is that the changeup will likely keep the ball in the park. Beltran has only one homer against the 191 changeups he's seen from lefties over the last two seasons.

As a left-handed hitter
How could the Red Sox attack Beltran when he hits from the left side, where he’s hit .315 this season (combining regular season and postseason play), and hit 13 of his 16 career postseason homers?

Stay away and get down
Beltran likes the ball inside, especially up-and-in, and his two home runs against the Pirates in the NLDS were on balls middle-in and up-and-in. He also doubled off a 97-MPH fastball from Gerrit Cole that was nearly in the same spot.

His home-run power as a lefty has moved more inside this season. Of his 17 homers from the left side this season (including playoffs), 12 have come on pitches over the inner half of the plate. From 2009 to 2012, only 14 of his 44 homers from the left side were against inner-half pitches.

Matchup to watch: Uehara vs. Beltran
The split-fingered fastball of Koji Uehara is one that might be too tempting for Carlos Beltran to pass up.

Beltran has seen 164 split-fingered fastballs over the last three seasons, and they’ve given him a fair amount of trouble. Beltran has chased nearly half of the splitters he’s seen from righties that were out of the strike zone.

That helps to explain why he’s made 35 outs against the pitch and reached via hit or walk only eight times.

The best defense
Beltran is a hitter against whom the Red Sox would be well-served to shift when he's hitting left-handed.

Of his 125 ground balls as a left-handed hitter this season, only nine were classified in our batted-ball location system as “opposite-field.”

At the very least, the third baseman can play off the line, allowing the shortstop to cheat close to second base or play up the middle.

Beltran is also the rare right-handed hitter against whom a shift is a good idea.


Over the last two seasons, he’s hit 91 ground balls from the right side. All but nine of them were to the left of the second base bag.

Beltran's October magic continues

October, 12, 2013
Getty ImagesCarlos Beltran drove in all three runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in their win Friday.
Carlos Beltran continued his postseason magic Friday, doing it all for the St. Louis Cardinals in their NLCS opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Beltran drove in all three Cardinals runs in the 3-2 win -- including the game-winner in the 13th inning -- and helped keep a potential go-ahead run off the board with his outfield assist to home plate in the 10th inning.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Beltran is the first player in major-league postseason history to record both an outfield assist and a walk-off RBI in extra innings.

The walk-off hit was Beltran's first in the postseason, and first in any game since 2008 while still with the New York Mets. It was the fourth extra-inning walk-off hit in Cardinals postseason history, with the last being David Freese's magical home run in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

Beltran has 34 RBI in his postseason career, tying him with Fred McGriff for fifth-most in National League postseason history.

But Beltran's heroics may not have happened if not for his key defensive play in the 10th inning.

With runners at the corners, Beltran fielded Michael Young's flyout to right center field. Then he threw a one-hop strike to the plate allowing Yadier Molina to (controversially) tag out Mark Ellis and snuff out the potential go-ahead run.

According to Baseball Info Solutions, that was the first time Beltran threw out a runner at home after a catch in more than six years (Sept. 11, 2007). He also became the first outfielder with an assist to home in extra innings of a postseason game since Melvin Mora in Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS.

The 13-inning game was the third-longest in NLCS history, behind only Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS (16 innings) and Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS (15 innings).

Greinke's Outing Overshadowed
Beltran’s heroics overshadowed a solid outing from Zack Greinke, who struck out 10 in eight innings.

Zack Greinke
Greinke and teammate Clayton Kershaw each have 10-strikeout games this postseason, making them the second pair of Dodgers with 10-strikeout games in a single postseason. The other pair? Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in 1965.

It was rare mastery of the Cardinals in the postseason. Greinke tied the mark for strikeouts by a pitcher against St. Louis in a postseason game, set originally by Jack Kramer and matched by his teammate Denny Galehouse for the 1944 St. Louis Browns.

Top stats to know: NLCS Game 1

October, 11, 2013

Getty ImagesDon Mattingly will manage his first LCS, while Mike Matheny has made it both years as a manager.
The St. Louis Cardinals host the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS tonight (8:37 ET/ESPN Radio). It should be quite the pitcher’s duel between Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly.

Since the All-Star break (including the postseason), Greinke ranks second and Kelly third in the National League in ERA among qualified starters.

The only NL pitcher with a better ERA during that span is Greinke’s teammate Clayton Kershaw.

Let’s take you through some storylines for tonight’s game.

Joe Kelly stats to watch
Kelly gets the ball in Game 1 for the Cardinals after a strong close to the season. Including his postseason start, Kelly is 7-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 57⅔ innings in his last 10 appearances (nine starts).

One of the keys to that: 57 percent of the balls in play against him were ground balls, compared to 47 percent in his first 27 appearances.

One of Kelly’s forte’s all season has been his ability to escape trouble. He allowed a .161 batting average with runners in scoring position, the fifth-lowest batting average among the 157 pitchers who faced at least 100 batters in those situations.

Zack Greinke stats to watch
Greinke has plenty of familiarity with the Cardinals. He’s 6-2 with a 3.18 ERA against them in the past three seasons.

He’s also 5-0 with a 1.39 ERA in his last eight road starts. In those, he’s allowed only two home runs in 51⅔ innings pitched.

The first 12 starts of Greinke’s Dodgers tenure (including a post-brawl injury) looked like a disappointment. But he’s been even better than advertised since, posting a 1.65 ERA over his last 17 starts, spanning 114⅔ innings pitched.

The big bats: Beltran and Ramirez
Carlos Beltran's BA/HR combination is rare in postseason history. Not only does he have the second most home runs (16) in NL postseason history (trailing only Albert Pujols' 18 home runs), he’s one of five players to have a career .330 batting average and 10 home runs in the postseason.

The others are Albert Pujols (.330 BA/18 HR), Steve Garvey (.338 BA/11 HR), George Brett (.337 BA/10 HR) and Lou Gehrig (.361 BA/10 HR).

Hanley Ramirez hit .345 with a 1.040 OPS and 20 home runs in only 86 games for the Dodgers this season. He’s continued that strong performance into the postseason, registering one of the highest OPS marks in the history of the NLDS.

Matchup to watch: Carpenter vs Greinke
Matt Carpenter was an MVP candidate for the Cardinals this season, thanks to a .318 BA, .873 OPS and 126 runs scored.

But he’s struggled mightily in the Division Series, going 1-for-19. A big part of his problem appears to be pitches on the outer half. He’s swinging and missing at more than double the rate that he did in the regular season.

Figure that Zack Greinke is armed with that knowledge, and if so, he may go with his changeup often to Carpenter.

Lefties hit .417 off Greinke’s changeup in his first 12 starts and .130 in his next 17. Nearly 92 percent of his changeups to lefties have been located on the outer half of the plate in those last 17 starts.

NLDS Game 5 preview (Pirates-Cardinals)

October, 9, 2013

Getty ImagesGerrit Cole (left) and Adam Wainwright (right) take the mound tonight in Game 5 of the NLDS.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals face off in a winner-take-all Game 5 tonight (8:07 ET, ESPN Radio) in St. Louis.

Let’s take a look at some of the storylines in this game.

Winner-Take-All History
The Pirates are playing a winner-take-all game in a best-of-5 or best-of-7 series for the first time since Francisco Cabrera beat them with a walk-off hit in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS.

The last time the Pirates won a winner-take-all postseason game on the road was Game 7 of the 1979 World Series when they beat the Baltimore Orioles, 4-1 to win their last championship.

The Cardinals are well tested in winner-take-all games. They’ve played five of them in the last two seasons (including a wild-card one-game matchup), winning four, with the lone loss being in Game 7 of the 2012 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants.

The Cardinals are 7-1 in eight winner-take-alls played in their home ballpark, the lone loss coming to the Detroit Tigers in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series. They’ve won their last four such home games.

Gerrit Cole stats to know
It’s not often that a pitcher as young as 23-year-old Gerrit Cole gets a chance to start a winner-take-all game.

The last pitcher that young to win such a game was Jaret Wright of the 1997 Cleveland Indians, who beat the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the ALDS.

The last pitcher that young to go on the road and win one was Fernando Valenzuela of the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers, who beat the Montreal Expos in Game 5 of the NLCS, thanks to Rick Monday’s ninth-inning home run.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cole is the third No. 1 pick to start a winner-take-all game. The others were David Price (2010 ALDS) and Andy Benes (1995 ALDS).

Cole is 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 38 innings in his last six starts. This stretch has been fueled by his offspeed success. Opposing batters are 1-for-58 (.017 BA) in this span against Cole’s offspeed pitches.

He pitched six innings of one-run ball to beat the Cardinals in Game 2. His fastball got stronger as the game went on. He averaged 96 mph with it in the first three innings and 97 mph in his next three innings, with nine pitches reaching at least 98 mph.

Adam Wainwright stats to know
Wainwright is 3-0 for his career in postseason play, though that’s slightly misleading since he got a no-decision in Game 5 of the NLDS when he got routed for six runs by the Nationals in a game the Cardinals rallied to win.

Wainwright’s four postseason starts other than that one have been really good as he’s allowed exactly one run in each.

In the NLDS opener, Wainwright struck out nine in 7 innings in the Cardinals’ 9-1 win.

Hitter to Watch: Carlos Beltran
Beltran hit his 16th career postseason home run Sunday, passing Babe Ruth for eighth-most in MLB history. Only Albert Pujols (18) has more in NL history (Manny Ramirez leads with 29 postseason home runs).

Beltran is hitting a home run every 8.6 at-bats (16 HR in 138 AB), tied with Babe Ruth for the fewest at-bats per home run in baseball history.

Justin Havens also contributed to this article

Beltran, Wainwright so dominant in win

October, 3, 2013
In Game 1 of the NLDS, the St. Louis Cardinals looked like a well-tested veteran team and two of those vets netted impressive statistical accomplishments.

The Cardinals routed the Pirates 9-1 for their fifth straight win against them dating back to the regular season. The nine runs were the most ever allowed by the Pirates in a postseason series opener.

Beltran and the Bambino
Carlos Beltran continued his postseason home-run barrage. He hit his 15th in his 35th career game, a three-run shot to open the scoring. It was the first homer of Beltran’s career to come with multiple runners on base.
Carlos Beltran
Beltran has the most homers of anyone in their first 35 postseason games, one more than Nelson Cruz. His 15 postseason homers are tied for the eighth-most all-time with Babe Ruth (who hit all 15 of his in the World Series).

In fact, Beltran and Ruth are a statistical match for a day. Beltran has 15 homers in 129 postseason at-bats, matching Ruth’s exact totals in both stats.

Beltran now ranks second for most postseason homers by a National League player. The only one with more is currently in the American League, Albert Pujols (18).

Wainwright dominates
Adam Wainwright had one of those days that has become a staple of his career. Great curveball, great start.

Wainwright allowed one run and three hits in seven innings to improve to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in postseason play.
Adam Wainwright
Wainwright threw 33 curveballs, 27 for strikes and netted 11 swings-and-misses with the pitch, tied for his second-most in any game within the last five seasons.

Wainwright also came out firing. He averaged 92.9 mph with his fastball, his fastest average velocity in any start since he averaged 93 mph in a playoff start against the Dodgers in 2009.

He became the second Cardinal to have multiple postseason starts with at least nine strikeouts. The only other is Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson, who had seven such starts.

The struggles of A.J. Burnett
A.J. Burnett got pummeled for seven runs in two innings. That tied for the second-most runs allowed in a postseason game in Pirates history and was the most yielded since Lee Meadows gave up seven to the Yankees in the 1927 World Series.

Burnett has now made five starts at Busch Stadium since joining the Pirates last season. In those five he’s allowed 31 earned runs, 37 hits and 10 walks in 18 innings.

This wasn’t the first time that Burnett has been burned by Beltran. Last season in St. Louis, Beltran hit a pair of three-run homers against Burnett … in the same game.

Burnett invited trouble with his pitch location. He threw 13 pitches that our pitch classification system categorized as “middle-middle” (over the middle-third of the plate height-wise and width-wise).

The average major leaguer hits .332 on those pitches. In this game, Cardinals hitters went 4-for-6 against them—singles by Yadier Molina, Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter and a double by Matt Holliday.

Top stats to know: Pirates vs Cardinals

October, 3, 2013

Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesA.J. Burnett will try and pitch the Pirates to their first road playoff win since 1992.
Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals begins today from Busch Stadium (5:07 ET/ESPN Radio). This will be the first time these teams are meeting in the postseason.

Pittsburgh won the regular season series 10-9, but the Cardinals have won each of the last four meetings. Here are a few storylines to watch.

1. St. Louis finished the regular season by winning 17 of 22, including each of their last six games. The 53 home wins set a Busch Stadium III record, besting the 52 games they won in 2010.

For the Pirates, they won eight of their last nine road games but have lost four straight and five of their last six at St. Louis. The Pirates have not won a postseason road game since October 13, 1992 (the last time they were in the playoffs).

2. A.J. Burnett has relied on his curveball as an out-pitch more than any other pitcher this season, but that doesn’t mean that batters have been able to figure it out.

He has more strikeouts (134), chased pitches (270) and swings-and-misses (232) with his hook than any other major-leaguer and only five pitchers have allowed a lower slugging percentage on their curveball than Burnett (min. 300 pitches).

He has thrown 176 curves to the Cardinals this season, and only 26 were put in play. Those pitches netted him 46 outs – 24 of them via strike three – and just nine baserunners allowed.

3. Similarly, Adam Wainwright is very reliant on his curveball. His 115 strikeouts with his curve this season were topped only by Burnett.

Wainwright has made four postseason starts in his career and allowed only one run in three of the four (though he only pitched 5⅔ innings in one of those). He has 42 strikeouts in 32⅔ postseason innings.

Wainwright’s 11.6 strikeouts per 9 in postseason play ranks third-best among active pitchers (minimum 20 innings pitched), trailing only Octavio Dotel (12.7) and Francisco Rodriguez (12.0).

4. The Pirates and Cardinals have played 2,328 regular season games, tied for the third most games played between two teams that have never met in the postseason (Cubs and Phillies have also played 2,328 games).

The Cubs and Pirates have played the most regular season games (2,420) without meeting in the postseason while the Dodgers and Giants have the second most (2,392).

Of course it was not possible for these teams to meet in the playoffs prior to the Wild Card era (since 1995) since they were in the same division.

5. Key matchups to watch in this game:

Russell Martin vs. Adam Wainwright: Martin is 10-for-25 with a .500 on-base percentage in 30 plate appearances against Wainwright. He’s only 1-for-6 against Wainwright this season, but has also drawn a pair of walks.

Carlos Beltran vs. A.J. Burnett: Beltran is a .318 career hitter against Burnett and has done a lot of damage against him the last two years, with 10 RBI in 23 at-bats. Beltran has ended 18 at-bats against Burnett with contact since the start of last season. Six of those ended with a line drive.

Pirates controlling the Cards this season

July, 31, 2013
Joe Sargent/Getty ImagesMark Melancon has the best ERA among relievers this season (minimum 40 innings pitched).
The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates meet in the fourth game of a five-game series tonight at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN and WatchESPN, with Pittsburgh dominating the series recently.

Here’s a look at the rarity of the Pirates’ dominance of this matchup and the strengths of each team.

Pirates' recent dominance

The Cardinals were swept in a doubleheader Tuesday for the first time since 1996. That snapped a streak of 22 doubleheaders played without being swept, which had been the longest active streak in baseball, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

After winning the first three games against St. Louis, the Pirates are seeking to sweep a five-game series for the first time since September 1996. The Cardinals haven't been swept in a series of at least five games since losing all six games at the Polo Grounds against the New York Giants in September 1916. The last five-game sweep in the majors came in 2006, when the Yankees swept the Red Sox.

The Pirates have won five straight games against St. Louis, and they have not won six straight meetings since winning 13 in a row during the 1992 season. That was the last time the Pirates made the playoffs and finished better than .500.

Cardinals get clutch hits

The Cardinals hit well with runners in scoring position. St. Louis is batting .334 with runners in scoring position, the best in the majors by a large margin. Elias tells us that .334 clip would be the best average with runners in scoring position over the past 50 seasons.

How wide is the Cardinals’ lead in batting average with runners in scoring position? They could go hitless in their next 131 at-bats with runners in scoring position and still lead the majors. They could also go hitless in their next 235 at-bats with runners in scoring position and still lead the National League.

The Cardinals have four of the top nine hitters in baseball with runners in scoring position: Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran. Craig leads the majors with a .475 average with runners in scoring position, which would be the best mark for a season since George Brett hit .469 in 1980.

Shutdown pen in Pittsburgh

The Pirates’ bullpen has been the key to their success this season. Pittsburgh's bullpen leads the majors in opponent’s batting average and WHIP and ranks second in bullpen ERA.

The Pirates are all but guaranteed to win if they lead late in the game, as they are 49-2 when leading after seven innings and 54-1 when leading after eight innings.

Even with closer Jason Grilli on the disabled list, the Pirates have two elite relievers. Mark Melancon leads all relievers (minimum 40 innings) with a 0.89 ERA, while Justin Wilson’s 2.08 ERA ranks in the top 10 among National League relievers.

Who should Wright, Cano pick for Derby?

July, 8, 2013
Who should David Wright and Robinson Cano pick to participate in the 2013 Home Run Derby when selections are announced tonight at 6 ET on "SportsCenter"? Members of ESPN’s Home Run Tracker team weighed in.

Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

Upton has only one home run since May 17, but his shortest home run is 404 feet. Remarkably, his 427.9 average home run distance is highest among all players with more than one home run. Upton has two 460-foot home runs and six others of at least 425 feet. Of his 15 home runs, 13 would have cleared the fence at Citi Field.

Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds

Bruce has eight home runs that have gone at least 425 feet, tied with Upton for the most in the NL.

June solidified Bruce’s nomination, as he hit his five longest home runs of the season, all at least 430 feet. His headline home run was a 472-foot blast off Patrick Corbin, the third-longest home run this season.

Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates

Alvarez edges out Paul Goldschmidt by the narrowest of margins, getting the nod because he's hit two home runs over 450 feet this season and has three others over 430 feet.

Fourteen of his 22 home runs have been at least 400 feet, and all but four of his home runs would have been out at Citi Field.

Alvarez has nine home runs classified by as “No Doubt” home runs, the most in the majors. ("No Doubt home run" means the ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and landed at least 50 feet past the fence).

Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Although Trumbo ranks ninth in the AL with 19 home runs, nine of those went at least 425 feet, the most in baseball. His average home run distance is 417.7 feet, fourth in the majors (among players with a minimum of 10 home runs), and all but three of his home runs would have been out at Citi Field.

His 475-foot home run off Dan Straily on April 29 is tied for the longest home run of the year.

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

Davis leads the majors with 33 home runs, showing power to all fields.

Davis has not hit a home run over 440 feet this season; seven have gone at least 425. His eight home runs to center field are the most in baseball.

Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers

Cruz has 22 home runs this season, including ones that went 450 feet and 445 feet. Nineteen of those homers would have been out at Citi Field.

Although his average home run distance is 410.4 feet (12th among players with at least 10 home runs), when excluding his opposite-field home runs, his average home run distance is 419 feet.
AP Photo/David J. PhillipCarlos Beltran has been getting plenty of positive receptions from teammates recently.

Five stats you’ll likely hear quite a bit more about on tonight’s telecast of the St. Louis Cardinals-Philadelphia Phillies game at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

1-- Expect to hear a lot of pontificating from Orel Hershiser on the art of getting the ground ball. Both of Sunday’s starters ranked in the top 10 in the majors in number of sinkers thrown last season.

2-- Jake Westbrook (99-96) is going for his 100th career win. He’d be the 26th active pitcher with 100 or more. Westbrook hasn’t allowed an earned run in his first 15 2/3 innings.

Only three Cardinals pitchers in the last 50 years have had a streak of 20 innings without allowing an earned run to start a season- Al Jackson (22 in 1966), Woody Williams (24 2/3 in 2003) and Chris Carpenter (24 in 2009).

3-- Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick averages only 4.68 strikeouts per 9 innings. Entering Sunday that ranked second-lowest among active pitchers with at least 500 innings pitched. But Kendrick has become more of a strikeout pitcher the last two seasons, averaging 6.5 whiffs per 9.

4-- Carlos Beltran has hit a home run in three straight games for the first time since July 19-21, 2007. He last did so in four straight games in August 2004 when he actually had a home run in five straight games from Aug. 23-27.

Beltran has passed a number of interesting names on baseball’s all-time home run list recently. He’s currently tied for 95th with Don Baylor and Mark Teixeira (338 homers). His next longball will tie him with the trio of Tino Martinez, Dave Parker, and Boog Powell.

5-- Phillies hitters have shown an overwhelming penchant for swinging the bat recently. On Friday, they snapped a streak of 137 straight plate appearances without receiving a walk. The Phillies are averaging 16.5 plate appearances per walk, the second-worst rate in the NL, trailing the Chicago Cubs (17.2).

The Phillies are coming off of their worst offensive season in 15 years. In 2012 they averaged 4.2 runs per game, the team’s lowest total since averaging 4.1 per game in 1997. This season, the team is averaging 3.8 runs per game.

Cardinals, Giants: Differing streaks on line

October, 21, 2012
The San Francisco Giants will be looking to end a century’s worth of heartbreak in postseason winner-take-all games in a best-of-seven series when they face the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Their 0-5 record in best-of-seven deciding games is the worst in major-league history.

The run dates back to their time as the New York Giants.

In 1912, they lost to the Boston Red Sox. The Giants blew a 2-1 10th-inning lead with their ace, Christy Mathewson pitching. The Red Sox scored twice in the 10th, the key play being a muffed fly ball by center fielder Fred Snodgrass to lead off the frame.

In 1924, they blew a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning and lost to the Washington Senators, 4-3 in 12 innings. The winning run scored on Earl McNeely’s double after the Giants made two errors earlier in the inning.

Legend has it that the winning hit took a bad hop over the head of the Giants' third baseman (Fred Lindstrom) because it hit a pebble.

In 1962, they lost Game 7 of the World Series 1-0 to the New York Yankees. The Giants had runners on second and third with two outs in the ninth when Hall-of-Famer Willie McCovey lined to second base to end the series.

In 1987, they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-0. Jose Oquendo, who hit one home run all season, hit a three-run home run in the second inning to put the game away.

In 2002, they blew a 5-0 lead to the Anaheim Angels in Game 6 and then lost Game 7, 4-1. Garret Anderson had the go-ahead hit, a three-run double in the fourth inning.

The Giants got the tying run to the plate in three different innings, but could not get the key hit they needed.

They’ll be trying to win against a Cardinals team that is 11-4 all-time in Game 7s.

The win total and win percentage are the best for any team in major-league history.

The Cardinals have also won six straight winner-take-all games, tied for the longest-ever streak of success.

That streak also belonged to the Cardinals and ended in 1968, when they lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Detroit Tigers, a series in which they blew a 3-games-to-1-lead.

The Cardinals have players familiar with key Game 7 moments on their roster. The last time they played Game 7 of the NLCS, they beat the New York Mets, the go-ahead hit coming on a two-run home run by Yadier Molina.

Adam Wainwright struck out now-teammate Carlos Beltran with a nasty curveball for the final out of the series, stranding the bases loaded.

Molina also had two RBIs in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers, as did teammate David Freese.

Allen Craig added the hit that put the Cardinals ahead for good that day, a third-inning homer versus Matt Harrison.

Lohse slider leads postseason resurgence

October, 17, 2012

Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesCarlos Beltran is batting .378 in his postseason career, highest in baseball history among players with at least 100 plate appearances.
With their series knotted at one game apiece, the St. Louis Cardinals host the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday afternoon (4 ET, ESPN Radio & Fox). The Giants have won five of the last seven postseason meetings between teams dating to 2002, and will look to make it six of eight against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse.

Lohse is just 1-4 in 11-career postseason appearances, but has a 2.13 ERA in his two playoff starts in 2012. One reason for the turnaround? Increased use of his slider. Lohse threw a slider just seven percent of the time in the 2011 postseason.

So far in 2012, he’s used the slider 23 percent of the time and it’s been nearly unhittable. Opponents are batting .077 on plate appearances ending in a slider during the postseason with three strikeouts and no extra-base hits. The Giants hit .218 as a team against sliders in the regular season and just .161 against them so far in the playoffs.

In the other dugout, the Giants turn to Matt Cain in hopes that he can regain his old postseason form. Cain began his playoff career with 21⅓ scoreless innings pitched.

In two starts during the 2012 postseason, Cain has allowed six earned runs including three home runs in just 10⅔ innings pitched.

One key for Cain if he is going to be able to bounce back is his fastball. Cardinals hitters were 7-for-17 (.417) in at-bats ending in a Cain fastball during the regular season and six of those hits were on fastballs in the upper half of the strike zone.

Cain will be best served keeping his fastball down in Game 3: The Cardinals led all of baseball with a .291 team batting average against fastballs in the upper half of the strike zone this season and were ninth in batting average against fastballs in the lower half.

Offensively for the Giants, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Gregor Blanco, and Brandon Belt hope to ride the momentum of their Game 2 win. The four players went 7-for-14 as a group on Monday with homer, five runs, and three RBI. They were collectively hitting just .188 entering Game 2.

For the Cardinals, they will lean on the hot bat of Carlos Beltran. Beltran is hitting .414 this postseason including his 2-for-3 performance on Monday. In his career, Beltran is batting .378 in 30 postseason games, the highest average in baseball history for players with at least 100 plate appearances.

Can it continue in Game 3? Odds are certainly favorable. Beltran is 7-for-18 (.389) against Matt Cain in his career with a homer, five RBI and a 1.228 OPS.