Here are some of the statistical storylines our broadcast crew will be touching on Sunday night.
Miller’s unusual success
Cardinals starter Shelby Miller is 4-2 with a 3.20 ERA, but he’s been fortunate. Miller has walked 23 hitters and allowed seven home runs in 39 1/3 innings. He’s surviving largely on the strength of holding opposing hitters to only two hits in 31 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
We utilize a video-review service that tracks every batted ball and rates it as hit hard, medium or soft. Miller has given up hard-hit balls at a higher rate (23 percent of at-bats) than any starting pitcher in the majors this season.
Miller’s issue this season has been throwing his off-speed pitches for strikes. His 56 percent strike rate with those pitches rates fifth lowest in baseball. That may explain why he throws his fastball 76 percent of the time.
Morton’s struggles against the Cardinals
Pirates starter Charlie Morton is 2-9 with a 6.52 ERA in 14 career starts against the Cardinals. The Pirates have lost each of his last seven starts against St. Louis.
Morton does have one thing going for him: He has the highest ground-ball rate since the start of last season (63 percent of batted balls).
Star Watch: McCutchen and Molina
What do Molina and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen have in common?
Both excel in two-strike situations.
Molina’s .255 batting average with two strikes ranked seventh in the majors last season.
McCutchen is hitting .311 with two strikes in 2014. That ranks fifth in the majors and second in the National League entering Sunday. McCutchen missed Saturday’s game with an ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Matt Adams, shift beater
The Pirates are on pace to use the sixth-most defensive shifts of any team this season. It will be interesting to see how they approach Matt Adams, who has seen by far the most shifts of any Cardinals hitter this season.
AdamsAdams has done well against the shift this season, thanks in part to a 32 percent line-drive rate (which ranks fifth in the majors, behind team and league leader Matt Carpenter’s 38 percent) and an approach in which he's much more conscious of going to the opposite field than he had previously.
Adams already has as many opposite-field hits in 138 at-bats this season (19) as he had in 296 at-bats last season. He’s 12-for-30 when hitting a grounder or short line drive against the shift this season. His .400 batting average in those instances ranks fourth among hitters who entered Sunday having seen at least 20 shifts this season.
Pirates first baseman Ike Davis rates first, going 9-for-13 (.692) when hitting grounders/short liners versus shifts in 2014.