Cards SP leads the way

The Cardinals swept the Nationals in Washington with the things that define championship teams, leading with dominant starting pitching.  In a time in which the BP is having some problems in the middle innings, the Cards SP’s are stepping up in a big way, and leading all of MLB with a 2.35 ERA.  They’re also second in the NL in K’s with 121.  Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright turned in dominating performances, and Jaime Garcia did just enough to get a road win.  Edward Mujica looks like he’s going to be closing out games for quite a while, and Joe Kelly looks he may have found himself again.  Trevor Rosenthal is still having a few problems with control on his fastball, but he looks close.

It’s early in the year, but if the Cards go down to the wire with the Reds and come out on top, this is one of those series they can look back on as a reason why.  Losing close games was something that appeared to carry over from last year up until the first game in Washington.  After winning that game 3-2, the Cards followed it up with 2-0 and 4-2 wins in games 2 and 3. 

Wainwright has an amazing stat line of 4-1, a 1.93 ERA, 37 K’s in 37.1 IP, a 1.05 WHIP and only 1 walk. If he didn’t get hit in his throwing shoulder with a line drive in the first game of the year at Arizona, he may be 5-0.  All of his pitches are working.  His cutter is cutting in hard to LHB’s, staying out of the middle of the plate unlike in 2012, and his curveball has a nasty bite on it.  Who out there really doubted the performances being delivered from Waino?

Miller is getting it done with the 4-seam fastball.  He’s locating it very well, and Yadier Molina is calling for Miller’s breaking balls at the right time.  So far, Miller is more than living up to the hype.  Garcia did a good job yesterday with keeping the ball down until the 6th inning.  Mike Matheny did the right thing by pulling him at a time when the game could have got out of hand.

The good news about where the Cards stand right now is that the team still isn’t firing on all cylinders on offense.  The Cards are getting timely hits, leading the league in hitting with RISP and also leading the league in RISP with 2 outs at .308, but Allen Craig, David Freese and Matt Holliday aren’t in full stride yet.  Craig has no HR’s on an OBP of .284.  Freese also has no HR’s and is hitting .211.  Holliday only has 2 HR’s in 68 AB’s, but he’s the last guy I’m worried about. 

Jon Jay is hitting .205, and I’m sure he’ll improve, but I’m still not sold on him being as a long term answer in CF.  His defense has been as bad as his offense, constantly taking bad routes to balls and runners always taking an extra base because of his weak arm.  I welcome the idea of Shane Robinson getting a good share of the playing time in CF.  The Cards are a -9 on runs saved, and Jay makes up for -6 of that.

I like Matt Carpenter being the leadoff hitter.  He works the counts with his incredible plate discipline, and is among the best in baseball in pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) at 4.06.  I think Matheny should leave him there, and I think he will.  In his new role as the 2B, Carpenter is a +1 on defense in runs saved.

It was great that the Cards didn’t have to risk using Matt Adams in Washington.  Hopefully, his oblique strain is not something serious, and we should know the extent of it by Sunday if not sooner.  Having him on the bench is going to be critical as far as resting Carlos Beltran, Holliday and Craig, as well as always having a thunderous bat late in the game regardless of who sits.

The NL Central has 4 teams playing great baseball right now, and the Cards aren’t going to catch a break with the Pirates coming to town.  Once again they have it going right to start the year and we can no longer look at them as an easy series.  The Pirates will be fired up to play the Cardinals, and Jake Westbrook will need to step up his performance in game 2 and try to reverse his trend against Pittsburgh.

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One Response to Cards SP leads the way

  1. Jim G says:

    I was very surprised the Birds swept the series. It does all start with pitching and having Molina as the best catcher in the game doesn’t hurt. let’s hope they keep it up.

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