St. Louis Cardinals Continue to Win Despite Setbacks
Don’t look now, but the St. Louis Cardinals currently have the best record in baseball. At 42-22, they currently sit 3.5 games above the Cincinnati Reds and 4 games ahead of the battling Pittsburgh Pirates. After missing the playoffs in 2010, the Cardinals have reached the post-season the last two years via a Wild Card spot.
However, their path to the playoffs the two previous seasons did not come easy. In both seasons, St. Louis’ pitching staff was dealt a heavy blow by losing one of their main starters, 2010 Cy Young runner-up and 20 game winner Adam Wainwright in 2011 and perennial workhorse Chris Carpenter went down early in 2012. Carpenter still has not pitched in 2013, and has considered retirement. They also lost Albert Pujols to free agency before the 2012 season to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and just over a month into the season, lost one of their 2011 World Series heroes in Lance Berkman to an injury. To start off 2013, the Cardinals were without a closer, as Jason Motte went on the disabled list and will miss the entire season. More recently this season, starter Jaime Garcia underwent season-ending rotator cuff surgery.
However, against all these setbacks, the Cardinals have found ways to continue their winning ways. With a 90 win season in 2011 securing a Wild Card and going on to beat the Texas Rangers in the World Series followed by an 88 win year to snag the second Wild Card position and defeating the Atlanta Braves in the infamous “infield fly” game, the Cardinals seem poised to make a deep playoff run. With offensive staples such as catcher Yadier Molina and outfielder Matt Holliday, along with the consistent hitting of first baseman Allen Craig, the resurgence of outfielder Carlos Beltran, and a few other bits and pieces that make up the St. Louis offense, the team is scoring just under five runs a game, which is best in the National League.
Combining with that potent offense is the best pitching staff in the Majors, who currently lead the league in ERA and complete games, second in shutouts, and second in strikeouts. With strong years so far from Wainwright and Lance Lynn, as well as an incredible start by Shelby Miller, and bullpen contributions from lefty reliever Randy Choate, hard-throwing righty Trevor Rosenthal, and Edward Mujica, who has shined brilliantly in the closer’s role taking over for Motte. Another reliever, Mitchell Boggs, has also been solid, although his numbers don’t necessarily show that with an ERA north of 11. Three bad outings for Boggs have left his ERA at an alarming number, but overall, he has shown consistency out of the bullpen late in games.
How the Cardinals seem to win despite injuries, free agency losses, or whatever else may come their way, is quite impressive. The managing of Tony la Russa for many years followed by a strong managerial start for Mike Matheny have been big for this team, and they don’t seem to be ready to slow down any time soon. They will soon be getting Jake Westbrook back, who also had a strong start before going on the DL in early May, and he can only bolster an already ferocious pitching staff.
Where will the Cardinals end up at the end of 2013, even with the losses they’ve sustained this year? We’ll have to find out.