St. Louis Cardinals flying high again thanks to starting pitching

The St. Louis Cardinals are flying high of late after a slow start, and the starting rotation is guiding the flock forward.

The St. Louis Cardinals are the most historically successful franchise in the history of the National League. That success is not just ancient history. The Cards have dominated the NL Central Division for more than a decade.

The Cardinals have won more World Series titles (11) and more National League pennants (19) than any other NL team.

In this century alone, the Cards have tacked on nine division crowns, four pennants and a pair of World Series titles to those totals.

But the 2017 season did not begin in typical fashion for St. Louis. The team struggled to a 3-9 start over the season’s first two weeks.

However, if opponents were hoping to take advantage of a down period for the Cardinals, that was the time to catch them. It has all turned around, and the Cardinals are now winning with consistency once again.

St. Louis has now won 10 of its last 14 games. Following their most recent win on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, a 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cards are back to the .500 mark at 13-13. They sit just 1.5 games behind the division-leading and arch-rival Chicago Cubs.

Four of the victories during this stretch have come by that same 2-1 score, highlighting the segment of the team that has led the way forward: the starting pitching rotation.

During a season in which starting pitchers have been dropping like flies, heading to the disabled list on a regular basis all across Major League Baseball, the Cardinals’ staff has proven resilient.

St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny has been able to call on the same five starting pitchers for each of their turns thus far after one full month of the 2017 season.

CARDINALS ROTATION FLYING HIGH

Paving the way has been the youngest of those starters, 25-year-old Carlos Martinez. In his third full season as a member of the rotation, the Dominican native has just a 1-3 record. But Martinez has allowed just 32 hits over 38 innings with a 43/15 K:BB ratio, best on the staff.

Fellow 25-year-old Michael Wacha (a couple of months older) is 2-1 with a 3.23 ERA and 1.141 WHIP mark. Wacha has allowed 28 hits over 30.2 innings with a 28/7 K:BB ratio.

After starting his career with parts of six seasons in Cincinnati and a partial season in San Francisco, 29-year-old Mike Leake is now in his second year with the Cardinals. Leake is 3-1 with an outstanding 1.35 ERA and 0.990 WHIP. He has allowed just 28 hits over 33.1 innings with a 25/5 K:BB mark.

Lance Lynn is a 30-year-old who has spent his entire six-year big league career with the St. Louis organization. Lynn was a 2012 NL All-Star and is producing at that level once again this year. He has a 3-1 record with a 2.45 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, and a 25/10 K:BB ratio while allowing just 22 hits across 29.1 innings.

The senior member of the staff is also its most historically successful, but thus far is also struggling the most. Now 35 years old, Adam Wainwright is no longer counted on to be the ace of the staff, but is simply asked to contribute.

Wainwright is a three-time NL All-Star who finished either second or third in the National League Cy Young Award voting four times between the 2009-2014 seasons.

This year, Wainwright is 2-3 with a 6.12 ERA, allowing 39 hits over 25 innings. However, even he may be getting it together. Wainwright has won his last two starts, and has a solid 26/7 K:BB ratio.

ROTATION CARRYING A STRUGGLING OFFENSE

It was Martinez who dominated the Brewers in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory. As reported by Nate Latsch with the New Jersey Herald, Matheny was quick to praise his starter.

“Carlos was as good as we’ve seen him. That was complete-game-shutout stuff … Just a big day … Carlos was everything we needed.”

Matheny and the Cardinals have been getting everything they’ve needed for much of the early season thus far where the starting pitching is concerned.

If an injury should eventually pop up, the Cardinals may be able to cover it from within. Despite losing top prospect Alex Reyes for the year to Tommy John surgery, there is another waiting in the wings.

Luke Weaver is the Cardinals’ #2 prospect. Now back from his own early-season injury issues, Weaver allowed just three hits over six shutout innings on May 2 for the AAA Memphis Redbirds.

The 23-year-old struck out five and walked no one, and should be ready for a promotion if needed after a few more weeks of minor league action.

The offense has struggled to score, still just 26th in baseball with 106 runs. Their 28 home runs ranks just 22nd in the game. With 13 stolen bases, the Cardinals are 16th in MLB.

Unless there is a major turnaround from that offensive attack, St. Louis will need to continue getting that healthy production from its starting pitching to be a postseason contender once again.

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