Cardinals' rotation hasn't been the problem
The Cardinals have backed themselves up to a season-high five games off the pace in the National League Central with 70 games to play. However, it certainly isn't the fault of the starting pitching, raising the question of how hard general manager John Mozeliak will pursue a starter who might only be a rental.
On the Cardinals' recent six-game trip to Milwaukee and Cincinnati, St. Louis starters allowed two earned runs or fewer through six innings in each game. No starter got a win, not even All-Star right-hander Lance Lynn, who fanned 10, walked no one and gave up only one run in seven innings.
Since June 9, the rotation has a 3.16 ERA. In July, the starters have a 2.58 ERA. The stretch of two earned runs or fewer over the first six innings of a game for a starter actually has continued for 13 games.
Kyle Lohse, who will oppose the Cubs on Friday night has had 14 quality starts and a 2.80 ERA. Lynn is averaging more a strikeout an inning and has 11 wins with a 3.27 ERA.
Adam Wainwright has pitched much better than his 7-10 mark. Rookie Joe Kelly has a 2.75 ERA for seven starts, and veteran Jake Westbrook has a 3.26 ERA in his last seven starts.
Jaime Garcia, out with a shoulder strain, hopes to be back next month, but Mozeliak still may seek a veteran starter. A high-end one probably isn't needed, but if a pitcher is acquired, a youngster such as Kelly could slide into the bullpen to reinforce a fairly weak crew. Kelly was a reliever in college at California-Riverside.
Manager Mike Matheny, offering his overview of the rotation on the Cardinals' 1-5 trip, said, "We really haven't given our starting pitching what they deserve. Hopefully they keep doing what they're doing because our offense is going to happen."
RHP Chris Carpenter, already ruled out for the season, underwent successful surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder. Carpenter is expected to need two or three months to recover and six months before he could be game-ready, but he should be healthy for spring training, barring obstacles. Dr. Greg Pearl performed the surgery in Dallas. Thoracic outlet syndrome is a choking of the nerves as they pass from the shoulder into the arm, causing numbness in the fingers, discomfort and an inability to maintain strength.
1B Lance Berkman, 0-for-9 since returning from right knee surgery after being off nearly two months, admitted his bat speed isn't what it should be. "The fact is I feel great in terms of how I'm seeing the ball," Berkman said. "I'm not swinging at many bad pitches. I feel like my timing is good. What's lacking is bat speed. I just don't have any bat speed right now." Berkman had declined a club suggestion to go on a brief minor league rehab assignment.
LF Matt Holliday is expected to be ready to play today after missing one start due to a bruised left quadriceps. He was hurt when he was hit by a pitch Tuesday. Holliday appeared as a pinch hitter Wednesday and struck out, ending a 15-game hitting streak in which he went 23-for-59 (.390).
3B David Freese, red hot at the plate, has raised his average to .299. He's also displayed good patience. He has 10 walks in his past eight games, compared to eight in his previous 44 games.
RHP Kyle Lohse will seek his 10th victory when the Cardinals open a seven-game homestand Friday against Chicago. Of the Cardinals' final 70 games, 36 of them will be against NL Central teams, with a high of nine against the Cubs and Astros.
2 Games the Cardinals are off their pace of last season when they were 49-43 after 92 games. However, last year they were tied for first in the division, while they are now five games out.
"I'm not frustrated. I think we're a good team. We'll either get it done or we won't." 1B Lance Berkman, on the Cardinals' recent skid in which they lost five of six games.