The Cardinals’ pitching has led them to a short, yet encouraging, 4-game winning streak. Can they continue it?
Don’t look now, but the Cardinals have a bit of a winning streak brewing, one which they have built against two of the best teams in baseball. During this streak, while the offense has gotten the job done, its the pitching that has been truly exceptional. Let’s look at how the Cardinals’ pitching has helped lead the team to winning their last four.
The Cardinals started this short, but promising, streak Thursday in Arizona, and it has so far followed them back to Busch against the Nationals. The D’Backs and the Nationals are not only two of baseball’s best teams, but also posses two of the game’s best lineups.
Led by perennial All-Star and MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, leading Arizona in every major batting category this season, the snakes are raking this year. As a team, they have a .264 average, good for 3rd in the National league. As well, they have slugged over 100 team home runs, and have a .782 OPS, also good for third in the National League.
To compliment Goldy, up-and-comers such as Chris Owings and David Peralta have contributed mightily, and Jake Lamb seems to be having a break out season, just behind Goldschmidt for the league lead in RBI at 65. Overall, this lineup so far in 2017 has put on quite the display, and is certainly among the elite in baseball.
But they are not quite as good as the stacked lineup residing in our Nation’s capital. With stars such as Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Zimmerman, who seems to have rediscovered himself in 2017, the Nats lineup is of a rare caliber.
While the D’Backs had the 3rd overall ranked offense in the NL, Washington holds the number one spot, with a .277 overall average and a whopping .818 OPS. The Nationals lineup took a hit when a a Pedro Stroop fastball broke Trea Turner’s wrist in the eighth inning of Thursday’s game in Chicago. Nonetheless, if Arizona’s lineup is good, Washington’s is great, and one that is extremely feared around the league.
In the Cardinals’ last four games, two against Arizona, two against Washington, their pitching has given up just 10 runs in 36 innings pitched. This is good for a 2.50 staff ERA, against two of the best lineups in baseball.
Let’s get more specific. In 26.1 innings pitched, the starting rotation has given up just 6 earned runs over this 4 game streak, good for a 2.05 ERA. This stellar record has been lead by great performances by Michael Wacha and Mike Leake against the Nats, combined giving up just one run in 14 innings against the NL’s best offense.
Adam Wainwright, who thus far has had an off season, even turned in a great start Thursday against Arizona, hurling 6.1 innings of two run ball.
In the little innings the Cardinals have had to use their bullpen over the last four games, it has well been very effective in keeping runs off the board. Pitching to the tune of a 3.72 ERA over this stretch, the bullpen has been an amalgamation of arms, with seven different pitchers making appearances in just over 9 innings of total work.
Youngster Matt Bowman has been a highlight of the pen over the past few games, making two scoreless appearances, and recording his first career save in Saturday night’s win over Washington.
Over this four game winning streak, the Cardinals have beaten two of the best teams in baseball, with their pitching staff shutting down two of the top five lineups in the game. While this stretch has been nice, it will mean nothing if it cannot be sustained.
The Cardinals play in what is, right now, easily the weakest division in baseball, currently lead by the Milwaukee Brewers. It is easily winnable for the Cards, especially if they continue playing as they have shown they are capable over the past couple of games. However, most of the season has not gone this way, and has been riddled with sub-par performances from the entire team.
So is this little stretch just a fluke, a random hot stretch that will soon fade out? Or has the team figured something out that could lead them on the path to a 2017 Division title?
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports