Aug 6, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Zach Duke (29) pitches to an Atlanta Braves batter during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. The Braves won 13-5. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired 16 games ago, Zach Duke has only had 6.2 innings of work for the St. Louis Cardinals. In that time he has already shown he’ll be key moving forward.

On July 31, the St. Louis Cardinals traded minor league outfielder Charlie Tilson for Zach Duke, a left-handed relief pitcher from the Chicago White Sox.  So far it seems like Mo hit another jackpot in the trade department. This trade has ended up to be as lopsided as a see-saw holding Matt Adams and Kolten Wong, but the reason for it is actually quite unfortunate. Soon after quickly rising to the majors with the White Sox, Charlie Tilson suffered a season ending hamstring tear.

Just before the Zach Duke acquisition the Cardinal’s bullpen was struggling. After seemingly blowing game after game, and having pitchers drop one by one to injury, the Cardinal’s needed something or someone to come and provide stability. The introduction of Zach Duke, and later of Alex Reyes, seems to have done just that. In his brief time with the club, Duke has pitched 6.2 innings of one run baseball. Unfortunately, that one run wasn’t pretty—a walk-off walk for the Chicago Cubs. It’s easy to look at this one appearance and let it define Duke’s time with the Cardinals. But if you look past that one outing, Duke has done exactly what he was called to do: pitch scoreless baseball. The Cardinal’s expected him to be a solid option in the pen, but right now, with his 2.44 ERA (includes appearances with the White Sox) he’s proving to be one of their go-to relievers.

Only one game ahead in the wild-card race, the Cardinals need consistency. Duke, in his brief time, has done his part by pitching scoreless baseball. His 1.35 ERA with the Cardinals shows exactly what Duke can provide for this team moving forward. With the possibility of a 1-2-3 combo of Duke, Reyes, and Oh, the Cardinal’s bullpen looks stronger than ever. Although the team will obviously have to rely on other bullpen pitchers down the stretch, that combination could be lethal in an upcoming one game wild-card playoff.

Despite the mid-season troubles they had, the Cardinal’s bullpen still have the sixth lowest ERA (3.46) in the MLB. And although they’ve had one bad stretch, they’ve been a pretty important part of keeping the team’s playoff hopes alive. The acquisition of Duke gave the team one additional arm they could rely on in close games. It was a catalyst. It gave the bullpen the tools it needed to put away close games, excluding for that walk-off walk.

So while one player of the trade is sidelined with injury (I wish Tilson the speediest recoveries, as I myself am quite familiar with hamstring tears), the other is proving to be a key piece in holding together a depleted bullpen. That just seems to be the type of magical trade that Mo always seems to find. At this point I’m convinced that the Cardinals could trade Carlos Martinez for twenty cents of change and somehow still come out on top.

 

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports