A Whole New Ballgame: Cards, Bucs Tied for First
The real key to stability the last few weeks, though, has been Joe Kelly. Carrying a 9.64 ERA at the beginning of May, Kelly’s won his last five decisions, and the Cardinals have won seven of the last eight games he’s pitched in. Since June 21, he’s thrown up the following line:
56.2 innings, 49 hits, 2.06 ERA, .231/.309/.321, 23 BB, 35 K
Plus he dances like nobody’s watching.
With Jake Westbrook now on the DL, the Cardinals are without two of their five starters on the Opening Day roster. Kelly has managed to pick up the slack in Garcia’s absence. The real question is what to do with that final fifth spot in the rotation, even if/when Westbrook returns.
At the outset of the season, Westbrook was a pleasant surprise, posting a 1.62 ERA through his first six starts until he landed on the DL with elbow issues. Since his return, though, he’s gone from being serviceable to entering the competition for batting practice pitcher of the year. In his last five appearances:
26 innings, 38 hits, 28 earned runs, 9.69 ERA, .345/.447/.491, 16 walks, 11 K
Now, his outing against LA on August 7 could be excused: coming in in relief of an injured Shelby Miller, little warm-up time (Westbrook’s routine on days he starts apparently takes longer than any other pitcher on the Cardinals’ staff), pitching on three days’ rest. The team is now saying he’s been battling a sore back the last few starts, which could be a legitimate reason for his struggles. Then again, it could be the team simply retconning a reason for why he’s been so abysmal. At any rate, it’s unlikely the Cardinals will exercise his 2014 option, and with the way the post-season’s set up, there’s no need for a fifth starter, so they could end up omitting him from the 25-man roster (assuming, of course, the Cardinals make it in).
The rosters will expand in six days, allowing players to call up anyone on the 40-man roster, so the Cardinals could add even more arms to the bullpen for the stretch. Although MLB has been considering a rule limiting the number of players who can dress for a game (much like football allows a 53-man roster, but only 45 dress for each game), this has yet to pass. The team currently has seven pitchers on the 40-man roster who aren’t on the DL or the active roster, so it’s likely they’ll bring at least a couple of arms up. Adron Chambers and Brock Peterson will likely get called up as well in addition to perhaps a middle infielder.
Everyone knows the Cardinals are in the midst of a 17-game stretch against above-.500 teams. It’s interesting to note that once that stretch is out of the way, the rest of the season has no contest against any teams currently above .500.
Aug 26-28 vs. Cincinnati (74-57)
August 30-Sep 1 at Pittsburgh (76-54)
Sep 2-5 at Cincinnati
Sep 6-8 vs. Pittsburgh
Sep 10-12 vs. Milwaukee (57-73)
Sep 13-15 vs. Seattle (59-70)
Sep 16-19 at Colorado (61-71)
Sep 20-22 at Milwaukee
Sep 23-25 vs. Washington (65-65)
Sep 27-29 vs. Chicago (55-75)