Well well well.
This was supposed to be a make-or-break stretch for the Cardinals. After struggling a bit in August, going through a stretch of 17 games against three of the top teams in baseball was envisioned by some to be the point at which the Cardinals would have to play for a wild card spot.
“This team has no power,” some cried.
“The starting pitching is awful,” others pointed out. Throw in the devastating loss of RBI leader Allen Craig, and they may as well have just thrown in the towel, amirite?
Three weeks later, the team wrapped up the weekend by sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates to finish 10-7 in this stretch. Before you decry that this isn’t that impressive, keep in mind that’s a .588 winning percentage against teams that are a combined 68 games over .500; this would play out to a 95-win season over the course of 162 games.
And the Cardinals didn’t just finish strong; they emaciated the Pirates, outscoring them 26-10 in three games.
Add to that a 4-2 win over the Brewers last night, and the Cardinals have now won five of their last six, sitting a game ahead of Pittsburgh, three ahead of Cincinnati.
This recent string of success is thanks in large part to the starting rotation, which has been a relative weak point the last couple of months. Of the original starting rotation (Wainwright, Garcia, Miller, Lynn, Westbrook), only Wainwright and Miller have been effective most of the second half. Lynn’s faltered terribly, and Westbrook’s pretty much pitched himself out of the rotation.
In the last four games, though, some of the young pitchers have come up huge. Starting with Joe Kelly Friday night, the starting rotation’s put up the following numbers:
26.2 innings pitched, 17 hits, 1 earned run, 9 BB, 18 K
That’s an ERA of 0.34 for the starters, by the way. Lance Lynn goes tonight against the Brewers, hoping desperately to reverse the recent streak of bad starts. The Cardinals are likely going to rely on him as the fourth starter in the post-season.