It’s amazing what nine innings of stellar pitching can do, when combined with a timely hit or two.
Jaime Garcia was back to his brilliant self, tossing eight innings (on 92 pitches) and allowing only one run. His teammates were struggling against Bronson Arroyo for much of the night, but Garcia did enough that one swing of the bat could change the whole story.
Matt Holliday apparently liked that idea. After Carlos Beltran singled, Holliday blasted a critical (some would say “clutch!”) home run to give the Cardinals their first lead in a game since Saturday. Only those two runs would score for the Redbirds, but with Jaime going strong, and Edward Mujica ready for the save, that would be enough. The Cardinals picked up win No. 15 on the season, and snapped a three-game losing streak.
I guess one way to keep the struggling bullpen from wasting quality starts and late-game leads is to pitch well enough to not need them! (Also, as a side note, look at Garcia, fielding his position! He was all over the place yesterday, chasing down slow rolling balls and firing down to first for the outs. Well done, sir!)
No, this win didn’t solve all the problems the Cards have had lately. The offense didn’t come bursting out of its funk with double digit runs. But, a win’s a win. And a win is just what the Cardinals needed to end the first month of baseball on a good note.
Let’s look at that note, shall we?
Starting Pitching: 2.15 ERA (1st), 1.15 WHIP (2nd), 7 HRs allowed (1st), opp. avg. .229 (4th), 2 complete game shutouts (1st)
The starting rotation has been brilliant. Jake Westbrook’s 0.98 ERA is so much more than we could have asked for, although he’s been sitting on 99 career wins for about two games too long, thanks to this week’s anemic offense. Wainwright, Miller, and Garcia all have sub-3 ERAs, and Waino has been as dominant as anyone in the league, as evidenced by his masterful complete game shutout. He’s taking this “staff ace” role very seriously.
Bullpen: 5.81 ERA (30th), 7-of-13 save opportunities (16th), 16 holds (5th), 66.2 IP (28th), 1.53 WHIP (30th), opp. avg. .297 (30th)
Mitchell Boggs fell off a cliff. Transitioning him into Jason Motte’s spot didn’t work one bit. Edward Mujica stepped in and has been the savior … literally. As a closer, he’s 5-for-5 (*knock on wood*), and he’s holding onto a 0.90 ERA. A closer with a sub-one ERA? Well. Okay, then! Trevor Rosenthal stumbled at the start, but has settled in. Good thing, since he’s pitched in more games than anyone else. Marc Rzepczynski’s poor April promoted a promotion for Seth Maness.
Hitting: .245 average (18th), .67 7OPS (27th), (117 runs (11th), 107 RBI (11th), 20 HRs (24th), 67 extra base hits (25th), 27 GIDPs (3rd)
Two regulars have batting averages in the .300 range. Beltran has six of the team’s 20 home runs. Allen Craig has yet to hit a home run, but he’s the RBI leader with 18 after the first month. Right behind him is Beltran. Holliday has been walked 13 times and is working a .382 on-base percentage. Pete Kozma is hanging around the .260 mark with four doubles and a home run. David Freese has had a terrible month … it can only go up from here, right?
For all the drama, the blown saves, the missed opportunities, the runners left on base, the Cardinals survived the first month of baseball to land at the top of the NL Central. At 15-11, they are 1/2 a game ahead of the Brewers and the Pirates with one more game in the current series against the Reds.
John Mozeliak mentioned it this past weekend in the Blogger Day Q&A session — this is not where the Cardinals want to be, or how they want to perform. But … they’re finding ways to win ballgames.
Maybe the old “April showers bring May flowers” will translate to the ball diamond, too. The Redbirds survived the storms of the first month, and are now ready to bloom.
The first game of May and the final game of the series is in the hands of Lance Lynn as he takes on the Reds at 12:45 p.m.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.