Even with the ups and downs, the St. Louis Cardinals finished April in first place. One big reason why? Our first BAMFs for 2013: the starting rotation.
April has traditionally been a very good month for the Cardinals, as they’ve had winning records each year since 2008 and have been in first place in the National League Central on May 1 for each of those years as well. That’s a nice streak that, more often than not, also leads to a post-season trip.
Back to our five starters, it would have been easy to choose Adam Wainwright as our sole BAMF for April. He more than earned that honor, with his walkless streak (and still only three walks allowed for the season) and 4-2 record and 2.03 ERA and — oh yeah — that brilliant complete game shutout of the Brewers on April 13 and masterful performance against the Nationals on April 23.
But how do you overlook the guy who currently leads the majors with a 0.98 ERA in Jake Westbrook — especially when he had a five-hit complete game shutout on April 10?
And how can we not recognize a streak of 39 1/3 innings without allowing a run from April 9 through the 14 — a streak which, coincidentally, included those two shutouts?
Plus how can we overlook the rotation that’s leading the league in starters ERA? Ending April it was 2.15 — a full run better than the American League’s top rotation, the Red Sox, at 3.15. The second-best National League starters were the Reds at 2.95. (Following yesterday’s Reds-Cardinals game, the starter ERAs are now 2.11 for the Cards and 3.07 for the Reds — though of course those are May stats.)
In addition, as Tara mentioned yesterday, they’ve allowed the fewest home runs of any team with seven, are second in WHIP at 1.15, are the only team with two shutouts and opponents were hitting .229 against them. (It’s now .228.)
Then there’s Shelby Miller. In his first month as a major league starter, he compiled a 2.05 ERA — which, despite its impressiveness, only ranks third among the Cardinals starters — and has struck out 33 in 30 2/3 innings pitched while walking only 10. His best start so far was during that scoreless innings streak, on April 12: a one-hit, seven inning outing against the Brewers in which he struck out eight and walked none. He’s had a little trouble against the Pirates, with both of his losses coming to them, but even in his “worst” outing so far — last Sunday when we were there for blogger day — he only allowed three earned runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. His record is currently 3-2.
Jaime Garcia has only lost one game, and probably not surprisingly it was on the road — but he also has two road victories along with that terrific win at Busch Stadium on Tuesday. His ERA is 2.50.
Finally, there’s Lance Lynn. He ended April with a 3.10 ERA but four consecutive wins — and he’s now won five straight, best in the National League, and has a 2.75 ERA after yesterday’s May 1 performance. He’s had two starts where he allowed four earned runs, but was the winning pitcher against the Pirates on April 15 because the Cardinals scored 10. He’s struck out 39 in 36 innings pitched, plus allowed only one hit and no runs in seven innings against the Phillies on April 20.
Basically, BAMFs all the way around. And, thanks to Lance Lynn, already off to a very nice beginning in May.
Also worthy of mentioning for their April contributions:
Edward Mujica. To state the obvious, it was a rough month for the bullpen. But, since taking over as the closer on April 18, Mujica has six straight saves — five of which came in April. His ERA through the end of the month was 0.90.
Yadier Molina. While the offense has certainly been hit-or-miss in the season’s first month (to put it kindly), Yadi has been Yadi. In April, he hit .312/.347/.448 with a team-high 30 hits, including seven doubles, two home runs and 15 RBI. Oh, and two stolen bases — which is tied with Daniel Descalso for the team lead. And, obviously, Yadi also has played a huge role in the success of the starting rotation. As Bernie Miklasz wrote last week, no player is more valuable than Yadi.
Carlos Beltran. After a slow start, Beltran has certainly heated up — he’s raised his batting average from .220 on April 15 to .307 on April 30. He leads the team in homers with seven, including one from each side of the plate on April 26; RBI with 18; and slugging percentage with .584.
Here’s to even better things for all during May — and especially the Cardinals offense, now that the bullpen is starting to look back on track.
The battle against the National League Central continues starting tonight in Milwaukee, as the Cards and Brewers begin a four-game series. Jake Westbrook tries once again for win No. 100. Game time is 7:10 p.m.
Christine Coleman is the lead St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.