‘These Cardinals are playing SOME kind of baseball,” KMOX announcer Mike Shannon claimed as the Redbirds picked up victory No. six of this eight-game road trip. They’ve won 20 of 25, and at 34-17, they continue their grip on the best record in baseball. So, “SOME” baseball? Is that like “SOME pig” from Charlotte’s web?
Well, there’s SOME pitching at the root of that success, as has been the narrative all season. This time, though, it was a rookie mowing down hitters with a slider and a curve ball, and without the help of Yadier Molina.
Tyler Lyons gets the credit this time for manhandling the Royals lineup in seven innings of two-hit ball. While he was admittedly wild with the fastball in the first inning (when the Royals scored their only run on a walk and a hit), he would go on to retire 17 in a row. He pounded his breaking pitches low in the zone until he recaptured the feel for his fastball. Then, it was all over for the Royals.
“Impressive” is hardly accurate. We all acknowledged the pitching depth John Mozeliak and company had stockpiled, but little did we know how good the talent pool was beyond Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Michael Wacha. By a show of hands, who had Tyler Lyons on their radar at the start of the year as a guy who would come up and steal the show? On the day Wacha’s call up was made official, it was Lyons who left us in awe.
Certainly, a two-run Carlos Beltran homer in the first helps get things off on the right foot. Solo blasts from Matt squared (Carpenter & Holliday) in the sixth added an exclamation point for the young southpaw, before he gave way to Trevor Rosenthal in the eighth. (If you ever wonder how loose the best team in baseball is, just check out the receiving lines, especially here after Holliday’s blast that broke an 0-for-13 stretch. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.)
While you’re processing how good Lyons was, don’t forget about Trevor Rosenthal. Remember when we were concerned about how slowly he was settling into a late-inning bullpen role? No? … me neither. In 11.1 innings in May, he has not allowed a single earned run and his WHIP is resting comfortably at 0.88. *throws salt over shoulder, knocks on wood*
Don’t get too caught up thinking about Trevor, though. A quick 1-2-3 and he’s out of the eighth with another scoreless appearance. And in comes Edward Mujica.
I won’t lie, I was very concerned about sliding Mujica into the closer role. Yes, he’d been the most dominant bullpen guy when the team needed help in the ninth. But, he hadn’t historically been a great closer. I have never been happier to be proven wrong!
Mujica worked his magic and earned his 16th save … in 16 chances.
This pitching staff is just full of surprises! That’s the upside of an injury riddled system that is also packed with relevant talent. These kids are taking the chances they’re given and running with them.
And yes, Mr. Shannon, this is SOME baseball team.
Here’s hoping they stay just as hot as they come home for another two-game set with the Royals (such a weird scheduling quirk!) and the much anticipated debut of Michael Wacha.
But first — tonight, it’s Lance Lynn (remember when he was the one surprising us?!) taking on Luis Mendoza. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 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.
How important is the Cardinals’ hot start? If they go just .500 for the next four months, that’s 89 wins.
Oh, and if they win just one of their next three games, that’s 20 wins in a month for the first time since August 2009.
The schedule in June is going to be a little harder than it was in May, though.