When Cards Starters Are Good, They Can Be Very Good

The one thing that’s been fairly consistent through the mediocrity of the Cardinals going 31-31 has been the starting pitching. Yes, there have been those occasional clunker game from each of them — those things happen on occasion.

ShelbyBut when the starters have been good, they’ve often been very good. The Cardinals are tied with the Rangers for the MLB lead in shutouts with 11 (which is three more than the teams tied for second) and, as of yesterday, now has the big league lead in shutouts with four.

That’s thanks to Shelby Miller, who joined Adam Wainwright with two and Lance Lynn on that 2014 Cards shutout list. And, as Jenifer Langosch writes at Cardinals.com, his performance might have been even more impressive than last year’s leadoff-single-then-27-straight-retired performance last year: “While Miller may have relied on an overpowering fastball to mow down 27 Colorado hitters in a row in a start last May, this time he toyed with Toronto purely by pitching.”

It was pretty spectacular to watch.

Shelby was perfect until walking Adam Lind in the fifth, then didn’t allow a hit until Jose Reyes singled with two outs in the sixth. Here’s what came next, from Jenifer Langosch:

That presented the only messy spot of the afternoon for Miller, as Melky Cabrera followed with a double off the glove of diving first baseman Allen Craig. With two in scoring position and three-hole hitter Jose Bautista up, Miller found a little something extra with his fastball.

Bautista swung through a high 96-mph heater for strike two. Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz, making the spot start, called for another.

“It’s a big part of the game right there,” Cruz said. “I’m sure [Miller’s] adrenaline was going. He had a good fastball, too. I felt that.”

The K of Bautista was one of five Shelby had for the game — and, as Al Hrabosky told us several times (even while the at-bat was going on), the biggest at-bat of the game. Which it was, given the tight score of the game at the time. Shelby allowed only one other hit, a one-out single in the ninth to Cabrera.

Then there was the offense — and there actually was an offense, even against Mark Buehrle.

Randal Grichuk started the scoring in the fifth, with his first major league home run (which included, instead of the usual receiving line, the silent treatment from his teammates instead). That was it until the eighth, when the Cards had a little fun.

With the bases loaded with Allen Craig, Jhonny Peralta and Oscar Taveras, Mark Ellis was walked. One more run, two total! After Peter Bourjos was called out on strikes, Tony Cruz made the most of the opportunity to play — he singled to score Peralta and Taveras. Two more runs, four total! Matt Carpenter then walked to load the bases again. Then Grichuk walked. Another run, five total — and more runs than they’d scored in Thursday and Friday’s games combined. Offense! Woo hoo! Can you show up more often?

A very nice game all around, especially with seeing Shelby pitch so well considering he’s had his ups and downs this season — even with today’s shutout, he’s still allowed the most earned runs at 31 of any Cards starter. And there were runs scored (even if two of them came from bases-loaded walks and there were still 11 left on). Plus it broke the Blue Jays’ six-game winning streak.

Now, what will they do from here?

That’s to be determined later today, as Jaime Garcia faces off against Drew Hutchinson for the deciding game of the series. It all begins at 12:07 p.m. Central Time once again.

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