Adversity brings a team together, right? But what about when the adversity affects the season-long strength of the team — the starting rotation? That’s what we’re about to find out from the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals as they embark on a 10-game road trip to face the Rockies, Dodgers and Giants minus Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia.
The Cardinals currently are tied with the Dodgers for MLB’s best starter ERA at 3.08, just ahead of the A’s 3.10. Add the relievers in also and the Cards are third overall in MLB with a 3.18 ERA, behind the A’s at 3.02 and Nationals at 3.04. Yes, the Cards’ bullpen has improved much so that its ERA right now is 3.41 (seventh best in the NL, 11th in MLB).
With Carlos Martinez able to stay in the rotation, that’s a benefit. Joe Kelly is going to begin a rehab stint on Friday at Memphis — good news, as he will hopefully be back soon. Until he is, there are options currently at Memphis such as Tyler Lyons, Zach Petrick or Tim Cooney.
But then there’s the other side of the game: the offense. And with that, who knows? Though, with as good as the pitching has been lately, the way the offense goes is the way the game goes. Get hits, score runs? Winner! Fall flat, don’t score? Yeah, we’ve seen that plenty. The team is currently hitting .250/.318/.364, which is eighth/fifth/13th in the NL. Of course they’re still last in homers with just 42 — which is what the Royals have now as well.
A spark and any sense of urgency from this team seems to occasionally appear, leading us all to think “OK, now they’re playing like they should.” Then the Cards lose back-to-back games to the Phillies and have A.J. Burnett and his 13.50 Busch Stadium ERA throw a complete game against them.
Maybe now the team is at a turning point in the season — maybe losing Wacha especially but Garcia too will jolt the team and they’ll play like we and all the pre-season experts expected them to all along.
Or maybe not.
Perhaps this team is what it’s played like: sometimes good, sometimes frustrating, occasionally showing flashes of brilliance, oftentimes just not quite doing enough. There’s a lot of that in the NL this year — at the moment, the Cards are the second wild card team but the Braves are just 2 1/2 games back, the Reds 3, and the Marlins and Pirates 3 1/2. In the Central, the Cards are 5 1/2 behind the Brewers. Yep, plenty of time left to play and plenty of games against the Brewers too.
So, we’ll see. And we’ll see if we can appreciate the 2014 Cardinals or just be frustrated by them.
NEWS FROM THE CARDINALS:
And, just as I was finishing this, a news release popped up in my email from the Cardinals with the roster moves. Interesting, for sure — but what else would we expect from this year’s team? Here’s the news release:
The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that pitchers Jaime Garcia (left shoulder inflammation) and Michael Wacha (right shoulder stress reaction) have both been placed on the 15-day disabled list. Garcia’s move is retroactive to June 21, and Wacha’s is back-dated to June 18.
In addition, the Cardinals today recalled right-handed pitcher Eric Fornataro and infielder Pete Kozma from Memphis (AAA). Both players are expected to join the Cardinals in Denver tonight for their series opener against the Colorado Rockies.
Fornataro, 26, was 1-2, with a 3.27 ERA and 4 saves in his 19 games (22.0 IP) for Memphis. He has enjoyed a solid June, posting a 0.87 ERA and 3 saves in his eight games this month. The 6-1, 225-pound rookie right-hander debuted for the Cardinals earlier this season, appearing in seven games (7.2 IP).
Kozma, 26, began the season on the Cardinals Opening Day roster, but appeared in just four games (1-for-3; .333 BA) before being optioned to Memphis on April 14.
At Memphis, Kozma has compiled a .234 batting mark (44-for-188) in his 59 games played with 4 home runs and 24 RBI. Kozma has shown consistent success against left-handers, batting .295 (13-for-44) with a .941 OPS and he continues to excel with runners in scoring position, batting .306 (15-for-49) with 21 of his 24 RBI coming in those situations. Kozma hit .322 (37-for-115) with runners in scoring position last season while serving as the Cardinals everyday shortstop.
Fornataro wears uniform no. 67 and Kozma wears no. 38.