The St. Louis Cardinals once again proved that they were not only the National League Central’s best ballclub, but the best team in all of baseball with a 11-4 win on Sunday night in their series finale against the second place Cincinnati Reds.
With the score locked at four runs apiece after nine innings of play, the Cardinals erupted for seven runs in the 10th inning, highlighted by a Matt Holliday grand slam that led St. Louis to another series win.
With the win on Sunday night, the Cardinals not only extended their lead in the NL Central to four games over both the Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, but have now also either won or split 13 consecutive series.
Now 41-22, St. Louis is winning with arguably the most well rounded roster in the major leagues and have found a way to overcome several injuries to some fairly big names on the way to what has been a very promising start to the 2013 season.
Injuries to closer Jason Motte, shortstop Rafael Furcal, and former Cy Young Award winner, Chris Carpenter, have prevented all three from taking the field so far this season and would for most teams, mean the end of any realistic playoff aspirations. To make matters worse, starting pitcher Jamie Garcia who was 5-2 prior to hurting his shoulder in May, will miss the remainder of the 2013 season due to surgery that’s needed to repair his partially torn labrum.
The Cardinals are due to receive some good news on the injury front this week however, when veteran starter Jake Westbrook is scheduled to make his return from the disabled list after experiencing inflammation in his right elbow that has caused him to be out of the rotation since early May. Westbrook who was 2-1 with a 1.62 earned run average prior to the injury, is currently being considered to start as early as Friday in the Cardinals series opener against Miami.
Leading the National League in both runs scored (317), as well as team batting average (.276), St.Louis is hitting when it counts and are on track to set a new MLB record that is currently owned by the 1996 Colorado Rockies (.311), with an exceptional (.341) average with runners in scoring position.
Almost as impressive, the Cardinal’s pitching staff is second in the National League with a 3.19 earned run average, as well as fourth in both quality starts (40) and WHIP (1.20), while being widely considered as the second best unit in all of baseball behind only the Detroit Tigers.
Shelby Miller (7-3), leads the National League with a 1.91 ERA, while Adam Wainwright (9-3) and Lance Lynn (8-1) are among the major league leaders in wins and could very likely end the season in the neighborhood of 20 victories.
Of course, having four hitters within the National Leagues’s top 15 in batting average helps to ensure consistent run support for the Cardinal’s rotation while at the same time, makes it much easier to play through many of the teams numerous injury issues. Catcher Yadier Molina leads the National League with an average of .354, while second baseman Matt Carpenter (.332), first baseman Allen Craig (.310), and right fielding veteran Carlos Beltran (.305), are all among the leagues’s most respected hitters at the plate this season.
With both the Reds (37-26) and Pirates (37-26) playing some of the best baseball that either franchise has played over the past 20 years, the Cardinals will need to be able to continue to rely on their delicate mix of young talent and veteran leadership if they hope to hold off the rest of the division and claim yet another NL Central title.
After spending last week fighting it out with two of the leagues better ballclubs in Arizona and Cincinnati, St. Louis will start their week on Tuesday in New York where they will take on the miserable Mets in a three game series before heading to Miami to face an equally less than mediocre Marlins team over the weekend.