(BaseballStL) -- The St. Louis Cardinals have at last found the winning formula. But it might be a little difficult to execute day in and day out.
Back to back shutouts of the Toronto Blue Jays made it an even dozen, and Tuesday's blanking of the Rays pushed it to 13 with just over a third of the year gone. And, as one might guess, they are undefeated in those games. Over the course of the year, then, should the trend continue and the Cards log an incredible 32 shutouts, that’s 32 games in which a single, long tally would suffice.
So ridiculously far ahead of last year’s pace is the Redbirds’ pitching staff that the superb 2013 staff did not log its 13th shutout until Sept. 24 against the Washington Nationals and had 15 for the year, good enough to rank near the top of the National League.
In fact, the Cards pitching over the course of this season has been so good that if the Cards had scored four runs a game all year, they would have at least 10 more victories, making them 44-21, better than the MLB-best San Francisco Giants and playing the kind of baseball they expected to play.
It is, of course, the hitting, not the pitching, that has disappointed this year. But Cardinal fans forget that there were periods last year when the Redbirds didn’t hit at all.
In a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 30, the Cards tallied a total of one run. Worse, from August 28-30 in games against rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the last 30 days of a pennant race, the Redbirds scored just 1 run in three games.
So periods of lazy bats, line drives hit right at someone and warning track leaps to take away extra bases happen in every season. And don’t forget, 2013 was a record-setting year in which the Cards led the National League in just about every offensive category and they were still shutout 11 times.
You might assume that with great pitching and hitting, the 2013 Cardinals didn’t suffer too many droughts like the one this year’s club endured before the back-to-back shutouts of Toronto. Prior to those two impressive wins, the Cards had lost nine of 12.
Not so. In late June and early July of 2013, the Redbirds also lost nine of 12 in a rough series with Texas, Oakland, Los Angeles Angels and the first game to the woeful Florida Marlins.
The point to all this is that as poorly as the Cards have played at times, as soft as their lineup has been and as frustrating as this season has gone thus far, the pitching is better, the overall depth is far better and though maddening, the droughts have been about the same. The big difference has been hitting with runners in scoring position and the inability to mount a credible offensive threat more than once a game. If that happens, it will change everything.
The key to the offense is scoring those four runs a game because to date, the pitching staff has held opponents to three runs or fewer 38 times this year.