(BaseballStL) -- A month ago, the Cardinals were uncertain about who to use as the fifth starter in the rotation.
They were kicking the tires on some possible trades, with expensive veterans Jake Peavy and Cliff Lee in the discussions. But just as not signing Albert Pujols turned out to be a great move, not making a trade for fifth starter appears to be working out very well also.
Suddenly Joe Kelly is the most effective pitcher on the roster. Kelly got off to a rough start this season, and at one point was close to being sent down to Memphis. But he’s certainly kicked it into high gear now. Since rejoining the rotation on July 6, Kelly is 3-0.
He strung together 20 consecutive scoreless innings before the Dodgers scored on him in the 6th inning on Tuesday night. That scoreless string is the longest by a Cardinals pitcher this season.
“We needed him to come up big for us, and that’s exactly what he did,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “He used both sides of the plate and his change-up was sharp. He couldn’t have done much more than what he did.”
Kelly got help from five different Cardinals relievers who combined for 3 2/3rds scoreless innings. “It was a big bullpen day,” Kelly said. “I just happened to get the ball to start the game off.”
Kelly’s ERA is down to 2.98 for the season. He’s doing a little bit of everything to help his own cause. He fields his position well, and drove a key run on Tuesday with a ground ball against Clayton Kershaw.
Kelly has been among the most effective starters in all of baseball over the past month. Who needs Peavy or Lee? A trade for one of those two would have cost the Cardinals two or three of their top prospects (Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez?).
Not only did the Cardinals hang on to their prospects, it appears they’ve also discovered a pitcher in Joe Kelly who may be a fixture in the rotation for the foreseeable future.