(BaseballStL) -- By every measure, the ace, stopper and most reliable pitcher on the St. Louis Cardinals’ staff is the same person: Joe Kelly.
After stymying the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second straight time at PNC Park in the Redbirds 7-2 win Sunday, Kelly (7-3) allowed one run and four hits in six solid innings to win his fourth straight start. Kelly struck out five and walked two and remains unbeaten since June 5.
If the definition of an ace is the guy with the staff’s best record, Kelly is that, at least since the All-Star break. Since the break, he is 6-0 as a starter and posts an ERA of just 1.72. In fact, the Cards have won all seven games he’s started the second half. He is tougher on lefties than righties and since August 1, when the Cards began to struggle, he is the brightest spot on an overworked but young staff, not losing a start.
As a stopper, or a pitcher who wins after the team’s loss, Kelly is again that guy. He has won five times since August after a Cardinal loss, preventing losing streaks and keeping the Redbirds in a position to contend for the division title. In fact, the Cards have only won three times at PNC Park this year. Kelly has won two of them. Both wins have been crucial. On Aug. 1 after the Cards lost the first four games in a five-game series at PNC, Kelly shut down the Bucs, holding them to three hits in six innings in a 13-0 rout. Sunday, the Pirates had again taken the first two from Cards and knocked them out of first place before Kelly restored order. He worked six strong innings and allowed just one run to lower his ERA over the last 10 games to 2.16
With reliability as a measure, Kelly again comes out on top. Although he has averaged only about six innings per start, he has never surrendered more than two runs in any of his six wins since the ASB.
In the seventh start, he gave up four runs but the Cards still beat the Chicago Cubs 8-4. In every start, he has pitched into and in most cases, finished six innings.
Walks have gotten him into trouble at times, elevating his pitch count and his WHIP. But he has managed to stay out of big innings and his club knows that when Kelly pitches, he will give them a chance to win.
His turnaround has been remarkable, considering that his ERA in April and May as a reliever was 7.0 and his WHIP was nearly 2.0.
While Adam Wainwright remains the face of the Cardinals’ pitching staff, Joe Kelly has been the muscle. The young hurler has been one of the most consistent and reliable starters in baseball and is one of the reasons the Cardinals remain solidly in contention for post season play.