MILWAUKEE – The bar is pushed higher each game for the St. Louis Cardinals' pitchers, the only staff in baseball with an earned run average under 2.00.
Adam Wainwright (2-1, 1.71) will try to continue the impressive streak of performances by starters against a struggling Wily Peralta (0-2, 5.68) as the Redbirds take on the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday.
St. Louis starters have combined for a 2.06 ERA, the lowest in franchise history over the past 72 years. The numbers tell a compelling story: 12 quality starts in the first 15 games; four starters with an ERA under 2.00; a bullpen ERA of 1.60, tops in all of baseball. In fact, the closest team to the Cards' relief corps, the Kansas City Royals, is more than a run worse at 2.98. And despite the fact that manager Mike Matheny has used almost everyone in the bullpen frequently, the 39 innings pitched by the relievers is the lowest in the National League.
Matheny agreed that the momentum the starting pitchers generated in the fast start feeds on itself and motivates each pitcher to succeed. “This is a really talented group of guys that maybe the league didn't recognize at first, so they have to keep proving it,” he said before the game. “We watched them as the spring unfolded and we saw a healthy Michael Wacha and a healthy Adam Wainwright, a much improved John Lackey, an improving Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez who is just trying to prove he belongs. They are setting the expectations for the rest of the season.”
For perspective, Cardinal pitchers have only allowed a record 32 runs in the first 15 games, eclipsing the previous team record of 39 set by the 1963 Cardinals, a staff that included the legendary Bob Gibson.
Past performance favors another Wainwright gem. The tall right-hander recently became the all-time winningest pitcher in Busch Stadium III history (63-36) and is 12-8 (2.37 ERA) lifetime against the Crew. He is also 6-4 at Miller Park and finished the 2014 season against the Brewers with two complete game shutouts.
One of Milwaukee's three wins thus far in 2015 is against Wainwright, whose 3.00 career ERA is tops among all active pitchers and sixth all time on the Cardinals' list.
•Matheny also said Yadier Molina felt much better this morning than he thought he would and tried to see if he could catch tonight before deciding against making a case to his manager. It wouldn't have done any good anyway. “I had made up my mind before we left last night that I was going to give him at least another day,” the skipper said. “He could be ready in an emergency but we need to give him a day or so.”
He added that he decided against calling anyone up from the minors since Molina felt pretty good and seemed to be healing, although the knee is still stiff and sore.
“Koz (Pete Kozma, the emergency back up catcher) caught another bullpen today. He's doing anything he can to get into a game,” he said, smiling. But if Kozma is in, the Cardinals are in dire straits. “At that point he'd be wearing a (guard to prevent hand injury) and we'd just try to get him through it.”
H. Gomez 2B