By: Jim Tsapelas
The St. Louis Cardinals have started the month of June by winning three consecutive series and have a record of (7-3) for the month. With a day off on Monday, the Redbirds are in sole possession of second place in the NL Central Division, three games in front of the third place Pittsburgh Pirates and eight and one-half games behind the division leading Chicago Cubs. As of June 14th, the Cards are 35-28 and are + 0.5 in the NL Wild Card.
It took St. Louis sixty games to reach the four games over .500 mark. They accomplished this for the first time this season with a three to two win over the Cincinnati Reds on June 9th. Prior to that time, the most the Cardinals had been over .500, was by a three game margin. At no time during the 2016 season have the Birds been more than three games under .500.
At start of play Tuesday, June 14th, the Redbirds are seven games over the .500 plateau. The Cardinals so far in June appear to have made strides to be competitive in the NL Central Division. They have won all three series in June, against the San Francisco Giants (3-1), Cincinnati Reds (3-1) and swept the recently injury prone Pittsburgh Pirates in three games.
The Cardinals’ pitching has recently shown signs of improvement, correction, and life. Carlos Martinez (7-5) who was an April sensation and a May flop, had one of the better outings of his career on June 11th, against the Pirates and Francisco Liriano; Martinez claimed a five to one victory over the Pirates. Martinez worked eight and one-third innings, allowed six hits, one earned run, walked three, and struck out five.
Michael Wacha’s last outing against the Pirates on June 10th, was his best effort of 2016. Wacha threw seven innings, allowed three hits, two earned runs, walked three, and struck out five. Wacha left the game with the score Pirates two-Cardinals nothing. In the top of the eighth inning, while still the pitcher of record, the Redbirds scored three runs, giving Wacha and the Cards the lead; three to two over the Pirates. In the bottom of the ninth, Trevor Rosenthal earned his second blown save of the season as the Pirates plated a run to tie the score at three. In an explosive twelfth inning, the Birds on the Bat scored six to defeat the Pirates nine to three.
In a June 9th start, Cardinals’ Ace, Adam Wainwright, worked six innings, allowed two hits, two earned runs, walked one, and struck out nine. Wainwright did not figure into the decision which was a three to two victory over the Reds.
On Sunday June 12th, Mike Leake secured the sweep over the Pirates by a score of eight to three. Leake who started the season poorly, allowed six hits and three runs over seven innings of work; while striking out six.
Of the starting five, Martinez, Wacha, Wainwright, and Leake have demonstrated noticeable improvement in their individual execution and mechanics during the month of June.
Jaime Garcia who pitched the game of his career this past April, when he threw a one hit shutout, striking out a career best thirteen batters against the Milwaukee Brewers appears to continue to struggle in June. Garcia is (0-1) for June, having combined for nine and two-third innings, allowed thirteen hits, five earned runs, one walk, and three strike outs in two starts. Garcia (5-4) takes the mound Tuesday against Doug Fister (6-3) in the first of two against the Houston Astros at Busch.
The Cardinals’ offense has shown signs of life all season with a .269 team batting average, .340 OBP, .458 SLG, and OPS of .798. The pitching and defense have appeared to struggle with both the defense and pitching showing improvement thus far in June.
Of personal concern to me is Trevor Rosenthal. To be blunt, I am not a fan of Rosenthal. Despite his really good numbers: a career ERA of 2.71 in 257 games, 108 saves, 335 strikeouts in 258.2 innings pitched and a WHIP of 1.26. It is my position Rosenthal is not an elite closer. He is a good closer, but not elite. At times Rosenthal lacks the control to efficiently close out a game on a limited number of pitches. Rosenthal cost Wacha a win this month. I would like to see Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak consider other options in the closer’s role. Whether it be a closer “by committee” or auditioning members of the reliever’s corps.
Thanks for reading!
Jim Tsapelas is a featured author at Around the Horn Talk, an official affiliate of MLB.com.