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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Finding bright spots within the Cardinals’ rough start

A few players have shown signs of life despite the team struggling through the opening few weeks of the season.

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April 19, 2017

After being swept by the New York Yankees this past weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals had their first losing road trip since 2015.

Going into the season, the team was expected to compete with the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central and be in playoff contention right out of the gate.

But all has not gone well in St. Louis. After a win Wednesday night, the Cardinals are now 5-9, off to their worst start since 1988, and currently hold last place in the NL Central. Headed into Tuesday night’s game, the teamed Sported a team ERA of 4.66 and a team batting average of .209, 26th and last in the league respectively. In short, the Cardinals have been off to a horrendous start.

As of Tuesday, right fielder Stephen Piscotty is the only everyday position player hitting over .250, with a .268 slash line. New addition Dexter Fowler has been nothing but mediocre so far, hitting a meager .132 without a single RBI. First baseman Matt Carpenter has yet to find his comfort zone in the 3-hole, hitting .222 while only driving in four runs so far.

The bullpen has been a weakness as well. Other than Matt Bowman (0.00), Sam Tuivailala (3.00) and Trevor Rosenthal (3.86), no Cardinal reliever has an ERA below 9.00. The Cardinals were the final team in the majors to earn a save, finally getting one in the 2-1 win on Monday over the Pirates.

Very few things have gone well so far for the Birds on the Bat in 2017. However, this team has had a few bright spots who may be primed to turn it around. And those bright spots are coming from some unlikely sources.

Starting pitcher Mike Leake has been the surprising leader of the staff over the first two weeks, leading the pitching staff with a 1-1 record and an ERA of 0.60. Without much support from the offense, Leake has found a way to be successful in what has otherwise been a brutal rotation.

Starter Lance Lynn has shown signs of his former self, tossing seven scoreless innings in a win over the Pirates on Monday while officially moving into second place on the all-time wins list at Busch Stadium III with 35. Returning from Tommy John surgery in 2016, Lynn is currently second on the pitching staff with a 3.12 ERA.

Another bright spot for the Cardinals has been outfielder José Martínez, who made the Major League club after leading the Cardinals in hitting in the spring. Martinez currently has seven hits in 15 at-bats and scored the winning run in the Redbirds’ opening day win over the Cubs.

In order to to avoid falling back too far in the division and wild card playoffs races, the Cardinals will need to turn things around soon, especially in the competitive NL Central. The Cards have overcome slow starts before. In their World Championship season of 2011, the team started out 2-6.

Only time will tell if this year’s team can turn it around in the same way. But if the Cardinals are going to have any shot of even being in playoff contention, they will need to starting playing better baseball, and they’ll need to start doing it soon.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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