Before Matt Adams delivered a tenth-inning walkoff single in Friday’s 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals finished April with a record of 15-6. Ultimately, it was the most successful opening month to a season in the Gateway City since the Cardinals started 16-7 in 2009.
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Even though St. Louis currently is currently tied for the most wins in baseball and holds a 2.5 game lead over the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central, the Cardinals have played successfully through various setbacks. Between responses from a concerning amount of off days in the first two weeks to Adam Wainwright‘s season-ending Achilles injury, the Cardinals have exceeded expectations to climb to baseball’s best winning percentage.
May proves to be a busy month for baseball in St. Louis, as the Cardinals play 10 consecutive games against division rivals, experience their first interleague action and have no off days until May 11. As the Cardinals aim to sustain recent success, below are five bold predictions that could ultimately guide St. Louis to more strong performances in upcoming weeks.
1. Cardinals double current run support for Lance Lynn
After Friday’s start, Lynn has settled for the second worst run support (1.6 runs/game) among all qualified NL starters. The 27 year-old already has half his hit total from last year, proving he can contribute when needed. Lynn has yet to receive more than 4 runs of support in his five starts and is already being challenged to take leadership in the rotation following Wainwright’s injury. A potent offense must produce more scoring if Lynn hopes for another 15 win campaign in his fourth season as a full-time starter.
2. John Lackey loses no games on the road
Many Cardinal fans have already associated Lackey as a home warrior in just his second year with the team. It’s hard to imagine why they wouldn’t considering his 1.93 ERA in his first two home starts this year. Road games didn’t prove so kind to Lackey, as he sports a 6.94 ERA in his other starts entering today. Considering that the Cardinals already have 7 road victories this season and that Lackey’s road opponents in May would be the Cleveland Indians and New York Mets if the rotation stays in order, this upcoming month allows Lackey to work his talents away from Busch Stadium.
3. Randy Choate pitches 1 inning in four games
Between responses from a concerning amount of off days in the first two weeks to Adam Wainwright’s season-ending Achilles injury, the Cardinals have exceeded expectations to climb to baseball’s best winning percentage.
Through his 10 appearances so far, Choate has only pitched through three innings. He has experienced some troubles with left-handed hitters early on (.308 BAA) as well. One might think that being 39 years old would limit the southpaw’s usage in vital situations, but the Cardinals likely admire Choate’s persistence in the bullpen. Within the next few months, the Cardinals play against some strong lefties on Pittsburgh, Chicago and Kansas City. So in order to keep young arms fresh, Choate could see an expanded role in his contract year.
4. All Matts stay above .300 batting average into June
With the recent offensive spurs of Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday and Matt Adams, it’s hard to imagine this trio sinking below a .300 mark. While the stat is considered an average for a reason, these three hitters have all demonstrated abilities to carry prolonged success. Carpenter and Holliday are both rank within the top 10 for batting average and on-base percentage in the MLB, while Matt Adams is starting to heat up with 9 hits and 7 RBIs in this current homestand. Also noteworthy, none of the hitters in the Matt Attack hold a career May mark below .290 either.
5. Jason Heyward collects 5 home runs and 5 stolen bases in next four weeks
Heyward hit from the middle half on the batting order for his first time as a Cardinal on Tuesday. It may not be a long-term plan, but perhaps it has given the right fielder more incentives to produce offensively. The 25 year-old was one of only 12 National League outfielders to record double-digit home run and stolen base totals in 2014. So with a more experienced offense and a larger winning environment around him, Heyward will naturally improve his .158 RISP batting average and should be able to set up more offensive rallies given his historically strong base running instincts.
These bold predictions could start taking effect before the end of the Cardinals’ current homestand, as St. Louis squares off with the Pittsburgh Pirates two more times over the weekend before the Cubs travel to Busch Stadium for a four-game series lasting through Thursday.