After big win, St. Louis Cardinals continue to impress

The 2015 version of the St. Louis Cardinals continues to impress and following a come-from-behind win last night against their rivals of the past couple seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Redbirds sit at 37-18 with a comfortable 6 1/2 game lead in the NL Central.

For all the struggles the St. Louis Cardinals tend to have from time-to-time with runners in scoring position, they more often than not have found a way to get a timely hit when it matters most, as was the case during the 2-1 win last night.

Friday night’s starter, Carlos Martinez, continues to mature and grow with each start, following the advice of play-caller Yadier Molina. This relationship is not only improving Martinez’s work on the hill, but likely preparing him psychologically, as well. Having mental toughness is key during the long-haul of a big league season, and it’s something the Cardinals’ staff has demonstrated time and time again this year.

Martinez went into last night’s game with an impressive 21 2/3 inning scoreless streak, and after he loaded the bases in the bottom of the second, that run drew to a close.

The 24-year-old righty walked two in the inning to load the bases, but thanks in part to Molina being the stud he is, the Cards’ starter was able to settle down and keep the damage at one run by inducing an inning-ending double play.

Martinez alluded to that after the game when speaking with MLB.com.

“That was a big play right there,” Martinez, speaking through a translator, said afterward. “[Catcher] Yadi [Molina] told me to throw the sinker down and believe that it was going to be a double play. That’s what happened.”

The biggest take way I found from this start was the efficiency of Martinez. After throwing 33 pitches in two innings, he only threw 67 through his final five innings of work.

That is a sign of growth and putting it all together as a starter which bodes well for an already sensational pitching staff. In game one of the four-game set against the Dodgers, Michael Wacha was able to get some revenge on the team that handed him his first loss of the 2015 season.

Wacha tossed seven innings allowing only one run, striking out five and walking none while getting plenty of offense en route to notching his eighth win of the season.

If Wacha continues to dominate as he has, he could not only be on track to pitch in next month’s MLB All-Star Game, but he could also be in position to start it.

As for the offense, the move by Mike Matheny to switch Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter in the order has more than paid off, igniting the St. Louis offense.

Speaking of all-stars, at this point, it seems as though Wong and Carpenter are virtual locks to make the roster but as has been seen throughout the history of baseball, strange things can happen.

As long as everyone continues to contribute on offense as they have, the pitching will put the team in position to win as evidenced by the staff win totals, ERA and ground-ball ratio.

Matt Holliday, whose impressive NL record consecutive games streak of reaching base to begin a season came to an unfortunate halt during the last home series due to a terrible called third strike call and his ejection from the game, has been steady and reliable as always.

Other big contributors have been Molina, Jhonny Peralta and let’s not forget about Jason Heyward, who has been on a tear along with Randall Grichuk.

The bullpen has remained strong as well through the injuries suffered by key guys such as Jordan Walden, while Jaime Garcia has helped solidify the rotation since his return.

Tonight, the Birds are at it again against last season’s Cy Young and MVP winner in the National League, Clayton Kershawwho is not exactly having his typical, dominant season at this point – but is still one of the absolute best in baseball.

Game time is at 9 p.m. CT with the aforementioned Kershaw facing fellow lefty, Jaime Garcia, who will be looking to match the reigning MVP by throwing zeros.