In Tuesday night's eventual loss to Houston, Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia authored the following line: 2.0 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 2 K, 2 BB, 1 HR. Garcia also showed significantly diminished velocity against the Astros, and considering that he was recently pushed back because of elbow discomfort, a trip to the disabled list seems a strong possibility.
But Garcia's present compromised state isn't the only rotation concern for the Cardinals. The entire corps has suffered a decline in recent weeks. Consider the trends:
As you can see, runs, strikeouts, walks, and homers are all generally slanting in the wrong direction. While an unsustainably bad rate of stranding runners is partly to blame for the poor June numbers, the more meaningful underlying numbers aren't particularly encouraging for St. Louis starters.
On the whole, the Cardinals have been the victims of some bad luck. Their run differential suggests that their record should be five full games better that it is (a somewhat crazy disconnect for this early in the season), and their 4-10 mark in one-run games is also a sign of randomness conspiring against them. But the steady decline of the rotation is playing a role, as well.
Will things get better? On the plus side, Adam Wainwright appears to be rounding into form, and, well, that's about it.
As for the abundant list of negatives, Lance Lynn, while excellent on balance, has been fairly inconsistent over the last three weeks. And although manager Mike Matheny has done a good job of limiting Lynn's workload (he's topped out at 110 pitches this season), he's going to enter uncharted innings territory at some point and must be considered a second-half question mark. Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook of late have been pitching like Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook, and Garcia's worries have already been noted. Chris Carpenter has no clear timetable for his return, and top prospect Shelby Miller has a 5.18 ERA at Triple-A Memphis. Oh, and there's no Dave Duncan alchemy to call upon.
The NL Central figures to remain a winnable division, but the Cardinals may need outside rotation help if they're going to surmount the Reds and fend off the rest of the fray.
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