The Cardinals have lost six players to the DL in May, but they're in the race thanks to unlikely contributors

The St. Louis Cardinals entered play on Wednesday losers of their last three games, a skid that cost them sole possession of first place in the crowded National League Central.

The Cardinals defeated the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon, snapping their losing streak. Yet before the game, they suffered another loss when they had to place reliever Luke Gregerson on the disabled list due to a right shoulder impingement:

Inked during the winter to fill a late-inning role, Gregerson had permitted eight runs over his first 8 ⅓ innings. Still, the news is a downer for the Cardinals for reasons beyond simply losing Gregerson for the next week-plus. That's because Gregerson became the seventh Cardinal on the DL, and the sixth to hop on the shelf during May. Given that it's May 16, simple math dictates the Cards have had someone get hurt every 2 ⅔ days this month. To recap:

Brutal. The St. Louis pitching staff has been hit particularly hard, with the staff ace and three high-leverage relievers on the mend.

As such, the Cardinals have had to dig into their depth -- or, if viewed from a slightly different perspective, show off their depth.

Consider one example: the Cardinals have had to lean more the likes of Mike Mayers, Sam Tuivailala, and John Brebbia to fill in the blanks in the bullpen. Those three have combined to throw 28 ⅔ innings this season, over which they've allowed 30 hits and nine runs (eight earned) while striking out 25 batters and walking seven. It's a small sample and there are reasons to be skeptical about each and all heading forward (though Brebbia and Tuivailala pitched well last year). But it's impressive all the same that three pitchers who weren't necessarily high on the Cardinals' depth chart entering the spring have performed when called upon.

You can write similar things about the play of Bud Norris, and Jordan Hicks (just ignore his peripherals), and Harrison Bader, and Jedd Gyorko, and Jose Martinez, and Greg Garcia, too. With so many of the Cardinals' stars hurt or struggling -- ahem, Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna, Dexter Fowler, and Kolten Wong -- they've required contributions from unlikely sources to remain near the top of the division.

In order to stay there for the long haul, the Cardinals will need their top dogs to get hearty and hale and back on track. For now, at least, this bunch is a neat collection of overachievers who are hanging around despite the odds.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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