The St. Louis Cardinals brought out the brooms on Wednesday night and swept their three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds. The sweep is the first for the Cardinals since a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals in mid-June and was only the third sweep of the season for St. Louis.
The St. Louis offense scored at least five runs in all three games of the set and averaged nearly 5.5 runs per game during their seven game home stand. The bats have really picked it up after a dismal start to the season and are being lead by some surprising hitters.
One of those surprising leaders has been Jon Jay. Jay was 3-4 on Wednesday and raised his batting average to .313, which would put him second in the batting race if he’s able to qualify. Jay began the season as the Cardinals fourth outfielder, but became a regular starter with the struggles of former Cardinal Allen Craig and his replacement in centerfield, Peter Bourjos. Jay, a .295 career hitter, has arguably been the Cardinals best outfielder offensively, and has been sure handed defensively as usual, where he has made only one error.
Johnny Peralta has also begun to hit well as of late. Although he’s supplied power throughout the year, Peralta has spent most of the season batting near.250. At the end of Wednesday’s game, Peralta had lifted his average to .266, while maintaining a .459 slugging percentage.
Peralta had an impressive series against the Reds, adding three RBI’s in the finale after setting a Cardinals franchise record for homeruns in a season by a shortstop. The three RBI’s came on his team leading 33rd double of the season and his seventeenth homerun, also leading the team, began a rally that saw the Cardinals come back from a 4-1 deficit on Tuesday.
While the offense has found itself, the same cannot be said about the bullpen. The Cardinals post All-Star break ERA of 4.34 is ahead of only two national league teams, the Rockies and Diamondbacks, and seems concerning considering the recent inconsistency of the starting staff.
Last seasons dominant relievers Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Carlos Martinez have all struggled at times this season, but all three have been battling consistency of late.
Siegrist was optioned to triple A earlier this month after conceding a grand slam against the San Diego Padres in a game the Cardinals were comfortably leading. Siegrist has seen his fastball velocity dip this season, averaging a full MPH less than a year ago. With it has come a ballooning ERA of 6.11 and a HR/9 rate of 1.29, compared to a rate of just 0.23 a season ago.
Carlos Martinez was brought back to the big leagues when Siegrist was optioned down. Martinez was sent down earlier this season to work on his command and his work against lefties. After walking just 2.7% of batters at Triple A Memphis, compared to his astronomical walk rate of 10.1% in the majors, the Cardinals believed Martinez was ready to come back and contribute to a worn down bullpen. Martinez looked good in his first appearance on Monday, pitching two scoreless innings and not allowing a walk, but struggled through 0.2 innings on Wednesday, giving up two earned and being lifted for Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth.
Rosenthal has seen anything and everything go wrong for him this season. He carries a 1-6 record and has blown five saves this year. Rosenthal’s BB/9 rate of 5.34 is the worst of any closer currently holding the position in the national league and his lack of accuracy mixed with the drop of velocity on his fastball has the reliever lacking the stuff that made him elite just a season ago. Rosenthal has thrown a lot in the last two seasons and more rest may serve him well down the stretch.
With the offense picking it up, and the bullpen holding on, the Cardinals sweep over the Reds may get them on a roll as they begin a soft stretch in their schedule. The Cardinals are two games up in the Wild Card and just 1.5 games back from the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central race and look to pick up more games in their series in Philadelphia that begins Friday.