The Cardinals, at 61-34, own the best winning percentage in all of baseball, and that's without some of their key players, namely Adam Wainwright, who suffered a season-threatening Achilles tendon injury April 30 but is still optimistic about returning this season. Relievers Jordan Walden and Matt Belisle, and outfielder Matt Holliday have also missed time with injury, but the Cardinals continue to win. Kolten Wong is hitting .271 in his sophomore year; Yadier Molina is having another solid year with the bat and behind the plate (42% CS). However, the Cardinals' biggest contributor on offense has been...
Jhonny Peralta (You thought I was going to say you-know-who, right? I'll get there soon enough)! Peralta leads the team with 14 homers, 48 RBI. He just had an eight-game hitting streak snapped, giving him a .296/.353/.475 slash line for the year.
Now we get to the man himself. Jason Heyward, traded to the Cardinals for Shelby Miller during the offseason, has rebounded quite nicely from his lackluster April during which he hit a paltry .217. He has hit .306 since then, boosted by a five-hit game July 18 in a 12-2 Cardinals win. Miller starts for the Braves on Saturday, and has given up a homer to Heyward in seven at-bats. Heyward also leads the team with 14 steals.
Run support has been near impossible to come by lately for Miller, and it won't be any easier against a Cardinals staff that has allowed the fewest runs of any team this year, especially against Carlos Martinez, who opposes Miller on Saturday. Martinez has an active streak of 10 straight quality starts, and has a 1.20 ERA in that stretch (9 ER in 67.1 IP); he was pressed into relief duty in the 18-inning game against the Mets on Sunday. Michael Wacha, who starts for St. Louis in the series finale, hasn't pitched as well lately despite his good numbers: he's allowed five runs in each of his last two starts. Rookie lefty Tim Cooney starts opposite Manny Banuelos in the opener. Cooney is the third different pitcher to pitch in place of Adam Wainwright this year.
As good as the starting staff has been, the bullpen has been even better to the tune of a 2.37 ERA, tops in the NL. Trevor Rosenthal solidifies the back end, tied for the major-league lead with 30 saves.
L - Randy Choate
L - Kevin Siegrist
R - Seth Maness
R - Miguel Socolovich
R - Samuel Tuivailala
R - Carlos Villanueva
R - Trevor Rosenthal (closer)
Friday, July 24, 8:15 p.m. ET
Manny Banuelos (ATL)
2015: 3 starts, 1-1 W-L, 3.78 BB/9, 7.02 K/9, 1.08 ERA, 3.90 FIP
Tim Cooney (STL)
2015: 5 starts, 0-0 W-L, 3.70 BB/9, 8.88 K/9, 3.33 ERA, 4.05 FIP
Saturday, July 25, 7:15 p.m. ET
Shelby Miller (ATL)
2015: 19 starts, 5-6 W-L, 2.93 BB/9, 7.75 K/9, 2.33 ERA, 3.16 FIP
Carlos Martinez (STL)
2015: 17 starts, 10-4 W-L, 3.80 BB/9, 9.30 K/9, 2.51 ERA, 3.51 FIP
Sunday, July 26, 2:15 p.m. ET
Matt Wisler (ATL)
2015: 6 starts, 4-1 W-L, 2.31 BB/9, 5.91 K/9, 3.60 ERA, 4.09 FIP
Michael Wacha (STL)
2015: 18 starts, 11-3 W-L, 2.08 BB/9, 7.53 K/9, 3.20 ERA, 3.21 FIP