Despite scoring just four runs in two games, the St. Louis Cardinals lead the Los Angeles Dodgers two games to zero in the National League Championship Series. The starting pitching from Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha has been great, but the bullpen has been even better–recording a 0.00 ERA in nine and one-third innings pitched. I decided to break down every single pitch by the relievers to see what has been the keys to their success.
Trevor Rosenthal has looked great so far this post-season for the Cardinals. Other than the “triple” by Mark Ellis in the 10th inning of Game 1, he has not allowed a hit while recording five strikeouts and just one walk. In Game 2, he blew the Dodgers away–striking out the side on 14 straight fastballs. He will play an integral role for the Cardinals the rest of the way. The young rookie will continue to face high pressure situations since runs have been hard to get so far this series.
24 fastballs: avg: 98.0 MPH, max: 99.4 MPH: 12 swings, 3 whiffs
4 changeups: avg: 88.5 MPH, avg horizontal movement: 5.36 inches
1 curveball: 82.4 MPH, horizontal movement: 2.20 inches
14 fastballs: average: 99.0 MPH, max: 101.2 MPH; 8 swings, 6 whiffs
Carlos Martinez looks to be settling into his role as the “set-up” man for St. Louis. The 22-year-old rookie looked incredibly confident against the Dodgers in Game 2 striking out both batters he faced.
7 fastballs: avg: 97.2 MPH, max: 98.7 MPH, avg horizontal movement: 8.92 inches
2 curveballs: avg: 84.7 MPH, avg horizontal movement: 6.66 inches
4 fastballs: avg: 97.8 MPH, max: 99.1 MPH, avg horizontal movement: 9.26 inches
4 curveballs: avg: 84.2 MPH, avg horizontal movement: 5.77 inches
As you can see by the above image, Martinez had a “picture-perfect” approach against Dodgers’ slugger, Adrian Gonzalez in Game 2. He has proven that he is becoming more of a “pitcher” rather than just a “thrower”–consistently mixing in a curveball to go along with his electric fastball. It is almost unfair to hitters–having two pitches with so much movement with 12-15 MPH difference.
Lance Lynn recorded the win in Game 1, pitching two scoreless innings in the 12th and 13th. He got into a mini-jam in the 12th, but was able to get out of it when Michael Young grounded into a double play. As usual, his fastball was his go-to pitch–averaging 94.9 MPH with 5.12 inches of tailing action and topping out at 96.4 MPH on a pitch low and away to strike out Juan Uribe.
It was good to see Lynn get some successful innings under his belt. Some may think this rules him out of the Game 4 start, but with only 29 pitches, he will still likely be available. Whether Matheny chooses him over Shelby Miller? That is yet to be seen.
Seth Maness came into the game with one out in the seventh inning. He started with one of his signature groundouts and followed it up with a strikeout of Hanley Ramirez. Eight of Maness’ 15 pitches were sinkers in Game 1. They averaged just under 92 MPH and had over 8 inches of horizontal movement to them.
John Axford was given the 11th inning in Game 1 and started out well–striking out Puig and getting Uribe to ground out. After a two-out walk followed by a single, he struck out pinch hitter and ex-Cardinal Nick Punto on a 97.2 MPH fastball. Axford has so far proven to be a solid pickup by the Cardinals–filling a similar role to Octavio Dotel‘s in 2011–a reliable veteran presence in the bullpen.
Kevin Siegrist has been somewhat under-utilized through two games in the NLCS, but with the success of the bullpen so far, can anyone really complain. He made the 7th inning interesting–throwing two wild pitches before getting Michael Young to fly out. This involved one of Don Mattingly‘s more controversial moves–removing the best pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw, after just six innings pitched. It obviously did not matter considering the Cardinals failed to score in later innings, but it was a questionable move nonetheless.
Randy Choate has done his job so far–getting two outs–one in each game–on just four total pitches. He is getting paid $1.5 million this season and has been the definition of a “lefty specialist.” As long as he keeps getting lefties out, look for him to continue to be the first lefty out of the ‘pen for the rest of the playoffs.
The bullpen has been huge through two games in the NLCS. If they are able to keep this up, then the World Series is most definitely in the very near future for the Cardinals. However, with games being as close as they have been, they cannot afford to have many slip-ups, if any at all.
With Adam Wainwright going in Game 3, the bullpen will hopefully get some rest. However, with Hyun Jin-Ryu on the mound for the Dodgers, I don’t expect much of a difference on the scoreboard.
The 8th-9th inning combination of Martinez-Rosenthal will face some tough situations throughout the rest of the playoffs. Let’s hope the 22-year-old and 23-year-old rookies are up to the challenge.
UPDATE: It appears that Matheny has decided that Lynn will start Game 4. Though many people will disagree with the move, his performance in Game 1 may give him the confidence to have a good outing. We will see how it plays out.
Until next time…
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As usual, thank you, BrooksBaseball, for the pitch information used in this post.