While I wrote earlier this week about Kolten Wong being the catalyst that the Cardinals needed to their recent surge to the top of the National League Central standings, it is another group that will ultimately determine how far the season goes.
Jack Flaherty has become a legitimate ace for the staff in the second half of the season. While his first half numbers were strong, the righty has been completely unhittable in the second half of the season. In his 10 starts since the All-Star break, Flaherty has posted a 0.85 ERA. His K/9 has jumped to 11.2 and his SO/W is easily a career best 4.94. What is the most astounding is that his WHIP is a miniscule 0.758. He has allowed just three home runs in 63.1 second half innings. The impressive numbers go on…and they are all the way across the board.
However, what tends to be overshadowed by the success that Flaherty is having is the strong run that Dakota Hudson is on as well. After a strong season last year out of the bullpen, a lot was expected from Hudson coming into the 2019 season. He did pretty well to deliver in the first half as well. His 3.51 ERA in the first half is nothing to sneeze at. Overall, his ERA falls at a similar 3.23 in the second half, but his last seven starts have been outstanding. Over this span, Hudson has allowed just 22 hits in 40 innings of work. Opponents are overall batting under the Mendoza line against him. While he has walked 18 hitters, the low batting average is much of the 10 total runs he’s allowed in those seven starts.
To provide those youngsters with some experience, Adam Wainwright has been all the way through the ringer and back. He has bounced back nicely after a disaster, injury-plagued 2018 campaign. Michael Wacha is also able to provide some playoff experience and has worked his way back into the rotation. His stuff might also play well out of the bullpen in a playoff series.
Finally, Miles Mikolas has been pitching much better lately as well. Mikolas has an extremely strong 2018 season, but struggled early this year. His second half ERA is back under four and his WHIP has fallen nearly a whole point.
The Cardinals have been susceptible to offensive droughts this season, so pitching is even more crucial when every loss matters. The rotation has found the best time to start peaking. With the amount of good pitching that the National League playoffs will feature, the Cardinals can only win with defense and pitching. The good news is that they are in a position to do just that.