St. Louis Cardinals: Can Joe Kelly Keep Them Out Of NLDS Hole?

By Randy Holt
Joe Kelly
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals lost the momentum they gained in Game 1 of the 2013 National League Division Series, as the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to grab Game 2 and force a split in St. Louis. Heading into Game 3, which is in Pittsburgh, the Cardinals will be rolling with a great deal less experience on the bump.

In name, it may come as a bit of a surprise that Joe Kelly was tabbed the Game 3 starter for the Cards. He’s relatively inexperienced, having made 16 starts for St. Louis last year, in addition to 15 this season. The first half of the year saw him used out of the bullpen, as well as the occasional spot start.

In July, though, the Cardinals put Kelly into the rotation and he latched onto a spot and did not look back. He was one of the top starters for the Cardinals from that point on, with a stretch where he was actually the best pitcher out of their starting five. And his numbers on the season reflect that.

Kelly’s overall numbers on the regular season were very good. He pitched to a 2.69 ERA, struck out 79 hitters, and walked 44 in 124 innings across 37 appearances. Once he was a member of the rotation, though, is when the Cardinals saw Kelly really take off and saw him emerge as a postseason rotation option.

After stepping into the starting five, Kelly’s ERA was a paltry 2.18. He’s just another example of how deep this Cardinals organization actually goes. As far as whether or not he should be trusted with a Game 3 start in the postseason, is something that remains to be seen.

He’ll match up against Francisco Liriano in Game 3 in Pittsburgh. It’ll be a hostile environment, and Kelly’s starting experience is still relatively limited, as strong as he was as a starter in 2013. One of the most intriguing aspects of this game will be how he handles the pressure of not only the situation, but doing so on the road as well.

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