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MLB MLB PlayoffsSt Louis Cardinals

NLCS 2013: St. Louis Cardinals’ Bullpen Gives Them the Edge

St. Louis Cardinals Bullpen

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2013 season, the St. Louis Cardinals‘ bullpen was in a bit of turmoil. While they had plenty of talented pitchers that all had defined roles, everything changed on March 29 when closer Jason Motte was placed on the DL with a strained elbow. He eventually saw Dr. James Andrews and needed season-ending Tommy John surgery.

With Motte being lost for the season, the Cardinals turned the closer role over to Mitchell Boggs, who failed spectacularly, paving the way for veteran Edward Mujica, who performed admirably but wore down in September, finishing the month with an ERA of 11.05.

This turned into the perfect opportunity for Trevor Rosenthal to take over the role that he may hold for the remainder of his career. Rosenthal pitched in 74 games and threw 75.1 innings and struck out 108 batters. He recorded all three of his saves at the end of September and was named the closer for the postseason.

Rosenthal was perhaps the best reliever in the 2012 postseason as a rookie. He pitched in only 19 games in 2012, but made the postseason roster and responded by appearing in seven games and throwing 8.2 innings, giving up two hits and no runs and striking out 15.

The Cardinals’ bullpen also features former Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford, who struggled in Milwaukee this season but turned it around with the Cardinals. He pitched in 13 games for St. Louis and had an ERA of 1.74 compared to 4.45 in Milwaukee. The Cardinals also have veteran lefty specialist Randy Choate, who will be used primarily to face Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier.

Combined, those two batters are 3-for-17 with three singles and four strikeouts against Choate.

The most valuable reliever for the Cardinals may be 24-year-old lefty Kevin Siegrist. He pitched in 45 games for St Louis this year and finished with a 0.45 ERA in 39.2 innings and struck out 50 batters. Opposing left-handed hitters went 8-for-68 against him, which is a batting average of .114. Opposing right-handed hitters didn’t do much better, hitting only .138 in 65 at-bats.

So far in the 2013 postseason, the Cardinals rank second in bullpen ERA trailing only the Cleveland Indians, who only played in only one game. They have held opposing hitters to a .179 batting average and have an ERA of 1.50. The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ bullpen, on the other hand, has a bullpen ERA of 3.12 and opposing hitters are batting .234 against them.

The clear advantage goes to the Cardinals’ bullpen across the board and it will be the reason why they advance to the World Series.