If the first week of the season has shown us anything, it is that the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals may be on the verge of a long-term rivalry. Though last season was thought by many to be a Pirate fluke, a closer look a their roster reveals it is very unlikely the Pirates are removing their boil like presence from the Cards’ side anytime soon.
While Shelby Miller validated manager Mike Matheny‘s reluctance to start him in last season’s NLDS in a struggle filled performance Friday night, veteran Joe Kelly overcame mild control issues with grit, guile and a darting fastball to dispatch with the Pirates in 5 1/3 effective, and for the team, stabilizing innings. Relying on a combination of control and movement, Kelly successfully kept the Pirates on edge, out of rhythm, and flummoxed.
What the sum of these developments may mean for the Cardinals long-term is unclear. In the first five games, the team has seen its third and fourth starters struggle mightily, while getting stellar outings from Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Kelly. This leaves Matheny with perhaps more questions than answers. While it would be easy for him to tell you so with regards to Miller, that is just one start. Perhaps the Pirates do have Miller’s number, and no amount of begging to the phone company can get it changed. If that is the case, the club can rely on the stealthy heat of Kelly.
Perhaps the most important development of the first week was the grit and focus Kelly gave the Cards. After a few games of looking a bit like a finesse team, Kelly, the less heralded but more patient Kelly, will fill a key role as the glue in the Cardinal rotation. Kelly is like the character actor whose face you recognize, but name may escape you, but for whom without, the film would lose all meaning. For the Cardinals to get their Hollywood ending, they might just need to give Kelly some more lines.