With Chris Carpenter not throwing an inning in 2012 and Adam Wainwright coming off elbow reconstruction surgery, there was much hand-wringing in the early-going for Cardinal fans this season.
Lance Lynn, a rookie in spirit if not in truth, was thrust into the rotation as the de facto ace of a defending World Champion club. And a bullpen that required great efforts to fix last year found itself in need of bandaging again.
It was almost an afterthought when a largely ineffective Jaime Garcia went on the disabled list with a shoulder impingement on June 7.
Garcia dragged his arm, and his 3-4 record, off for repairs.
Fast forward to today—the Cardinals' rotation has more than held its own ranking fifth in all of baseball with a 3.55 ERA. Lynn led the charge with an 8-1 record out of the gate earning an All-Star selection.
Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook have consistently brought quality starts and Adam Wainwright has been an All-Star-caliber pitcher in the second half.
So why add a starting pitcher with a 4.48 ERA?
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak will give you 27 million reasons why.
Of course, Garcia's performance the first two years of his career were the very reason why he earned that extension and the faith of an organization that hands out multi-year contracts like keys to daddy's Corvette.
This is a privilege, son.
When he's healthy and on top of his game, Garcia is a top-tier lefty, despite the lack of a mid-90s fastball. His sinker has so much movement it can appear to be four different pitches in the same outing.
Talk about being effectively wild.
With the Cards' 5-2 victory in St. Louis against Arizona last night, they moved into a tie with the Pirates for the second Wild Card slot, which, if they can hold, would pit them against the Atlanta Braves for a winner-take-all matchup.
You don't think the Braves would love nothing more than to eliminate the Cards and exact a little payback for last year's meltdown?
Garcia's return to the rotation is the X-factor in the Cardinals' playoff aspirations and here are five reasons why.