The St. Louis Cardinals will turn to Joe Kelly to open their NLCS bout with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kelly has been dominant throughout the last half of the season and has provided the team with the ability to win at an alarming rate. The choice may look strange at first, but in the long run, Joe Kelly is the right man for the job.
Kelly has been remarkable for the Cardinals since joining the rotation in July. His 14 regular season starts would yield nine wins to his record and 11 for the team. He would post a stingy 2.32 earned run average in those starts, despite allowing opposing hitters to generate a .250 batting average against him and walking 33 hitters over 81.1 innings. He would work his way into his share of trouble, but seem to always find his way out of it as well.
Any questions about Joe Kelly's ability to match up with the best pitchers in the league can be put to rest quickly by taking a look at his body of work. His name gets brought up alongside that of Dodgers' ace Clayton Kershaw and Miami Marlins' youngster Jose Fernandez, according to John Schlegel of MLB.com:
After June 1, Kelly posted a 1.97 ERA, third among all Major League pitchers, behind only Miami phenom Jose Fernandez (1.50) and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (1.82). He reeled off eight consecutive winning decisions, the longest such streak of any Cardinals pitcher this season, and he had a scoreless streak of 19 2/3 innings at one point.
He has proven to be one of the most consistent performers for the team down the stretch and is being rewarded for that effort with the start in Game 1 of the NLCS. The Game 1 start is important, but what should not be lost in the message is that Kelly is now lined up for two starts in the series, should it be necessary.
Ultimately, it was Kelly's presence on the team and willingness to fill whatever role they needed him in since opening day that seemingly led to this choice. Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny shared those thoughts with Derrick Goold of StlToday.com:
When he did get the opportunities, he made the most of them and continued to come in here regardless of what his role was. ... These sort of things pay off in the long run, especially on a winning team. ... Joe just continued to push and work and show us that he’s ready for an opportunity like this one.
Joe Kelly gives the Cardinals an excellent opportunity to win the first game of the series against a very talented opponent in the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cardinals will continue to lean on their talented young crop of players to propel them forward in 2013.
After all, it has worked up until now, so why change it?
Statistics throughout this article are sourced from Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
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