Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mujica's dominance in ninth inning helping Cardinals entire bullpen

Following the news that surfaced around St. Louis and the rest of the entire Major League Baseball world involving the Cardinals' closer Jason Motte and the fact that he was in need of the almighty Tommy John surgery, manager Mike Matheny and his unit have found themselves more magic inside 'Baseball Heaven' as the bullpen has emerged as one of the best in the entire league.

Just a little over a month after hearing the news that Motte needed the surgery and would miss the entire 2013 baseball season, Edward Mujica has scolded his way to the teams ninth inning closer role. Despite the rocky start from the teams bullpen group, Mujica has successfully closed out all of his chances as he has 12 saves in as many opportunities as he pitched a perfect ninth inning in the series opener against division-rival Milwaukee last night and finished off the Cardinals' 7-to-6 victory.

When the news came out, it wasn't a very bright day if you were a Cardinals fan. As we seen early on in April, when the closer struggled to close out games while Matheny was letting players audition for the spot, the rest of the bullpen followed suite as just about everyone outside of the starting pitchers were getting rocked night-in and night-out. This bullpen was one of the most ridiculed units in all of baseball and was a spot in this years team that everyone from the experts to the fans to players to scouting reports that made a lot of people overlook what is now the team with baseballs best record at 27-14.

Mujica took over the closers role on April 18th--exactly a month ago from today--and since he did, the word "domination" and the meaning of it don't come close to what he has done. Since taking over the role, he has faced 41 total batters while retiring 36 of them. Even more impressive, following his perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning last night, six of the 12 saves have been perfect frames and he improved his streak to 16 straight hitters faced without allowing a single base runner -- and eight out of the twelve saves he has faced just three batters with six of the opportunities were with enormous pressure as the opponents were down just a single run.

When the season started up, Matheny didn't have many young guns (as in rookies) apart of the unit as some of the big-spot guys were the likes of Marc Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs, Randy Choate and Fernando Salas. With the front office moving three out of the four guys to Triple AAA Memphis, the young guns have come in and revived to help this bullpen to where they are as we head into Saturday night's 6:15 contest against the Brewers. The team brought in the likes of Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal.

Before Mujica took over the ninth-inning spot, the Cardinals relievers were dead last in all of baseball as they had combined for an overall ERA of 6.08. Since then, the unit has seemed to settle down and they now have an ERA that has been trimmed down to 4.76 -- which is pretty close to almost two runs less than where they were at.

Maness is 3-0 on the season as he has appeared in six games and has an impressive ERA of 2.70 in 6 and 2/3 innings pitched. He has given up just two earned runs and five hits and has been very crucial to the team as of recent. Rosenthal has an earned-run average of 2.57, which is even more impressive considering he has appeared in 21 games this season and has allowed eight runs (six earned) on 20 hits in 21 innings. Martinez, who is the newest addition to the bullpen as he was promoted from the minor leagues, has allowed three runs on four hits in four appearances but is slowly starting to calm down and get adjusted to his role.

While the burning question will remain if they can continue this amazingly impressive run all the way into the dog days of summer and into deep days of September and possibly even October, nobody truly knows the answer, but that won't stop anybody from having high hopes as we all know magic really does seem to happen while you're wearing a Cardinals uniform. Everybody has their own opinion, but it's hard to put a spin and have judgement on a unit that consists of quite a few rookies as well as veterans in huge roles. Only time will tell the tale.

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