May 29, 2013
The annual I-70 Series between the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals is underway.
The Cardinals won rounds one and two Monday and Tuesday in Kansas City.
The series is scheduled to resume with two more games today and Thursday in St. Louis.
In a rematch of the 1985 World Series, thereís no better time to take a look at Missouriís major league teams with about one-third of the season behind us.
A common thread between the Cardinals and Royals is they both rely heavily on their farm systems.
The Cardinals hold the advantage here. They are ranked as baseballís top farm system. Their pitching depth is so strong that they have, so far, overcome a rash of injuries to the pitching staff.
Starters Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook are on the disabled list.
Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn have stepped up to shoulder much of the load. Lynn and Wainwright rank second in baseball with seven wins.
Shelby Miller, who began the season as the No. 5 starter, has exceeded expectations. He has pitched so well that he is the front-runner for the NLís rookie of the year award.
Other rookies John Gast and Tyler Lyons have stepped into the rotation and have given the Cardinals a chance to win in each of their starts.
With Gast now injured, the Cardinals are rumored to be bringing up another prized prospect, Michael Wacha, to start for Gast tonight.
The Cardinalsí relievers havenít been immune to injuries. They lost closer Jason Motte for the season, and, recently, Fernando Salas was put on the DL.
Motteís absence threw the bullpen into a bit of disarray, as they searched for a closer.
Mitchell Boggs couldnít handle the ninth inning and hasnít been the same since. He was even demoted to the minors.
Edward Mujica eventually became the closer, and he was 16 for 16 on save opportunities through Tuesday.
The Cardinals, who hold the best record in baseball, were 16 games above .500 entering Tuesday nightís matchup, and theyíve done it with strong starting pitching, timely hitting and stellar defense.
The Cardinals possess baseballís best team ERA of 3.11. They rank second in baseball, turning 61 double plays.
Overall, their offense hasnít performed as well as last season, but they have been successful with runners in scoring position and have had the knack for scoring runs with two outs.
The Cardinals lead baseball with a .990 fielding percentage and are tied for first for the fewest errors (18).
St. Louis has won 11 of its 16th series this season and has only lost two.
Not so long ago, the Royalsí farm system was ranked as the best in baseball, and several of the players who made that so are now in Kansas City.
Six of their 10 primary starters ó including designated hitter Billy Butler ó came through their farm system but have struggled to hit this season.
The Royals rank 22nd in runs scored (192) and OPS (.697).
In the offseason, the Royals utilized their farm system to acquire outside talent to bolster a starting rotation that had ranked among the worst in baseball for years.
Ace James Shields and Wade Davis were acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay, Erwin Santana was brought aboard through free agency and Jeremy Guthrie re-signed with the Royals.
Those moves have appeared to work for the most part. The Royals rank 11th in baseball with a 3.78 ERA. They have a better earned run average than the defending World Series champion Giants (4.02).
The bullpen, a strength from a year ago, hasnít been as sharp this season. The Royals were tied for 14th with a 61 percent (11 of 18) save percentage.
Defensively, the Royals have shown little to no improvement from last season. They rank 24th with a .696 fielding percentage and are tied for seventh with 33 errors.