For Cardinals, everything breaking 'Wright

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Even without Chris Carpenter, the St. Louis Cardinals have the best starting pitching in the major leagues.

Adam Wainwright followed Shelby Miller’s one-hit shutout with a near-no-hitter, and a two-hit shutout in another Cardinals win over the Colorado Rockies.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the Cardinals streak of 40 straight Rockies retired tied the major-league record for consecutive hitters retired by a team against another team. The Texas Rangers set that mark in 1996 against the Detroit Tigers

Lowest Career ERA vs Rockies
Active Pitchers, Minimum 30 IP

This marked only the second time in the Live Ball Era that Cardinals starting pitchers threw consecutive shutouts in which they allowed two hits or fewer. Bob Gibson and Ray Washburn did it against the Cincinnati Reds in 1967.

That Wainwright had this good a game against the Rockies isn’t that surprising. He is the active ERA leader against them, with a 1.17 mark in 46 1/3 career innings pitched.

Saturday’s start enabled him to jump to the front of that list, ahead of Carpenter (1.41).

The 7 1/3 inning no-hit bid was the longest of Wainwright’s career, surpassing a 5 2/3 inning bid against the Kansas City Royals in 2007.

By the standards of Bill James Game Score, this wasn’t even Wainwright’s best start of the season. His seven scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 13 netted a 91, two points better than his score on Saturday.

What made him so good?

Wainwright had two significant things going well for him in this start. For one, he was able to throw a little bit harder than he has in a good while.

Wainwright averaged 91.7 mph with his fastball, his fastest average speed with that pitch since a start against the Reds in August 2010 (91.9).

Consecutive Shutouts
3 Baserunners or Fewer Allowed
Same Series, Live Ball Era

For another, much like Miller did on Friday, Wainwright took advantage of the Rockies hitters keeping the bat on their shoulder.

Wainwright threw 21 breaking pitches that Rockies hitters chose not to swing at. He got called strikes on 15 of them (71 percent).

That’s an incredibly high success rate, even for a pitcher best known for getting a hitter to take a curve for strike three to end the 2006 NLCS.

Over his previous 106 regular-season appearances (every one since 2009), Wainwright got called strikes on slightly less than one-third of the breaking pitches that hitters took.

That means in a typical Wainwright start, he’d have only gotten seven called strikes on those pitches, instead of 15.

In all, Wainwright threw 39 of 45 breaking pitches for strikes. Even though he gave up both hits with them, the pitches still netted him 10 outs.

Stacking the Cards

Cardinals starting pitchers now have a 2.11 ERA this season. To this point in the day that’s more than a full point better than the next-best team.

Cardinals Starters
Last 4 Home Starts

The Detroit Tigers entered the day ranked second in the majors at 3.22.

The numbers are even more staggering at home, where Cardinals starters have allowed two runs in 33 innings in their last four games.

Half of the Cardinals 14 home starts have been scoreless and at least six innings in length.

Had he gotten it

Had Wainwright gotten the no-hitter, he’d have been the first Cardinals pitcher to throw one since Bud Smith in 2001. He’d also have been the fourth to throw one on May 11 (a group that includes Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax, who threw one 50 years ago to the day).

Eerily, the Rockies were previously no-hit on a May 11—Marlins starter Al Leiter threw the first-ever one against them in 1996.