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The St. Louis Cardinals aren't playing like it's 2021 -- but they're winning

Scott Kane/Getty Images

One thing you can say about the St. Louis Cardinals is that even in 2021, an era of baseball with some of the most extreme numbers we've ever seen, they keep doing it their way.

On Thursday, St. Louis went up against Brewers righty Corbin Burnes, who is off to a historic start to the season. By the fifth inning, Burnes had struck out nine Redbirds. Then St. Louis second baseman Tommy Edman drew a walk. What's the big deal? It was Burnes' first walk of the season after 58 strikeouts, setting a new big-league record for most consecutive Ks without a walk.

Burnes held St. Louis to one run over five innings in his outing. His ERA on the season, built on that 58:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, is 1.57. But here's the thing: The Cardinals won the game. Burnes' record dropped to 2-3 on the season. Meanwhile, Burnes' opponent, Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty, went six, struck out six, walked a couple and improved his record to 7-0.

This, in a nutshell, is the way the Cardinals have raced to an early lead in the NL Central and one of the best overall records in the majors. In an era in which pitching is pretty much defined by strikeouts, walks and the interplay between those two factors, St. Louis' staff doesn't do either of those things particularly well. Yet the Redbirds have been among baseball's best run-prevention teams.