Nothing particularly deep to say today, but I did want to go on record that I am not chalking up a victory for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series before the game is played on Sunday.
Yes, the Bucs and especially their boisterous fans, have been waiting – in the latter case, for two decades – for this opportunity.
Yes, left-hander Francisco Liriano is a fine pitcher with a stellar record against the Cardinals.
Yet the Cardinals have a stealth weapon going for them in Joe Kelly.
The 25-year-old is not the flashiest pitcher on the Cardinals staff nor do his peripherals particularly stand out. The right-hander was not even expected to be in the rotation last season, yet he made 16 very important starts and excelled.
This spring, Kelly was competing on paper against his best friend, Shelby Miller, for a spot in the starting five, but it was pretty clear the rookie Miller had the inside track all along.
Kelly bided his time in the bullpen, only to return to starting shortly after the mid-season mark, at Game 86. At that point, his ERA was 3.86. 15 starts later, he had gone 10-2 down the stretch, including seven straight wins. In the process, Kelly lowered his season ERA over one point to 2.69.
In the afore-mentioned 15 game stretch, Kelly faced the Bucs three times and won all three. Two were in Pittsburgh, on August 1 and September 1. In those contests, he allowed just one run in 12 innings.
Sure, Kelly is only a six-inning pitcher, but a part of his success has been manager Mike Matheny getting him out of games before trouble ensues.
Kelly’s ERA as a starter this season is 2.28. His road ERA is 2.07. At PNC Park this season, Kelly’s ERA is 0.64.
If the Cardinals can take the game into the seventh on Sunday with the score within a run or two either way, Kelly would have done his job, putting St. Louis in position to win a game that some feel is not winnable.
Don’t count Joe Kelly out.
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