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Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Kelly keeping opposition grounded

By Will Cohen, ESPN Stats & Information

The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals meet tonight (ESPN, 7 ET) with the season series tied 7-7. Since their 19-inning marathon which the Pirates won 10 days ago, the two teams have gone in opposite directions. The Pirates have dropped six of eight while the Cardinals have won six of eight.

Cardinals Need Yadier Molina

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina will likely be out for tonight’s game after taking a hit at the plate from Josh Harrison Tuesday.

St. Louis likely cannot afford to go without Molina for long, as he's already set a career high with 17 homers. He needs just three more RBI to tie his career high of 65, and he’s stolen a career-high 11 bases.

He’s also on pace to set a career high in batting average (.325) and OPS (.886). What's more, he leads all catchers with 13 Defensive Runs Saved this season.

Cardinals Heating Up

The Cardinals are getting hot at the right time, and after spending most of the season leading the MLB in run differential, the wins are finally starting to come. Since July 1st, St. Louis is 31-20, the sixth-best record in the MLB in that span. Much of that success can be attributed to St. Louis pitching. Since June 9th, the Cardinals have a 3.30 ERA from their starting rotation, tops in baseball in that span.

Tonight's starter, Joe Kelly, has been effective for the Cardinals this season in his rookie year posting a 3.26 ERA in 14 games (12 starts). Kelly throws his fastball very hard (94.1 miles per hour average), and has been good at keeping the ball in the park by keeping it on the ground. Kelly has a groundball percentage of 57 against his heater, tied for the second-highest percentage in the NL.

Wandy Rodriguez Relies on Curveball

No player has thrown more curveballs this season than Wandy Rodriguez, who opposes Kelly tonight. In fact, he’s led the league in curveballs thrown in each of the previous three seasons, and since 2009, he's thrown 809 more curveballs than any other pitcher in baseball.

Since being acquired by Pittsburgh in late July, however, Rodriguez hasn’t been what the Pirates had hoped. He has a 4.86 ERA with Pittsburgh after posting a 3.79 ERA with the Houston Astros, and is winless in five starts.