St. Louis rookie pitchers have combined for 34 wins this year, best in the Majors and the club's most since 1952. Shelby Miller has led the way, going 14-9 with a 3.01 ERA in 29 starts.
But Miller is far from the only significant contributor, with rookies Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Michael Wacha and Seth Maness anchoring the bullpen, and Wacha recently joining Miller in the starting rotation. It's more than just strength in numbers, as they've actually had a major impact on the club in their first year.
Maness retired the only hitter he faced in the Cardinals' 11-4 win over the Rockies on Tuesday, and Siegrist pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings with two strikeouts.
The young pitchers credit their readiness for the big leagues to the way they were treated on their way up through the Minor Leagues.
"They preach it down in the Minors, 'Hey, just be ready, because whenever you're up there they don't really accept anything but winning," Wacha said. "So it's kind of ingrained in you."
They also benefitted form observing their more veteran counterparts, Major League mainstays Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright setting the tone for the rest of the staff. They aren't so much telling the rookie pitchers what mechanical adjustments to make as much as presenting a complete picture of what it takes to excel at the highest level.
"Both have had a lot of success in the big leagues, and as a young pitcher you just pick up on some of the routines and what they do," Miller said. "Maybe mix something they do into yours and make you better somehow."
Last year, Miller made six appearances (one start) with the Cardinals near the end of the season, also making two relief appearances in the NLCS. A year later, he's become a centerpiece of the rotation, a transition he's made seamlessly.
But as the Cardinals prep for their third straight playoff run, he's eager to for a different kind of experience with a team he's truly a part of.
"It's completely different," Miller said. "Last year, I pitched in games when we were down or we were winning by a lot and I had a role, but it wasn't near as big as it is this year. "I wanted to win just as much last year as I did this year, but this year there's more pressure on my part as far as knowing that when I take the ball every five days we've got to get a win, no matter what. We're trying to win this thing, not just the division but the whole thing."
And these rookies will soon be thrown into the pressure cooker that is playoff baseball. The excitement they crave will only grow stronger, but each mistake will be magnified. Still, it remains a dream situation for pitchers in the midst of their first full big league season.
"Oh, it's unbelievable," Wacha said. "This is what you dream of whenever you're growing up, being in this playoff race and being in with a good club and getting the chance to go play in the playoffs. It's becoming a reality right now and it's been a lot of fun to make this little push here at the end of the year."