1. Adam Wainwright
The entire St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff is on the disabled list, right? Well Wainwright is pitching like it. And now battery mate Yadier Molina has joined Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha in the dugout.
Wainwright is 11-4 with a 1.79 ERA, and more importantly he’s been shouldering the load with the rest of the rotation recovering from injuries. St. Louis sits two games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central standings, largely because Wainwright is single-handedly keeping the team afloat for the time being.
He’s pitched 131 innings in 18 outings. He’s doing it all for the Cardinals.
2. Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw is the most dominant pitcher in the game today, but unlike Wainwright in the No. 1 slot, he gets some support from the rest of his rotation.
Kershaw owns an 11-2 record with a 1.78 ERA, and Thursday night his scoreless inning streak came to an after 40 innings. That’s not a typo — 40 innings.
Clayton Kershaw’s scoreless innings streak ended at 41 last night. It was the longest in MLB since Brandon Webb in 2007 (42).
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 11, 2014
The Los Angeles Dodgers remain one game ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the NL West, and the difference should be Kershaw, who is seemingly a guaranteed win — or at least a quality outing — every time he takes the hill.
3. Scott Kazmir
What a terrific story it has been for Kazmir, who was nearly out of the league back in 2011 and 2012, but has truly revived his career with the Oakland A’s and has pitched them to an Major League-best record.
Kazmir ranks eighth in the league with a 2.38 ERA to go along with a 11-3 record. Of course with Jeff Samardzija in the mix now Kazmir doesn’t have the best stats on the team, but his impact through the first four months of the season cannot be forgotten.
Kazmir has returned to the ace-like form he once had with the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays in the early 2000s, and has the A’s in true Moneyball-fashion contending for a pennant.
4. Mark Buehrle
The 35-year-old Buehrle has been the Toronto Blue Jays’ best starter this season, putting together his personal-best campaign since the Chicago White Sox’s championship season back in 2005.
Buerhle is 10-6 with a 2.60 ERA, and has hurled a team-high 121.1 innings. Toronto was unable to pull the trigger on the Samardzija deal, so unless it can reach into its bag of tricks and made a blockbuster trade, Buehrle is going to be “the guy” for the remainder of the year.
The Jays are three games back of Baltimore Orioles for AL East lead, and if any team is going to make a run at the O’s, it looks like it’ll be Buehrle-led Jays.
5. Masahiro Tanaka
Speaking of the AL East race, Tanaka being placed on the disabled might inevitably blow up the New York Yankees’ season.
Tanaka has been the Yankees’ ace this season, with a 12-4 mark and 2.51 ERA in 129.1 innings pitched. In contrast, the second-best starter is Hiroki Kuroda owns with a 4.20 ERA while CC Sabathia has been sidelined.
With Ivan Nova out for the year and Michael Pineda rarely a factor, the burden has fallen squarely on Tanaka in his first Major League season. Without their best starter for six weeks, the Yankees need to either make a deal to acquire a Cliff Lee or a David Price, or suffer the fate of falling out of the AL East race.