Jake Westbrook has been outstanding this year, with a 1.62 ERA in 39 innings, so replacing him while he's on the disabled list with elbow inflammation would seem difficult -- for any team except the Cardinals.
St. Louis promoted lefthander John Gast for his big league debut on Tuesday, and he started with five scoreless innings against the Mets, though he did allow four runs in the sixth. After Gast, the Cardinals trotted out three righthander relievers in sinkerballer Seth Maness and power pitchers Carlos Martinez, whose fastball touched 100, and Joe Kelly, who hit 98 on the radar gun. Each of the three pitched a scoreless inning.
And while Kelly, 24, is in his second year, the other three are rookies; Gast and Maness are only 24 while Martinez, a top prospect, is only 21. There's also 22-year-old Shelby Miller, who came within a single of a perfect game on Friday, as well as hard-throwing Trevor Rosenthal, 22, not to mention starters Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia, who are both only 26.
They combine to form a spectacular early-to-mid-20s brigade of pitching riches for St. Louis, which oh-by-the-way also has Adam Wainwright and some good veteran relievers. As a whole, the Cardinals have allowed a major league-low 131 runs, led by a 2.33 rotation ERA that is nearly a run better than Washington's second-place 3.21. Throw in an offense that ranks third in the National League in runs, and the Redbirds are the new No. 1 in this week's MLB Power Rankings.
As a reminder, this year's Power Rankings are now ordered based on a quantitative formula that considers season record, last-10 record (with a small strength of schedule component) and season run differential. This is done to remove subjectivity and to more accurately rate the teams that are playing the best right now.
NOTE: All stats are updated through Wednesday, May 15.