Exactly 11 weeks into the 2013 regular season, the Cardinals are the best team in the major leagues.
St. Louis was at it again Saturday evening in Miami, surviving a shaky Lance Lynn start with a big night of offense to beat the Marlins 13-7 at their own place. Carlos Beltran slugged his 15th and 16th homers of the year. A .283/.359/.498 career hitter, he is batting .311/.343/.546 in 61 games this season at age 36 and he’s on pace for 38 homers and 105 RBI.
David Freese went 3-for-4 with a home run. He’s batting .341 with an .898 OPS since the beginning of May. Yadier Molina was 2-for-5 with three RBI and is still pacing the National League with a .352 overall batting average — impressive offensive output from the best defensive catcher in baseball.
The Cardinals are 44-24 with a +107 run differential and the Pirates and Reds both lost on Saturday so their lead in the National League Central standings has grown to 3 1/2 games.
Your Saturday box scores and recaps:
Cubs 5, Mets 2
Red Sox 5, Orioles 4
Blue Jays 6, Rangers 1
Giants 5, Braves 6
Dodgers 5, Pirates 3 (11 innings)
Brewers 6, Reds 0
Phillies 5, Rockies 10
Cardinals 13, Marlins 7
Royals 3, Rays 5
Yankees 2, Angels 6
Nationals 7, Indians 6
Tigers 3, Twins 6
Mariners 4, Athletics 0
White Sox 3, Astros 4
Diamondbacks 4, Padres 6
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.