How the St. Louis Cardinals turned things around after a horrible start

There was a time, not too long ago in fact, that the St. Louis Cardinals were the worst team in baseball. The date was April 17 and the Cards had a very un-Cards-like 3-9 record. Small sample sizes are rough sometimes, huh?

Well, what do you know? Three weeks later and the Cardinals are in first place in the NL Central after going 15-5 in their next 20 games. They’re also currently riding a five-game winning streak. Small sample sizes are also great sometimes, huh?

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The worst-to-first Cardinals are featured in Wednesday’s MLB Free Game of the Day on Yahoo Sports. They’ll face the Miami Marlins at 7:10 p.m. ET. You can stream the game on the Yahoo Sports MLB page, the Free Game of the Day tab and in this very post once the game starts.

The St. Louis Cardinals are back. (AP)

So what’s been behind the Cardinals turnaround? Besides shaking off the early season, small-sample funk? You can point to a few things:

• Lance Lynn, who is starting Wednesday’s game, has been on fire lately. He allowed six runs in his first two starts of the season and has allowed only two runs in the four starts since. He’s pitched six innings or more in each game, all of which have been Cardinals wins. He’s carrying a 2.04 ERA into Wednesday’s game.

• The Cardinals offense, once sluggish, seems to have woken up. They hit .212 in those first 12 games and are hitting .286 since. Their on-base percentage is about 60 points higher during this 15-5 run too. Funny how that works out. Matt Carpenter, for one, is looking more like himself with a team-leading seven homers and a fantastic .538 on-base percentage in May. There are some still some problems (like Dexter Fowler’s .229 average), but the Cardinals offense as a whole has stepped it up.

• One guy who deserves some special attention is Jedd Gyorko, who, somewhat surprisingly, is the Cardinals’ most productive player on offense, according to Fangraphs’ WAR. Gyorko’s getting on base 38 percent of the time he’s at the plate and he has a 1.021 OPS, the 14th best in baseball. That includes six homers and 15 RBIs.

• Adam Wainwright is still sort of a mess with that 6.37 ERA, but the Cardinals have gotten help elsewhere. Mike Leake has been fantastic. He’s 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA. Carlos Martinez had an uncharacteristic start but is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA so far in May.

There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, so you can’t put too much stock in a bad 12-game spurt or a great 20-game spurt. Point is: The Cardinals aren’t the worst team in baseball anymore. Of course, they never were really going to be.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!