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No matter who is on their roster, the St. Louis Cardinals always field a relevant team.

Success in the playoffs usually involves a team that gets hot at the right time, but just to be there consistently like the Cardinals have been is a testament to the baseball factory that St. Louis produces.

There's a tradition of winning, and whenever a new player dons the Cardinal red, it seems that he just automatically gets it. The team may not have a bona fide superstar, but whatever Mike Matheny is doing is working.

The heart of the Cardinals offense.
Even after losing Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last offseason, the Cardinals still earned a trip to the 2012 NLCS. That was the ultimate long shot based on what Pujols meant to the franchise, but for the Cardinals, it was merely business as usual.

This year, it's been the pitching staff that has led to such a hot start. St. Louis leads the NL with a 3.06 team ERA. The team has also surrendered the fewest number of earned runs and home runs up to this point.

Before Jake Westbrook recently went on the disabled list, all five Cardinals starters had an ERA under 3.00. Adam Wainwright has been his consistent self, while Lance Lynn is off to another All-Star start.

But the real story has been rookie Shelby Miller, who is 5-2 with a 1.40 ERA. He's already made a huge splash with his complete-game one-hitter against the Colorado Rockies in which he gave up a hit to the leadoff man and then retired 27 straight batters.

The Cardinals were always known for great starting pitching under long-time pitching coach Dave Duncan. But when Tony La Russa retired after the 2012 season, Duncan called it quits as well.

Derek Lilliquist has continued Duncan's strategy admirably, which has helped the Cards do what they do best. And keep in mind that this is all happening without Chris Carpenter, who is recovering from recurring nerve damage in his shoulder.

Carpenter, though, has not ruled out a return this season. It was originally thought that the Cardinals would use him out of the bullpen, but now with the injury to Westbrook, Carpenter could regain his role in the rotation. He's in the process of rehabbing and should have a better picture of his progress by the end of the month.

From an offensive standpoint, Carlos Beltran's power is showing no signs of fading with his power bat. Yadier Molina is again hitting for a high average, and Allen Craig is driving in runs at a furious pace.

Just imagine what this team can do offensively if Matt Holliday and David Freese reach their potential. In the meantime, Matt Carpenter has thrived in extended playing time with Rafael Furcal on the shelf for the season.

It's not rocket science in St. Louis: The Cardinals simply do whatever it takes to win ballgames. That's been their strategy for years, and it doesn't appear to be changing any time soon.

It's pretty safe to say that as long as the Cardinals are fielding a team, they're always contenders for an NL pennant.