Beyond ace Adam Wainwright, there isn’t much certainty about which starters the Cardinals will choose to use this postseason. Michael Wacha might have provided some on Tuesday night.
Wacha, a 22-year-old first-round pick in 2012, came one out from no-hitting a good Nationals lineup in front of a packed house at Busch Stadium, using a changeup that drew high praise after the game from Ryan Zimmerman and a high-90s fastball to set the table. “”The changeup is so good,” Zimmerman admired to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
St. Louis is two games up on Pittsburgh in the National League Central standings with five days left in the regular season and at least assured of a spot in the NL Wild Card Game. If the Cardinals finish strong — they end with a weekend series against the last-place Cubs — it’ll be straight to a five-game NLDS. That’s when some tough decisions will have to be made by second-year Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
A major league team will typically carry a three- or four-man rotation into a five-game Division Series. Outside of likely NLDS Game 1 starter Adam Wainwright, Matheny’s current regular-season staff is a mixed bag. Lance Lynn has been solid in three straight starts but his 4.09 ERA is the highest of Matheny’s four non-Wainwright options. Joe Kelly allowed only a handful of runs from early-July to mid-September but his peripheral numbers aren’t as promising and he was shaky this past weekend in Milwaukee. Shelby Miller, who’s had a not-as-good second half, also ran into problems against a 70-87 fourth-place Brewers team.
Miller, Kelly and Lynn will all pitch this week, and they’ll all have to perform well to fend off Wacha for the chance to start an October game. Or maybe it’s already too late. Wacha now boasts a 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 65 strikeouts through his first 64 2/3 major league innings. The righty out of Texas A&M had a 2.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 113/23 K/BB ratio in 106 minor league frames. All signs point to his success continuing.
Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.
Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.
Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.