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.
Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is looking for outside outfield help in the wake of Starling Marte‘s 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. With Marte out of the picture, the club moved Andrew McCutchen back to center field and have played Adam Frazier, John Jaso, and Jose Osuna in right field. But, as Brink points out, Osuna and Jaso — neither an outfielder by trade — misplayed balls over the weekend against the Yankees.
Among available free agents, the pickings are slim. There’s Coco Crisp, Jeff Francoeur, Cole Gillespie, Kelly Johnson, and Nolan Reimold (who is currently in independent baseball). The Pirates may have to find themselves a trade partner. They could also try to talk Angel Pagan back into action, as the veteran outfielder recently said he’s taking the year off. The Pirates could also look at Leonys Martin, who was recently designated for assignment by the Mariners.
On Friday, tension between the Orioles and Red Sox rose when Manny Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia sliding into second base. Although the umpires found no fault with Machado’s slide, third base coach Brian Butterfield was later ejected, still feeling like Machado wronged the Red Sox. Pedroia exited the game and was not in the lineup on Saturday or Sunday. He’ll undergo an MRI for his left knee and ankle in Boston on Monday.
For what it’s worth, Pedroia didn’t seem to feel any bitterness towards Machado for his slide. As MLB.com’s Jeff Seidel reported, Pedroia said, “I don’t even know what the rule is. I’ve turned the best double play in the Major Leagues for 11 years. I don’t need a … rule. The rule’s irrelevant. The rule’s for people with bad footwork.”
Tempers flared between the Red Sox and Orioles again on Sunday. In the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner on first base and one out with the Red Sox leading 6-0, reliever Matt Barnes threw a first-pitch fastball up-and-in to Machado. The ball actually hit Machado’s bat, so it counted as a foul ball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Barnes and the Red Sox brought in Joe Kelly. Machado doubled on the first pitch Kelly threw to put the Orioles on the board, but the Orioles ultimately lost 6-2.
MASN’s broadcast later showed Pedroia talking to Machado, seemingly clarifying that Barnes acted of his own volition without encouragement from Pedroia. “You know that,” Pedroia appeared to say. “It wasn’t me. It’s them.”
Update: Pedroia even apologized to Machado and the Orioles, per Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
Commissioner Rob Manfred will likely look into Sunday’s incident. He could fine and/or suspend Barnes.
The Orioles and Red Sox meet again in Boston for a four-game series May 1-4. It will be interesting to see if the tension still remains then.