Will 22-year-old right-hander Michael Wacha crack the Cardinals’ postseason rotation?

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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.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.