Zack Greinke did his job, shutting out his old team, the Royals, for eight innings on Saturday. Ernesto Frieri didn’t do his. After coming in with one on and one out in the ninth, he gave up back-to-back homers to Billy Butler and Salvador Perez, giving Kansas City a 3-2 win over the Angels.
Mike Scioscia will surely have to face some tough questions after this one. Greinke was at a modest 103 pitches when he departed. He hadn’t given up an extra-base hit all night. And as great as Frieri has been this year, he had just thrown 30 pitches in picking up a save in Friday’s game. Not that six pitches was much of a sample, but he didn’t have his typical velocity tonight.
It’s a huge loss for the Angels, though there’s still the chance the Orioles will pick them up by knocking off Oakland tonight. At best, they’ll enter Sunday’s season finale five games back of the A’s in the loss column with 16 games left to go this season. And they’re going to have to pass some team in the A’s-Orioles-Yankees group to have a shot at the wild card.
The Cardinals have selected right-hander Miles Mikolas as their Opening Day starter, the club revealed Saturday. It’ll mark the first career Opening Day start for Mikolas, who is scheduled to go up against the Brewers when the team hits the road on March 28.
The 29-year-old righty was a strong contender for the 2018 NL Cy Young Award, earning All-Star distinctions and pitching to a career-best 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA, 1.3 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, and 4.3 fWAR over 200 2/3 innings. He’s positioned to lead the Cardinals rotation in 2019 as well, with former Opening Day starters Carlos Martínez and Adam Wainwright and some combination of right-handers Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Alex Reyes, and John Gant behind him.
Manager Mike Shildt told reporters that Flaherty, Wacha, Wainwright, and Martínez had all been considered for the honor, but admitted that Opening Day honors were ultimately handed to Mikolas “in recognition of [his performance] last year.” The Cardinals are scheduled to play a four-game set against the Brewers to start the season and will stop over in Pittsburgh for another two games before returning to St. Louis for their opening homestand against the Padres on April 4. Additional pitching assignments have yet to be announced.