Jason Motte expected to begin season on disabled list with elbow strain

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The Cardinals will have to get by without their closer for the start of the season.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Jason Motte was diagnosed with a “mild strain” of his right elbow following an MRI. The Cardinals plan to shut him down for at least the next week, so with the start of the season just nine days away, a stint on the disabled list is inevitable.

Motte felt discomfort in his elbow after his most recent appearance Thursday afternoon against the Mets. He was sent for an MRI yesterday after the pain intensified. There’s no clear timeline for his return, as the Cardinals will try to get the inflammation to subside and go from there.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that Mitchell Boggs will get the first opportunity to fill in at closer during Motte’s absence. The 29-year-old right-hander had a 2.21 ERA and 58/21 K/BB ratio over 73 1/3 innings last season. Losing one of the best closers in the game obviously hurts, but the Cardinals have no shortage of quality arms.

Video: Dexter Fowler robs Asdrúbal Cabrera of three-run homer

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Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler made a critical catch in the eighth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s series finale against the Nationals. With the Cardinals leading 5-1, the Nationals were threatening with runners on first and second with one out against lefty Andrew Miller. Asdrúbal Cabrera worked a full count before serving a 3-2 outside slider to right field. The ball had home run distance, but Fowler tracked it, leaped at the wall, and robbed Cabrera of a three-run home run.

Carlos Martínez relieved Miller, getting Victor Robles to ground out to end the inning. The Cardinals would go on to win 5-1.

The game had playoff implications on both sides. The win bumped the Cardinals’ hold on first place in the NL Central to 2.5 games while the Nationals’ lead over the Cubs and Brewers for the first NL Wild Card shrinks to just one game.

The Nationals will close out their final road trip of the regular season with three games against the Marlins before hosting the Phillies for five games and the Indians for three. The Cardinals, meanwhile, begin their final road trip of the regular season with four against the Cubs followed by three against the Diamondbacks before closing out the season at home with three games versus the Cubs.