ST. LOUIS -- Miles Mikolas and Tyler O'Neill could not be more different, not in their skills or body types or in the paths they took to the big leagues. Neither elicited much fanfare in getting here, neither garnered major headlines when acquired, Mikolas in free agency and O'Neill in
ST. LOUIS -- Miles Mikolas and Tyler O'Neill could not be more different, not in their skills or body types or in the paths they took to the big leagues. Neither elicited much fanfare in getting here, neither garnered major headlines when acquired, Mikolas in free agency and O'Neill in a minor trade last summer.
As Mikolas put it after leading the Cardinals to a 6-0 win over the Royals on Monday night: "I've never done fantasy sports before, but I'm sure I was still available for a late pickup here or there."
Mikolas' latest in a superb string of starts after spending three seasons in Japan came with his four-hit shutout in the I-70 Series opener at Busch Stadium. And it was the righty's best to date. Backed by four RBIs from O'Neill, Mikolas worked nine super-efficient frames. The 109-pitch masterpiece improved Mikolas to 6-0 in nine starts, over which he's become one of the sport's most surprising breakout stars.
Mikolas struck out nine and walked just one, the only free pass coming with two out in the ninth. The lone runner to move into scoring position against him did so in the first, when Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas notched back-to-back singles. Mikolas sent down 22 of 26 after that, and 15 of the final 16 batters he faced to lower his ERA to a sparkling 2.24.
"To watch Miles over this stretch, to say we had the foresight the rest of the organization had ... The guys upstairs saw something really special," manager Mike Matheny said. "We're benefiting from what they saw."
The same is true of O'Neill, whom the Cardinals acquired in an under-the-radar deal for Marco Gonzales last summer. Summoned to the Majors for the second time this week following a torrid start at Triple-A Memphis, O'Neill homered for the third consecutive game in place of slumping outfielders Marcell Ozuna and William Fowler. He started for Fowler for the second time in three days on Monday, when his three-run opposite-field blast off losing pitcher Ian Kennedy earned him another curtain call, and stretched St. Louis' lead to 4-0.
O'Neill added a run-scoring double in the fifth, and Matt Carpenter launched a solo homer in the eighth in support of Mikolas, who twirled the first shutout by a Cardinals starter since September 2017. O'Neill is now 7-for-12 (.588) since being recalled on Friday, a stretch that has Matheny eager for ways to keep his hot bat in the lineup.
"He can play center," Matheny offered, with a smirk.
"O'Neill had been able to do it all the way through the Minor Leagues so it shouldn't surprise us. We just hadn't seen it ourselves. Again, we're on the nice end of a guy getting to this league and showing he deserves to be here."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Suddenly locked in after slumping for much of the season's first seven weeks, Carpenter's eighth-inning homer stretched the lead to 6-0. It also capped his second three-hit performance in as many nights. Carpenter is now 13-for-24 with seven doubles over his past six games after hitting .140 over his first 39 games.
O'Neill's streak of three consecutive games with a home run came in his eighth, ninth and 10th career games, the earliest a Cardinals player has produced such a streak in a career.
Already without starting shortstop Paul DeJong for at least several weeks, the Cardinals lost another player who can play the position in Greg Garcia, who exited with lower back tightness after he singled in the sixth. Garcia started the last two games at short in place of DeJong. He is considered day to day. More >
HE SAID IT
"I cant believe the guy hasn't gone half blind with how much he stares at the video monitor. But you have to find that feel. And it's clicked for him." -- Matheny, on Carpenter breaking out of his slump
Cardinals right-hander Luke Weaver (3-3, 4.37 ERA) will get the ball for the middle game of the I-70 Series against the Royals at 7:15 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Busch Stadium. With Monday's news that Alex Reyes will return to the rotation by the end of the month, and Jack Flaherty pitching well, this figures to be another big start for Weaver. He fired seven solid innings in his last outing -- his second consecutive strong start. Jason Hammel (0-5, 6.28) will start for Kansas City.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.