Cards arms 'pushing' through doubleheaders

Maddux: 'Nobody's complaining. We’re keeping our focus forward'

September 17th, 2020

As the games stacked up, the pitching endured. So did the defense. Those are the things the Cardinals are attempting to ride to what may be their most improbable postseason appearance ever. Isn’t that the definition of playing 53 games in 45 days, which is how the schedule could play out?

“The mental challenges are as difficult as the physical challenges,” Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux said Thursday.

But the Cards have done more than survive. In a 34-day, 40-game stretch since Aug. 15, their rotation has a 3.61 ERA, sixth lowest in the Majors despite an influx of new faces.

Maddux is quick to credit a defense that leads MLB with plus-36 Defensive Runs Saved (nine more than any other team). In other words, every little thing is connected to every other little thing.

“We know it's going to be tough to go out there and play as many innings as we're playing in a short time,” Maddux said. “You’ve really got to pat them on the back because nobody's complaining. We’re keeping our focus forward, and everybody is pushing through it.”

The Cardinals have dug deep into their organizational pitching depth, using 26 pitchers in all, including 22-year-old right-hander Johan Oviedo, who has contributed valuable innings to keep the club in the postseason mix, sans a tough start in a 6-0 loss in Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader.

And on the other end of the experience chart is 32-year-old right-hander Kwang Hyun Kim, who hasn’t given up an earned run in his past four starts.

“One thing KK has is the experience,” Maddux said, “and he knows where he has gotten his outs in the past. When we talked in Spring Training about what kind of information he wants, he said he is one to kind of read hitters. He’s got his basic foundation, but he likes to read hitters.

“One thing that he does great is commands counts. He puts the ball over the plate, those good strikes, and works with a great tempo.”

And then there’s Adam Wainwright, who at 39 years old has never been better than he is right now. When the Cards' bullpen was depleted last month, Wainwright pitched a complete game against the Indians on Aug. 30.

On Wednesday, with the Cardinals playing their fifth doubleheader in 12 games, he pitched a seven-inning complete game in a 4-2 win in Milwaukee.

“He's been our cornerstone,” Maddux said. “We’re just blessed to have him as our anchor because he has righted our ship more than once. He’s found a second wind, when a couple years ago, he was not in a good spot. God blessed him with another healthy campaign, and when he's healthy, he's as good as anybody out there. He has been blessed with the ability from the day he showed up to slow the game down and go at your own pace.

“I can't say enough good things about Adam Wainwright. He is walking his walk, and he is living the dream, and we're having a lot of fun watching him work.”

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt praised his players for working their way through the heavy workload, saying, “We're very focused. That’s been helpful with mental and some physical energy. We've done the best we can. The guys have been fantastic about being efficient.

'Has it cost us a little bit in some of the smaller detail things and some of the fundamental things that we typically do on the field? Perhaps. We make no excuses. But all things considered, the guys have done a good job of having that energy and preserving it rightfully for the games.”