ST. LOUIS -- Now that the Cardinals’ division championship celebration has calmed, they must begin to answer some questions -- like who they will put on their postseason roster, and how the rotation will line up.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt and his staff met early this week to go over postseason preparation. That included announcing Miles Mikolas as the Game 1 starter for Thursday.
That made Mikolas (9-14, 4.16 ERA) the starter for the opening game against the Braves. He was supposed to start Saturday against the Cubs, until the Cardinals moved up Adam Wainwright. Mikolas hasn’t pitched since Sept. 22, when he allowed one earned run in 7 2/3 innings to finish a four-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field that clinched a playoff spot for St. Louis. The right-hander will be on plenty of rest Thursday, and he held the Braves to three runs in seven innings back in May, despite the Cardinals’ loss. Mikolas has a 2.61 ERA in four career appearances (three starts) against the Braves.
Braves’ left-handed slugger Freddie Freeman has hurt Mikolas the most, with a 1.264 OPS in 10 at-bats. Catcher Francisco Cervelli, who could come off the Braves’ bench, is hitting .313 against Mikolas in 16 at-bats.
Both Hudson (2.75 ERA) and Wainwright (2.56 ERA) have better stats at Busch Stadium, which is where Games 3 and 4 will be held. Hudson struggled against left-handers at the start of the year, but it hasn’t been a problem since then. His team-leading 16 wins also are first in the Majors for rookies, and the Cardinals are 23-10 when Hudson starts. And Wainwright, who has been an integral part of the Cardinals’ playoff push this year, has plenty of postseason experience, with a 3.03 ERA over 24 postseason games (12 starts).
One pro to keeping Hudson for Game 4 would be that he might be available for more relief usage in the earlier games. The right-hander spent the second half of 2018 in the bullpen and had a 2.63 ERA in 27 1/3 innings before making the Opening Day roster this year as a starter.
Since the All-Star break, the Cardinals’ rotation has a 3.37 ERA, second in the Majors only to the Dodgers, who have a 3.35 ERA since the break.