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Cards' bullpen can't hold lead in 10-inning loss

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's reasoning for asking Jordan Hicks for a little extra, once again, was simple. And with closer Bud Norris unavailable, Matheny's margins for error were notably slimmer.

"Because he's been so good," Matheny said of Hicks.

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ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's reasoning for asking Jordan Hicks for a little extra, once again, was simple. And with closer Bud Norris unavailable, Matheny's margins for error were notably slimmer.

"Because he's been so good," Matheny said of Hicks.

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Hicks' ability to throw multiple innings essentially gives Matheny the luxury of two distinct bullpen strategies: one when Hicks pitches, and another when he doesn't. Without Hicks, the late innings can be pieced together with matchups. With Hicks, Matheny can try to ram through the final frames using fewer pitchers. That latter strategy was on display in Tuesday's 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Mets, the first example of a time it didn't work this season.

Looking to pitch two innings for the second straight appearance, the 21-year-old Hicks allowed a game-tying run on an Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice fly in the eighth. Scoreless appearances from Luke Gregerson (two-thirds of an inning) and Greg Holland (one inning) held the score until the 10th, when Matheny would have normally called on Norris to try to hold a tied game at home.

But with Norris battling arm soreness, extra-inning duties fell to middle reliever Matt Bowman. The solo home run that Bowman allowed to Jay Bruce handed the Cardinals their second loss in 10 games.

"Those are tough ones to recover from," Matheny said.

Video: NYM@STL: Wong drives an RBI double the other way

The Cardinals led by three runs after four innings and by one after five, and both times, the Mets fought back. Yoenis Cespedes erased the Cards' 4-1 lead with a mammoth home run off starter Luke Weaver in the fourth. Paul DeJong put St. Louis back ahead with an RBI double in the fifth, before New York tied it again in the eighth.

"Any time you have a three-run lead and you can't hold onto it, that's going to hurt." Matheny said.

Video: NYM@STL: Matheny on loss and Weaver's performance

The one blemish in Hicks' sensational first Major League month has been control. When it doesn't sink, the 21-year-old's triple-digit sinker can sail, usually up and out of the zone. But often, he's overcome that on nastiness alone.

Tuesday proved that is unsustainable, for Hicks and the Cardinals. St. Louis pitchers had eight walks, four of which came around to score.

"Too many," Matheny said. "Especially those leadoff walks."

Mets third baseman Todd Frazier was twice the recipient of a costly free pass -- against Hicks in the eighth and Weaver in the second. The normally precise Weaver was at a loss to explain what happened in the fifth, when he allowed Cespedes' homer and issued three of his career-high six walks.

"I don't know what it was," Weaver said. "Working too quick, out of breath, not really taking a moment to figure it out. The game kind of sped up there, and I never found out."

Video: NYM@STL: Weaver strikes out Cabrera swinging

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Pham-tastic return: Half of the four runs the Cardinals scored before Cespedes' blast came courtesy of Tommy Pham, who enjoyed a perfect day at the plate in his return to the lineup. Sidelined for three of the previous four games due to right groin tightness, the center fielder went 3-for-3 with two walks. He opened the scoring with a two-run home run in the first off Mets starter Zack Wheeler, who lasted just four innings.

Video: NYM@STL: Pham launches a two-run dinger to center

"That was pretty impressive," Matheny said. More >

HOLLAND IMPRESSES
Holland's scoreless ninth came in the reliever's first high-leverage chance since relinquishing closing duties to Norris after his team debut. The righty struck out two, including Cespedes on a nasty slider. He did not walk a batter for the second consecutive outing, after struggling with his control over his first five appearances. Consider it a step in the right direction for Holland, who the Cardinals hope they can ease back into closing duty.

"It was exactly what we've been looking for," Matheny said. "His stuff looked right."

HE SAID IT
"I'll be 100 percent ready to go tomorrow," -- Norris, who was unavailable to pitch in extras

"We're pretty convinced it's just a one-day thing," -- Matheny on Norris' injury, described as arm soreness

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In a last-ditch effort, the Cardinals challenged whether Bruce touched the first-base bag on his game-winning homer off Bowman in the 10th. The call stood after a 55-second review.

"Somebody saw him looking up, didn't know if he got a spike on the bag or not," Matheny said. "We took a chance, just in case."

Video: NYM@STL: Bruce drives go-ahead homer, umpires review

UP NEXT
Michael Wacha (3-1, 4.22 ERA) took his only loss of the year in a start against the Mets on March 31. He'll get the call when this series continues Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. CT at Busch Stadium. Southpaw Steven Matz (1-1, 4.22) will start for the Mets.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Paul DeJong, Jordan Hicks, Greg Holland

Pham homers, reaches base 5 times in return

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- By his own estimation, Tommy Pham took about 300 swings to prepare for his return to the Cardinals' lineup. All that work, paired with a little rest, appeared to have done him some good.

Pham reached base five times in his first game back from a minor right groin injury, as he went 3-for-3 with two walks in the Cards' 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Mets on Tuesday.

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ST. LOUIS -- By his own estimation, Tommy Pham took about 300 swings to prepare for his return to the Cardinals' lineup. All that work, paired with a little rest, appeared to have done him some good.

Pham reached base five times in his first game back from a minor right groin injury, as he went 3-for-3 with two walks in the Cards' 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Mets on Tuesday.

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Pham hit a two-run home run in the first, then later walked and singled off Mets starter Zack Wheeler. He walked again in the sixth against Matt Harvey, and he singled off Paul Sewald in the ninth.

"That was pretty impressive," manager Mike Matheny said. "I didn't think the first one was hit high enough to get out. Then, good at-bats with the walks. It was good to give him a couple of days and still get production from some of the other guys. Then, he jumps back in and doesn't have his timing off at all."

Sidelined for three of the previous four games, Pham initially felt tightness in his right groin late in a cold-weather win in Chicago last week. The center fielder passed a series of tests the day after, and it did not require an MRI. Though the Cardinals and Pham both said he could've played through the injury, they decided to be cautious.

Pham pinch-hit last Thursday, then started Friday's win against the Reds. Pham did not appear in the club's final two games against Cincinnati this past weekend, after which, his preparation to return began.

Coming off a breakout 2017 season, Pham has again been one of the Cardinals' most complete players. He is hitting .348 with 24 hits in 20 games and leading St. Louis in batting average, runs (19), stolen bases (five), on-base percentage (.477), walk rate and Wins Above Replacement.

"He always had something to prove," Matheny said before the game. "We learned that all winter. He did some things really well [last year], and it wasn't enough. I know he's not surprised that he's gotten off to this start. It's exactly what he expects from himself."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Tommy Pham

Flaherty will be recalled to make Saturday start

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- After Tuesday's 6-5 loss to the Mets, the Cardinals revealed what was beginning to become plain to see. Jack Flaherty will fill the club's need for a starter Saturday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, manager Mike Matheny said.

Long considered the top candidate to start if the club's rotation had a void, Flaherty will make his second fill-in appearance for Adam Wainwright in the span of a month. The 22-year-old struck out nine over five innings in Wainwright's place in a start against the Brewers on April 3, before going 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA over three starts at Triple-A Memphis.

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ST. LOUIS -- After Tuesday's 6-5 loss to the Mets, the Cardinals revealed what was beginning to become plain to see. Jack Flaherty will fill the club's need for a starter Saturday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, manager Mike Matheny said.

Long considered the top candidate to start if the club's rotation had a void, Flaherty will make his second fill-in appearance for Adam Wainwright in the span of a month. The 22-year-old struck out nine over five innings in Wainwright's place in a start against the Brewers on April 3, before going 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA over three starts at Triple-A Memphis.

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Wainwright's spot in the rotation opened again when the righty landed on the disabled list this past weekend with elbow inflammation. Wainwright was scheduled to pitch Tuesday, but due to off-days, the club didn't need a replacement until Saturday.

The club hinted at its plan to promote Flaherty over Austin Gomber or John Gant earlier Tuesday, when it scratched Flaherty from his scheduled start to line him up for Saturday. Flaherty had been set to pitch Wednesday for Memphis, but he will instead throw an extra midweek bullpen session.

Video: Top Prospects: Jack Flaherty, RHP, Cardinals

The club's No.2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Flaherty was dominant for much of Spring Training. He went 0-2 with a 6.33 in six appearances (five starts) in his first taste of big league action last season.

Injury updates
Three injured relievers left the team to continue their rehab elsewhere this week, two who are close to returning and one who is not.

Right-hander Sam Tuivailala (left knee strain) and left-hander Ryan Sherriff (right toe fracture) departed for Memphis, where both are scheduled to begin rehab assignments this week. Tuivailala will begin his assignment Wednesday. Sherriff is scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, then begin his assignment Friday.

Girsch said both will be asked to throw multiple innings and pitch back-to-back days before being deemed ready for return.

"Neither one of them has been down very long, and they're both relatively close to being ready to go," Girsch said.

The return of left-hander Brett Cecil (left shoudler strain) is further away. Cecil departed for the club's complex in Jupiter, Fla., this week, where he will continue his recovery. Cecil last pitched on Opening Day.

"He's been down longer, and he needs a little more time," Girsch said. "It's easy to send him to Florida, where we have total control over the workout, the timing and everything, since he's not close to coming back anyway."

Ticket offer
The Cardinals and Community Coffee are again teaming up to present fans with a special discount ticket offer. On sale now, fans can purchase tickets for just $5 to watch the Cardinals take on the White Sox on May 1-2 or the Twins on May 7-8.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Jack Flaherty

This is how the Cards found Jose Martinez

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- If you're looking for numbers to explain what Jose Martinez is doing, why he's doing it here and just how big of a grain of salt his white-hot start should be taken with, one in particular stands out.

That's the exit velocity reading from his clothesline-like solo homer on April 12 against the Reds, a seared 113.7-mph shot that sent fans scurrying for cover beyond the left-field wall. The radar says more than the Cardinals first baseman's .329/.409/.526 slash line, basically because it suggests those numbers are real. And more than any other swing of Martinez's brief big league career, that big one in Cincinnati offered the best snapshot of why St. Louis' front office targeted him three years ago, and how they essentially found a middle-of-the-order bat on the baseball equivalent of the clearance aisle.

ST. LOUIS -- If you're looking for numbers to explain what Jose Martinez is doing, why he's doing it here and just how big of a grain of salt his white-hot start should be taken with, one in particular stands out.

That's the exit velocity reading from his clothesline-like solo homer on April 12 against the Reds, a seared 113.7-mph shot that sent fans scurrying for cover beyond the left-field wall. The radar says more than the Cardinals first baseman's .329/.409/.526 slash line, basically because it suggests those numbers are real. And more than any other swing of Martinez's brief big league career, that big one in Cincinnati offered the best snapshot of why St. Louis' front office targeted him three years ago, and how they essentially found a middle-of-the-order bat on the baseball equivalent of the clearance aisle.

"He just hits the ball hard," manager Mike Matheny said, emphasizing the adjective and needing no further explainer.

Video: STL@CIN: Martinez rips a solo homer for his third RBI

It's an Occam's razor-type answer, but not an incorrect one -- 113.7 mph home runs are Giancarlo Stanton hard, Aaron Judge territory. It's a zip code only one other Cards hitter visited in at least the past three seasons. The other, Marcell Ozuna, cost a bundle of four prospects to acquire. Martinez required only cash, and a relative morsel of it, after the Royals designated him for assignment in 2016.

"It was one of those kind of deals that seems small at the time," general manager Michael Girsch said. "But every now and then, you hit big on one of them."

Cardinals officials first eyed Martinez a year earlier, when he was swinging his way to a Pacific Coast League batting crown for Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate in Omaha. He hit .384/.461/.563 that season, his 12th in pro ball without a big league taste. The breakout year failed to make a major prospect out of Martinez, who by that point was 26, had cycled through three organizations, undergone three knee surgeries and never hit for power. Back home in Venezuela that winter, he wondered what he still had to prove.

"My mom was there," Martinez said. "And she said, 'You did everything you can do to be a big leaguer, so don't stop now.'"

Meanwhile, the Cards saw sleeper potential oozing out of Martinez's 6-foot-6 frame, specifically the batted-ball numbers it sent simmering onto their Trackman screens.

"The data supported the fact that he hit the ball really, really hard. The .380 wasn't a fluke," said Girsch. "But he didn't elevate a ton. You could see that by his launch angle and you saw it in his stats."

Video: Mozeliak impressed with Martinez's strong start

To the Cardinals, Martinez profiled as a prime depth candidate to bolster a Triple-A Memphis roster set to graduate Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. If pushed, maybe he could help the big league club as an ancillary piece. Then the Royals, their roster stuffed and on their way to a World Series, didn't promote Martinez that September.

"That's when we started to realistically think he might actually hit free agency," John Vuch, who oversees the Cards' acquisition of Minor League free agents, wrote in an email. "Up to that point, I think we all assumed he'd wind up on the Royals' 40-man roster. … I was ready to contact his agent as soon as the bell rang for free agency."

The Royals protected Martinez by adding him to the 40-man late on the final day to do so, less than a week after beating the Mets in the World Series. They designated him for assignment the following May to clear space for Whit Merrifield, at which point the Cardinals pounced.

"We were confident he could be a good right-handed hitter off the bench. That's what we thought we were getting," said Girsch. "Since then, he's been raking."

After altering his swing in an attempt to elevate the ball more ("Ground balls are not allowed!" Martinez says now), Martinez posted some of baseball's best offensive peripherals over a partial season in 2017. This year he's been even better, swinging his way out of questions over his playing time and into the No. 3 spot in the Cards' lineup. Martinez leads the club with 29 hard-hit balls (defined by Statcast™ as exceeding a 95-mph exit velocity), which he's dispersed indiscriminately: 14 on hits, 15 on outs. The hard outs means he is actually underperforming his metrics, despite his gaudy slash line.

"He may have had more value to a team like Kansas City or anywhere else if more of that data was out there.," Matheny said. "I'd never heard of him, so I've been excited and surprised. The more I watch Jose, the more I realize it's legit."

To find the last Minor League transaction to make such an impact in St. Louis, you have to look at Ryan Ludwick, who hit 84 home runs with the club from 2007-10.

"When you look at his history and the impact he's having on this club, I don't know if anybody could have connected those dots," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "To see where he was a few years ago to see where he is today, it's a pretty cool story. If you think about, most of those stories don't end like this."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Jose Martinez

Cards' Gomber goes on strike spree, ties K mark

Redbirds prospect throws 85 of 122 pitches in zone, nets 16 strikeouts
MLB.com

To say Cardinals' No. 14 prospect Austin Gomber had his best stuff in his fourth start for Triple-A Memphis on Monday afternoon would be an understatement.

The Redbirds' left-hander, facing the Iowa Cubs for the first time in 2018, threw 85 strikes in 112 pitches en route to a 16-strikeout performance as Memphis cruised to a 3-0 victory.

To say Cardinals' No. 14 prospect Austin Gomber had his best stuff in his fourth start for Triple-A Memphis on Monday afternoon would be an understatement.

The Redbirds' left-hander, facing the Iowa Cubs for the first time in 2018, threw 85 strikes in 112 pitches en route to a 16-strikeout performance as Memphis cruised to a 3-0 victory.

Cardinals top prospects stats from Monday

The 16 punchouts were easily a career best, as Gomber's previous high of 11 came last Aug. 31 for Double-A Springfield vs. Arkansas. They also tied a franchise record for strikeouts in a single game.

Tweet from @memphisredbirds: .@AustinGomber ties the franchise single-game record for strikeouts!He's whiffed 16 in his fourth-career @TripleABaseball start!8.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 16 K🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Gomber was already off to a solid start to the season, as he was 1-0 with a 3.57 ERA and .238 opponents batting average in 17 2/3 innings across three contests entering Monday's contest. But the 24-year-old turned in the best game of his Minor League career by holding the Cubs to six hits and no runs without walking a batter. He lowered his season ERA to 2.45 with the dominant showing.

Gomber struck out the side in the third and fifth inning while also recording a pair of K's in three others, including his eighth and final frame.

Tweet from @themattgrilli: Gomber's (@memphisredbirds) 16 K's are the most in a #PCL game since August 27, 2007, when Oakland farmhand Dallas Braden fanned 17 against Colorado Springs #MiLB https://t.co/Iz256XQS7O

Only 19 times since 1963 has a Major League hurler thrown at least 85 strikes in 112 pitches or fewer, and no big leaguer has ever struck out more than 13 batters in doing so.

Gomber isn't in the Majors yet, but he certainly threw like a big leaguer Monday.

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

St. Louis Cardinals, Austin Gomber

Sharp Mikolas backed by Wong, DeJong HRs

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Over three years as a baseball expat in Japan, Miles Mikolas fell for Tonkotsu ramen. The pork broth noodle dish became his favorite food, one he can't find a replica of in St. Louis, no matter how hard he tries. The fruitless search qualifies as a major hiccup in his transition back to the big leagues.

Meanwhile the baseball part of that transition -- by far the more difficult -- continues to go smoothly. If nothing else, the Cardinals knew they were getting a high-ceiling starter who could command multiple pitches when they outbid several clubs for Mikolas this offseason. But few could forsee Mikolas adjusting this well, this quickly, or his manager describing him in such superlatives after just four starts.

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ST. LOUIS -- Over three years as a baseball expat in Japan, Miles Mikolas fell for Tonkotsu ramen. The pork broth noodle dish became his favorite food, one he can't find a replica of in St. Louis, no matter how hard he tries. The fruitless search qualifies as a major hiccup in his transition back to the big leagues.

Meanwhile the baseball part of that transition -- by far the more difficult -- continues to go smoothly. If nothing else, the Cardinals knew they were getting a high-ceiling starter who could command multiple pitches when they outbid several clubs for Mikolas this offseason. But few could forsee Mikolas adjusting this well, this quickly, or his manager describing him in such superlatives after just four starts.

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"He's a horse, strong as a bull," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said on Sunday, when seven more strong innings from Mikolas backed a 9-2 win over the Reds at Busch Stadium. "He can be one of those guys, from what we've seen in a number of starts now, we can be standing out there with a low pitch count. And that gives us the ability to push him further."

Tweet from @Cardinals: Sweep Sunday! #STLCards pic.twitter.com/fadnkSsq58

So far the Cardinals haven't, to little fault of Mikolas. Twice in eight days they've curbed efficient starts of his after seven crisp innings, signaling to their new right-hander that he'd done enough. More than enough, given the bubble mystery he arrived wrapped in. Before this season, Mikolas' full big league resume consistency of 91 1/3 innings and 10 starts across three partial seasons.

"I'd never seen him pitch even one time [before Spring Training]," remembered Adam Wainwright, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list prior to the game. "I didn't know how he used his stuff. But I did know he had incredible stuff. He throws the easiest 95 I've ever seen."

It's becoming apparent what Mikolas has, besides a taste for noodles. Two fastballs, that range between 90-96 mph. A slider and a curve, that Mikolas combined to use half the time on Sunday. A split-changeup that mimics the slider's speed and darts downward. A propensity to fill up the zone. And after four starts, a 3-0 record and a 3.46 ERA.

Video: CIN@STL: Matheny, Wong on Cardinals' 9-2 victory

"He's had a history of being in the strike zone, which makes him efficient," Matheny said. "But the stuff keeps getting better in our eyes."

Mikolas needed just 85 pitches (67 strikes) to mostly breeze through three turns of the Reds' lineup on Sunday, scattering five hits and allowing two runs (one earned). He struck out six and walked none, using his five-pitch mix to hold a narrow lead for much of the soggy afternoon in his new home stadium. Home runs from Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong paced the offense, which broke the game open with two late rallies.

Video: CIN@STL: Wong rips a solo homer to right

All of which overshadowed a bit of Mikolas' effort after missing barrels all afternoon while cradling a small lead.

"It's about being more comfortable, realizing if I make good pitches, good things are going to happen," Mikolas said. "We're talking about a team that has accepted me into their ranks."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
DeJong's homers tend to come in bunches, and the sophomore shortstop appears to be getting on a roll. He has now gone deep in two straight games and hasn't struck out in 12 plate appearances. That's as good an indicator as any that the contact-troubled DeJong is locked in. His three-run shot in the seventh off Kevin Quackenbush iced the win.

Video: CIN@STL: DeJong extends the lead with three-run homer

Norris used early, Holland in ninth:  Before DeJong's homer, the Cardinals cradled just a 3-2 advantage. That led Matheny to peek at who the Reds were due to send up in the eighth. With the top of the order scheduled, he warmed his closer, Bud Norris, an inning early. Norris ended up pitching a scoreless eighth in a four-run game, instead of a high-leverage spot.

Greg Holland then pitched the ninth in a seven-run game. Matheny said the alignment wasn't an indication that the club considers Holland ready for save situations yet, though Matheny said Holland is "close." Holland threw a 1-2-3 ninth, just his second of six appearances in which he did not walk a batter.

"They stacked some lefties and realized that was a tough spot. That was coming around as a one-run game before Pauly did what he did, and we wanted Bud ready," Matheny said. "That eighth inning today could've been the most important spot."

Video: CIN@STL: Holland induces popup to secure the win

SOUND SMART
The win gave the Cardinals their 11th straight over the Reds dating back to last season. Not since 1949 has St. Louis topped Cincinnati in as many consecutive head-to-head matchups.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Making his fourth straight start and sixth in seven games, Harrison Bader continued to fill in nicely for injured center fielder Tommy Pham on both sides of the ball. Bader went 2-for-4, extending a modest seven-game hitting streak. But the Cardinals feel Bader can be truly elite on defense, his above-average speed mixing with advanced instincts and a nose for the baseball. That skillset was on display on Sunday, when Bader ran 88 feet in 4.8 seconds to track down a Scott Schebler line drive in the fourth. Bader reached a top speed of 29.1 feet per second on the play, which Statcast™ registered as a four-star catch.

"He makes it look easy in the outfield," Matheny said. "He goes all out all the time. He only has one speed."

Video: CIN@STL: Statcast™ measures Bader's four-star catch

HE SAID IT
"A mid-90s thumber would be a good way to describe me [as a pitcher]," Mikolas said. When asked what a "thumber" was, Mikolas replied: "A crafty guy."

UP NEXT
Wainwright's injury forced the Cardinals to scramble for a starter for Tuesday, when they open a three-game home series against the Mets and Steven Matz. The club decided to move Luke Weaver up instead of promote Jack Flaherty to start the game, set for 7:15 p.m. CT. Weaver will be on regular rest.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Paul DeJong, Miles Mikolas, Kolten Wong

Waino goes on DL with elbow inflammation

Right-hander Brebbia recalled from Triple-A Memphis
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- There is a two-inch window, between where Adam Wainwright has always released the baseball and where he must now, and therein lies the difference between prosperity and pain.

If Wainwright dips down to the bottom of it, a change imperceptible, he says, to the naked eye, his elbow will be fine. If he goes back "up top," like he did most of his life, like he did in his lousy season debut, then it'll hurt. Then the bone bruises that derailed his 2017 season will return, the first signs of which were what landed him on the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, after Wainwright felt a familiar twinge in his elbow.

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ST. LOUIS -- There is a two-inch window, between where Adam Wainwright has always released the baseball and where he must now, and therein lies the difference between prosperity and pain.

If Wainwright dips down to the bottom of it, a change imperceptible, he says, to the naked eye, his elbow will be fine. If he goes back "up top," like he did most of his life, like he did in his lousy season debut, then it'll hurt. Then the bone bruises that derailed his 2017 season will return, the first signs of which were what landed him on the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, after Wainwright felt a familiar twinge in his elbow.

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Wainwright described the injury as precautionary, saying he knows what he needs to do to keep the pain from persisting.

"I took the route of cutting this off before it got like it did last year," Wainwright said. "If you're concerned whether I make 30 or 31 starts, be very concerned. If you're concerned whether I make 30 or 10, don't be."

Tweet from @UncleCharlie50: All will be well in a few days.

Slowed by elbow issues of varying degrees over the course of his 13-year career, Wainwright most recently required surgery last October to remove cartilage and alleviate two bone bruises. He underwent the same arthroscopic procedure following the 2014 season, and missed all of '11 due to Tommy John surgery.

Wainwright needed six weeks of recovery from the most recent procedure, after elbow pain limited his 2017 season to 23 starts. When on the mound, the injury starkly affected his velocity and effectiveness. Wainwright went 12-5 with a career-worst 5.11 ERA. He compiled a 1-2 record with a 3.45 ERA over his first three starts this season, after a full spring absent of elbow pain.

Wainwright spent much of camp experimenting with various arm angles and slots, hoping to add deception to his delivery as much as health. He says a few slips back into old habits retriggered the painful swelling.

"The problem was, the first game I came out and I was trying to heave the ball from that top spot. Now I'm kinda feeling the effect of that," Wainwright said. "I have no cartilage now. I have what could be a bone bruise now, if I let it continue. I'm not going to let it continue."

Video: STL@CHC: Wainwright K's Schwarber, escapes jam

Wainwright said he anticipated the pain coming after his season debut, when he lasted 3 2/3 innings against the D-backs on April 5. But he didn't feel it spark up again until last Tuesday, toward the end of his gutsy five-inning start against the Cubs. Back in the Busch Stadium bullpen this weekend, Wainwright felt it again.

"Obviously concerned with the feeling in his arm," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "In his bullpen, something just wasn't right."

That prompted the Cardinals to place him on the DL, when they recalled right-hander John Brebbia in a corresponding move. The club opted to move Luke Weaver up to start in Wainwright's place on Tuesday, instead of promoting No. 2 prospect Jack Flaherty.

Weaver and the rest of the rotation can line up on regular rest thanks to Monday's off-day, meaning the Cardinals don't need a starter until Saturday against the Pirates. Flaherty is a candidate to start that game, though his schedule at Triple-A Memphis would need to be adjusted.

Flaherty started in Wainwright's place earlier this month in Milwaukee, after the veteran strained his left hamstring. He struck out nine over five innings against the Brewers, then went 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA over three starts at Memphis. Club officials routinely characterized the 22-year-old Flaherty as its first option should the starting rotation spring a leak.

Video: STL@MIL: Flaherty strikes out nine over five innings

Pham sits again
The Cardinals continue to be cautious with center fielder Tommy Pham, who sat for the third time in four games on Sunday due to a minor groin injury. The club hopes he can return to the lineup following Monday's off-day.

Earth day initiatives
All across Major League Baseball, teams are participating in a wide variety of season-long initiatives to promote sustainability. Many of those came into focus on Sunday's Earth Day.

The Cardinals' role in these efforts is twofold. Busch Stadium is one of 11 MLB ballparks that operates its own garden or farm, all of which is utilized to source food for concession stands and restaurants. In addition to providing food, the Busch Stadium garden also serves as a teaching tool to inform the public about the importance of its local environment, a ballpark tour highlight and as a fan-gathering spot throughout a game.

Tweet from @Cardinals: Happy Earth Day! We are proud to have been recognized by the EPA for our efforts to reduce food waste. If you would like to learn more about the #4AGreenerGame initiative, visit https://t.co/WkHUv2s3dx pic.twitter.com/dnwgY5vJPw

The Cardinals are also one of nine clubs to utilize solar power at their ballpark. The club will increase its commitment to green power by approximately 12,000 REC (Renewable energy certificate) in 2018, enough to offset all of its gameday energy usage for the entire season.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright

It's been nearly two decades since Fernando Tatis hit two grand slams in one inning

For most Major Leaguers, just hitting one grand slam is a career highlight. Derek Jeter needed nearly a decade -- 6,542 at-bats! -- to hit his first, and he's done seemingly everything a baseball player can do. 

So you'd think that, once the stars have aligned and you've hit that grand slam, you wouldn't get greedy. You just drove in four runs with one swing, after all, and it's not like you're likely to do it again in the same game: Only 13 players have pulled that off, and none since Josh Willingham back in 2009. 

Of course, former Cardinals third baseman Fernando Tatis didn't concern himself with hitting two in one game. On April 23, 1999, at Dodger Stadium, he hit two in the same inning.

Yadi's go-ahead homer pushes Cards to win

Martinez extends MLB-best scoreless streak to 18 innings
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- They were the types of lineup alterations more befitting a reeling team. The leadoff hitter dropped to fifth. The No. 3 batter was pushed to the top. The slowest runner slotted in second, in the absence of the club's lone five-tool threat.

But the Cardinals aren't reeling. They're rolling, winners of seven of eight and in first place in the National League Central after their new-look lineup squeezed out a 4-3 win over the Reds on Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

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ST. LOUIS -- They were the types of lineup alterations more befitting a reeling team. The leadoff hitter dropped to fifth. The No. 3 batter was pushed to the top. The slowest runner slotted in second, in the absence of the club's lone five-tool threat.

But the Cardinals aren't reeling. They're rolling, winners of seven of eight and in first place in the National League Central after their new-look lineup squeezed out a 4-3 win over the Reds on Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

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Hitting second for the first time in nearly four years, Yadier Molina's go-ahead homer off Jared Hughes in the seventh proved the deciding blow. Dropped to fifth in the order after a slow start, Dexter Fowler launched a solo shot in the sixth. Hitting sixth -- already his fourth different lineup spot this season -- Paul DeJong's two-run homer opened the scoring in the second. All of which backed another masterful outing from Carlos Martinez, and sent St. Louis to its 10th consecutive win against the Reds.

Video: CIN@STL: DeJong clubs a two-run tater to open scoring

"They're good hitters, they're going to hit no matter where we put them," manager Mike Matheny said. "I know guys don't necessarily like being bounced around. They like staying in one spot, and I get that. But sometimes we have to move one guy to push another guy a little bit, do something like that. Fortunately, we had some production today and big hits in big situations."

Pundits will debate endlessly the extent to which lineup construction matters, the answers often unclear. Fact is, Matheny's lineup won't look this way once Tommy Pham returns from a minor groin injury. But at least for one day, Matheny inked names in newsworthy spots, looking to tap into "the psychology" of Fowler and Matt Carpenter, his two important, and slumping, regulars. And the immediate results were plain to see.

Fowler's home run came on his bobblehead day, on an afternoon he entered hitting .176. Carpenter doubled after entering the day hitting .177. And Molina was only in the position to untie the game because he was hitting second, a rare space for any catcher. He earned a curtain call after uncorking a 404-foot shot off Hughes, an inning after the Reds erased a three-run lead against reliever Tyler Lyons.

Cut4: Fowler's daughter had the cutest reaction to her dad's bobblehead giveaway

Video: CIN@STL: Fowler cracks a solo dinger to right-center

"The momentum had swung," Matheny said. "Yadi amazes us with the way he's not only able to get those types of things going, but switched over."

Struggling with his command while making his second appearance in two days, the left-handed Lyons didn't retire any of the four hitters he faced. Three were left-handed, including Scooter Gennett, who rocketed a game-tying single off Lyons while fireman Jordan Hicks watched from the bullpen.

Hicks shows grit in earning first big league win

"I pushed Tyler too far," Matheny said. "And it hurt us."

Molina's homer then set the stage for the 21-year-old Hicks, who earned his first career win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Hicks needed one pitch to defuse Lyons' jam in the seventh, then breezed through the eighth. He loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batsman in the ninth, but remained in the game with Bud Norris unavailable and Greg Holland hardly warming. Using his triple-digit sinker, Hicks got Gennett to bounce into a game-ending double play.

"It was his game," Matheny said. "He has special stuff, and I think he has the makeup that allows you to put him out there in any situation."

Video: CIN@STL: Hicks induces a game-ending double play

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong made a sensational over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right field on a soft liner by Adam Duvall in the sixth. Wong was able to complete the 4-3 double play after Gennett, who led off the inning with a single, broke for second to end a possible Reds rally.

"He goes back into the outfield like he did on that play, which changed the game, as good as anybody I've ever seen," Matheny said.

Video: CIN@STL: Wong makes great snag, turns double play

SOUND SMART
Martinez blanked Cincinnati for the second time this week, this time over six innings. In doing so, he extended his scoreless-innings streak to 18, the longest active streak in the Majors and the second longest this season. Martinez has allowed just a lone run over his last 27 1/3 innings pitched.

"Right now he's on another level," Molina said.

Video: CIN@STL: Martinez throws six scoreless, fans seven

HE SAID IT
"I don't show much emotion on the mound. It's how I've been my whole life. My mom used to ask me, 'Do you want to play baseball?' Because I don't show much emotion. But I love it! I just kind of stay even." -- Hicks

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Cardinals challenged when one of Hicks' sinkers sizzled near the jersey of Reds shortstop Jose Peraza with one out in the ninth. The call stood after a 56-second review as a hit-by-pitch, pushing the tying run to second with Joey Votto coming up against Hicks. Votto walked before Hicks sealed the win with Gennett's double play.

Video: CIN@STL: Peraza is plunked by a pitch in the 9th

UP NEXT
The Cardinals will look for their 11th consecutive win against the Reds, and their second sweep of Cincinnati in a week, when this series concludes Sunday. The last time St. Louis won that many in a row against the Reds was 1949. Right-hander Miles Mikolas (2-0, 4.26) beat them last weekend, and returns to the mound for the 1:15 p.m. CT tilt. The Reds will counter with right-hander Luis Castillo.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Yadier Molina

Hicks shows grit in sealing first big league win

Cards rookie throws 2 1/3 scoreless innings to finish off Reds
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Your first Major League win is supposed to be one you remember most, long after your career is through, the details etched in your mind and immune to the cruelty of time.

But just minutes after Jordan Hicks' first big league win, which he earned -- capital E -- by closing out St. Louis' 4-3 win over the Reds on Saturday, the rookie already could barely recall.

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ST. LOUIS -- Your first Major League win is supposed to be one you remember most, long after your career is through, the details etched in your mind and immune to the cruelty of time.

But just minutes after Jordan Hicks' first big league win, which he earned -- capital E -- by closing out St. Louis' 4-3 win over the Reds on Saturday, the rookie already could barely recall.

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"I think I blacked out a little bit," said Hicks, who completed 2 1/3 scoreless innings by wiggling out of a tense, traffic-heavy ninth.

Asked when he woke up, Hicks said: "When we were shaking hands."

Somewhere in between, the 21-year-old rookie showed why the Cardinals already trust him in the most high-leverage spots. His triple-digit stuff with run is no longer a secret, not after three weeks of hapless swings and Statcast™ readings. His demeanor is garnering a reputation as well, eliciting adjectives every late-inning arm wants to be associated with. Fearless. Trustworthy. The guy the manager opts to win or lose with, which is exactly what Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny did with Hicks on Saturday, while Greg Holland barely stirred in the bullpen.

"It was his [Hicks'] game," Matheny said. "That's a tough spot to toss Holland into as we try to slow play this."

Video: CIN@STL: Fowler, Matheny on Cardinals' 4-3 victory

With closer Bud Norris unavailable after throwing 29 pitches the night before, Matheny allowed Hicks to finish the ninth, an equation churning in his mind.

A starter in the Minor Leagues until this season, Hicks has the ability to throw multiple innings, even while his stuff and velocity profiles more for a one-inning role. 

Hicks was summoned after Tyler Lyons allowed a game-tying single in the seventh to left-handed-hitting Scooter Gennett. Hicks immediately escaped further damage and then breezed through the eighth, before escaping trouble of his own creation in the ninth.

Pitching with a one-run lead courtesy of a Yadier Molina home run, Hicks hit a batter and walked two more, loading the bases for Gennett with one out. He had nearly ended the game a batter before, when Joey Votto worked a walk by taking several close two-strike pitches, all registering near triple-digits.

"There were a couple pitches on Votto [that were close]," Matheny said. "I don't think he really cares who is up there. For the most part, he trusts his stuff. Any pitch he's throwing, he has confidence it's going to work out."

Two 98-mph sinkers later, it did, when Gennett bounced into a 6-4-3 double play.

Hicks planned to celebrate his first career victory over dinner with his parents, Jason and Jennifer, who visited from Houston to see their son pitch in the Majors for the first time. Maybe they'll fill in the blanks for him.

"When I'm out there I'm just in the moment," Hicks said. "It's not like I don't remember anything, I just try to stay in that moment and do my job."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Jordan Hicks

Dexter Fowler's daughter Naya had the cutest reaction to her dad's bobblehead giveaway

On Saturday, the Cardinals held a bobblehead giveaway for Dexter Fowler. This was his first ever gate giveaway in an MLB stadium in addition to being his first bobblehead. The outfielder was excited about the event, but it was his daughter Naya who had the most adorable reaction to it.

Wacha in the park: Righty masterful vs. Reds

Cards win 9th straight vs. division foe; starter now 10-1 against them
Special to MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha can't explain his success against the Cincinnati Reds. He just hopes the impressive run continues.

"I don't know what it is," Wacha said. "I try not to think about who's out there. Just trying to tag every single team that comes in here."

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ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha can't explain his success against the Cincinnati Reds. He just hopes the impressive run continues.

"I don't know what it is," Wacha said. "I try not to think about who's out there. Just trying to tag every single team that comes in here."

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Wacha c