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Cardinals sketch out rotation for final weekend

September 25, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- Though plans are subject to change based on the standings, the Cardinals are prepared to start Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty in their final series of the regular season.Those outings would come at Wrigley Field, where the Cardinals will begin a three-game series against the

ST. LOUIS -- Though plans are subject to change based on the standings, the Cardinals are prepared to start Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty in their final series of the regular season.
Those outings would come at Wrigley Field, where the Cardinals will begin a three-game series against the Cubs on Friday. It's likely that Wainwright will start the series opener regardless of where the Cardinals are in the Wild Card standings at that time. Whether Mikolas and Flaherty will pitch behind him could be a day-of decision.
The Cardinals would prefer to hold those two pitchers back as options to start the National League Wild Card Game (Oct. 2) and/or Game 1 of the NL Division Series (Oct. 4). But they'll only have that luxury if they've secured a Wild Card berth by the weekend.
After Tuesday's 12-4 loss to Milwaukee, the Cardinals were a half-game behind the Rockies for the NL's second Wild Card spot. The earliest St. Louis could clinch a postseason spot would be Saturday.
The Cubs have not officially laid out their rotation plans for the weekend, though Kyle Hendricks, Cole Hamels and Mike Montgomery are currently in line to make those starts.
Wong back in lineup
After appearing as a pinch-hitter Monday, Kolten Wong returned to the Cardinals' lineup as the eight-hole hitter Tuesday. It marked Wong's first start since he exited Friday's game with cramping in both hamstrings.
"Obviously at this point in the season, nobody is 100 percent," Wong said Tuesday. "As long as I know I can run and I can play, I'm going to be in there. To have both hamstrings barking at the same time wasn't fun. But with the couple days I had off, I was able to relax and get to the point where I know I can play."

The discomfort hasn't entirely disappeared, though, and Wong knows he still has to address the underlying issue -- a compromised left knee with loose cartilage -- over the offseason. Until then, the key, he acknowledged, is to try to manage how hard he pushes.
"For me that's hard because I'm a guy who plays hard all the time," Wong said. "And I think that's why injuries happen to me pretty frequently. There is no second gear. It's zero to 100 with me. That's how I play."
To sub or not to sub?
Since implementing Jose Martinez as his everyday right fielder in August, manager Mike Shildt has been mostly predictable in how he's managed Martinez's outfield exposure late in games. If the Cardinals have a lead late, Martinez typically exits for a defensive replacement.
But Monday presented a more complex decision for Shildt, who, with the game tied after seven innings, stuck with Martinez knowing that his spot in the lineup would likely come up in the ninth. It did, but not before Martinez bungled a play in right field that set the Brewers up to score the go-ahead run in their eventual 6-4 win.

"Outside of the ball last night, I don't know if there have been any glaring issues with Jose," Shildt said. "He's throwing to the right base. He's hitting his cutoff man. And I've actually gotten to a point where some nights I go, 'Why do I feel the need to get him out of there?'"
Also factoring into the decision was the fact that Tyler O'Neill and Matt Adams had already been used off the bench. That meant neither would have been available to hit behind Matt Carpenter in the ninth inning if Martinez were already out of the game.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.