ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals and Padres arrived at Busch Stadium on Tuesday with intentions to showcase contrasting strategies. Absent of a fifth starter, San Diego planned to deploy a parade of relievers throughout the night. St. Louis countered with Miles Mikolas, a prototypical ace-type who has spent much of
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals and Padres arrived at Busch Stadium on Tuesday with intentions to showcase contrasting strategies. Absent of a fifth starter, San Diego planned to deploy a parade of relievers throughout the night. St. Louis countered with Miles Mikolas, a prototypical ace-type who has spent much of this season pacing one of the National League's top rotations.
Not long ago, the discrepancy would have implied a mismatch. But relievers rule the modern game, and the Padres, despite their last-place record, feature some of baseball's best. So it was opposite a variety of arm angles and arsenals that the Cardinals lineup was held quiet for much of the night, when a cadre of bullpen arms combined to outpitch Mikolas and hand the Cardinals a 4-2 defeat in front of crowd of 40,199.
"Normally when a starter will go five or six innings you get more comfortable as your at bats continue," Cardinals right fielder Harrison Bader said. "In this instance, it wasnt that. It's always a fresh look."
Held without a baserunner until Bader's infield single in the sixth, St. Louis did not break through until an inning later, scoring two runs off the third of five Padres relievers -- Craig Stammen -- in the seventh. But by then they were down four, their offense lulled to that point by Matt Strahm and Adam Cimber.
The tally and lanky left-handed Strahm retired all nine men he faced before Cimber breezed through the next six, the submariner pitching with a lead after San Diego tallied three off Mikolas on the fourth. Eric Hosmer's solo homer opened the scoring, and A.J. Ellis added a two-run single, attaching runs to half of the hits Mikolas scattered across six innings. That was enough to saddle Mikolas with his second loss in three starts, over which he's allowed four earned runs combined.
"That's two losses on him without much offense against him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We liked our chances throwing Miles out there against anybody whether or not we are able to stack together [hits]. They held us down for five innings before we were able to put any kind of pressure on them at all."
Mike Mayers allowed a run in the seventh, stretching St. Louis' deficit prior to its two-run rally in the bottom of the frame. The Cardinals brought the tying run to the plate in each of the final two innings but didn't score against either Kirby Yates or Brad Hand, who capped a constant stream of platoon changes summoned to keep St. Louis off-balance. The right-handed Yates relies heavily on a split finger, while Hand is a southpaw who throws predominately sliders. They followed Stammen, an over-the-top sinkerballer, the sidearming Cimber and Shrahm, a four-pitch lefty.
"It's the state of the game right now" Matheny said. "It's good stuff out there on the mound, and I think that's what we saw today, starting on the left side, then switching to the right, and all the way through the back end of their 'pen. That's how they wanted to design it, and it worked."
Mikolas did not issue a walk for the sixth time in 13 starts. He is the only Major League starter with at least 10 starts and fewer than 10 walks on the season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Starting in place of the still-slumping William Fowler in right field, Bader used his signature speed to break up San Diego's combined perfect game in the sixth. Bader raced 31.1 feet per second to beat out a chopper to the left side, making it from home to first in 4.04 seconds. It was his second fastest sprint speed on a baserunning play this year and tied for his 3rd-fastest home-to-first on a non-bunt. Bader entered play ranked fifth among qualified MLB runners with a 29.9 ft./sec. average sprint speed on baserunning plays.
"When I sniff one," Bader said. "I bust it!"
HE SAID IT
"It's unique stuff, certainly, from the right side with an upshoot, little different. It's not a typical trajectory and the release point is different and also the flight of the ball, by the time you're seeing that low angle you're seeing a ball that's got heavy sink movement going down and he's using it in the top of the zone." -- Matheny, on Cimber
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Cardinals tried unsuccessfully to shave a run off the board following Ellis' two-run knock in the fourth, challenging Freddy Galvis' slide into home ahead of Bader's throw from right. Galvis was originally ruled safe after appearing to sneak in underneath Yadier Molina's tag at the plate. The call stood after a 1-minute, 47-second review.
Right-hander Luke Weaver (3-5, 4.35 ERA) opposes Padres lefty Eric Lauer (2-4, 6.64 ERA) on the hill in Wednesday's series finale. Weaver will pitch for his first win since the Cardinals defeated the Padres on May 11, when he allowed four hits and no runs in five innings. The Cardinals will try to end a nine-game stretch against the NL's three last-place teams with a winning record. They are currently 4-4 across three series against the Marlins, Reds and Padres.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.