ST. LOUIS -- Needing someone to step up and stabilize an unsteady pitching staff, the Cardinals found that fix in Luke Weaver, who did more than simply fill a vacant spot in the rotation Wednesday. He provided St. Louis with its most dominant start in more than a month.It catapulted
ST. LOUIS -- Needing someone to step up and stabilize an unsteady pitching staff, the Cardinals found that fix in Luke Weaver, who did more than simply fill a vacant spot in the rotation Wednesday. He provided St. Louis with its most dominant start in more than a month.
It catapulted the Cardinals to a 6-2 victory over the Padres that helped them keep pace in the National League Central, where they trail the Cubs by 4 1/2 games, and inch to within four games of an NL Wild Card spot. Weaver's seven-inning start also offered a breather for the bullpen, which had been burdened with all those innings left uncovered during the rotation's recent regression.
It had been 26 days since the Cardinals last had a starting pitcher throw five scoreless innings. Weaver went seven.
"We needed that," manager Mike Matheny said afterward. "Just an impressive start."
Weaver, with a 10-2 record and 2.55 ERA in 15 Triple-A starts, was a ready replacement for Adam Wainwright, who is sidelined until at least September with a right elbow impingement. The lack of aggressiveness that complicated starts for Weaver last season has not been present in his recent appearances for St. Louis.
On Wednesday, Weaver threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 26 batters he faced and struck out at least one batter in each of his seven frames. With his second career 10-strikeout performance, Weaver joined Alan Benes as the only pitchers in franchise history with multiple double-digit strikeout games in their first 15 Major League appearances.
Weaver was helped by 22 called strikes, of which 17 came off a four-seam fastball that Weaver showed a willingness to elevate at key moments in the game.
"I felt great," Weaver said. "I felt like everything was rolling really well. Command of the fastball was the biggest thing for me tonight, getting ahead early, and even when falling behind in some counts, I was able to make some really good pitches and get some strikeouts looking on the fastball, which shows me the mechanics are good."
Matheny noted that Weaver's arm slot also seems to be creating deception for the right-hander, who has allowed two earned runs over his last two starts. He has struck out 18 over those 13 1/3 innings.
"If a guy who has something that is just a little bit different than everybody else in the league," Matheny said, "it's going to be an advantage to the pitcher."
With Wainwright still at least a week away from resuming a throwing program, Weaver will see his turn in the rotation come around multiple times before the Cardinals have another decision to make regarding his role.
"I go out there and try to do the best I can," Weaver said. "It was a good boost for our team to get that 'W' and that momentum. I'm just happy I could contribute and be on for tonight."
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.