DENVER -- The Cardinals are down to two off-days left in the regular season, and Monday is their last one on the road. They’ve spent it celebrating a 4 1/2-game lead in the National League Central, but knowing that the race is far from over -- and gearing up for
DENVER -- The Cardinals are down to two off-days left in the regular season, and Monday is their last one on the road. They’ve spent it celebrating a 4 1/2-game lead in the National League Central, but knowing that the race is far from over -- and gearing up for the final stretch which, after this week’s three-game series against the Rockies, will be against contending teams.
Let’s get to your questions:
Has Tommy Edman locked up the third-base job going forward? If so, where does that leave Matt Carpenter?
-- Kyle, Jacksonville, Ore.
Edman has locked up playing time moving forward -- what position he plays is the question. Remember: when the Cardinals played the back-to-back doubleheader two weeks ago against the Reds in St. Louis, Edman played three positions in three different games and didn’t skip a beat. The Cardinals don’t lose anything defensively when Edman is playing. He is also a spark either at the top of the lineup (usually when Dexter Fowler sits and Edman plays right field) or at the bottom of the lineup (usually when Edman is playing third base). It would not be surprising to see Edman starting at third base for many of the games left this month as the Cardinals put their best lineup together for the tough schedule, especially since Edman can produce from both sides of the plate and is hitting .333 (22-for-66) against lefties this season.
As for Carpenter, that leaves him slotting in at third base when Edman needs a day off or is at another position. Carpenter has made the most of his playing time when he gets it, and that gives the Cardinals a powerful left-handed bat off the bench or in the bottom of the lineup. Manager Mike Shildt has set Carpenter up for success with the matchups against right-handers and his spot near the bottom of the lineup.
If he pitches on normal rest, Jack Flaherty will face the Brewers and the Nationals but miss the entire four-game series in Chicago. Do you think the Cards might spot-start Daniel Ponce de Leon or Genesis Cabrera along the way to change that?
-- Michael, Pleasant Hill, Iowa
If the rotation stays the same, Flaherty -- the MLB leader in ERA (0.76) since the All-Star break -- will face the Brewers, the Cubs and the D-backs this month -- three teams vying for the playoffs. He will miss the Nationals series at Busch Stadium, but Dakota Hudson, who has a 2.03 ERA since the beginning of August, will start the first game of that series.
The Cardinals likely won’t adjust the rotation until the last series of the regular season, when they could start Flaherty for the last game against the Cubs in St. Louis. With how important these next few weeks are, and how good the rotation has been lately -- a combined 2.68 ERA in the last month -- the Cardinals will likely turn to the same five starters they had on Opening Day to finish out the season.
Here’s how that would shake out:
• Tuesday-Thursday at Colorado: Michael Wacha, Hudson, Miles Mikolas
• Friday-Sunday vs. Milwaukee: Adam Wainwright, Flaherty, Wacha
• Sept. 16-18 vs. Washington: Hudson, Mikolas, Wainwright
• Sept. 19-22 at Chicago: Flaherty, Wacha, Hudson, Mikolas
• Sept. 23-25 at Arizona: Wainwright, Flaherty, Wacha
• Sept. 27-29 vs. Chicago: Hudson, Mikolas and either Wainwright or Flaherty
The final series against the Cubs will depend on how the Cardinals stand in the NL Central. If they’ve already clinched the division, Wainwright would likely start Sept. 29. Flaherty could then potentially start two games in an NL Division Series. Either way, the 23-year-old Flaherty seems poised to carry the Cardinals to the postseason.
What’s the plan with Carlos Martinez next season with Jordan Hicks coming back?
-- Matt, London
While the focus is on finishing out the 2019 season strong, it’s not too early to look ahead to ‘20. Martinez’s situation is an intriguing one. He has transitioned to the closer spot well, with 17 saves in 18 opportunities since taking over at the end of the June for Hicks, who had Tommy John surgery. Martinez enjoys closing, but he has insisted that he wants to try starting again next year. The Cardinals haven’t ruled it out, and Martinez will go to Spring Training next year with a chance to grab a rotation spot.
Hicks could return about halfway through next season, so the Cardinals would have to find an alternative closer until then if Martinez makes a return to the rotation. Andrew Miller and John Gant both have some closing experience.
Martinez will need to prove that his shoulder is strong enough to handle starting duties. It wasn’t last September, which is why he was moved to the bullpen. And it wasn’t in Spring Training and early this season. Will it be strong enough next season? His answer is yes. But Martinez and the Cardinals need to close out 2019 first.
Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.