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'Pen usage a daily puzzle for Shildt

Cards to stick with five-man rotation; postseason tix on sale Thursday
September 18, 2018

ATLANTA -- Piecing together available and effective arms to secure the final outs of a game remains a daily puzzle for manager Mike Shildt. Fortunately for him on Tuesday, the offense provided enough of a late burst in an eventual 8-1 win to keep him from having to decide how

ATLANTA -- Piecing together available and effective arms to secure the final outs of a game remains a daily puzzle for manager Mike Shildt. Fortunately for him on Tuesday, the offense provided enough of a late burst in an eventual 8-1 win to keep him from having to decide how comfortable he'd be riding closer Carlos Martinez for a third consecutive day.
After hinting hours before the game that he would stay away from Martinez in a save situation, Shildt found himself leaning toward including him in his late-inning plans as the Cardinals were hanging on to a one-run lead.
Before he could set up the ninth, though, he had to determine when best to deploy rookie Jordan Hicks, the freshest of the team's late-game arms. Even though Hicks had thrown 35 pitches over a two-inning appearance on Sunday, it was his only appearance in an eight-day span.
Shildt could have saved Hicks for the final two frames but instead let the situation dictate the usage. He sent Hicks in to face Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis in the seventh.
Hicks' sinker had unreal amounts of movement
"We wanted Hicks to get the heart of the order," Shildt said.
Hicks retired the side on 13 pitches and was ready to handle the eighth, too, until his spot in the order arrived with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the inning, so Shildt changed his plans and pinch-hit for the rookie right-hander.
"We just weigh what that looks like," Shildt said. "But the spot came up, a chance to do damage. We chose to hit for him."
Pinch-hitter Patrick Wisdom didn't come through, but Yadier Molina did one hitter later, clearing the bases with a single and an assist from a Braves error. Had the game not been broken open, Shildt was prepared to give Dominic Leone the eighth and allow Martinez a limited number of pitches one day after he labored through a 32-pitch appearance.
It would have been the first time this season that Martinez would have been called on for a third consecutive day. The six runs the Cardinals scored in the last two innings negated that need.
Adding to the complexity of the bullpen situation is the status of Bud Norris, who remains unavailable while a callus on his right middle finger heals. Norris likely won't be used until Friday, Shildt said.
Rotation plans
The Cardinals will stick with a five-man rotation and roll it over, in order, following Thursday's off-day, Shildt confirmed. That means John Gant, Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas line up to pitch in the upcoming series against the Giants. The start is the last one Wainwright is assured as a Cardinal at Busch Stadium, though a run into October or a contract extension could buy him more time.
Looking beyond the weekend, the pitching plans for a potential Wild Card Game have also crystallized. The club has 22-year-old rookie Jack Flaherty lined up for that start, though Flaherty could also come back on normal rest to pitch on the final day of the season, if that is a must-win game. He could also be summoned to start a Game 163, if there is one.
Worth noting
• Tickets for potential Wild Card and National League Division Series games will go on sale at noon CT on Thursday. Fans can purchase tickets online at cardinals.com, by phone (314-345-9000) or in person at the Busch Stadium box office. Individuals who place a deposit on 2019 season tickets will receive early access to postseason tickets.
• After pitching the final inning in the 14-4 win that sealed a Triple-A National Championship for Memphis on Tuesday, right-hander Giovanny Gallegos learned that he had been called back up to the Majors. Acquired by the Cardinals in a Trade Deadline deal with the Yankees, Gallegos allowed three runs on 11 hits and four walks over 23 2/3 innings with Memphis. He struck out 20.

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.