The St. Louis Cardinals will try to complete a season-opening sweep of the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
The Cardinals won the first two games of the three-game series at Busch Stadium, 5-4 and 9-1, lifting their record against the Pirates to 16-5 since the start of the 2019 season, including 12-1 in the last 13 meetings.
Dakota Hudson (16-7, 3.35 ERA last season) will get the starting pitching nod for the Cardinals. He was 1-0 with one save and a 4.24 ERA in four appearances against the Pirates last season, including three starts.
Hudson is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in seven career appearances against them. Pirates slugger Josh Bell is 6-for-8 against Hudson with four doubles and two RBIs. Kevin Newman is 3-for-9 with an RBI.
Hudson demonstrated better command during his final intrasquad game of the summer camp. That gave him some confidence heading into his first start of the season.
“I actually started to feel a little bit different, and you could tell a little bit more connected with some offspeed stuff,” Hudson said. “(I was) able to throw a couple good changeups there at the end and grab some lower-in-the-zone strikes.”
Pirates starter Mitch Keller (1-5, 7.13 ERA last season) will face the Cardinals for the first time in his career. He is looking to make big strides this season after spending the pandemic shutdown refining his mechanics.
“Delivery, his mechanics, stuff like that, I like them. They’re pretty efficient. Pretty short, pretty quick. It sneaks up on you with high velocity,” Oscar Marin told MLB.com. “Making sure he knows exactly where to go with his pitches, I think, was the No. 1 thing that we wanted to make sure he understood, and he’s doing a really good job with getting there. To understand information, and knowing where he needs to go and why he needs to go to certain places, has really helped out.”
Keller is learning to work more effectively up in the strike zone.
“That’s a really hard pitch to hit,” he said. “Chances of your barreling up a high heater than one down in the zone, especially with the way some guys’ bat paths work. Just being able to change eye levels and change perceptions and the way breaking balls play off that is huge. Just to be able to have that pitch to break it out and use it, you can really play your other pitches off of that. I think it opens a lot of doors.”
Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco gained clearance in the COVID-19 protocol and resumed working out. He won’t play Sunday, but he could return to the lineup at some point soon.
Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos pitched in simulated game scenario Saturday and passed his final test. After reporting late from Mexico after encountering travel problems, he will fill the 30th spot on the team’s roster.
“He was really sharp,” manager Mike Shildt said. “He was a little more consistent with his command today than a couple of days ago. So if he recovers well, you can expect to see him ready to go out of our bullpen.”
In the absence of Gallegos on Friday, Shildt deployed converted starter Kwang Hyun Kim as the closer and watched him struggle to get the final three outs, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits.
“I don’t have much experience as the closer so I could say I was nervous because of that,” said Kim through his interpreter. “I still know I have to be better every game. I have to be much better.”
–Field Level Media