Critical rubber game awaits Cardinals vs. Royals


Heading into Monday’s three-game series against the Kansas City Royals, a split of the first two games was a reasonable expectation for the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s exactly what they got, though probably not in the order that was expected.

The two teams will play the rubber-game of the series Wednesday night. Carlos Martinez (0-2, 8.40 ERA) will get the start for St. Louis (27-25). Danny Duffy (3-4, 5.01 ERA) will get the ball for Kansas City (22-33).

The Cardinals sent ace Adam Wainwright to the mound Monday against Royals rookie Carlos Hernandez. Wainwright took the 4-1 loss after giving up a two-run single in the sixth to Maikel Franco against the shift.

The Cardinals reversed script Tuesday against Royals rookie Brady Singer, who had thrown 14 consecutive scoreless innings, as Austin Gomber threw six shutout innings in a 5-0 St. Louis victory.

“We had Wayno going and he was pitching well,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said Tuesday. “We got on the board early and got Hernandez out of there. But their bullpen was set up to pitch like they did. They’ve got some guys with some good arms.

“Tonight, Gomber was great and the offense got going early and continued to add on. It was a team effort.”

That means that Wednesday’s game carries additional importance. Or does it?

The Cardinals are trying to hold off Cincinnati and Milwaukee for second place, and the playoff spot that goes with it, in the NL Central. But Shildt said his team will have the same approach regardless.

“We’re in that mode, but we’re in that mode every night,” Shildt said. “Whether we’re in April or we’re coming out on July 24 for opening day this year. We’re in that mode to compete. Clearly, it’s a game that’s important, but it’s going to come down to playing fundamentally sound baseball.

“If Carlos comes out and commands the strike zone, like Austin did tonight, and we play clean defensively and take quality at-bats, we’ll feel good about tomorrow. That’s all we can do.”

Martinez allowed five runs, though only one was earned, in his last start against Pittsburgh. He will be facing the Royals for the first time this season. For his career, he’s 1-0 with a 1.02 ERA against Kansas City. He’s allowed two earned runs on 16 hits in 17 2/3 innings. He’s struck out 11 and walked just two.

The Royals, who were eliminated from the postseason race Tuesday, will rely on Duffy to win the rubber game.

Duffy also struggled in his last start, though he started strong. He struck out four batters in the first three innings and the Royals led 4-0 after three.

But the wheels came off in the fourth. He gave up a leadoff home run to Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich. He gave up another run after allowing two walks and two singles.

Then, with the bases loaded and two outs, he gave up a grand slam to Jacob Nottingham for a 6-4 Brewers lead.

“It was supposed to be down and in,” Duffy said of the pitch to Nottingham. “It was just kind of a cement-mixer that unfortunately stayed up middle and in. I don’t typically look in hindsight at pitches I’d wish I’d thrown. I just wish I’d executed better.”

Duffy has not faced the Cardinals this year, but he’s 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA in his career against the cross-state rivals. He’s struck out 24 and walked just three in 23 career innings.

–Field Level Media

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