The Cardinals’ ideal rotation will be intact once Miles Mikolas makes his season debut Saturday against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of a three-game series in St. Louis.
But the Cardinals’ bigger problem at the moment is their bullpen.
After Carlos Martinez delivered a quality start Friday in his own return from injury, allowing two runs in six innings, the Cubs scored eight runs in the eighth inning, benefiting from a pair of bases loaded walks by St. Louis relievers to take the first meeting between the longtime rivals this season, 12-3.
Cardinals’ relievers walked five batters overall and surrendered nine earned runs, and have now issued 97 walks this season.
Aside from Giovanny Gallegos, Genesis Cabrera and closer Alex Reyes, no Cardinals reliever that has pitched more than five innings this season has an ERA south of 5.19.
“Listen, it was a 4-3 game going into the eighth,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “It didn’t work out. It was a rough inning.”
Ian Happ went 3-for-4 with a single and a double in the eighth. Joc Pederson, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and David Bote each had two RBI. Pederson recorded his 22nd career leadoff home run.
“I was able to look for something over the plate and I was able to put it on the barrel,” Pederson said.
Kyle Hendricks also had an encouraging start, allowing one earned run and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.
“It feel really good being about to trust my stuff again,” Hendricks said. “I appreciate everybody sticking with me.”
Mikolas will make his first start in over a year as he returns from surgery on his right flexor tendon and shoulder soreness, and will oppose Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay (2-3, 4.62 ERA).
Mikolas, an All-Star in 2018, is 31-24 with a 3.78 ERA in 74 career starts plus 27 relief appearances (476 innings). He last pitched in the majors on Oct. 11, 2019, in Game 1 of the NLCS against Washington.
“It seems like it’s been a while,” Mikolas said on Friday. “I’m just excited to get back out there. It’s been too long.”
Mikolas is 3-2 with a 1.57 ERA in 51 2/3 innings (eight starts and two relief appearances) for his career against the Cubs.
In three rehab starts at Triple-A Memphis, Mikolas compiled a 3.65 ERA over 12 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts and two walks. He threw 89 pitches in his most recent start on Sunday.
Alzolay won his most recent start on Monday against the Nationals despite giving up three runs on five hits, including two home runs, in five innings. Alzolay struck out three and did not issue a walk.
In two career starts against the Cardinals, Alzolay is 0-1 with a 2.35 ERA in 7 2/3 innings with 10 strikeouts and six walks.
On Friday, the Cubs placed lefty reliever Justin Steele on the 10-day IL with a right hamstring strain and recalled lefty Brad Wieck from Triple-A Iowa.
Shildt said shortstop Paul DeJong (fractured rib) won’t be coming off the 10-day injured list on Sunday when he’s eligible because he hasn’t been cleared to do any baseball activities yet. Tyler O’Neill (fractured middle finger, left hand) took part in fielding and base running activities on Friday. The Cardinals optioned first baseman John Nogowski to Triple-A Memphis.
–Field Level Media