ST. LOUIS — After his team's 5-4 victory over Houston on Thursday, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny expressed growing concern about an overused bullpen.
Closer Jason Motte tried to put those fears to rest.
"When that phone rings, I'm going to go out there and bust my butt to do whatever I can," said Motte, who posted his 38th save by striking out the side in the ninth after a leadoff infield single.
"I know it's the same thing for every single one of these guys," he said. "We don't shy away from anything. Our arms could pretty much be falling off."
Motte has worked in five consecutive games over six days. He was preceded on the mound Thursday by Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs, Marc Rzepczynski and Fernando Salas.
Only Salas and Motte succeeded. Salas worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth by striking out Jose Altuve and former Cardinals farmhand Brett Wallace.
"That's the game," Matheny said of Salas' work. "You get there with, arguably, their best hitter in Altuve. The guy's just a tough, tough out. 'Sally' came in and made great pitches. I wanted us to get out (of that) with the lead --however he had to do it."
Mujica and Rzepczynski have pitched two consecutive days, while Boggs has pitched three in a row.
Only Victor Marte and rookies Sam Freeman, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal will be fresh when the Cardinals open another important three-game series at 1:20 p.m. Friday at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Salas, too, will be available, and could be used in a save situation to give Motte a breather.
"These guys are really beat up right now, but they're still finding a way to make it happen and picking each other up," Matheny said, referring to the end of his bullpen.
"(But) I'm very concerned. We'll have to adjust accordingly. We talk about how important everything is right now. It calls us to the table. Fortunately, they've been feeling good every day, but that's not going to be able to continue. So we're concerned."
Salas on Thursday bailed out Boggs, who walked two, and Rzepczynski, who walked one, and got the game to Motte in the ninth. Motte allowed Matt Dominguez's hit before fanning Justin Maxwell, Jason Castro and Brian Bogusevic.
"He's still off a click," Matheny said of Motte. "But he's finding a way to get it done."
Boggs insisted he remains strong, dismissing any suggestion he could be fatigued. He pointed out his dominant eighth inning Wednesday when he struck out the side for his 31st hold of the season.
Regarding the two walks he issued Thursday, Boggs said: "Sometimes you miss by just that much, and it ends up being a walk."
Motte, who has worked in 62 games, said he doesn't keep track of his workload. He pitched in a career-high 78 games last season.
"I just go out there and don't really think about it," he said. "I don't do anything but go out there and try to make my pitches. If the situation comes up and they call down for me (Friday), I'm going to go out there and do everything I can.
"I feel fine. No matter what happens that day, I'm never going to associate it to, 'Oh, I was tired. I've been overused.' You either make your pitches or you don't. That's what it boils down to."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.