This much is known as the St. Louis Cardinals head to Chicago for Game 3 of the National League Division Series: Michael Wacha will get the ball against Cy Young Award candidate Jake Arrieta of the Cubs on Monday at Wrigley Field.
Arrieta, who hasn’t lost since July 20 against the Philadelphia Phillies, could push the Cardinals into a must-win situation for Game 4 on Tuesday.
But Cardinals manager Mike Matheny used his Game 4 starter, Lance Lynn, for one inning Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the Cubs in Game 2 at Busch Stadium.
Matheny said after the game that Lynn remains the scheduled starter for Wednesday, but could No. 50, Adam Wainwright, be waiting in the wings for perhaps an extended outing?
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Wainwright was dominant in Game 3 when he worked 1 2/3 innings and struck out three. It was his first relief outing since 2006 when he served as the Cardinals closer.
With all hands on deck what could be a possible elimination game Tuesday, Wainwright conceivably could be extended beyond two or three innings to subdue the Cubs.
“I don’t think we rule out anything,” Matheny said. “But my usual answer (is) we’ve got a game in between that we’re focused on right now, so we go out and play. Then we’ll figure things out when we get to that point.”
Wainwright seems up to any challenge the Cardinals put in his path. Matheny said before the series began that he would use his former 20-game winner in high-leverage situations.
There’s nothing wrong with Wainwright’s arm, after all. It’s his left Achilles’ tendon that sidelined him for five months of the regular season. His arm is sound.
“I’m cleared for two or three innings right now, and that number could change as we go through the playoffs,” Wainwright said Saturday after setting down five consecutive hitters and not allowing a ball out of the infield. “We’ll just wait to see how my role evolves.”
Matheny loved what he witnessed as Wainwright escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam in the seventh that was created by Seth Maness, then struck out the side in the eighth.
“He looked great,” Matheny said. “It was nice to stretch him out a little bit. He was so efficient in the first (inning). ... His curveball was there, everything was right on the mark and he got the strikeouts that we needed. Just a great step in a good direction for him and his progress.”
Lynn was summoned, in part, because of Jaime Garcia’s stomach virus. Garcia allowed five unearned runs in two innings, the big blow coming off the bat of Jorge Soler, whose two-run homer to right-center in the Cubs’ five-run second made it 5-1.
Lynn was due to throw a bullpen Saturday, but the Cardinals postponed that exercise.
“We held him back from the side, and we were going to throw him out there and just see what it looked like,” Matheny said. “If (the third) would have been real clean and if we would have been able to see something kind of progressing, we may have rolled with him a little bit. But he gave up another run. He’s an option for us as we move forward.”
Tyler Lyons also could be an option for Tuesday, or John Lackey could work on three days’ rest after using just 86 pitches in Game 1 on Friday.
Most of order struggles
The Cardinals’ Nos. 2 through 6 hitters were a combined 2-for-22 with six strikeouts.
Stephen Piscotty was 1-for-4 with three strikeouts at No. 2. Matt Holliday was 0-for-4 at No. 3. Jason Heyward was 1-for-4 with an infield single at No. 4. Jhonny Peralta was 0-for-4 with a strikeout at No. 5 and Brandon Moss and Mark Reynolds were 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at No. 6.
The Cardinals clubbed three homers, but all of them came with the bases empty. Their last six runs have scored on homers. Only one of their runs in the series has come without the benefit of a home run.
Homering Saturday were Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong and pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk. Wong and Grichuk connected back-to-back in the fifth against Kyle Hendricks to make it 6-3.
“Two outs, (Hendricks) was kind of cruising for the most part,” Wong said. “Getting a run there kind of shook them a little bit, and then Grichuk coming behind me and doing what he did was good for us. We just couldn’t capitalize on top of it.”
Wong has nine consecutive extra-base hits in the postseason, which is tied with Miguel Cabrera and Jayson Werth for the most in history.
“I don’t know what’s going on, man,” Wong said. “I can tell you what: I love playing in the playoffs. That’s for sure. I’ll take it. A base hit is a base hit and I’m going to keep swinging how I am and see what happens.
“I started feeling things in my swing finally. It took me at least three months to finally figure it out. After that home run, everything kind of clicked a little bit for me.”
Piscotty stays steadfast
As discouraging as the loss was Saturday, the Cardinals weren’t surprised the series is deadlocked after two games.
“We all knew it was going to be a tough series,” Piscotty said. “They’re one of the better teams in baseball. No one thought it was going to be easy. It’s going to be a grind and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Piscotty is ready to face Arrieta.
“He’s pretty much deemed the best in baseball right now. That fires me up to go against those guys,” Piscotty said. “I think a lot of guys in here are the same way. I’m looking forward to that game. We’ll get a game plan together and come up with something.”