The St. Louis Cardinals have crafted a modest, two-game win streak after an up and down road trip.
But on Tuesday they have to face what has been one of their toughest challenges in recent seasons: A rookie starting pitcher that they’ve never seen before.
Over the past few years, it seems that guys the Redbirds don’t have a book about carve them up with regularity.
Arizona Diamondbacks starter Archie Bradley, 2-1 with a 4.00 earned run average.
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Bradley is good. He’s struck out 19 in 27 major league innings. But he’s also a rookie trying to find his way, walking 16 in the same span.
Bradley is also coming back from an injury. He didn’t pitch from April 28-May 16 because of a stint on the disabled list. Since his return, Bradley is 0-1 with a 10.29 ERA in two starts. He’s given up 14 hits in seven innings of work.
Bradley has more going for him than unfamiliarity to Cardinals hitters. He was ranked the No. 11 preseason prospect by Baseball Prospectus in 2015. The publication ranked him No. 9 last year. He’s 29-18 with a 3.14 ERA in four minor league campaigns.
On the other side of the equation, the Cardinals will send oft-injured southpaw Jaime Garcia to the mound for his second attempt to fill the roster black hole left by the season-ending injury to ace starter Adam Wainwright.
Garcia wasn’t sharp but he was effective in his first outing against the New York Mets. He pitched seven innings and allowed two runs on five hits. But Garcia had trouble finding the plate at times, walking five while striking out three.
Garcia threw 102 pitches, 60 for strikes, so we’ll see if he can rebound and keep his surgically-repaired shoulder intact.
All you can ask for from a major league rotation is to give your team a chance to win every day. But, since Wainwright’s loss, the Cardinals have struggled to keep their momentum going with a cast of ineffective substitutes often going up against the top pitcher in the other team’s starting five.
On the bright side, at least Bradley isn’t the Cardinals other form of kryptonite: A lefty pitcher.