As expected, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha was activated from the disabled list Wednesday.
Wacha, who is recovered from a stress fracture in his right scapula, pitched the ninth inning of a 7-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs and did not fare well.
The Cubs, who whittled their magic number for clinching the NL Central to one, scored three runs on three hits against Wacha, as Kris Bryant drove in a run with a triple and Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer, his second long ball of the game.
“I think I was up in the zone quite a bit, but overall, (my) stuff felt really good coming out of the hand,” Wacha said. “I probably didn’t have the command I wanted, but I was throwing strikes. Just left that pitch over the middle there for Rizzo.”
Wacha agreed that he was rusty in his first game since Aug. 8 in Cincinnati.
“I think so,” he said. “Just constantly getting better each time going out there. I’m looking forward to the next time already. It was fun getting back out there on the mound, getting that adrenaline going again. I’m just looking forward to the next one.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is glad to have him back and believes he will get some key outs down the stretch.
“He can help us by getting outs,” Matheny said. “We’ll see what the role will be. We’re anxious and excited that he’s back and feeling good. We like everything we’ve seen from him so far. We anticipate that we can put him in there in different situations and he’s going to be able to help us.”
Matheny expects Wacha could work himself up to being available for three- to four-inning outings.
“It’s going to take a little time at the beginning,” Matheny said.
Matheny said reliever Trevor Rosenthal could be activated as early as Thursday. Left fielder Matt Holliday, meanwhile, could take live batting practice in San Francisco over the weekend as he continues to recover from a broken right thumb.
Martinez fizzles, Lester sizzles
Carlos Martinez struck out eight and allowed just one run in the first four innings Wednesday, but David Ross hit a two-run homer against him in the fifth and Rizzo hit a bases-empty homer in the sixth to make it 4-0.
Martinez also allowed an RBI single to opposing pitcher Jon Lester on a changeup in the third that put the Cardinals behind 1-0. Lester came into the game batting .061 (3-for-49).
“I worked really hard,” Martinez said through a translator. “There are things that happened during the game and (the Cubs) were smart in looking for pitches they were expecting. It was simply a matter of them making good contact. They deserve credit.”
Matheny was encouraged about Martinez in the early innings.
“He came out of the gates, really, as good as we’ve seen him,” he said. “He had a good rhythm and thought he had a good feel for all his pitches. But they grinded a couple of at-bats on him and made him pay. They’ve got a good lineup. You’ve got to make good pitches all the way through.”
The Cardinals managed just three singles in eight innings against Lester (17-4): Stephen Piscotty in the fourth, Randal Grichuk in the fifth and Yadier Molina in the eighth. Lester walked one and struck out eight.
“He was on,” said the Cardinals’ Brandon Moss. “He had the sinker and the cutter working. He was throwing it to both sides of the plate. If you can imagine being in a rocking chair and going back and forth every at-bat, trying to pick a side and pick a direction.
“When he’s on like that, that’s why he’s one of the best. He’s unique and he spots up. Today was just one of those days when he had both working and he wasn’t missing over the middle. He even was throwing some curveballs and changeups to keep you off everything. He pitched outstanding. Tip your hat and move on.”
Matheny has not determined who will start Sunday against San Francisco.
It’s Jaime Garcia’s turn, but after Garcia’s shoddy outing Tuesday, it appears Matheny is considering rookie Alex Reyes for the assignment.
Reyes relieved Garcia in the second inning Tuesday and threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings as the Cardinals rallied for a 4-2 win over the Chicago Cubs. Reyes had control issues, walking six, but allowed just one hit and very little hard contact.
“We don’t necessarily have to make a decision today,” Matheny said. “We’ve got time to communicate internally and then have a talk with the guys as needed. Everybody needs to know sooner or later, but sooner doesn’t necessarily make sense right now.”