St.Louis at Toronto, July 26-27

Tuesday, July 26 2022 @ 10:00 AM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

Another short-handed team crosses the border.

The Cardinals are scrapping for the NL's third Wild Card spot - they're up by just half a game on the Phillies, who are a) even in the loss column, and b) have already won the season series from St.Louis. They can't be happy about this. They dismissed manager Mike Shildt immediately after losing the Wild Card game last year, coming off a 90 win season - they won 91 games in Shildt's other full season at the helm. Expectations run high in St. Louis. Always, and just because. They employ two of the very best players in the whole National League - first baseman and favourite for this year's MVP Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado. They're the St. Louis Cardinals. They draw roughly 3.5 million fans every summer and they expect to win. Since their last losing season - which was back in 2007, and is their only losing season in the current millennium  - they've been to the post-season nine times and the World Series twice, winning it all in 2011.

But the outfield of O'Neill, Bader, and Carlson, which was so productive last season, has been decidedly less than that in 2022. And the St.Louis starting rotation has sprung a bunch of holes. Veterans Jon Lester and J.A. Happ, who helped hold it all together in the second half of last season, both decided they'd seen enough hotel rooms and earned enough money and that this was a fine time to retire. Miles Mikolas has returned to full time duty and he actually made it back to the All-Star game, but Dakota Hudson just went on the IL with a neck strain.  Meanwhile, our old chum Steven Matz whom the Cards signed this off-season, just returned to the rotation after missing two months with a sore shoulder. He was in the midst of putting together his best outing as a Cardinal when he hurt his knee chasing after a slow roller up the first base line. An MRI confirmed a tear in his left MCL and surgery is a definite possibility. To complete their tale of woe, ace Jack Flaherty and closer Alex Reyes have been dealing with shoulder issues all season. Flaherty made three brief starts in June before going back on the IL, and Reyes has yet to throw a pitch this season.

But hey - Adam Wainwright just keeps rolling on. And on. Maybe some of us assumed that Wainwright would, like long-time teammates Molina and Pujols, call it a career after this season. After all, these three guys are really old by baseball standards. But while Molina and Pujols have been playing like old fellows Wainwright is still really good, still baffling major league hitters with that damn curveball. Wainwright and Molina have started 316 games together, second only to Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan in Detroit from 1963 to 1975; earlier this season the Cardinals won their 203rd game (that's team wins, not pitcher wins) when that pair started, which broke the major league record set long ago by Warren Spahn and Del Crandall in Milwaukee. Despite not getting into the rotation until he was 25 years old - he pitched out of the bullpen in his first season, and saved the final game in the NLCS (fanning Carlos Beltran for the final out) and the World Series (fanning Brandon Inge for the final out) - and despite losing almost three full seasons to injury, Wainwright's won 190 games in the majors, all of them as a Cardinal. I see no reason why he wouldn't return next season, get past 200 career wins, and see if Cooperstown calls. He never won the Cy Young - he's been the runner-up twice, and third in the voting twice. He does have a pair of 20 win seasons, and two more 19 win seasons.

This will be just the second time Wainwright has pitched in Toronto - the other occasion was twelve years ago, when he lost 5-0 to Brandon Morrow, who scattered five hits over eight innings. I expect  he remembers. Wainwright was roughed up early in that one, with back-to back homers by Vernon Wells and Adam Lind staking the Jays to a first inning lead; Wells hit another homer in the third.

As everyone has already noted, the Cards will be coming to Toronto without their two best players, Goldschmidt and Arenado. Goldschmidt's usual caddies have been either Juan Yepez or the venerable Albert Pujols, but Yepez hurt his arm making a throw from the outfield so he's not going to be an option. They do have all around utility whiz Brendan Donovan to take over third base for the moment. The Cardinals are already without two regulars - elderly catcher Yadier Molina is supposed to start a rehab assignment on Thursday, and centre fielder Harrison Bader has been out for more than a month with plantar fascitis in his right foot. He began a rehab assignment on Friday, and his foot began hurting again and hasn't played since.

Gosh. I don't seem to feel bad for them at all. Is that wrong?

Finally - happy 79th to that old midnight rambler. Have some sympathy, have some courtesy...

I hope we're not too Messianic
or a trifle too Satanic
we just love to play the blues


Tue July 26 - Pallante (3-4, 3.34) vs Berrios (7-4, 5.22)
Wed July 27 - Wainwright (6-8, 3.40) vs Gausman (7-7, 3.00)