Bud Norris ends 2018 season with hamstring injury

Bud Norris ends 2018 season with hamstring injury

It’s been a rough month for Cardinals reliever Bud Norris, who likely saw his 2018 season come to an abrupt end after departing Friday’s 8-4 loss to the Cubs with a left hamstring injury. While the right-hander doesn’t appear to be facing a serious setback, club manager Mike Shildt told reporters that he’ll likely hold Norris back from any relief appearances over the last two games of the regular season.

Norris, 33, entered Friday’s game in the bottom of the seventh inning and almost immediately slipped on the mound during Kyle Hendricks‘ at-bat. Hendricks took a five-pitch walk to open the inning, then advanced to third base on David Bote‘s single and a throwing error by Jedd Gyorko. With runners on the corners and no outs, Norris still appeared to be in some pain and made his exit from the mound following a brief conference with Shildt and a team trainer. He was later diagnosed with left hamstring tightness.

Although the veteran righty hasn’t paid an official visit to the disabled list this season, he’s weathered a variety of minor injuries over the last several months, from a bout of right hip discomfort to a blister issue on his pitching hand. He’ll prepare to enter free agency this fall after rounding out his 10th year in the majors with a career-high 28 saves, 3.59 ERA, 3.3 BB/9, and 10.5 SO/9 through 57 2/3 innings.

Mikolas spins a gem for his 18th win, keeps Cardinals alive, for now

Mikolas spins a gem for his 18th win, keeps Cardinals alive, for now

CHICAGO • To keep their season alive, even if it’s for a few more hours, the Cardinals got the same start Miles Mikolas has given them month after month after month.

Mikolas pitched eight standout innings and led the Cardinals to a 2-1 victory Saturday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The win forces the Dodgers to win Saturday evening to knock the Cardinals out of the playoff hunt. If LA loses the Cardinals go into the final day of the season attempting to force a Game 163 on Monday.

Mikolas tied for the NL lead with his 18th win.

The righthander, ending his first season with the Cardinals, allowed one unearned run and did not walk a batter. He surpassed 200 innings for the season.

It took the generosity of starter Cole Hamels and the opportunism of Matt Carpenter to get the Cardinals their first lead since Monday.

Carpenter scored the Cardinals’ first run of the game when he reached via catcher’s interference. He came around from second on Paul DeJong’s single. That answered the one run the Cubs scored in the first because of an error, the Cardinals’ 132nd of the season. In the fifth inning, Hamels plunked Harrison Bader and walked Yairo Munoz to put a Cardinals’ rally in motion.

With one out, Carpenter came up for a spot with runners in scoring position.

He had been hitless in his previous 14 at-bats in that spot.

Carpenter threaded a single past the shift to score Bader from second and break the 1-1 tie. That was enough for Mikolas to hold through the rest of his eight innings.

The righthander did not allow a runner past first base after the fourth inning.

Cardinals need to win, need help, and can, at best, force a tiebreaker with LA

The situation for the Cardinals, on the precipice of elimination, is as simple as it is dire. They cannot reach the postseason without first forcing an extra game in the regular season.

The Los Angeles Dodgers victory late Friday night in San Francisco assured them of no worse than a tiebreaker Monday at Busch Stadium for the National League’s second wild-card berth. To force that the game, the Cardinals must win both of the game at Wrigley Field this weekend and have LA lose its two remaining games by the bay against the Giants.

A playoff berth is not just three consecutive wins away.

The Dodgers must also lose three consecutive games.

To hold off elimination for a few hours, a day, two days, or for the season, the Cardinals turn to their winningest pitcher and the greatest constant they’ve had all season: Miles Mikolas. No Cardinal has been as wire-to-wire consistent and productive as the righthander, who joined them as a free agent this past winter after three years in Japan. Mikolas will be going for his 18th win, and that would tie him for the NL lead with Cubs lefty Jon Lester and Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

The Cardinals have shifted their lineup some to match up against Cubs lefty Cole Hamels, the starter they added at the trade deadline.

That means Yairo Munoz has slid into the start at second base ahead of Kolten Wong, but it does not mean a change in batting order for third baseman Jedd Gyorko. The Cardinals’ third baseman and No. 5 hitter has been playing through a groin injury, just as Wong (hamstring) and Yadier Molina (hamstring) have been hampered.

UPDATE: Manager Mike Shildt has notified the media that the initial lineup posted was incorrect and that Gyorko is batting sixth. Molina has moved up to fifth for the day. This was not apparent in the lineup posted in the clubhouse or broadcast on social media. It has been corrected on the lineup card that will be presented before the start of the game. 

Here’s the corrected lineup:

  1. Matt Carpenter, 1B
  2. Jose Martinez, RF
  3. Paul DeJong, SS
  4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
  7. Harrison Bader, CF
  8. Yairo Munoz, 2B
  9. Miles Mikolas, P

Check back throughout the day here at C-Beat and StlToday.com for ongoing coverage of the Cardinals game against the Cubs and whatever awaits them later as LA faces San Francisco. The Cardinals game is set for a noon St. Louis time start, and the Dodgers game will follow at 3 p.m. St. Louis time.

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Hochman: As Matt Carpenter returns to Wrigley, can he return to form for Cards?

Hochman: As Matt Carpenter returns to Wrigley, can he return to form for Cards?

CHICAGO • When asked about Matt Carpenter, Mike Shildt deadpanned from the pregame dugout Friday: “He was pretty good the last time he was here.”

At the stadium where Babe called his shot, Carp’s performance was Ruthian. Six homers during a five-game series. It propelled the infielder into the MVP mix.

But now, Carp returns for the final three games of the series out of the MVP race. That’ll likely go to Christian Yelich. We watched at Busch Stadium this week as Yelich “Carp’d” the Cards, going all carpe diem and swinging carte blanche. Then, Yelich even had different type of Carp-esque performance in Wednesday’s game, walking five times. Five walks!

As for Carpenter in this huge series against the Cubs, his ability to get on base should be pivotal. Marcell Ozuna has mashed two homers against today’s Cubs starter, Kyle Hendricks. But will he have any ducks on the pond?

Carp’s last seven days have been average at best. Only three walks, four hits (.174 batting average) and one homer. For September, Carpenter has only had two games with two or more hits — and both those games, he only had two hits.

But he did get a crucial walk in the most-recent game, Wednesday against Milwaukee. He was replaced on the basepaths by Adolis Garcia … and we know what happened next.

“Carp is an important part of our club, and I expect him to take good at-bats,” Shildt said pregame. “That’s all we can ask.”

Against Hendricks in his career, Carp is 7 for 34 with four walks, which leads to a .304 on-base percentage. He’s also hit two homers against Hendricks.

But, man, Hendricks has been resplendent of late. In September, he has a 1.67 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP.

“We’ve got to get him on the plate, we’ve got to elevate him,” Shildt said of the St. Louis offensive strategy. “He’s got a good changeup and he likes to change speeds, so we really have to make sure we see the ball a lot.”

Carp does lead the National League with his 36 homers. Only seven Cardinals (12 times total) have led the league in homers: Albert Pujols, Mark McGwire, Johnny Mize, Joe “Ducky” Medwick, Rip Collins, Jim Bottomley and Rogers Hornsby.

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Cardinals' Marcell Ozuna: Leaves yard in loss

Cardinals' Marcell Ozuna: Leaves yard in loss

Ozuna went 1-for-4 with a two-run home run in a loss to the Brewers on Monday.

Ozuna gave the Cardinals a temporary 4-3 lead via his 414-foot shot to center with Paul DeJong aboard in the sixth. The slugging outfielder has now gone deep on seven occasions in September, easily his best figure in a full month this season. Ozuna’s struggles with the long ball earlier in 2018 appear to have primarily been a result of his shoulder impingement, as the aforementioned power surge has come subsequent to a stint on the disabled list to address the issue.

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Cardinals' Jack Flaherty: Serviceable in no-decision

Cardinals' Jack Flaherty: Serviceable in no-decision

Flaherty did not factor into the decision against the Brewers on Monday, allowing three earned runs on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman over 5.1 innings. He struck out five.

Flaherty could only get 57 of his 93 pitches into the strike zone, but he did manage to keep the Cardinals in the game. The rookie bounced back to an extent from one of his rougher outings of the season against the Braves his last time out, when he allowed five earned runs over 4.2 innings. As the Cardinals’ rotation currently lines up, Flaherty is slated to take the hill Sunday against the Cubs in the final game of the regular season, one that could be key to St. Louis’ postseason hopes.

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Who's hot (DeJong), who's not (Norris) for the Cardinals

Who's hot (DeJong), who's not (Norris) for the Cardinals

Here is a look at who’s hot and who’s not for the Cardinals:

TRENDING UP

Paul DeJong, SS: He has reached base in 17 consecutive games, a streak that began with a hit by pitch back on Sept. 7. DeJong was 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored Monday night as the Cardinals suffered a painful 6-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. After hitting .229, .217 and .202 in his previous three months, he is batting .271 in September with four doubles, four homers and 16 RBIs.

Jose Martinez, OF-1B: Monday he demonstrated why the Cardinals need his bat in the lineup, going 2 for 5 with a game-tying solo homer. Martinez is 10 for 27 with four doubles, that homer, five runs scored and three RBIs in his last seven games. But by misplaying Eric Thames‘ soft line drive into a costly triple, he also showed why the team needs to remove him for a defensive replacement in right field.

Yairo Munoz, INF-OF: He got another start in place of the hobbled Kolten Wong at second base and reached base twice with a single and a walk. Munoz is 5 for 14 in his last five games with four runs scored and two RBIs.

TRENDING DOWN

Bud Norris, RP: He filled up the stat sheet Monday and not in a good way, allowing two hits (one on Martinez’s misplay) while also hitting a batter, issuing an intentional walk and committing a throwing error attempting to pick off the lumbering Mike Moustakas. Norris has struggled with multiple late-season ailments after doing admirable work as closer for most of the season He is 0-3 in September with a blown save, 14 hits and walks allowed in just four innings and a ghastly 13.50 earned-run average.

Jordan Hicks, RP: Like Brewers manager Craig Counsell, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt went to his key set-up reliever earlier than usual. Like Counsell, he got disappointing results. Hicks allowed the game-tying run in the seventh inning  on a single, two walks and a groundout. He has allowed three runs on three hits and four walks while retiring six batters in his last two appearances. His velocity is still good, but he is command has slipped.

Mike Mayers, RP: He, too, contributed to the bullpen failure. Mayers retired just one batter in the ninth inning while also allowing Lorenzo Cain‘s single followed by Christian Yelich‘s RBI double. He has allowed 10 hits and two walks in his 4 1/3 September innings spread over six appearances.

Jack Flaherty, SP: He is fading at the end of his rookie season, which is not a huge surprise. Flaherty shouldered a big workload this season but he wasn’t conditioned to pitch through the end of September. In his last two starts he has allowed right runs on nine hits (two of them homers) and four walks in 10 innings. His season ERA climbed from 2.86 to 3.16 in the process.