CUBS (31-24) AT CARDINALS (28-28)
7:15 p.m. ET; FOX, MLB.TV
Savvy St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong is adept at turning double plays.
These days, he’s equally excitable about flipping calendar pages.
“I hate May,” Wong told reporters this week. “A lot of us have just been counting down the days until this month is done. It’s been frustrating on every single aspect.”
An 8-18 record during this past month — a veritable May-laise — naturally spurred a sour sentiment among the Cardinals, who opened May at 10 games over .500 with a three-game lead over the Chicago Cubs for first place in the National League Central.
As of Saturday, with the Cardinals preparing to host the Cubs in their first game of June, St. Louis is 28-28 and tied for third place in the division, 3 1/2 games behind Chicago.
Despite his club’s extended struggles, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt reaffirmed his belief that the team can return to its winning ways. St. Louis opened the series Friday with a 2-1 victory in 10 innings, with Matt Carpenter hitting a walk-off double with the bases loaded.
“‘Trust’ is a word I use a lot,” Shildt said. “Quite honestly, I manage with it. It can’t be blind, but it’s also there. I trust our group. I trust our guys to make plays and make pitches. I can’t manage scared — and I won’t. But I’ll manage to their strengths with the expectation that they’ll execute.”
If the Cardinals are to recover sooner rather than later, the resurgence must begin without All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, who on Friday was placed on the 10-day injured list with a tendon strain in his right thumb. The team has not established a timetable for his return.
“He’s been trying to do what he can the last couple of days, just not something that, after what the imaging looked like today, looked like it wasn’t going to heal with some more time and care,” Shildt said Friday. “For a mortal person, it’d probably be an X amount of time, but for Yadi, it’ll be something different.”
Former All-Star Matt Wieters looks to take on an added role in Molina’s absence. St. Louis purchased the contract of rookie Andrew Knizner from Triple-A Memphis to serve as the backup.
Whomever is behind the plate Saturday is expected to catch right-hander Jack Flaherty (4-3, 3.77 ERA), who is coming off a sterling outing in his most recent start. Flaherty scattered three hits and finished with seven strikeouts in six scoreless innings in Sunday’s no-decision against the Atlanta Braves, and he has a 2.78 ERA in his past six starts. In five appearances (four starts) against the Cubs, Flaherty is 1-2 with a 3.72 ERA.
Jose Quintana (4-4, 3.73 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Cubs, and he has a 5-3 record and 3.75 ERA in nine career starts against the Cardinals. Quintana has worked at least six innings in six of his 10 starts, but fell short of that threshold on Sunday, when he yielded six runs — five earned — and a career-high 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings in a home loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
“That’s really tough,” Quintana said. “Too many base hits.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon concurred, but also acknowledged a bit of rough luck in the form of several soft hits that landed just beyond the infield.
“They didn’t just beat him up,” Maddon said. “It was one of those things that balls were falling in and it just seemed like he couldn’t make a pitch when he needed to.”
–Field Level Media