Major League Baseball

Once again, Cards scrambling to get back to .500

MLB14.jpgCARDINALS (41-42) AT MARINERS (38-51)
10:10 p.m. ET; ROOTNW, MLBN, FS-M, MLB.TV

Through the season’s first 30 games, the St. Louis Cardinals (-1.5) were 20-10 and looking like a major contender in the National League. The next 53 games were a roller coaster for the Cardinals, who have been over and under the .500 mark numerous times the past five weeks.

And now, after a heartbreaking defeat in Seattle on Tuesday, the Cardinals are left with a new obstacle: Trying to get back to .500 one more time.

Tim Beckham‘s tiebreaking, pinch-hit home run leading off the bottom of the eighth inning off right-hander Giovanny Gallegos gave the Mariners a 5-4 win in the series opener Tuesday, ending Seattle’s four-game losing streak in the process. The result also dropped the Cardinals to 41-42 on the season.

St. Louis has been two games below break-even only once since early April, at 26-28 on May 29. To avoid getting there again, the Cardinals are sending right-hander Adam Wainwright (5-7, 4.35 ERA) on the mound to face right-hander Mike Leake (7-7, 4.63) on Wednesday.

Wainwright is 0-2 in his past three starts, despite having not allowed more than three runs in any of those outings. He took a 2-0 loss against Oakland in St. Louis his last time out, when he allowed two runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings on June 26, with one walk and nine strikeouts. The 14-year veteran has faced the Mariners just twice in his career, going 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA.

The pressure is on Wainwright, as the Cardinals know their margin for error is increasingly thin. And even one bad pitch can be enough to dig their hole a little deeper.

“One mistake out of the bullpen,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told reporters of Gallegos’ gopher ball given up to Beckham. “Cost us.”

As for the Mariners, they are firmly entrenched in last place in the American League West, which has meant more time for young players — and less time for some veterans. Among those suddenly tasked with making the most out of reduced opportunity is Beckham.

So when his number was called in a 4-4 tie in the eighth inning, Beckham knew he had to deliver.

“I wanted to go up there and if (Gallegos) threw me a first-pitch heater, I didn’t want to miss it,” Beckham said, according to the Seattle Times. “And I missed it. So then it was just battle mode. I wasn’t worried about his slider. I’d faced him a couple of times before.”

When asked about his reduction in playing time (35 starts in the team’s first 38 games; 27 starts in the past 51) since the call-up of shortstop J.P. Crawford, Beckham said it’s nothing he is spending time worrying about.

“We are all pros here,” he said, according to the Times. “You are expected to be a professional. I’ve been playing this game for a while now. You control what you can control. I don’t make the lineup. So when I’m in there, what I can control is seeing pitches and swinging at good pitches and my preparation. Keep preparing like you are in there every day.”

As for Leake, his four-game winning streak was snapped his last time out in Milwaukee on Thursday. He allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings of a 4-2 loss. He walked one struck out and five.

Leake, who made 56 starts for the Cardinals in 2016 and ’17, has a 5-7 record and 4.42 ERA in 17 career appearances against them with 16 starts.

The Cardinals will be without third baseman Matt Carpenter, who was placed on the 10-day injured list Tuesday due to lower-back pain.

–Field Level Media

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