When the Cardinals made the last-hour trade before the deadline, the appeal of adding Jon Lester was to save the bullpen some innings, save the rotation some time before it could get back to full strength.
Leaning on Lester to save a series was not high on his assignments.
Yet, here it is.
After being confounded by Corbin Burnes on Tuesday and themselves on Wednesday, the Cardinals on Thursday look to avoid a series sweep by the first-place Brewers at Busch Stadium. Milwaukee has All-Star Brandon Woodruff poised to add punctuation to their statement victories already this week in St. Louis. The Cardinals call on Lester, who has improved with every outing since coming to the Cardinals.
"Outside of a rough first inning (in his Cardinals debut), he's pitched pretty darn well," manager Mike Shildt said Thursday afternoon. "Battle-tested guy."
Lester allowed 11 runs and 15 hits in his first 10 1/3 inning for the Cardinals. He steadied himself, as the team did, this past weekend with a strong outing and win in Kansas City. The lefty struck out two, scattered seven hits, and held the Royals to one run through 5 2/3 innings.
True to the recent trend of utilizing Andrew Knizner more often, the Cardinals' backup catcher will start the series finale. The Cardinals talked with veteran catcher Yadier Molina about mixing in more breaks to be stronger, later in the season and also to help him manage the soreness he has played through in his foot and neck.
Former Cardinals infielder Kolten Wong played a part in the Brewers' rally to win Wednesday's game 6-4 in 10 innings and quite literally took the spoils of victory. The Brewers trailed 3-0 before tying the game with three solo homers and winning in the 10th with three unearned runs. The Cardinals let the lead slip in the ninth inning and the entire game crater in the 10th with a wild pitch, an error, and a misplay in the field. All of those led to runs.
The Brewers' bullpen, one of the strongest and deepest in the majors, did have to cover eight innings on Wednesday.
Late in the game, Wong singled and stole second.
A replay challenge was necessary to confirm that he had indeed stolen second base. Replays of Wong walking off the field with the actual base caught attention on social media.
Wong told the Post-Dispatch's Ben Frederickson that Molina signed the base for him to keep as a souvenir. It is, after all, the base from the spot Wong manned as a Gold Glove-winner for the Cardinals.
"I saw Kolten take the bag," Shildt said. "He literally took the bag. Took a stolen base off of a Hall of Fame catch."
Umpire Alan Porter, who ejected Nolan Arenado on Wednesday night after the Cardinals' third baseman thrice objected to being called out on a check swing twice in the game, will be behind the plate calling balls and strikes.
1. Tommy Edman, 2B
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
4. Tyler O'Neill, LF
5. Lars Nootbaar, RF
6. Paul DeJong, SS
7. Harrison Bader, CF
8. Andrew Knizner, C
9. Jon Lester, LHP
1. Kolten Wong, 2B
2. Willy Adames, SS
3. Eduardo Escobar, 1B
4. Christian Yelich, LF
5. Avisail Garcia, RF
6. Lorenzo Cain, CF
7. Luis Urias, 3B
8. Manny Pina, C
9. Brandon Woodruff, RHP
Check back this evening for more coverage from Busch Stadium. Rick Hummel is at the keyboard for the game story, and there will be expanded exclusive coverage Friday morning at StlToday.com.
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