Jeff Gordon previews today’s game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks (7:15 p.m., FSM) at Busch Stadium.
THE STAKES: The Cardinals missed their chance to push the Cincinnati Reds into a deeper hole Wednesday night. But their comeback from eight runs down should give them some momentum heading into their final homestand before the All-Star break.
The return of Albert Pujols restored their formidable offense. Now the Diamondbacks will have to figure out which players to pitch around.
PITCHING FOR THE CARDINALS: Kyle McClellan (6-5, 4.27 ERA): He is still striving to regain his pre-injury form. He is 0-4 in his last six starts after letting last Saturday’s game get away with a five-run sixth inning.
A number of Diamondbacks have hit McClellan well in their careers, including Chris Young (3 for 9, double, homer, two RBIs), Xavier Nady (2 for 6), Miguel Montero (2 for 6, two walks) and Gerardo Parra (1 for 1, double).
PITCHING FOR THE DIAMONDBACKS: Joe Saunders (5-7, 4.04 ERA): This lefty has pitched very well of late, allowing two runs or fewer in his last three starts while working at least seven innings each time.
Former American Leaguers Ryan Theriot (5 for 7, two walks), Nick Punto (4 for 14) and Matt Holliday (1 for 8) are the only current Cardinals who have faced him.
LINEUP INTRIGUE: Jon Jay’s dramatic game-tying homer reminded everybody that he still merits playing time, even with Lance Berkman returning to his regular right field post. Jay finished the 9-8, 13-inning loss in center field -– a position he could play more in the weeks ahead if Colby Rasmus doesn’t become more consistent.
Daniel Descalso’s big offensive and defensive game reminded Tony La Russa to mix him in at third base even with David Freese back in the lineup and contributing to the offense.
BULLPEN INTRIGUE: Jake Westbrook’s short Wednesday night outing combined with the extra inning to deplete the bullpen for today’s game. Memphis also went extra innings, so the top two tiers of the organization are feeling a bit weary.
Brandon Dickson helped his long-term cause by working 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to keep the Cardis in the game. Mitchell Boggs and Fernando Salas will also need a break after working two scoreless innings each.
DOWN ON THE FARM: Catcher Gerald Laird stepped up his rehab at Memphis, moving behind the plate for the Redbirds in their 6-5, 13-inning victory Wednesday at Nashville. He went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored.
Memphis will soon add another weapon in outfielder Shane Robinson. He is on the comeback trail from facial fractures suffered in a terrible collision with teammate Andrew Brown. Robinson is rehabbing with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.
Joe Kelly’s stellar season continued with a promotion to Class AA Springfield, TheCardinalNation.com reported. He was 5-2 with a 2.60 ERA at Palm Beach. His ascension followed the path of Shelby Miller, who earlier made the climb to the Texas League.
Miller earned the organization’s Pitcher of the Month honors after going 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 32 innings for Springfield.
After hitting .170 in May, Springfield shortstop Ryan Jackson regained his batting stroke and made the Texas League all-star game. He is an excellent defensive player who is still learning to hit at the pro level.
“I've kind of learned how to make adjustments,” Jackson told the Springfield News-Leader. “This (Double-A) is the first time you start to learn the cat-and-mouse part of baseball. If you're hot in one part of the zone, they go to another zone. I haven't seen that steady (amount) of off-speed pitches in my career. It's kind of rough if you are going through it. But you kind of know you are going through it for a reason. With me, it's usually that I'm learning something.”