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Cardinals sign LeBlanc to fortify lefty options in the bullpen, cover some innings

Cardinals sign LeBlanc to fortify lefty options in the bullpen, cover some innings

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Cardinals take NLDS, on to the league championship

St. Louis Cardinals players celebrate as National League Division Series champions after beating the Atlanta Braves 13-1 in Game 5 on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019 at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, Ga. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com.

ATLANTA — The Cardinals continued their attempt to fortify their pitching staff with outside moves by signing lefty Wade LeBlanc and bring him immediately to Atlanta to join the bullpen for the four-game series in Atlanta.

LeBlanc, last in the majors with Baltimore earlier this season, brings some versatility to the bullpen and most importantly to the Cardinals length and immediate availability.

"Experienced guy, strike-thrower," manager Mike Shildt said.

To make room on the active roster the Cardinals optioned righthander Seth Elledge to Class AAA Memphis. The Cardinals cleared a spot on the 40-man roster for LeBlanc by moving infielder Max Moroff to the 60-day injured list. 

LeBlanc, 36, was last with Texas' Class AAA team. He was released Wednesday by the Round Rock club and pretty much immediately signed by the Cardinals, who have been shopping around for pitching depth. This past week, they made a minor-league offer to free agent Shelby Miler, and they have been in contact with multiple teams about possible trades for pitchers.

From earlier ...

***

Against Atlanta's Morton, a familiar face who went places, Cardinals aim to continue winning ways vs. losing teams

When last the Cardinals visited Truist Park it wasn't Truist Park and it wasn't a game between two teams hastily trying to gain a foothold in their separate division races.

Way back in October 2019, the Cardinals thumped the Braves with 10 runs in the first, 13 by the end of the third, and leapfrogged over them and into the National League Championship Series with a Game 5 victory in the division series. The new ballpark in suburban Atlanta was known as SunTrust Park back then, and that was the last time the Cardinals won a playoff series.

It feels longer than it actually has been.

It's been even longer since they last saw the opposing starter.

Charlie Morton, the once and current Brave, will make his first start against the Cardinals since Sept. 30, 2015, when he pitched opposite Tyler Lyons back at PNC Park. That night, Morton allowed five runs in two innings as the Cardinals won their 100th game of the season. Pete Kozma pinch-hit in that game. Jason Heyward batted cleanup.

The only Cardinal to appear in that game and still be with the team is Wednesday's cleanup hitter, Matt Carpenter.

Morton, now 37, has started 18 times in his career against the Cardinals and gone 2-12 with a 5.68 ERA. He has allowed 161 baserunners to the Cardinals in 88 2/3 innings. He's struck out only 57. But he's had several different renaissances since then.

When last the Cardinals faced the righthander, three out of every five pitches as a sinker and one out of every 20 was a four-seam fastball. After a stint in Houston with the 2017 World Series champs and then with Tampa Bay and back to the World Series in 2020, Morton retooled his approach and now just about two out of every three pitches is either a four-seam fastball or a curveball. The four-seam fastball and its electric velocity have become more prominent since the Cardinals last saw him.

Against the same Miami team the Cardinals just swept, Morton allowed four runs in four innings in his most recent start. 

The Cardinals used the series against the Marlins to reset after a long losing stretch. The sweep gave them a three-game winning streak and they've got four consecutive quality starts from their rotation. Atlanta is looking for that same traction. With a loss to Boston at Truist on Wednesday, the Braves have lost six out of seven and that means instead of being a winning team the Cardinals face during this upcoming schedule, Atlanta is just in a parade of teams with losing records.

Two of the starters the Cardinals have scheduled for this four-game visit to Atlanta and the Battery around the ballpark are former Braves draft picks.

Adam Wainwright, the first-rounder Atlanta traded to the Cardinals in the J.D. Drew deal nearly 18 years ago, will start later in the series as the Cardinals-Braves go prime time with national telecasts all weekend. John Gant, the remaining spoil from the Jaime Garcia trade, will start the series opener Thursday.

Gant, who buzzed his flowing locks a few days ago, will debut that streamline haircut in his first start since arguably his worst start of the season. Gant allowed five runs on five walks and a hit and did not get through the second inning of a loss at Wrigley Field. In his past two starts, Gant has allowed 12 runs and pitched only 5 2/3 innings. 

His ERA has more than doubled after those two games.

Before submitting their lineup, the Cardinals had to check on the availability of leadoff hitter Tommy Edman, who has missed two games with an abdominal injury, and infielder Edmundo Sosa, who was struck on the hand by a pitch in Wednesday's win. 

CARDINALS

1. Tommy Edman, RF

2. Dylan Carlson, CF 

3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

4. Nolan Arenado, 3B

5. Tyler O'Neill, LF

6. Yadier Molina, C

7. Matt Carpenter, 2B

8. Paul DeJong, SS

9. John Gant, RHP

BRAVES

1. Ronald Acuna Jr., RG

2. Freddie Freeman, 1B

3. Ozzie Albies, 2B

4. Abraham Almonte, LF

5. Austin Riley, 3B

6. Dansby Swanson, SS

7. William Contreras, C

8. Guillermo Heredia, CF

9. Charlie Morton, P

Check back this evening and throughout the series at StlToday.com and in the pages of the Post-Dispatch for coverage, on site, from Truist Park.

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