MILWAUKEE — Within the span of five hours at the ballpark Tuesday there were two Cardinals righthanders taking turns on the mound to prove they could play a role in the race ahead.
In a mostly silent American Family Field, Jack Flaherty went first.
Jake Woodford gets his chance after the crowd arrives.
Flaherty faced teammates Jose Rondon and Lars Nootbaar during a brief simulated game that drew a crowd of Cardinals to field Tuesday afternoon around 2 p.m. local time. Flaherty was set to throw 15 pitches. He got a fly ball from Rondon on the final one before going through some fielding drills and leaving the field by giving a thumbs up.
The righthander, sidelined by a shoulder injury, stayed with the team to throw his simulated game with the possibility he'll go from that into the mix for the upcoming week. The Cardinals don't have the days to build Flaherty's arm strength, and the righthander has lobbied to find some role with the team if he's healthy and capable of pitching. How he recovers from Tuesday's outing will determine if he can pitch for the Cardinals, and whether that could be as early as Friday in Chicago as part of a doubleheader against the Cubs.
The outing Tuesday was Flaherty's best chance yet to make his case.
Woodford has been continuing his.
What he earned by getting 16 outs from 16 batters in a relief appearance in Cincinnati, the rookie has continued to hold — a spot in the rotation. The Cardinals are adjusting the rotation around keeping veterans Adam Wainwright, Jon Lester, and possibly J. A. Happ on normal, five-day turns. That puts Woodford in the flex position, adjusting his schedule around the starts of others and off days. He has pitched well, if not deep, in his two most recent starts.
Woodford has allowed three earned runs in his eight innings over those two starts. He's struck out three, walked four, and a handful of the hits he allowed came in a curious inning that didn't feature a hard hit, just some well-placed, meek ones.
The Cardinals have won both of his starts.
With few arms available out of the bullpen Monday because of their use against San Diego over the weekend, the Cardinals got key innings from Luis Garcia (to close) and Kodi Whitley (to hold) so that they should have a full complement of relievers to cover after Woodford. The Cardinals have also added lefty Brandon Waddell to give them three lefties with Kwang Hyun Kim and Andrew Miller to also cover extended innings. Kim is the team's longer reliever having been replaced in the rotation by Woodford.
The Cardinals, holding firm to their lead for the NL's second wild card, are going for their 10th consecutive victory.
The last time the Cardinals won 10 consecutive games was in 2001 when they had winning streaks of both 11 and 10 games.
1. Tommy Edman, 2B
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
3. Tyler O'Neill, LF
4. Nolan Arenado, 3B
5. Dylan Carlson, RF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Edmundo Sosa, SS
8. Harrison Bader, CF
9. Jake Woodford, RHP
1. Kolten Woing, 2B
2. Willy Adames, SS
3. Eduardo Escobar, 1B
4. Avisail Garcia, RF
5. Omar Narvaez, C
6. Luis Urias, 4B
7. Jace Peterson, LF
8. Tyrone Taylor, CF
9. Brandon Woodruff, RHP
Notably no former MVP Christian Yelich in the lineup against a righty.
Check back throughout the evening here at StlToday.com for coverage from American Family Field and there will, of course, be expanded coverage in the pages of the Wednesday Post-Dispatch and online.