MLB LOOK AHEAD

Cardinals staying in race against also-ran Rockies

Field Level Media

August 24, 2019 at 8:12 am.

The St. Louis Cardinals are fighting for a postseason slot as either a wild card or the National League Central Division champions, and a change in priorities for the Colorado Rockies might give them a boost.

While St. Louis puts its best team on the field every game, the Rockies are taking a long look beyond 2019.

The Cardinals took sole possession of first place with Friday’s 8-3 win over Colorado and the Chicago Cubs’ 9-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. They will continue their surge for their first postseason appearance since 2015, resuming the four-game series against the visiting Rockies in a matchup of teams headed in different directions.

That’s the backdrop heading into the final two games of the weekend series. On Saturday, Colorado right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez will face Cardinals righty Dakota Hudson.

Gonzalez (0-4, 5.87 ERA) wasn’t even on the Rockies’ 25-man roster when the season began, but injuries and ineffectiveness on the staff turned the rotation into a revolving door of arms just trying to piece together the end of the season.

Kyle Freeland, Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray and German Marquez were supposed to form the best starters in club history but only Marquez is still pitching. Freeland, who struggled much of the year, is now on the injured list with a groin strain. Anderson has been out since early in the season with knee problems and his career is in doubt, while Gray’s season ended this week because of a fractured foot.

That’s why Gonzalez, a journeyman signed as a free agent in December, is now getting regular starts and will face the Cardinals for the first time in his short career.

The rotation isn’t the only part that has fresh faces. Colorado has started giving its young relievers a chance to show what they can do. Thursday night, manager Bud Black went with Yency Almonte and DJ Johnson in the late innings instead of Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee or Wade Davis.

“As we move forward, that’s going to be something that we are going to watch — a lot of our younger pitchers who are coming up — whether they’re able to handle the everyday test of being a big leaguer,” Black said after Thursday’s loss. “We’re going to use our entire bullpen moving forward. But we’ve got to find out some things.”

The Rockies also added right-hander Wes Parsons, who was claimed off waivers from the Atlanta Braves on Monday.

While Colorado’s bullpen has struggled, the Cardinals are solidifying their relieving corps. Andrew Miller, who was nearly the hero for the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series, raves about the arms St. Louis has coming into games.

“The talent here is just unreal,” Miller told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this week. “The stuff that these guys bring every single game . . . I didn’t know these guys before this year. I didn’t know what the expectations were for Gio (Giovanny Gallegos) or John Gant. I know that (John) Brebbia had some good runs but I know he, unfortunately, was put on the shuttle to Memphis the last couple of years.”

Hudson (12-6, 3.63) will make his first career start against the Rockies. He’s made three appearances against Colorado, going 1-1 with an 11.57 ERA.