The St. Louis Cardinals will host the New York Mets for the third time within 24 hours Thursday afternoon.
“It can be a little bit of a drag, but we’re professionals,” Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong said after the teams split a doubleheader of seven-inning games Wednesday.
The Cardinals won the first game 4-1 and the Mets won the nightcap 7-2.
This condensed action created personnel challenges for both teams. Luis Rojas hoped to keep Brandon Nimmo off the injured list, but the outfielder still struggled to swing the bat and the Mets manager didn’t want to keep playing short a player.
So Nimmo went on the 10-day IL between games Wednesday with a bruised left index finger. “We did a test very close to the start of Game 1 and found that he wasn’t available to go in,” Rojas said. “He still feels he’s not able to hit.”
Rojas rested slumping shortstop Francisco Lindor in Game 2, but he expects to put him back in the lineup Thursday. Lindor is batting .157 this season.
“It still is really early in the year, and this is a guy that’s always figured out how to hit,” new Mets hitting coach Hugh Quattlebaum said. “He’s trying to feel some things out that have worked in the past.”
Mets right-hander Taijuan Walker (1-1, 3.00 ERA) will start the finale of the four-game series at Busch Stadium. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt will counter with righty John Gant (2-2, 2.16 ERA).
“We have looked at it, you know, bigger picture,” Shildt said Wednesday night. “We know Walker is going tomorrow. We know what that looks like. We got our catching situation set up. And then we’ll adjust and adapt from there as we go and gather information. Obviously, we’ll manage the bullpen accordingly.
“The day off allowed a little bit of reset button for the regulars and the bullpen.”
In his previous outing, Walker allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings in a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. But prior to that he threw seven innings in a 4-0 shutout of the Washington Nationals.
Along the way Walker gained more confidence in his curveball.
“I’ve been (throwing) a lot of fastballs, changeups and sliders,” he said. “The goal is to just keep throwing (curveballs) more, continue to get more confidence. It seems like I’ve been using it late, which is good. They haven’t seen it all game. As the season goes on, I’ll use it more and more.”
Walker is 0-1 with a 3.50 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals. Nolan Arenado (3-for-12, two walks, double, three RBIs), Paul DeJong (1-for-6, walk, RBI) and Matt Carpenter (0-for-5, four walks) are the three hitters who have seen the most of Walker.
Gant has allowed two earned runs or fewer in four of his five starts. But he has worked deeper than five innings just once.
In his last outing on Friday, Gant got the decision in a 7-3 road victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He walked five batters in his five innings but allowed just one run and three hits.
“I think each game is a little different,” Gant said after that game. “Going out there with slightly different stuff every night. Tonight didn’t have a whole lot working for me. Too many free passes, straight up.”
Gant is 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA in seven career appearances against the Mets, including two starts.
–Field Level Media