The St. Louis Cardinals came out of the All-Star break with a revitalized offense that hit seven homers and scored 22 runs in three games against the visiting Washington Nationals
"We feel really good about our offense," Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said after his team's 8-4 victory on Sunday in the rubber game of the series. "If we continue to get good starting pitching, we have a shot.
Despite its recent struggles, the Miami pitching staff still ranks among the National League leaders in team ERA (4.08, fifth).
Miami manager Skip Schumaker decided to go with a bullpen game on Sunday in Baltimore, and the Marlins used five pitchers while losing 5-4
That allowed Schumaker to line up Jesus Luzardo, Edward Cabrera (expected to return from the injured list) and Sandy Alcantara for the St. Louis series after getting swept in Baltimore.
Luzardo (8-5, 3.29 ERA) has allowed four runs in 31 2/3 innings over his past five appearances, all quality starts. He has already set career highs for innings pitched (109 1/3) and strikeouts (129).
"I'd say this is right up there with last year when I came back after being hurt," Luzardo said. "Physically, I feel really good and I've never pitched this late (into the season) in my career, but I feel really good."
Luzardo earned a victory over the Cardinals in Miami on July 4 by throwing six scoreless innings. He struck out eight and allowed five hits, two walks and a hit batter
He is 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA in two career starts against the Cardinals
This time around, Luzardo will catch the Cardinals with several hitters who are riding hot streaks. The list includes Brendan Donovan (17-for-45, .378, three homers, 10 RBIs in his past 12 games), Willson Contreras (19-for-37, .514, six doubles, three homers, six RBIs in 11 games) and Nolan Arenado (15-for-46, .326, six doubles, four homers, 10 RBIs in 13 games)
The Cardinals originally scheduled Monday to be a bullpen game with starter Adam Wainwright on the injured list due to a sore shoulder and Jordan Montgomery needing another day to recover from a mild hamstring strain
However, Miles Mikolas (5-5, 4.12 ERA) threw just three quick innings against the Nationals on Friday before the game was suspended due to rain. Mikolas held Washington hitless, and Marmol elected to plug him into the Monday start.
"He had low stress, 34 pitches, and then rain shut him down," Marmol said. "But that's as good as we've seen him. 'Velo' was up there. That was pretty impressive what we saw for three innings.
"He feels really good over the last two days and he's really wanting the ball (Monday), so he'll take it."
Mikolas is 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA in nine career outings against the Marlins, including seven starts
The Cardinals activated catcher Andrew Knizner on Sunday and returned first baseman Luken Baker to Triple-A Memphis. They will come into this series with three catchers, with Ivan Herrera remaining with the team to back up Contreras. Knizner started the finale vs. Washington and went 1-for-4 with an RBI
St. Louis infielder/outfielder Tommy Edman (sore wrist) is expected to remain on the IL and miss this series, while outfielder Tyler O'Neill (sore back) could return to the majors this week after his rehabilitation stint with Memphis.
--Field Level Media