It took Mike Shildt only 38 games to convince the St. Louis Cardinals to remove the interim from his title as the team’s manager.
Hours after the club announced Tuesday that it had signed Shildt through the 2020 season, St. Louis showed why he canceled its intentions of a highly publicized offseason search for a skipper to replace Mike Matheny.
With José Martínez and Tyler O’Neill slamming two-run homers to complement seven good innings from rookie Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals improved to 27-12 under Shildt with a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates to solidify their position atop the National League wild-card standings.
St. Louis (74-58) will attempt to win its 10th straight series Wednesday night when it plays the middle game of its set with Pittsburgh.
“We just felt like we could not do better,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “Clearly, the relationship he has with our players and coaching staff and front office and ownership, it just made this a very seamless decision. We didn’t agonize too much over it because we have a lot of confidence in him.”
As they should. Shildt has played a more aggressive brand of baseball than Matheny preferred, unafraid to start runners regardless of the hitter or runner. He’s also helped revamp the bullpen, introducing young arms such as Dakota Hudson to high-leverage situations and also adding Opening Day starter Carlos Martínez to the mix last week.
The effects could be obvious if St. Louis can continue this run and qualify for the playoffs. In Hudson and Martínez, it has two power arms who could play the Andrew Miller role that Cleveland manager Terry Francona created for its trade deadline acquisition in 2016, helping the Indians come within a win of breaking their now 70-year World Series drought.
“Everybody’s doing their job, just having so much fun and competing,” Flaherty said.
Miles Mikolas (13-3, 2.94 ERA) takes the mound for the Cardinals after his worst start of the year, allowing five runs (four earned) and 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings Friday night at Colorado, a game the Cardinals still won 7-5. Mikolas gave up all his runs in the fifth inning, getting the hook one out shy of qualifying for his sixth straight win.
The All-Star right-hander has faced the Pirates (64-68) three times this year, going 0-1 with a pair of no-decisions. He’s 1-1 in five career games with a 2.91 ERA.
Opposing Mikolas is right-hander Trevor Williams (10-9, 3.44), who’s enjoying the best season of his three-year career. Williams is coming off a no-decision Aug. 22 in a 2-1 loss to Atlanta, pitching six innings and allowing only one run off two hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
Williams has been outstanding in his last seven starts, permitting four runs over 42 innings, although he’s only 3-2 in that span. But he has struggled mightily in 10 career games against St. Louis, posting a 2-4 mark with a 6.93 ERA and giving up a whopping 56 hits in only 37 2/3 innings.