ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Just hours after the Cardinals officially announced the loss of one of their most critical arms, a rookie gave them what no member of the starting rotation had been able to manage since July 15: zeroes.
Luke Weaver, making his third MLB start of the season and his first since August 2, was every bit the stopper St. Louis needed.
The Cardinals were riding a horrendous streak, having allowed six or more runs in five straight games. Going back further, they had allowed at least five runs in 12 straight games. Since Lance Lynn allowed one run against Boston in a what was ultimately a horrendous 5-4 loss on August 16, no starter has allowed less than three runs in an outing.
Weaver, filling in for an ailing Adam Wainwright Wednesday, threw seven scoreless while striking out 10.
“Command of the fastball was big for me tonight,” he said. “[I was able to get] some strikeouts looking on the fastball, which tells me the mechanics are good.”
It’s the second time in 11 major league starts Weaver has struck out 10 batters. He joins Alan Benes as the only other Cardinal pitcher with two or more double-digit strikeout games in his first 15 MLB appearances. He has two eight-strikeout outings as well.
But the most important number Weaver tossed up was the seven innings pitched. It was the longest and most efficient of the 24-year-old’s career and came when the reeling pitching staff badly needed help.
“We needed that. Give some guys a little bit more time. Give a few arms a little more time to heal,” manager Mike Matheny said. “I probably could have pushed him a little further.”
At 99 pitches, Weaver could have conceivably gone another inning, but when his spot came up with two men on in the seventh, Matheny opted to try to pad the lead.
The choice made sense, given the Cards’ bullpen ERA was more than 7.0 in the previous 10 days. Even the five-run lead they currently possessed seemed precarious given the last week and a half.
In fact, it would have been if not for Tyler Lyons.
Seung Hwan Oh, who just last year had hitters dancing like marionettes, continued his scuffling 2017 by allowing two hits and a run in just two batters the next inning.
The second hit was a triple, leaving a man on third with no outs and the Padres suddenly looking very close to being in the game. But Lyons has been astoundingly stingy in relief, and the man on third never moved an inch.
The lefty struck out two en route to setting down three straight, and continued to pad an ever more eye-catching resume.
Over his last 16 appearances, Lyons has struck out 20, walked four and allowed just two hits. No runners have crossed the plate. He’s only allowed two runners to reach second base (at least ones he didn’t inherit). The 29-year-old has been the answer to a lot of problems in recent games for the Cards, and Wednesday’s eighth inning was no different.
“That’s a big situation to come in and really change that momentum when it could have gone in the wrong direction and stayed in the wrong direction,” Matheny said.
The win kept the Cardinals within 4.5 games of the Cubs for the Central lead, and moved them within 4 games of the second NL Wild Card spot. It was a much-needed life preserver just when the undertow seemed primed to pull the Birds below the surface. Now they need someone else to carry on what Weaver and Lyons did Wednesday.
They still have a long way to swim.