Two former relievers and a reclamation project have bolstered the St. Louis Cardinals rotation and helped the team bounce back from a season-opening sweep. Randy Keisler has a chance to fit in perfectly.
With ace Chris Carpenter missing his second straight start, Keisler will take the mound Tuesday as the Cardinals try to reach .500 for the first time this season in a matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Thanks largely to some unexpectedly strong starting pitching, St. Louis (3-4) has won three of four since being swept in a season-opening three-game set with the New York Mets.
Braden Looper, making his second start in 574 career appearances, limited the Pirates (4-3) to two hits over seven innings and picked up his first victory as a starter in a 3-0 Cardinals win Monday.
A day earlier, Kip Wells - who made only nine starts last season because of a foot injury - gave up one hit in seven shutout innings to lead St. Louis to a 10-1 win over Houston. In the opener of that series, Adam Wainwright made his first start after 63 relief appearances and allowed one run in seven innings as the Cardinals won their first game of the season, 4-2 on Friday night.
Now, with Carpenter’s ongoing problems with an inflamed right elbow, the 30-year-old Keisler will try to continue the rotation’s surprising early success.
The left-hander signed with St. Louis during the offseason after going 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 11 games with Oakland in 2006. Keisler is 4-4 with a 6.82 ERA in 51 games—17 starts—over five major league seasons, pitching for the New York Yankees, San Diego, Cincinnati and the A’s.
“It was his day to pitch. He’s got some experience,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.
Keisler was effective during spring training for the Cardinals, allowing only an unearned run and three hits over eight innings in four games. He is 0-0 with a 2.35 ERA in three relief appearances against the Pirates.
Albert Pujols - who went 2-for-3 with two runs Monday - is batting .371 (127-for-342) with 32 home runs, 30 doubles, 91 RBIs and 90 runs against the Pirates.
Tom Gorzelanny (1-0, 3.60 ERA) will face the difficult task of neutralizing Pujols on Tuesday. The left-hander allowed seven hits and three runs with four strikeouts in five innings Wednesday, earning a 5-4 victory over Houston.
Gorzelanny went 2-5 with a 3.79 ERA in 11 starts last season.
The Pirates dropped their third consecutive home opener Monday, and have lost three of four overall after opening the season with a three-game sweep of the Astros.
Pittsburgh left fielder Jason Bay hit fifth for the first time this season, going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Last season, he hit fifth only once and batted cleanup 134 times.
Monday’s gametime temperature was 37 degrees, four degrees colder than it was for the last Steelers home game Dec. 24, so it wasn’t a surprise the Pirates collected only three hits and were shut out for the first time this season.
“All these games in the 30s, it’s starting to be normal,” Bay said. “It’s tough to feel comfortable up there when it’s cold and the wind is howling.”