St. Louis’ Shelby Miller has firmly entrenched himself in the Cardinals’ rotation as he ranks among baseball’s best pitchers this year. Texas’ Martin Perez likely needs to impress in his second start of the season to gain some staying power with his club.
Friday marked these teams’ first meeting since St. Louis’ seven-game victory in the 2011 World Series. While the stakes were much lower, this time it was the Rangers (42-32) using some late-game heroics to upend the Cardinals (47-27), with Nelson Cruz’s two-run single in the ninth inning proving to be the difference in a 6-4 victory.
“Obviously, there are memories of the stadium and memories of the field and stuff like that, but this is a different year and we’re trying to win a series and continue to play good baseball,” Texas’ Ian Kinsler said of the team’s first trip back to St. Louis.
The Rangers, who trailed 3-0 before recording an out, chased Cardinals starter Tyler Lyons after 1 2-3 innings. Similar success against Miller (8-4, 2.08 ERA) should prove to be much more difficult, as he leads all rookies in wins and owns one of baseball’s best ERAs.
Though Saturday marks his first outing against an AL opponent, Miller has been especially reliable in Busch Stadium, going 5-1 in seven starts with a 0.99 ERA - one of the top three home marks among all qualifying starting pitchers.
He was on his way to another strong showing Monday, yielding two hits through five scoreless innings against the Cubs. Miller then left due to cramps in his right leg, though he earned the victory in St. Louis’ 5-2 win.
“He did a great job,” manager Mike Matheny said of Miller’s shortened outing, the fifth time this season he didn’t surrender a run. “Had a little warning there that his calf had tightened up (and) we didn’t know exactly what we were dealing with. We found out it’s just a cramp. He should be fine.”
Miller, whose 10.01 strikeouts per nine innings rank among baseball’s elite, appeared to have learned his lesson immediately after the game.
“I know I wasn’t taking care of myself fluid-wise, drinking enough electrolytes,” he told the team’s official website. “It’s something I need to start staying on top of and making it part of my routine.”
Perez (0-1, 5.06) will be recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to make his eighth major league start. Touted as one of the organization’s best young arms, the left-hander was 1-4 with a 5.45 ERA in 12 games - six starts - last season.
He vied for a spot in Texas’ rotation out of spring training but a broken arm suffered March 4 sidelined him for nearly two months. Perez wasn’t sharp in his first start for the Rangers this year, giving up four runs - three earned - and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-3 loss at Arizona on May 27.
Manager Ron Washington said he preferred for Perez to focus on Saturday, while the 22-year-old Venezuelan sounded ready for that and more.
“I think this is my time,” Perez told the team’s official website. “I just need the opportunity to do the job, and I think people will see what I can do to help this team.”
The Cardinals are 4-2 this season in games against rookie starters while the Rangers are 4-5.