Cardinals hope bullpen comes through in time of need vs. Nationals


WASHINGTON -- The St. Louis Cardinals will be looking to put their bullpen issues behind them on Tuesday night when they meet the Washington Nationals in the second of three games.

Labor Day proved a wasted effort for the Cardinals, who led 3-1 in the ninth inning before Bryce Harper tied it with a two-run bomb to center off closer Bud Norris. Harper, who continues to battle a cough, struck again with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th as Washington posted its second comeback win in three days.

"It seems like the bigger the situation, the better he is, for whatever reason. But I think that's what makes the good ones great," Nationals reliever Greg Holland, who threw two scoreless innings, told the Washington Post regarding Harper. "He just has that uncanny ability to make a play when it's needed the most."

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Norris took the loss on Sunday when he allowed three runs on two homers in the 10th inning against the Cincinnati Reds. On Monday, he picked up his fifth blown save -- and first since Aug. 13 -- when Harper took him deep.

"It's a question I don't think I can answer right at this moment," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told about Norris and the closer role going forward. "He's had a tough couple of days. We'll keep evaluating what we have. Tomorrow he'll be down likely. And we'll go from there."

St. Louis (79-62) sits 5 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and is in the thick of the NL wild-card race.

Washington (69-69), which rallied late Saturday night to defeat the Brewers, hasn't been able to string together wins but refuses to go completely away. Sunday's heroics left them 7 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

Cardinals right-hander Miles Mikolas (13-4, 2.96 ERA) opposes right-hander Erick Fedde (1-3, 5.79) on Tuesday night. Mikolas took his first loss since June 29 in his last start, when he allowed two runs and eight hits in five innings.

"I think out of the couple hits they got, they only hit one or two hard," Mikolas told "I don't want to say I'm a victim of bad luck, but a couple of those balls, a couple feet this way or that way, I don't think they are scoring a run at all."

In Mikolas' last two starts, he has allowed seven runs (six earned) and 20 hits in 9 2/3 innings.

He gave up four runs in seven innings to Washington in a Cardinals win on Aug. 13. He's 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two games versus the Nationals in his career.

Fedde will come off the disabled list to pitch Tuesday. He left his July 4 start against Boston with shoulder inflammation. In three minor league rehab starts, he gave up four runs in 14 2/3 innings.

In addition to Fedde, the Nationals are expected to activate starting pitcher Joe Ross and call up outfielder Victor Robles on Tuesday. Ross has been out all season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and Robles -- one of Washington's top prospects -- missed time with an elbow injury.

"What I want to see, I want to see some of the younger guys play, I want to see them in high-leverage situations," Nationals manager Davey Martinez told the Post. "I want to see what they do and see what we have for the future. I really do."

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