April 16: Cardinals (9-5) @ Brewers (10-4)

0416140958Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

It’s very early, yes, but a win today would move the Cardinals into a first-place tie with Milwaukee in the National League Central. The club is also seeking to join the Brewers as the NL’s second 10-win team.

Click here for the full game preview.

If the Cardinals are to garner their first sweep of the season, they’ll do it without Matt Carpenter in the lineup. Carpenter gets his first day off this season, and Kolten Wong makes the move to the leadoff spot in his place. With the Cardinals in a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, manager Mike Matheny will be trying to find opportunities to give each of his starters a breather. He pulled Yadier Molina out of the series opener.

Ryan Braun, who continues to deal with a thumb injury, is out of the lineup for Milwaukee.

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April 15: Cardinals (8-5) @ Brewers (10-3)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-0415141428.jpgManager Mike Matheny wastes no time getting Mark Ellis involved, as Ellis is slated to start second base just hours after the Cardinals announced the veteran infielder would be coming off the disabled list following a five-inning minor league rehab assignment. Ellis recorded a hit in his only previous at-bat against Tuesday’s starter Marco Estrada.

Ellis’ inclusion isn’t the only interesting facet to this batting order, the 10th different one Matheny has now employed in 14 games. Allen Craig, for the first time this season, is hitting in the No. 2 spot. Matheny inserted Peter Bourjos into that spot last week hoping it would jumpstart the skidding center fielder. The move worked, as Bourjos went 2-for-5 in that game and is 5-for-14 since.

Craig, who has a .133 average through the first two weeks of the season, did knock a sharp single up the middle in his final at-bat on Monday. When Craig is going right, he uses that middle part of the field often. The Cardinals are hopeful that the hit could be a harbinger of things to come for Craig.

Shelby Miller gets a third crack at his first win tonight, and he is facing a team that has never beaten him. Miller enters the start 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA in five career starts against Milwaukee.

Click here to read the full game preview.

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Ellis activated from DL; Kozma optioned

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Mark Ellis will rejoin the Cardinals for Tuesday’s game in Milwaukee after wrapping up a one-game Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis. To make room for Ellis on the 25-man roster, the Cardinals have optioned Pete Kozma to Triple-A.

Ellis, bothered by left knee discomfort in mid-March, began the season on the disabled list after the patella tendinitis resurfaced the final week of Spring Training. Ellis took some time off before resuming hitting, fielding and strenuous running a week ago. He then headed to Memphis for a rehab assignment that was interrupted by a rainout on Monday.

In his only appearance for Memphis, Ellis went 1-for-3 with a run scored while playing five innings of second base on Sunday.

Signed by the Cardinals this offseason to provide another second base option, Ellis is likely to find himself mostly on the bench due to Kolten Wong’s strong start. Ellis did get limited spring work at third base, so he is also a defensive option there, if needed.

Kozma did not make a start during the Cardinals’ first two weeks of game and took only three at-bats. He singled in a ninth-inning at-bat in Monday’s win over the Brewers.

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April 14: Cardinals (7-5) @ Brewers (10-2)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-0414141433.jpgI’m back on the beat after a few days off to get my life back in order after eight weeks on the road. And I rejoined just in time to experience some more snow — yes, snow — before winter (hopefully? mercifully? officially?) moves on. Fortunately, Milwaukee didn’t go the Minnesota roof-less route, so tonight’s game will be unaffected by whatever may be going on outside.

Inside Miller Park, the Cardinals will have their hands full with a Brewers club that has won nine straight en route to becoming the Majors’ first 10-win team. They hold an early three-game lead over the Cardinals, who are currently second in the National League Central.

To read the full game preview, click here.

Yadier Molina is out of the lineup for the first time this season, which allows Tony Cruz an opportunity to play. Though he has twice been a late-game defensive substitution, Cruz has yet to take an at-bat (one plate appearance, a walk) since Spring Training.

Jon Jay gets the start in center field over Peter Bourjos — a decision, I would guess, dictated by the fact that he is 6-for-9 in his career against Brewers starter Matt Garza.

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April 9: Reds (2-6) @ Cardinals (5-3)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

0409141018Allen Craig, 3-for-31 to start the season, gets a day off today as manager Mike Matheny looks for ways to get him going. There is no talk of any injury concerns, but it’s evident that Craig’s timing is a hint off. He was the only position player not to reach base in Tuesday’s win.

With Craig sitting, Jon Jay will make his first start in right field since 2011, when he started 30 games there.

Behind starter Shelby Miller, the Cardinals will be going for their first sweep of the season today. They’ve already ensured themselves of a series win, their 26th in the last 31 series played against the Reds in St. Louis.

To read the full game preview, click here.

Also, it will be interesting to see how Matheny manages the back-end of his bullpen today if the Cardinals carry a tight lead late. Both Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal pitched in the first two games of this series. One or both of them could be deemed unavailable to go today. Matheny would not show his hand pregame.

The Cardinals did not take on-field batting practice today, but Mark Ellis was out on the outfield grass early testing his left knee with some running. He later joined the infielders for groundball work. After initially indicating that Ellis would need to go out on a Minor League rehab assignment before coming off the disabled list, Matheny said on Wednesday that those plans could change. It’s still unlikely that Ellis will be activated from the DL on Friday, his first date of eligibility.

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April 8: Reds (2-5) @ Cardinals (4-3)

0408141546Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Yesterday was the flag. Today, it’s the rings.

A little more than 30 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, the Cardinals players, staff and Hall of Famers will be presented with their 2013 NL Champions rings. This will conclude the two days of season-opening activities at Busch Stadium.

Down in Florida today, Jason Motte (recovery from Tommy John surgery) threw 19 pitches in a simulated game. He said he recorded four or five outs and added that he “felt good… good effort… went well.” Motte said he’ll make his next game appearance on Friday after a quick trip to St. Louis to participate in a charity event Thursday.

Click here to read the full game preview of tonight’s matchup between Lance Lynn and Homer Bailey. Also worth noting — the Reds will have a new arm in the bullpen on Tuesday. Jonathan Broxton has been activated from the disabled list. Trevor Bell, who gave up the Cardinals’ two late runs on Monday, was placed on it.

Also, congratulations are in order for j h, who won the By Gosh Bracket Challenge this year. None of the participants had UConn or Kentucky reaching the Finals… which made me feel better about my showing.

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April 7: Reds (2-4) @ Cardinals (3-3)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

0407141149aGreetings from Busch Stadium, where (weather permitting) the Cardinals will play their home opener this afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 3:15 pm CT, though stay tuned in case the start is delayed. All the usual home opener festivities (the Budweiser Clydesdales, Hall of Famer introductions, motorcades, etc.) are supposed to begin 45 minutes before game time.

For a full listing of pregame festivities/activities/fun, click here.

If you’re down around the ballpark looking for a way to stay dry, I recommend you head over to Ballpark Village. After being on the road for the last two months, I got my first look at the completed venue today. The Hall of Fame and Museum, which opened today, is pretty spectacular. Do yourself a favor and go spend some time wandering the exhibits.

You’ll notice that manager Mike Matheny has done some tweaking with his lineup today — mainly moving Peter Bourjos (0-for-13 this season) up to hit second. Matheny said he hopes the push to the top of the lineup can help spark Bourjos’ bat. With Matt Holliday behind him, Bourjos should see plenty of pitches to hit. Putting Bourjos behind Matt Carpenter also gets another right-handed bat near the top of the lineup against Cincinnati’s lefty Tony Cingrani. Last Wednesday, Cingrani shut the Cardinals out over seven innings.

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April 6: Cardinals (3-2) @ Pirates (3-2)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

unnamedThe Cardinals will wrap up their first road trip of the season today with a chance to also make it their first winning one. They have their ace on the mound, too. Adam Wainwright pitched seven scoreless innings in Cincinnati on Monday and will face former Red Edinson Volquez in this one. Volquez made a relief appearance for Pittsburgh on Wednesday, but this will be his first start with his new organization.

You can read the full game preview here.

Daniel Desclaso draws his first start of the season and Jon Jay, his second. Allen Craig, 2-for-19 to begin the year, drops down from the cleanup spot as manager Mike Matheny looks for a way to get him going.

Like Craig, Peter Bourjos has gotten off to a slow start (0-for-13), and the day off will give him some time to focus on the process/his swing without having to worry so much about the results.

A few other items of note separate of today’s game:

  • The Cardinals have announced details for Monday’s home opener at Busch Stadium. For a rundown on all that is going on inside and outside the ballpark tomorrow, you’ll want to read this. Highlights include the opening of the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame and Museum, Chris Carpenter throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and the raising of the 2013 NL Champion flag.
  • MLB.com is hosting a Chatting Cage session with Tony La Russa (11 am CT) and Lou Brock (11:15 am CT) as part of the home opener festivities. Fans are invited to ask questions to both through a video chat. Visit Cardinals.com or this link tomorrow to get involved.


April 5: Cardinals (2-2) @ Pirates (3-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-0405141557.jpgAfter dropping the first game of this three-game series, things aren’t getting any easier for the Cardinals on Saturday. They’ll be facing Francisco Liriano, who is 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA in 14 career starts at PNC Park. Against the Cardinals, he’s even better. St. Louis faced him three times during the regular season in 2013 and lost all three games while being held to two earned runs in 24 innings.

In the NL Division Series, Liriano gave up two runs in six innings while leading the Pirates to a Game 3 win. His opponent on the mound that night? Joe Kelly, who will also be his opponent tonight.

Kelly will be making his season debut Saturday after winning the job as the team’s fifth starter in spring.

Click here to read the full game preview.

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April 4: Cardinals (2-1) @ Pirates (2-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-0404141546a.jpgThe Cardinals are back in Pittsburgh, where the tarp is on the field but the forecast is nevertheless promising for this evening. That’s welcome news for everyone after sitting through six hours and 22 minutes of rain delays over the past two days.

You never want to overplay the significance of a three-game series in April, but this is certainly an intriguing one. The Pirates were the final team the Cardinals had to hold off to win the NL Central last season, and they then met them again in what turned out to be a tremendous five-game NL Division Series. Manager Mike Matheny later called the Cardinals’ October games in Pittsburgh as some of the best baseball atmospheres he has ever experienced.

Only early bragging rights are on the line this weekend. Both clubs won their opening series, with the Pirates beating the Cubs on walk-off hits both times. The Cardinals won two games by a one-run margin, too.

You can read the full game preview here; it also includes comments from tonight’s starter Shelby Miller about his readiness for a fresh start against the Pirates. He went winless in four outings against Pittsburgh last season.

UPDATE (5:35 pm CT): The game will not start on time, as rain is expected to hit Pittsburgh around the time of the scheduled first pitch. The start will likely be delayed by about an hour.

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