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NLCS Game 3: Cardinals (1-1) @ Giants (1-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20141014_094135283.jpgIt’s not much of a surprise, but now it is official: Yadier Molina will not start Game 3. Despite Molina’s insistence on Monday that he will play again this postseason, the reality is that he is dealing with an injury that rarely goes away in 48 hours. For that (and other reasons), it made too much sense not to go with A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate.

Though this will be Pierzynski’s first start since Sept. 11, he has a season-long history with Game 3 starter John Lackey. They have been batterymates 20 times this season, and both are plenty comfortable with the arrangement. It doesn’t hurt, either, that Pierzynski is 8-for-21 in his career against Giants starter Tim Hudson.

Surely, San Francisco is ready to welcome Pierzynski back, too… with raining boos. He never endeared himself to the folks here during his one season (2004) as a Giant. San Francisco traded a lot of talent (Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano) to acquire Pierzynski, then released him after one season.

Molina had started 83 straight postseason games for the Cardinals before today.

With Molina out of the lineup, Pierzynski will also slide up into the sixth spot in the batting order. Manager Mike Matheny is sticking with Randal Grichuk in right field, apparently still siding with defense over Oscar Taveras. Peter Bourjos would have been another strong defensive option in this ballpark, but he remains on the bench.

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Molina remaining on NLCS roster, hopes to play

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

A day after suffering a left oblique injury that he described as the “worst pain I have ever felt in my career,” Yadier Molina played catch out on the AT&T Park outfield grass and spoke adamantly afterward that his season is not over.

The Cardinals have characterized Molina’s condition as day-to-day, and manager Mike Matheny confirmed on Monday that the club will keep Molina on its active postseason roster. Not only does that keep Molina as an option for this best-of-seven National League Championship Series, but it would also allow him the chance to play if the Cardinals advance to the World Series.

Major League Baseball requires that any player taken off the active roster in the postseason also sit in the subsequent round. That means a move now would effectively end Molina’s year.

“That’s a tough rule with having to lose him not just the rest of this [series], but if we were fortunate enough to move on, we wouldn’t have him, as well,” Matheny said. “Right now it’s just looking at what he could bring to the table and he could bring the ability to come into a game and help us out defensively, and hopefully improve to the point where we could use him offensively, as well. We don’t know. It’s just to make a knee jerk reaction right now, I don’t think is the best decision for our club.”

Molina did not swing a bat on Monday, but he did play catch and reported feeling much looser than expected when he woke up this morning. The Cardinals delayed their charter flight out of St. Louis after Game 2 so that Molina, who had left the ballpark to be examined, could join them on the trip.

“I woke up moving a little better,” Molina said. “I feel good enough to catch.”

Molina said he first felt discomfort on his left side when he singled in his first at-bat on Sunday. That sensation is what led Molina to lay down a sacrifice bunt his next time up. In his third at-bat, Molina never budged from the batters’ box as the Giants turned a double play.

Asked to describe how he felt at that moment, Molina said, “It’s like someone is nailing you with a knife. It’s a tough pain.”

That’s why both player and team were pleasantly surprised at how much improved Molina was the day after. Molina didn’t rule out returning to the field as early as Tuesday, though being included in the starting lineup would require he first test his oblique with some swings.

He received several forms of treatment on Monday, including massage therapy, STEM therapy and ice. He is also taking oral medication to try and expedite the recovery process. Molina said concerns about reaggravating his side will not keep him off the field.

“Right now, you can’t think about it,” Molina said. “Right now, you have to go out and give everything you have, even if it’s 50 percent. Go for your team and for yourself and try to win games. You can’t think about anything else.

“If I get the chance to play again, I won’t think about my side. I’m going to think about winning the game. I’ll take care of my side here in the clubhouse, but when I’m out there, I won’t think about it.”

Even if Molina isn’t cleared to resume swinging, Matheny said he wouldn’t rule out sending the veteran backstop into the field as a defensive replacement while the recovery process is ongoing.

“If we have a small lead, there’s no reason why we couldn’t do that, from what I saw [of him catching on Monday],” Matheny said. “We needed to see Yadi move around a little bit today and see him throw. He answered questions that. Quite honestly, I didn’t think we would be able to answer the way that we are right now. That’s encouraging for us and encouraging for our club.

“Once again we’ll take him in any capacity, even if it’s a cheerleader on the bench. But to have him active and as a weapon to be able to brought in late in the game, that is very valuable to us.”

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NLCS Game 1: Giants (0-0) @ Cardinals (0-0)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20141011_165550427.jpgThe Cardinals open their best-of-seven series against the Giants tonight with Adam Wainwright on the mound. San Francisco will counter with Madison Bumgarner, who has a 0.78 ERA (two earned runs; 23 innings pitched) in three career playoff road starts. He hasn’t allowed a run on the road in his last 19 innings the third-longest such streak in Giants history.

Wainwright (who insists his right elbow is fine) has some sterling postseason numbers of his own, however. Of the 12 Cardinals pitchers with at least 15 innings pitched in the NLCS, Wainwright has the lowest ERA (1.59).

The Cardinals have again included four left-handed batters against Bumgarner and have little hesitation doing so given the left-on-left success this club had against the Dodgers last round.

So how important is winning Game 1? Since the LCS was implemented in 1969, 30 of the 44 NL teams to win Game 1 have gone on to win the series. In more recent times, though, that margin hasn’t been so wide. Since 2005, the Game 1 winner is 5-4 in the NLCS. The Cardinals are 5-2 in Game 1 of the NLCS when playing it at home.

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Cardinals set NLCS roster

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Comfortable in trimming their bullpen back to seven, the Cardinals have opted to add catcher A.J. Pierzynski onto their 25-man roster for the National League Championship Series. The organization opened that roster spot by removing lefty Sam Freeman, who walked the only two batters he faced in the NL Division Series.

By adding Pierzynski as a third catcher, the Cardinals allow themselves the flexibility to use either the left-handed hitting Pierzynski or the right-handed hitting Tony Cruz in a pinch-hit spot. With only two catchers last round, the Cardinals had to hold off on using Cruz in case he was needed for emergency catching duty later in the game. He never was.

Here is the full roster breakdown:

  • Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Shelby Miller
  • Relievers: Trevor Rosenthal, Pat Neshek, Marco Gonzales, Randy Choate, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Michael Wacha
  • Catchers: Yadier Molina, Tony Cruz, Pierzynski
  • Infielders: Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma
  • Outfielders: Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Randal Grichuk, Oscar Taveras, Peter Bourjos

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NLCS start time announced

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Major League Baseball announced start times for the National League Championship Series (Cardinals vs. Giants) today. Here is the rundown of dates, locations and times:

Game 1 at Busch Stadium: Saturday, Oct. 11 at 7:07 pm CT

Game 2 at Busch Stadium: Sunday, Oct. 12 at 7:07 pm CT

Game 3 at AT&T Park: Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 3:07 pm CT

Game 4 at AT&T Park: Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 7:07 pm CT

Game 5 at AT&T Park: Thursday, Oct. 16 at 7:07 pm CT (if necessary)

Game 6 at Busch Stadium: Saturday, Oct. 18 at 3:07 pm CT (if necessary)

Game 7 at Busch Stadium: Sunday, Oct. 19 at 6:37 pm CT (if necessary)

Games 1 and 6 will be televised on FOX. All other games will be shown on Fox Sports 1.

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NLDS Game 4: Dodgers (1-2) @ Cardinals (2-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20141007_135932752.jpgA win in Monday’s swing game of the NLDS presents the Cardinals with as many as two opportunities to close out the series against the Dodgers. In the three previous NLDS matchups in which they held a 2-1 series lead, the Cardinals won each. The club is also 3-0 at home in NLDS Game 4s.

Shelby Miller has waited two years for a postseason start, and he gets it today in a potential clincher game. During the regular season, Miller started just once against the Dodgers (5 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 4 K on June 29), but that was before he retooled his repertoire by adding in a sinker and throwing the curveball with more conviction. Miller also faced Los Angeles in his lone relief appearance of the year.

Here is more from Miller about the opportunity to make his first career postseason start.

The Dodgers are going without Yasiel Puig in their lineup today, subbing Andre Ethier into the outfield instead. Puig has three hits in the series but has also struck out eight times in 12 at-bats. Asked several times about the lineup change, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said over and over that he felt Etheir “gives us the best chance to win today.” Ethier tagged Miller for a three-run homer in June.

The Cardinals, in contrast, are sticking with the lineup that won them Game 3. That includes keeping Kolten Wong in it. Against Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, the Cardinals started Pete Kozma at second base instead.

“There’s a guy that’s swinging the bat well and he’s showing that he’s putting together good at bats against lefties just like he is the righties,” manager Mike Matheny said of Wong. “And he’s somebody that once he gets going in a good direction, we just try to keep him going.”

The only thing the Cardinals came unprepared to do on Tuesday was travel. Matheny opted not to have his players bring luggage to the ballpark for a possible flight to Los Angeles should the team lose Game 4. If the team does need to fly back to LA for a Game 5, the Cardinals will do so on Wednesday.

“We’ve done a real nice job of staying in the moment and today’s our day,” Matheny said. “We’re not being presumptuous. It’s just: let’s play the game and we’ll figure it out after that.”

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NLDS Game 3: Dodgers (1-1) @ Cardinals (1-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20141006_153659144.jpgTonight is the swing game of this best-of-five series, perhaps even more so given that Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced last hour that he will be bringing Clayton Kershaw back on short rest to pitch Game 4. That lines Zack Greinke up as the Game 5 starter.

The Cardinals haven’t had rousing success in Game 3s before, however, as they enter this with a 5-6 mark in Game 3s inthe NLDS and a 1-4 record in that game at home. But of the four previous NLDS appearances in which the series was tied after two games, the Cardinals won three of them.

John Lackey gets the start for the Cardinals tonight after having won each of his last two DS starts (2013 and 2009). He has allowed three or fewer runs in 12 of his 16 career postseason starts. The Dodgers will counter with Hyun-Jin Ryu, who will be pitching for the first time since Sept. 12.

While Mattingly has opted to remove Dan Haren from the Game 4 start, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny does not intend to do the same with Shelby Miller. Asked this afternoon if Adam Wainwright is a possibility to come back on short rest, Matheny said Miller will remain in line to start.

First pitch tonight is at 8:07 pm CT, with the game to be shown on FOX Sports 1. For those who have been asking about a Game 4 start time, it will be set after the Nationals-Giants finish their game today.

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NLDS Game 2: Cardinals (1-0) @ Dodgers (0-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20141004_150433889_hdr.jpgThough they scored 10 runs in a Game 1 win, the Cardinals have tweaked their lineup because they will be facing a righty (Zack Greinke) tonight in Game 2. Jon Jay jumps back into the two-hole, while Kolten Wong makes his first career postseason start. Randal Grichuk, who homered in his first playoff at-bat on Friday, remains in the lineup as the Cardinals’ right fielder. Though his numbers against right-handers aren’t as impressive as they are against lefties, Grichuk put together some nice at-bats against righties late in the year and still provides the Cardinals with an above-average glove.

The start belongs to Lance Lynn, who is still looking for his first career playoff start of at least six innings. In all but two of his previous five postseason starts, Lynn was chased before even getting an out in the sixth. He already owns the franchise record for most postseason appearances (21), but he’s won only once as a starter. In a year where Lynn has taken some huge strides forward, that would be the next. For more on Lynn’s start, read this piece.

First pitch tonight is scheduled for 8:37 pm CT, with MLB Network televising.

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NLDS Game 1: Cardinals (0-0) @ Dodgers (0-0)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20141003_125648024_hdr.jpgLooking to optimize their chances against Clayton Kershaw, the Cardinals have added some right-handed bats into the lineup, most notably Pete Kozma (second base) and Randal Grichuk (right field). Manager Mike Matheny opted not to also start Peter Bourjos, instead sticking with Jon Jay in center. Kozma is 4-for-8 with three doubles in his career against Kershaw. Kolten Wong is expected back in the lineup against Zack Greinke in Game 2.

If you’re looking for some pregame reading material, there is plenty on MLB.com — including a look at the Cardinals’ (relative) success against Kershaw, Adam Wainwright’s readiness for this big-stage start, how the Cardinals came to their final roster decisions, and a look at how Pete Kozma went from Triple-A castoff to an October participant yet again.

The Cardinals are playing in their 12th NLDS and have won nine of the previous 11. The only exceptions came in 2001 (vs. Arizona) and 2009 (vs. Los Angeles). The Cardinals have swept their NLDS opponent four times. The team is 14-8 in NLDS road games, compared to 15-6 at home.

First pitch today is at 5:37 pm CT, with Fox Sports 1 televising the game.

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Cardinals announce NLDS roster

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Prior to taking the field at Dodger Stadium for an afternoon workout on Thursday, the Cardinals released their 25-man roster for the National League Division Series against the Dodgers. The roster features 12 pitchers, two catchers, six infielders and five outfielders.

Notable omissions from the roster include veterans Jason Motte, Mark Ellis and A.J. Pierzynski. Here is how the rest of the roster shakes out:

Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Shelby Miller

Relievers: Randy Choate, Sam Freeman, Marco Gonzales, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, Pat Neshek, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha

Catchers: Tony Cruz, Yadier Molina

Infielders: Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma, Jhonny Peralta, Kolten Wong

Outfielders: Peter Bourjos, Randal Grichuk, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Oscar Taveras

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