The St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers will both send rookie hurlers to the mound on Saturday night at Busch Stadium, though each has followed a very different path.
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.
|June 13, 2013||Jeff Baker||15-Day DL||Sprained right thumb|
|June 07, 2013||Nelson Cruz||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
|June 07, 2013||Michael Kirkman||60-Day DL||Cutaneous lymphoma in right triceps|
|June 06, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 06, 2013||Mitch Moreland||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|June 06, 2013||Mitch Moreland||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|May 26, 2013||John Gast||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tightness|
|May 26, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|May 25, 2013||John Gast||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder tightness|
|May 21, 2013||Fernando Salas||15-Day DL||Right shoulder irritation|
|May 18, 2013||Jaime Garcia||60-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|May 09, 2013||Jake Westbrook||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- After rookie Martin Perez silenced the St. Louis Cardinals, his manager was non-stop with praise.
"I've always seen the stuff, but tonight was the first time I think he showed he's a big-league pitcher," Ron Washington said after the Texas Rangers ' 4-2 victory Saturday night. "It can be a huge step, he just beat a pretty good team.
"He should be proud. I know we are."
Nelson Cruz got the decisive hit for the second straight game with a two-run homer in the third inning for the Rangers, who have won four of five after losing six in a row.
Fellow rookie Shelby Miller (8-5) allowed two homers for the second time in three starts and didn't make it out of the sixth against the team the Cardinals beat in the 2011 World Series, Texas was making its first regular-season visit to Busch Stadium.
"I'm not saying that if I make a better pitch I get them out, but both pitches were right down the middle, perfect pitches to hit," Miller said. "The first one was supposed to be in and the other one was supposed to be away, and both kind of ended up right down the middle of the plate."
A.J. Pierzynski also hit a two-run homer for Texas, which goes for a three-game sweep on Sunday night with Nick Tepesch (3-6, 4.84) facing Adam Wainwright (10-4, 2.37). The first two games have been sellouts and the finale was supposed to be a matchup of aces, but the Rangers are saving Yu Darvish for the Yankees Tuesday in New York.
They didn't want Perez to come up in New York, either.
Perez (1-1) was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock where he was 5-1 with a 1.75 ERA. The lefty allowed a run in each of the first two innings but gave up just two hits the next five innings and retired the last 10.
Though perhaps the Rangers' top prospect, Perez entered 1-5 with a 5.40 ERA with seven starts.
"I just had to do the same job I'm doing at Triple-A," Perez said. "The first two innings I missed a couple pitches but after that I just said `OK, this is my game."'
Joe Nathan wrapped up a game that had all of the scoring in the first three innings with a perfect ninth for his 24th save in 25 chances. The start of the game was delayed by rain 66 minutes. It was the second such delay this week.
Earlier Saturday, Washington said he felt good about Cruz's tiebreaking two-run single in the ninth on Friday because the Rangers need wins, and not because Cruz needed redemption. The Rangers were an out away from taking the '11 Series when Cruz misplayed David Freese 's game-tying triple in Game 6.
Cruz snapped a 2-2 third-inning tie with a two-run homer, his 19th of the season to the opposite field in right. He also singled and has four hits and five RBIs the first two games of the series.
Miller departed after bouncing a throw to first on a sacrifice bunt by Perez that loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. Fellow rookie Seth Maness got Ian Kinsler on a groundout to end the sixth.
Miller is 3-2 this month, the other loss coming when he gave up two homers and four runs on the road against the Mets. Manager Mike Matheny couldn't find fault with pitches that the right-hander left up.
"He lives there, that's where his success is, so that's one of those two-edged swords," Matheny said. "Most of the guys in the league have a tough time catching up to him. You don't see many guys that see him the first time able to square balls up the first pitch they see on the top of the zone."
The Cardinals have opened the scoring both games and took the lead on Allen Craig 's RBI single in the first with Carlos Beltran just beating the relay to the plate from center fielder Leonys Martin .
The Rangers answered when Adrian Beltre doubled to open the second and Pierzynski lined the next pitch into the right field seats for his seventh homer. The Cardinals tied it in the bottom half when Freese tripled off the top of the wall in right-center and scored on Shane Robinson 's sacrifice fly.
NOTES: St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead threw the ceremonial first pitch. ... Tepesch is 0-2 with a 9.77 ERA in his last three starts, and Washington said he needs to develop trust in all of his pitches. ... Wainwright has worked at least seven innings six straight starts, going 5-1. ... Cardinals RHP Michael Blazek made his major league debut and struck out two in a perfect ninth. ... Yadier Molina was 0 for 4 to end a seven-game hitting streak, dropping his league-leading average to .366. He batted .423 (11 for 26) during the streak. ... Craig has 21 RBIs this month, his best month ever. ... Cruz has 11 RBIs the last six games with a .400 average (10 for 25).