Crisis averted: Cardinals confident Miller will be ready for next start

Shelby Miller left Tuesday night's game in Colorado in the third inning with back spasms. 

Joe Mahoney/AP

Talk about a Coors Field special. In a nine-inning game that took 3 hours and 55 minutes, the Cardinals collected 11 hits and scored five runs but still lost by five and were out-hit by seven against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.

And it could have been worse. Much worse. Already down two starters because of injuries, the Cardinals had to pull right-hander Shelby Miller in the third inning because of tightness in his back.

But in what was the best news of the night for the Cardinals, the club said Miller might not even miss a start.

"Mid-back spasms," manager Mike Matheny said of Miller’s injury. "We’re pretty confident he’ll be ready to go his next start."

Miller’s early exit forced the Cardinals to burn through their bullpen, which does not bode well for Wednesday afternoon’s series finale. Now left-hander Marco Gonzales, the team’s first pick in the 2013 draft, will be making his big-league debut at the most hitter friendly park in the majors with a depleted bullpen.

Three relievers — Nick Greenwood, Seth Maness and Sam Freeman — threw at least 25 pitches Tuesday night, which means they most likely will be unavailable to back up Gonzales.

Miller was not right from the start. He gave up three runs and threw 31 pitches in the first inning and allowed two more baserunners but no runs in the second. He departed with two outs in the third when, after falling behind in the count 3-1 to Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa, Miller showed enough signs of discomfort that the Cardinals’ trainers went out to check on him. After throwing a couple of warmup pitches, he walked off the field.

The Cardinals are hopeful he will be able to walk back on for his next start, which is scheduled for Sunday in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw.

3 UP

— Jhonny Peralta. With just one homer in his past 32 games, Peralta took a pretty good split-fingered fastball from De La Rosa and slugged it into the left-field seats for his team-leading 11th home run, tying the game in the fourth. Peralta then showed off his glove by taking away a hit and an RBI from Justin Morneau to end the Rockies’ fifth. Peralta ranged behind second base, fielded the ball from the ground, spun and, from his knees, threw out Morneau at first.


— Tony Cruz. As bad as the first inning went for St. Louis, it would have been worse if Cruz had not made a perfect throw to catch Corey Dickerson trying to steal second. Cruz also scored the Cardinals’ first run in the second and drove in a run in the fourth with a high chopper to second that scored Peter Bourjos all the way from second base.

— Seth Maness. Entering with the Cardinals down just a run in the fifth with a runner on third, one out and the Rockies’ 3-4 hitters coming up, Maness turned in what might have been his most impressive outing of the season. He struck out Troy Tulowitzki with a nasty changeup and got Morneau, thanks to Peralta’s excellent play. Maness then retired the Rockies in order in the sixth on two groundouts and a strikeout.

3 DOWN

— Stopping Morneau. One day after Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams went for six RBI, it was the Rockies’ first baseman’s turn. Morneau drove in the Rockies’ first run with a single off Miller, blasted a three-run homer off Greenwood in the fourth and added a two-run, two-out single in the seventh off Freeman. Morneau also was robbed of an RBI when Peralta took away a hit in the fifth. Still, he finished the night with 57 RBI for the season, just one behind NL leader Giancarlo Stanton.

— Allen Craig. He had two hits and an RBI but, as Tim McCarver pointed out on the FOX Sports Midwest telecast, Craig also had an at-bat that typified his frustrations this season. He was ahead in the count 3-1 when he fouled off a pitch on a check swing and then swung and missed at strike three. McCarver’s point was about strike two. It’s one thing to check a swing when behind in the count and you’re in a protect mode, but when you check your swing when up 3-1, it likely means you’re not seeing the ball well or you’re guessing incorrectly. "Confused" was how McCarver described Craig’s approach, which was as good a description as we’ve heard.

— Cardinals in the Futures Game. Gonzales and James Ramsey both were deserving to be chosen for the showcase game for top prospects. The problem is, neither might be able to make it to Minneapolis for the July 13 exhibition. Gonzales, of course, was called up to the Cardinals to start on Wednesday, and while he isn’t expected to stay up long, one never knows. Ramsey, who leads Springfield with 12 homers and a .307 batting average, just went on the disabled list with an oblique injury. 

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.