ST. LOUIS — Steven Brault has been compared by some to Mark Buehrle, and if he has anywhere near the major league career Buehrle enjoyed, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be better for it.
With Tuesday night's probable starter, Jameson Taillon (right shoulder fatigue), hitting the 15-day disabled list after Pittsburgh's 4-2 win Monday over the St. Louis Cardinals, Brault is expected to be called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to make his first big league start when the teams continue their four-game series.
Described as a “pitch to contact guy” by one scouting report, Brault is 2-3 with a 3.00 earned run average over nine minor league starts this year, eight at Indianapolis. Although his fastball tops out at 91 mph, Brault has fanned 49 hitters in 39 innings.
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Brault fits the profile of the kind of pitcher that has given St. Louis fits at times the last three-plus years — a crafty left-hander who changes speeds and spins, keeping the opposition off-balance.
Jonathon Niese certainly did that Monday, limiting the Cardinals (43-39) to seven hits and a run in 5 2/3 innings as he earned the win. It was the third time on St. Louis' nine-game homestand that a starting pitcher with an ERA over 5.00 had limited the club to a run or less while on the bump.
“I don't know what to make of that,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Any guy in this league has the potential to put something together. I think we treat them all with the same respect.”
As Taillon, who was 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his first five MLB starts, goes on the shelf, the Pirates (42-41) might be on the verge of welcoming their top starting pitcher back to the fold.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (5-4, 2.77), who went on the 15-day DL June 14 with a right triceps strain, is scheduled to make his first rehab start Tuesday night for Indianapolis. Cole is expected to throw three innings or 50 pitches, according to manager Clint Hurdle.
What's more, Pittsburgh right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (facial fractures), who is on the 60-day DL after being beaned May 23, will pitch a simulated game Tuesday. His battery mate will be none other than catcher Francisco Cervelli (broken left hamate bone), who's been on the 15-day DL since June 11.
Even with all the injuries, the Pirates have won five straight and are over .500 for the first time since June 15. One major reason has been the bullpen, which worked an MLB-best 34 straight scoreless innings before giving up a run in the ninth inning Monday.
“The roll they're on now is kind of crazy,” Hurdle said. “But these guys have had success before. They're in a good place right now. They're going to continue to work and feed off one another.”
Pittsburgh faces a historically tough matchup Tuesday night when St. Louis sends Mike Leake (5-6, 4.13) to the bump. Leake, who's coming off a 4-2 loss Thursday night against Kansas City, is 9-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 26 career starts against the Pirates, winning eight of his last nine decisions against them.