Preview: Cards welcome highly touted Wacha to rotation

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri’s two teams continue to head in
opposite directions, with the red-hot St. Louis Cardinals looking to
complete a four-game sweep of the sinking Kansas City Royals on Thursday

The Cardinals rallied for a 5-3 victory over the Royals
(21-29) on Wednesday night, scoring four times in the eighth inning for
their seventh win in eight games and 21st in 27. They have recorded at
least 10 hits in 17 of those 27 contests and are batting .292 in May,
tops in the major leagues.

They have been sparked by the hot play
of catcher Yadier Molina, who had three hits Wednesday to give him a
.650 average in his last six games, and first baseman Allen Craig, who
is 7 for his last 12.

Right fielder Carlos Beltran has bounced
back from an 0-for-9 stretch, going 3 for 8 with two home runs in the
past two games for St. Louis (35-17).

Now the Cardinals will send highly touted prospect Michael Wacha to the mound for his major league debut in this contest.

key, from my perspective, is that we just have to manage expectations a
little bit,” general manager John Mozeliak told the team’s official
website. “He’s a year removed from college and being thrust into a very
competitive division with a lot of expectations being put on him, I
don’t know how fair that’s going to be. I just think people need to be

The right-hander out of Texas A&M garnered plenty
of attention during spring training, surrendering one unearned run over
11 2-3 innings while striking out 15. He stayed on the fast track at
Triple-A Memphis, posting a 4-0 record and 2.05 ERA.

well-deserved,” Mozeliak said of Wacha’s promotion. “He was really good
this spring and he hasn’t disappointed at Triple A. We’re just going to
take it day by day. He’s a talented young man and he may be here for a

Wacha will face a slumping Kansas City lineup that has
mustered 16 runs during an eight-game losing streak. Designated hitter
Billy Butler hasn’t hit a home run since May 14 and is 5 for 25 with one
extra-base hit during the slide.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas hasn’t homered since May 10 and is batting .154 in his past eight contests.

Royals’ Jeremy Guthrie (5-3, 3.92) has also fallen into a dramatic
slump, losing his last three starts with a 7.91 ERA after posting a 2.28
mark in his first seven. The right-hander has allowed eight home runs
in his last three outings after giving up seven in his first seven

Guthrie appeared to be well on his way to getting back on
track Saturday, holding the Los Angeles Angels without a hit through
five innings, but he allowed four runs in the eighth and gave up seven
in 7 1-3 innings overall in a 7-0 loss.

“I executed better
today,” Guthrie said. “It came unraveled in the eighth. We couldn’t seem
to make a play and things didn’t work out for us.”