Cardinals taking ‘next man up’ attitude to the max against Phillies

Next man up is one thing. Next men up is another thing altogether.

That’s what the St. Louis Cardinals are facing during a dizzying week of injuries that has left them minus two starting pitchers, a bevy of relievers, their All-Star catcher and now their young shortstop.

For at least one game, St. Louis did fine without the newest addition to its disabled list, Paul DeJong, who broke his hand when hit with a pitch Thursday night. Minus the guy who started 39 of their first 41 games at shortstop, the Cardinals trounced the Philadelphia Phillies 12-4 on Friday night.

Game two of perhaps eight weeks without DeJong takes place Saturday at Busch Stadium when the Cardinals and Phillies meet in the third contest of their four-game set.

“I love the challenge of what the club has in front of them right now,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said to “Any of the doubt that’s out there about what we can do is an insult and we have to take it that way.

“We have guys who are completely capable of going out there and doing special things. When you look at what we have and what we haven’t done, we have so much room to climb and grow and get better.”

Matheny’s defiance in the face of mounting odds and shrinking depth transferred to its team Friday night. They knocked out long-time nemesis Jake Arrieta with a four-run third, then feasted on the pastry cart offered by the second-line relievers out of the Phillies’ bullpen.

Among the hitters enjoying big games was catcher Francisco Peña, who is seizing the opportunity given him by injuries to Yadier Molina and Carson Kelly, who was brought up by the team to make most of the starts with Molina on the shelf.

Peña enjoyed his second straight three-hit game Friday night, clouting his first St. Louis homer in the process. He had a chance to become the first catcher since George Kottaras in 2011 to hit for the cycle, but fanned in the seventh.

That highlighted the team’s first double-digit outburst at home this year and helped them improve to 24-18, pulling them within 1 1/2 games of first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central.

Tasked with cooling the Cardinals’ offense Saturday is right-hander Zach Eflin, who in two starts since being called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley is 1-0 with an 0.71 ERA. Eflin checked San Francisco on four hits over 6 2/3 innings in an 11-0 win May 7, whiffing nine.

Eflin told that he’s gotten more aggressive with his fastball than in previous stints with the club in 2016 and 2017.

“Being able to stay aggressive and hungry has left an imprint on my mind to pitch with confidence,” he said. “When I’m aggressive with (the fastball), it has a different life and movement.”

With Carlos Martinez (lat strain) and Adam Wainwright (elbow) on the disabled list, St. Louis turns to spot starter John Gant (1-1, 4.15). It will be the second start this year for Gant, who worked 3 2/3 innings in long relief Sunday in San Diego after Wainwright walked six in 2 1/3 innings.

Gant has faced the Phillies twice in his career, allowing three earned runs in six innings while pitching with Atlanta. This will be Eflin’s first outing against the Cardinals.