KANSAS CITY — Former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog sees plenty of talent in the St. Louis pitching staff, even without ace Adam Wainwright.
The Hall of Famer, who won three National League pennants and the 1982 World Series during his 10-year tenure, had high praise for the rotation that leads Major League Baseball with a 3.07 ERA through 40 games.
Herzog says Jaime Garcia can be good if he overcomes the injury issues that have plagued him throughout his career, but it’s the other three young starters who have caught his attention.
"(Lance Lynn)’s an outstanding young pitcher," Herzog says. "(Carlos) Martinez has got outstanding ability. (Michael) Wacha, who’s 6-0, outstanding. So they’ve still got three starters on that staff that could be No. 2 pitchers on any staff in the big leagues."
Herzog added that since John Lackey joined the Cardinals last season, he’s never looked better than he did Monday. The veteran right-hander held the Mets to one run on three hits in seven innings.
It’s still early, but with the Royals and Cardinals both leading their respective leagues, Herzog said he’d love to see the two teams meet again in the World Series. He managed Kansas City for five seasons prior to joining St. Louis, and was on the Cardinals’ bench when the two teams met in 1985.
The most memorable moment of that series for most – especially Cardinals fans – came when first-base umpire Don Denkinger incorrectly ruled KC’s Jorge Orta safe at first in the ninth inning of Game 6. But Herzog says what he remembers most is how Vince Coleman missed the series because of a freak injury involving the tarp in St. Louis, and the effect his absence had on the Cardinals’ offense.
"The Royals’ pitching shut us down and once we lost Coleman, my jackrabbit — if you look at the ’85 staff we had outstanding pitching," Herzog says. "Unfortunately, we self-destructed after the bad call, but they scored on a bloop hit with two outs and that’s one of the things — but 11 runs in seven games ain’t going to win you a lot of World Series."
The Cardinals will take advantage of the designated hitter to put together an impressive defensive outfield in one of the biggest parks in the majors.
Manager Mike Matheny says he wanted to give Matt Holliday some more rest by letting him only hit, leaving Randal Grichuk to take over in left field. The 2013 Minor League Gold Glove winner will join speedy center fielder Peter Bourjos and right fielder Jason Heyward, a two-time Gold Glove winner in the big leagues.
"I think it helps everybody out collectively," Bourjos says. "I think you’re able to, not cheat a little bit more, but you can pinch the gaps a little bit and you can just run balls down."
That’s especially true at Kauffman Stadium, which Bourjos says plays much bigger than even the larger-than-average outfield at Busch. He’s played in KC more than most of his teammates, since he spent four seasons with the Los Angeles Angels in the American League.
Bourjos also knows well the speed of the Royals’ lineup and how important it will be to get the ball back to the infield quickly to prevent them from taking extra bases. That same speed and great instincts also give Kansas City the best defensive outfield in the majors, according to nearly all defensive metrics.
"I played against (right fielder Jarrod) Dyson coming up, and he was always a good outfielder and then (center fielder Lorenzo) Cain definitely seems like he catches everything out there," Bourjos says. "Then (left fielder Alex) Gordon, obviously, has been phenomenal the last few years."
Paulo Orlando will play in right field Friday night, but considering he leads the league with five triples, the Royals won’t be losing any speed in their outfield.
Matheny said the Cardinals want to stay aggressive, but they talked in team meetings about the Royals’ elite defenders and will have to be wary of Gordon’s deadly arm in left field. On the other side, Kansas City will no doubt be careful when running on balls hit to Heyward in right.