Jason Motte, given the closer's job late last month, has knocked off seven saves in his first seven tries. He's been scored on in only one of his last 27 outings and has given up an earned run in only one of 39 appearances since June 23.
Mostly a setup man in his first three seasons in the majors, Motte, a former light-hitting minor league catcher, has made the transition to the ninth inning a rather seamless one.
And appearances are that he is good enough that the Cardinals won't have to go outside the organization this offseason to get a closer for 2012.
"Motte's shown a lot composure in that ninth inning," manager Tony La Russa said. "He has not done anything different. He's just concentrating and making his pitches."
Motte said regular catcher Yadier Molina and backup Gerald Laird have more confidence in him throwing his cutter and two-seam fastball than when he simply was flinging his four-seam, 97 mph fastball. He has three pitches with which he can retire hitters now, after having only one before.
"They're calling (his other pitches) in counts when they would normally call a fastball," Motte said. "It's good they have the faith in me to call them."
Pertaining to his new role, Motte said: "I'm not really trying to look at it any different. Just try to attack the hitters and get every guy out that I can. One at a time."
RHP Chris Carpenter, the staff ace, is the only starter who doesn't have double figures in wins. Carpenter is 9-9. RHP Kyle Lohse is 13-8, LHP Jaime Garcia is 12-7, RHP Jake Westbrook is 12-8 and RHP Edwin Jackson, counting his time with the Chicago White Sox, is 12-9. RHP Kyle McClellan, who began the season in the rotation, is 11-6 between starting and relieving.
OF Allen Craig, a .319 hitter in part-time duty, is expected to get most of the playing time in left field with the potential loss of LF Matt Holliday for the season because of an inflamed tendon in his right middle finger. "It's really fun to play," Craig said. "But it (stinks) that the opportunity came because Matt had to be hurt. The team won't be the same without him."
1B Albert Pujols still
needs to get a bit hotter to reach a .300 average for the season, which would
mark his 11th time at that level. Pujols already has his 30-plus home runs for
the 11th consecutive season and needs seven runs batted in for his 11th season
of 100 RBI. He has reached .299 in average but never has been at .300 for one
day this season and will begin the weekend in
RHP Eduardo Sanchez, who had five saves and 1.88 ERA before he sustained a shoulder injury in June, has been activated. But manager Tony La Russa doesn't see many situations in which he might use Sanchez as long as the Cardinals still are in contention for a playoff spot. RHP Mitchell Boggs, who has been healthy, hasn't been used out of the bullpen in nearly two weeks.
The Cardinals enter the weekend having hit into 159 double plays. That leaves them seven short of the team and National League record.
BY THE NUMBERS: 13 - Number of games over .500 for the Cardinals, a season high, at 81-68.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Right now, I'm concerned about trying to make a few more starts and … hopefully we can make a bid for the playoffs. I'm sure that's everybody's concern right now. What happens after the season, we'll deal with after the season."
- RHP Edwin Jackson, a potential free agent, on his future with the Cardinals.
SS Rafael Furcal (strained left knee) was injured trying to steal second base Sept. 14. He is day-to-day.
LF Matt Holliday (inflamed tendon in middle finger of right hand) was injured while he was in the on-deck circle Sept. 13 and had to leave the game. An examination the next day revealed the inflammation, and it's questionable whether he will play again this season.
RHP Eduardo Sanchez (mild right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Springfield on July 7 but had renewed soreness soon after and was shut down until late August or early September. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 31. Early in September, Sanchez began throwing bullpen sessions as if they were game situations, i.e., getting up and down. He declared himself ready to return after a simulated outing on Sept. 10 and was activated on Sept. 14.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season. Wainwright was getting closer to throwing a full-strength bullpen session in September, but he will not be allowed to throw his signature curveball until next year.
September 16 @ PHILLIES: LHP Jaime Garcia (12-7, 3.68) vs. RHP Vance Worley
(11-2, 2.92) 6:05 P.M.