Cards' starters not benefiting from extra rest

Wacha, Lynn and Martinez have been roughed up after outings pushed back

Cards' starters not benefiting from extra rest

ST. LOUIS -- It's a fine line the Cardinals have walked lately, seeking opportunities to give starters extra days off in between appearances while still maintaining the urgency to keep a firm grasp on their lead (now 4 1/2 games) in the National League Central.

But what may pay off later has not as of late, as Michael Wacha became the team's third starter in the last week to be knocked around after sitting at least seven days between starts. Wacha lasted a season-low four innings while allowing six runs in Tuesday's 8-5 loss to the Cubs.

Wacha was pitching on 10 days' rest after the team's decision to skip his scheduled start against the Nationals last Wednesday. Similarly, the Cardinals had pushed Carlos Martinez's last start back three days -- a move related to a stiff back and workload concerns -- and gave Lance Lynn eight days in between starts to recover from a right ankle injury.

Combined, the three well-rested pitchers gave the club only 11 1/3 innings and were knocked around for 20 hits and 16 earned runs while walking eight and striking out nine. For individuals with regimented routines, could the change in schedule have been behind the uncharacteristic results? That depends upon who you ask.

Lynn insisted upon a connection.

"It didn't help," he said after lasting just 2 1/3 innings Monday. "When you're in a rhythm and a creature of habit, the extra time is never wanted."

Wacha wasn't so quick to blame the schedule, pinning his issues largely on an inability to pitch down in the zone.

"It was just timing, really," he said. "I was still throwing [side sessions] in between [starts] and keeping the same kind of routine."

It is worth noting, though, that Wacha's shortest start of the year before Tuesday had come July 21, just after the Cardinals had designed a 12-day break for the right-hander around the All-Star break. Wacha lasted five innings and allowed five runs against the White Sox on that day.

Manager Mike Matheny acknowledged the potential for causation, but nevertheless adamantly defended the end game.

"We have to do what we think is right," he said. "We have a guy who turns his ankle over, we have to take what we can. We have a guy who has a tight back, we take what we can. We have young pitchers who we need to figure out how to keep them strong, we do what we can and then you live with the results. Sometimes you get immediate return. Sometimes it's delayed. You stick with what's right regardless."

And that's why Matheny won't hesitate to make similar rotation alterations over the next few weeks, particularly if the organization feels a need to bank Wacha and/or Martinez potential innings for October. Having his pitchers poised to peak then is the purpose.

"It's just a matter of trying to get them in a good spot as they go forward," Matheny said. "I appreciate the fact that they all want to be out there every fifth day, but it's just not going to work that way all the time."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.