ST. LOUIS -- A Rule 5 pick a year ago, Matt Bowman is now emerging as one of the most reliable arms in a Cardinals bullpen beset by early inconsistency.
Though manager Mike Matheny had his pick of relievers, it was Bowman who he summoned to hold a one-run lead in the eighth inning Tuesday. Bowman responded by pushing his scoreless innings streak to 17 1/3, which set up the Cardinals to close out a 2-1 victory over the Pirates. That scoreless streak, which dates back to Sept. 6, 2016, doesn't include the 12 shutout innings Bowman threw in Spring Training to earn his place back on the roster, either.
"I think it says a lot about Bowman and whatever role we give him he seems to do a great job with," Matheny said. "He's equally effective [against] lefties with the movement and deception. He's a very important piece right now."
Especially so since the Cardinals' have so many relievers searching. The club's bullpen ERA (7.18) entering Tuesday ranked last in the Majors, and planned late-inning relievers Kevin Siegrist and Jonathan Broxton haven't been especially dependable.
Bowman, on the other hand, has proven to be agile while filling a number of different roles since debuting with the team last season. He's often been a fireman, called upon to bail the team out of a jam mid-inning, and he led the club with 17 multi-inning appearances a year ago.
This season, he's earning the chance to pitch in more late-inning spots.
"I don't make too much of it," said Bowman, who leads the club with three holds. "They call on me whenever, and I'll go pitch. I'm happy to be called on at any point during a big league game."
Bowman has retired the first batter he's faced in all eight appearances this season, and he has limited traffic on the bases with only three hits and one walk allowed.
The key to his success?
"Just throw what [catcher] Yadi [Molina] tells me," Bowman said.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.