St. LOUIS — Nothing, Miles Mikolas said with more conviction than ever as he capped his career-high-tying 10th strikeout in the eighth inning Tuesday, gives him more satisfaction as a pitcher than having of great performance when his Cardinals needed it the most.
Mikolas did just that last week as the Cardinals stared down the possibility of a series loss to the rebuilding Reds, throwing seven scoreless innings to carry the St. On Tuesday, with the Cardinals in another slump where they’ve dropped four of their past six games, Mikolas was even better as he rattled the Royals.
Heading into the team’s first scheduled two-day rest of the season since September of 1978, Mikolas was determined to end the Cardinals’ two-game losing streak with a stopper-like performance.
“I think it’s one of the best feelings in sports to show up for your team when they need it,” said Mikolas, whose other 10-strikeout game came in August of 2019 at Milwaukee. “That’s my only pride and that’s all I’m going to do — win games. Yes, I want my stat line to be good, but at the end of the day, if I start the game and we finish with a win, I’m pretty happy.”
The Cardinals have produced several wins of late with the 34-year-old Mikolas on the mound. In his last nine starts, Mikolas is 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA. St. Louis has won seven of his last nine starts, including all of his last five starts.
Mikolas has been a key cog in a Cardinals recovery process that has helped them dig their way out of a 10-24 start. The Redbirds followed April 10-18 with May 15-13, which included a 12-of-16 winning streak at one point. April showers aren’t exactly what bring beautiful flowers in May, but the Cardinals still like where they sit in the less-than-stellar NL Central race.
“We still have a lot to do, but we’re just getting started,” said Cards manager Oliver Marmol, whose team is still in last place in the NL Central but sits just 4 1/2 games back of first place. in Milwaukee. “We did well to step back, take a deep breath and know we have a lot to do. May is fine and we will continue.”
Mikolas continued after a rocky three-start stretch to open the season where his ERA was north of 10, and he slowly became the Cardinals’ most reliable starter. An All-Star in 2022 for the second time in his career, Mikolas was awarded a two-year, $40 million contract extension late in Spring Training.
Mikolas pitched only occasionally for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic during his slow start to the season, Marmol said, but he’s been a completely different pitcher in his last nine outings. And he was at his best on Tuesday when he retired nine straight after allowing the first two batters of the game to reach. He eventually retired 12 of the last 13 Royals hitters he faced.
He has not allowed a run in his past 16 innings, and he has never allowed a Royals run for more than 17 innings.
“He throws things in different directions,” Royals outfielder MJ Melendez said. “He has a funky arm slot and release. He has a good mix now.”
In addition to wanting to stop the Cardinals’ slide, Mikolas admitted he wants to pitch well against Greinke, a 224-game winner, the 2009 AL Cy Young winner and a two-time MLB ERA champ. Greinke held the Cardinals scoreless through five innings before getting reliever Carlos Hernández in the sixth on Nolan Arenado’s run-scoring double.
“He’s been in the Major Leagues a long time, he’s had great seasons and he’s still a fantastic pitcher,” Mikolas said of Greinke. “I don’t know if he’s a Hall of Famer or not, but I’m sure he’s close. He will probably get my vote.
“Any time we go against a guy with that name, you want to do well,” Mikolas added. “You like him. I’m getting to be one of the older guys in the league, so when I face guys that I watched on TV, then you want to impress him. Hopefully, he’ll come back saying, ‘You know, Mikolas did a good job today.’”