07/26/12 6:53 PM ET
Boggs thriving in eighth-inning role this season
By Mike Still / MLB.com
Boggs has assumed the role as St. Louis' setup man this season, and he has proved to be one of the most reliable arms out of the bullpen. The 28-year-old right-hander hasn't allowed a run in his last 16 appearances, holding opposing batters to a .234 batting average in 12 2/3 innings over that time.
Cardinals starters have thrown 20 straight starts of at least six innings, which sets up nicely for Boggs to handle eighth-inning duties. It's a job he's gladly taken on this year.
"I'm not hitting third for the Yankees," Boggs joked, "but this year's been big for me. I think I have a role on this team that helps us win games, something I've always wanted to do. I certainly expect to continue pitching the way I've been pitching."
Boggs said the consistency of knowing he has a job to do has helped him fall into a bit of a routine. He added that he's been focusing on not trying to do too much while being aggressive and maintaining his mechanics has been the key once he's on the mound.
That combination has helped him get to where he is this season, leading Cardinals relievers with a 1.71 ERA and putting him at the top of the National League in the same category.
"In the past I've bounced around a lot and it certainly doesn't make it easy," Boggs said. "But this year I've kind of been able to settle into a role, and you just show up every single day and prepare yourself and get ready.
"It's nice to be able to show up and know what's expected of you and know that these guys have faith in me and have confidence in me."
After three hits, Freese exits with calf cramps
ST. LOUIS -- Third baseman David Freese exited Thursday's game in the sixth inning with cramping in his right calf. Freese was 3-for-3 with three singles, two RBIs and two runs scored before Skip Schumaker pinch-hit for him in the sixth.
After singling in the fifth, Freese sought medical attention from a team trainer and spoke with manager Mike Matheny but remained in the game. Freese came around to score on a single by Tony Cruz.
Freese extended his hitting streak to nine games, and he has had four multihit games over that span. He's batting .424 since June 20 and has brought his average up to .314 -- the highest it's been since May 5.
Freese is quickly approaching his career high for games played in a season. He appeared in 97 games in 2011 and has played in 91 games this season.
Berkman out of lineup, available to pinch-hit
ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman was out of the Cardinals' starting lineup on Thursday, but manager Mike Matheny said Berkman is available to pinch-hit. Berkman is still nursing a deep bone bruise on his right knee that he sustained after getting hit by a Clayton Kershaw slider on Tuesday night.
Berkman pinch-hit in St. Louis' 3-2 walk-off win against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Berkman drew a one-out walk that would eventually be the winning run, as Joe Kelly pinch-ran for him and scored on Rafael Furcal's single.
Berkman fell behind 1-2 in that at-bat and he didn't look comfortable while fouling off pitches. Matheny said he didn't want to use Berkman on Wednesday, but his bench was running thin, and Berkman boasts a .583 average (14-for-29) against Dodgers reliever Jamey Wright.
"It looked painful," Matheny said. "They tested everything and saw no structural problems. He's just going to be dealing with the bruise and swelling."
Matheny keeps close tabs on relievers' workloads
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals had just about every available reliever warm up during their 12-inning win over the Dodgers on Wednesday night, but only three guys -- Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte and Fernando Salas -- left the bullpen.
Even if they don't enter the game, warming up in preparation to do so can sometimes be enough work for his relievers to leave manager Mike Matheny with a short list of available arms the next day.
"There's going to be certain days, and today might be one of them, where we have guys that are off limits," Matheny said before Thursday's series finale against Los Angeles. "They're still one pitch away from game speed, so they know they have to be ready. You can't go into that halfway. It's a fine line to walk."
Matheny mentioned Boggs, who's made nine appearances this month, and left-handers Barret Browning and Marc Rzepczynski as those who have been called on to warm up almost daily lately. The Cardinals did however add a fresh left-hander to the equation in veteran Brian Fuentes, who had his Minor League contract purchased by St. Louis on Wednesday.
Matheny said he and the coaching staff will often go into the game knowing that certain relievers will need a day to rest. They'll keep that in mind while trying to determine matchups.
"So far, we've just been using whoever gives us the best chance to win and just going in knowing that this guy's probably off limits," Matheny said. "It's kind of the game plan ahead of time."
Motte's been one to routinely warm up without making an appearance. The closer has appeared in seven games this month, but he doesn't mind the intermittent outings.
"It's just part of the game. That's the way it is," Motte said. "I don't complain if I haven't pitched in a while and I don't complain if I've been up there throwing four days in a row. It's just the way the game is."
Carlos Beltran was given the day off Thursday. Manager Mike Matheny said Beltran is feeling the wear and tear of the everyday grind and needed a day to rest. The seven-time All-Star has been having a tough time at the plate this month, batting .197 in 19 games.
As he'll often do in a day game after a night game, Matheny also gave Yadier Molina the day to rest on Thursday, as Molina caught all 12 innings on Wednesday. Tony Cruz made his 17th start behind the plate and has been making the most of his opportunities lately.
Cruz is batting .273 with six RBIs and five extra-base hits in his last seven games.
"He's done a great job with this staff and really giving Yadi an opportunity to have a day by really playing close attention, and when he gets the opportunity, we're not missing anything," Matheny said of Cruz. "We're not missing any of the attention to detail."
Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.