9/1/2014 7:55 P.M. ET
Wong cleared, then gives Cards pinch-hit homer
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Kolten Wong had skipped batting practice on Monday morning, instead spending time having his memory tested by another doctor to rule out concussion concerns. He picked up a bat a few hours later, taking some in-game swings to see if a stiff neck would hinder him. Wong then found manager Mike Matheny and told him he was ready.
"He wasn't lying," Matheny said later.
A day after scaring the Cardinals when he landed hard on his head while going after a ball in the outfield, Wong delivered a game-tying pinch-hit home run with a stiff neck to help the Cardinals to a 5-4 win over the Pirates.
"You've got to just kind of basically push that out and just be like, 'I've got to get in there and I've got to do my best to try and help this team somehow,'" Wong said. "That first swing kind of shocked me because I didn't feel that pain [earlier]. But I just kind of stood back and was like, 'Hey, suck it up and let's go.'"
After swinging through two of Gerrit Cole's fastballs and taking a slider in the dirt, Wong drove a 96-mph pitch into the club's bullpen. It gave Wong homers in consecutive games for the third time this season and broke a homerless spell by Cardinals pinch-hitters that dated to August 2013.
"He's got sneaky power," Matheny said. "It's usually when he's isn't trying to lift and separate that good things happen for him. It was a great at-bat and perfect timing."
Though Wong passed all those pregame tests, Matheny chose to keep Wong out of the lineup for precautionary reasons. Wong's replacement, Pete Kozma, contributed a single just ahead on Wong's pinch-hit at-bat.
With his 11th homer, Wong moved into a second-place tie with Philadelphia's Chase Utley for most homers by National League second basemen. Pittsburgh's Neil Walker leads with 18.
"It's up there because it puts us in sole possession of first place, and that's huge for us, especially this late in the season," Wong said of the importance of Monday's blast. "I was definitely excited about it and really pumped about it. Everybody on the team was excited to tie this game up. It's awesome because we ended up winning it."
Masterson making move to Cardinals' bullpen
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have not yet announced a starter for Thursday's series opener in Milwaukee, but manager Mike Matheny did reveal on Monday that right-hander Justin Masterson is no longer in the mix for that assignment.
After six starts, only one of which went smoothly, Masterson will transition into the bullpen, where he'll be available as early as midweek. In his place, one of two left-handers -- Marco Gonzales or Tyler Lyons -- will draw that start against the Brewers.
"He gets it. He's a pro," Matheny said of Masterson's reaction to the shift in role. "He understands the game, understands where we are and understands where he is. But we're committed to keep working through this. Maybe this could be something that works for him."
Masterson had some success out of the bullpen with Cleveland last year, when he made three scoreless appearances for the Indians late in September. Of course, Masterson also had a strong 2013 season overall, and that has not been repeated this year.
Since joining the Cardinals at the Trade Deadline, Masterson has a 7.90 ERA over 27 1/3 innings. He's walked 11, struck out 22 and allowed an opponents' batting average of .312. In four of his six starts, Masterson allowed five runs.
While Masterson has adopted several mechanical suggestions offered by the Cardinals' staff, the club could no longer afford to have Masterson work out his issues while starting every fifth day.
Cardinals mull next steps for Wacha, Motte
ST. LOUIS -- A day after Michael Wacha threw 34 pitches in a Double-A rehab start, the Cardinals remained undecided on whether the right-hander's next appearance will come in the Triple-A playoffs or back with St. Louis.
Pitching in his first game since June 17, Wacha allowed one hit and one walk over two innings with Springfield on Sunday. He struck out one and faced two batters in the third (one reached on an error, the other drew a walk) before being pulled because of pitch count. He threw 24 of his pitches for strikes with catcher Tony Cruz behind the plate.
"Very good," manager Mike Matheny said of the postgame reports on Wacha. "He had good velocity, was efficient, got quick outs and located everything well."
The Cardinals have a couple options with Wacha, who has been working his way back from a stress reaction in his right shoulder. He can make a second Minor League start on Friday for Memphis, which extended its season by advancing to the Pacific Coast League playoffs. Or the Cardinals could summon Wacha back to the Majors to have him throw a simulated game or against the Brewers later this week.
If the Cardinals went with that latter option, they would have another pitcher piggyback Wacha for multiple innings, as Wacha would not yet have his arm strength built back up to go deep into a start.
Motte covered the eighth inning of Springfield's game on Sunday and retired the side in order on 12 pitches. Matheny said Motte had a fastball velocity of 92-94 mph. With Springfield's season ending on Monday, Motte is likely headed back to St. Louis. He is already eligible to be activated from the disabled list and could be as early as Tuesday.
Motte has been sidelined since Aug. 2 due to a lower back strain.
• Daniel Descalso continued his move around the infield, starting at third base in place of Matt Carpenter on Monday. In the last three days (four games), Descalso has started at all four infield positions, becoming the first player in franchise history to start at all four spots in four consecutive games. The last Major League player to do so was Michael Young with the Rangers in August 2012.
• Manager Mike Matheny said he had been considering sitting Carpenter for several days and noted that he "almost had to drag him off the field yesterday." Though Carpenter reached base seven times in the last two games, Matheny sensed fatigue. Carpenter had started 133 of the team's first 136 games this season.
"There's nobody that works harder, plays harder, prepares better," Matheny said. "But he is human. He wears this stuff hard. Right now, he's grinding, but not to the point where they get where they can't do what they normally do. That's when we have to step in and make a change."
• With rosters expanding on Monday, the Cardinals activated infielder Mark Ellis from the 15-day disabled list. Ellis, however, has not been cleared to resume full baseball activities as he continues to recover from a left oblique strain.
• The Cardinals did not make any callups on Monday but do anticipate adding at least four players -- Tony Cruz, Nick Greenwood, Marco Gonzales and Tyler Lyons -- on Tuesday. Those four were not eligible to return until after Double-A Springfield finishes its season.
• Johnson City, a Cardinals Rookie-level affiliate, lost its opening game in a best-of-three semifinal series against Elizabethton (Twins), 7-6, in 13 innings on Sunday. Casey Grayson, the organization's 21st-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, went 4-for-6.
• The Cardinals' two full-season Class A affiliates -- Palm Beach of the Florida State League and Peoria (Ill.) of the Midwest League -- were eliminated from their respective postseason races on Sunday.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.