Right-hander superb in start, picks up third win of season
KANSAS CITY -- All consolation prizes should shine so brightly.
Mitchell Boggs, the Cardinals' second choice to start on Saturday, pitched the finest game of his young career en route to a 5-1 St. Louis win over Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium. Boggs struck out a career-high six over six-plus innings, allowing a single run on four hits.
As recently as Wednesday, the Cardinals held out hope that Mark Mulder might be their starting pitcher on Saturday. On Thursday, Boggs was listed as an available reliever for an afternoon game in Detroit. Had he been needed in that game, Boggs might even have been sent to the Minor Leagues the next day -- never mind actually starting in Kansas City on Saturday.
But Mulder was not sharp enough in a Thursday bullpen session to convince the club he was ready to start. And Boggs didn't have to pitch in relief later that afternoon. In his fourth career big league start, the University of Georgia product showed that he was a superb choice. He pushed aside the uncertainty, and turned in the kind of start that likely will earn him more chances.
"It's not hard," Boggs said of the unusual week. "I'm in the big leagues right now, and they've showed a lot of confidence in me to keep sending me out there. I'll show up every day and do whatever they ask me to do. It doesn't matter."
Odds are, the next thing they'll ask is for him to start again in five days.
Boggs got off to a bit of a rocky start, walking three of the first eight batters he faced. A double play got him out of a two-on, one-out situation in the first. Around two walks in the second, he picked up a strikeout and two ground balls, surviving if not exactly thriving.
In the third inning, though, he began to pick up steam. Boggs allowed a single, but struck out the side in the third, and he got two Ks and a grounder in the fourth.
"I was a little erratic there in the first couple of innings," he said. "I was fortunate to get out of that unscathed. Any time you walk guys to start innings, you're playing with fire. But the guys behind me made great plays, and that allowed me to get into a little bit of rhythm."
Boggs had an exceptional curveball against the Royals, using it both to get ahead and to finish batters off. But in the eyes of one of his mentors, the key was simpler. Boggs got his power sinker down in the strike zone, opening up the rest of his repertoire.
"I thought he did a better job trying to get the ball down," said Braden Looper, who has fielded plenty of questions from the rookie as Boggs learns to pitch in the Majors. "I think he went into the game with that mind-set. I've been talking to him a lot about that. He's got a good enough fastball that if he just has fastball command, the rest is going to be there."
After six nearly spotless innings, Boggs did get into a little trouble in the seventh. He walked the leadoff man and then permitted a single, and that was all for his evening. Kyle McClellan surrendered a double that brought home one of the runs, but Miguel Olivo was thrown out trying to score on the play. Kansas City did not score again.
Boggs and the bullpen received offensive support from Rick Ankiel, who hit a two-run homer, and Chris Duncan, who struck an RBI single. Two Cardinals runs scored as the result of Kansas City errors.
But even without the help from the Royals defense, Boggs pitched plenty well enough to get his third Major League win.
"He's nasty," said outfielder Skip Schumaker. "He really is nasty. He throws 95 mph with sink and cut, and a big curveball. [Adam] Wainwright told me to watch out for this guy, because he's known him for a bit. I had no idea who he was, but he said this guy's got really good stuff, watch out for him.
"Boggs impresses me more and more every time he steps on the mound."