They started well on Labor Day, taking the series opener against the Mets, 5-4, but that came against a 25-year-old with only one Major League start to his name in Collin McHugh. Matt Harvey, who will start for New York on Tuesday, has only seven career starts, but he has made the most of them, supporting his Minor League resume that heaped plenty of expectations on the right-hander since his July 26 debut.
"Obviously, the numbers have shown that, but at the same time, you never know," Harvey said after his most recent start, a win against the Phillies. "It's baseball. Things can change on a dime, and you've just got to prepare the best you can and go out there and attack on each pitch. That's what I'm trying to do is go out there and limit the damage, do everything I can to help the team win."
The Mets, who are out of the NL East race and have slim chances at a Wild Card spot, are playing for next season, and they are planning on shutting down Harvey after only a few more starts, once he reaches 165-170 innings between the Minor and Major Leagues. He enters St. Louis with 42 1/3 big league innings and a 2.76 ERA, and he threw 110 innings for Triple-A Buffalo before his promotion.
But the Cardinals are in the thick of a playoff race, despite up-and-down results a year after their World Series run.
Tuesday starter Jaime Garcia embodies that inconsistency. The left-hander has plenty of big-game experience and threw eight scoreless innings in his return from 63 days on the disabled list, but he allowed 10 runs in a combined 11 1/3 innings his past two times out, surrendering 16 hits in Cardinals losses. His 4.52 ERA in 14 starts is the highest since he appeared in 10 games as a rookie in 2008.
"I think it's kind of been funny all season long," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "No matter what we've done ... if you were to just read or listen to what's being said or asked about this team, you would have thought we were fighting to stay out of last place.
"A lot has to do with the expectation, and I don't think you guys could have a higher expectation or the fan base could have a higher expectation of what we have for ourselves. But I also know that pushes our guys when the talk about us is really kind of bizarre."
New York: Six additions set to arrive Tuesday
The Mets will call up six players from Triple-A Buffalo prior to Tuesday's game, a day after their Minor League season ended.
Jordany Valdespin, who appeared in 75 games already this season for New York, headlines the group after a short return to Buffalo. Outfielder Fred Lewis, right-handed pitchers Elvin Ramirez, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia, and left-hander Justin Hampson will also earn promotions. New York will have to select the contracts of Lewis and Hampson, moving Rob Johnson and Tim Byrdak to the 60-day disabled list in a corresponding move.
Lewis was the team's Most Valuable Player in Buffalo, hitting .294 with 80 runs scored, 45 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in 108 games. He has six years of big league experience between San Francisco, Toronto and Cincinnati with a .267 career average. He hit .282 with 80 runs scored, 40 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 2008.
In addition to Valdespin, who has hit .242 with eight homers for the Mets, Ramirez and Hampson spent part of the season in New York. Only Familia -- a 22-year-old right-hander ranked as the Mets' third-best prospect -- has no Major League experience.
St. Louis: Top prospect Miller set for promotion
The Cardinals will call up top prospect Shelby Miller prior to Tuesday's game and make him available out of the bullpen, although general manager John Mozeliak said the Cardinals have not ruled out giving the right-hander a start later in the season. Outfielder Adron Chambers and infielder Ryan Jackson will join Miller in St. Louis after their Triple-A Memphis season ends Monday.
The 21-year-old Miller, whom the Cardinals took with the 19th pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, had a 4.74 ERA in 27 games this season, but posted a 2.89 mark in six August starts, walking four and striking out 53 in 37 1/3 innings.
"If you look back at how he's pitched over the last six, seven weeks, he's really turned the corner," Mozeliak said. "When you look at sort of the composition of our club right now in terms of starting pitching and not being able to go deep into games -- we're probably tiring a little bit as we get into September -- we thought he would just be a nice injection into that."
Carlos Beltran sat Monday with a bruised left knee, but the Cardinals did not rule out a return Tuesday.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina went 1-for-4 Monday to move within one hit of the 1,000th of his career. Molina has a career-best .322 average with 136 hits this season, closing in on his career-high 145 from last season.