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Marlins hope for more magic from Jesus Luzardo vs. Cardinals

Apr 12, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo (44) throws against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Marlins lefty Jesus Luzardo, coming off a career-high 12-strikeout performance, is set to face the visiting St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night in the start of a three-game series.

Luzardo got those dozen punchouts in just five innings last Tuesday, allowing two hits, one walk and one run in a no-decision against the Los Angeles Angels.

“He had everything going,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Luzardo, whose four-seam fastball averaged a career-high 97.6 mph, according to NBC Sports.

Half of Luzardo’s 76 pitches against the Angels were curveballs, and of the 13 times Angels batters swung at the curve, 12 came up empty. Luzardo also got nine called strikes on the curve.

All of that is huge news for Luzardo, who struggled last year with the Oakland A’s and Marlins, combining for a 6-9 record and a career-worst 6.61 ERA.

Luzardo has never faced the Cardinals, but he is 4-2 with a 5.68 ERA in nine career starts in Miami.

On Tuesday he figures to face a Cardinals lineup that includes veterans such as designated hitter Albert Pujols, 42, and catcher Yadier Molina, 39.

However, Molina, a 10-time All-Star and a nine-time Gold Glove winner, has been given a reduced workload so far this season, batting .133 in five games.

“We’ll ease him in,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “Playing the long game here is better than rushing him in.”

Backup catcher Andrew Knizner, 27, is off to a good start, batting .333 in four games in support of Molina.

Pujols is also not a full-time starter, splitting time with lefty-swinging Corey Dickerson, who played for the Marlins in 2020 and 2021.

The Cardinals on Tuesday will start another graybeard in 40-year-old right-hander Adam Wainwright (1-1, 3.48 ERA).

Wainwright went 17-7 with a 3.05 ERA last year and received Cy Young Award votes for the fifth time in his career, finishing seventh in voting. A three-time All-Star with two Gold Gloves to his credit, Wainwright is 6-2 with a 3.08 ERA in 14 career appearances (12 starts) against the Marlins.

In 350 career games throwing to Molina, Wainwright has a 3.22 ERA. In nine games throwing to Knizner, his ERA is 4.53.

Wainwright has a strong team surrounding him. Third baseman Nolan Arenado is a six-time All-Star with nine Gold Gloves and has led the National League in homers three times. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is also a six-time All-Star. He has won four Gold Gloves and led the NL in homers in 2013.

Second baseman Tommy Edman won his first Gold Glove last year and stroked 41 doubles, ranking second in the NL. Shortstop Paul DeJong was an All-Star in 2019 when he slugged a career-high 30 homers, although he has not played up to that level since.

The Cardinals’ outfield is also talented. Left fielder Tyler O’Neill smashed a career-high 34 homers last year and won his second Gold Glove. Right fielder Dylan Carlson hit 18 homers and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting.

Meanwhile, the Marlins’ hottest two offensive talents — in sharp contrast to the Cardinals’ veteran-laden lineup — are a pair of 24-year-olds, second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. and center fielder Jesus Sanchez.

Chisholm is hitting .318 with a 1.234 OPS. Sanchez is hitting .343 with a 1.018 OPS.

–Field Level Media