WASHINGTON -- Despite his catcher's insistence that he can continue to play while banged up, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was determined to give Yadier Molina a day off. He chose Sunday.
In August alone, Molina played through back stiffness, a sore right ankle and, most recently, shoulder and neck pain. The latter injury was the result of taking a hard hit from Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison in a home-plate collision on Tuesday. Though Molina sat for only a day after the collision, it's been obvious in the series against the Nationals that he continues to be compromised behind the plate because of a sore left shoulder.
"He's been an absolute warrior here," Matheny said. "He keeps coming back feeling better. [Saturday] he started out very good and then you could just see that his shoulder fatigued. It seems to be getting a little later, which is showing that his shoulder is healing. We just try to give him a little time when we can, even though it doesn't seem like September is the time to do it. He needs it."
Even with a growing list of minor injuries, Molina has started 109 of the team's 134 games. Only one National League catcher (Arizona's Miguel Montero) has made more starts. And Molina's value, both on offense and defense, may be no better illustrated than is this: the Cardinals are 63-46 in games he has started and 9-15 when he doesn't.
Unlike Strasburg, no limitations for Wainwright
WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will likely make only one or two more starts following his outing Sunday against the Cardinals.
He will not be available to help push the Nationals to their first division series since relocating to the nation's capital. He will not pitch against the Cardinals in a potentially key series scheduled later this month. He will not be on a postseason roster.
Rather, the Nationals are standing firm in their decision to limit Strasburg's workload in what is his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals' Adam Wainwright is making the same return from the same surgery. His workload, however, will not be limited in the same way.
"I don't know what the information is that they're getting from their medical people," manager Mike Matheny said. "That's really what we go on. I don't pretend to be an expert in that field. We've been given the 'all progress forward' and 'full steam ahead' with Adam until we see anything out of the normal."
After missing the 2011 season while he recovered from elbow surgery, Wainwright has already thrown 168 2/3 innings through 27 starts. If the Cardinals don't make any tweaks with their rotation, Wainwright would have six more starts this season. That would almost certainly push him over the 200-innings mark.
That doesn't account for potential innings Wainwright could pitch in the postseason.
Strasburg, who started Sunday, entered the day having thrown 150 1/3 innings in 26 starts. The Nationals are unlikely to allow him to pitch past an innings mark of 180. He threw 44 1/3 innings last year after wrapping up his recovery from surgery.
One of the biggest factors in the differing approaches, though, is experience. Strasburg is in unchartered territory, having never pitched a full season as a professional. Wainwright, on the other hand, threw more than 200 innings in three of the four seasons before undergoing arm surgery. That has allowed the Cardinals to take the more liberal stance.
"If we had the medical people tell us something different, we would be a lot more alert, but right now everything measures out fine," Matheny said. "Strasburg is at a different point in his career, too. He's a younger guy. There's a lot of different factors that go into it on both sides.
"I understand the stance they're taking, and I know that Adam is behind us with where we stand with him right now."
The Cardinals will announce the remainder of their September callups on Monday, which is the final day of Triple-A Memphis' season. Several pitchers are expected to join the Cardinals on Tuesday to reinforce the bullpen. Outfielder Adron Chambers and infielder Ryan Jackson are also likely to be summoned.
The Mets have lined up their rotation for their upcoming series at Busch Stadium as such: Collin McHugh (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will start on Monday, followed by Matt Harvey (3-3, 2.76) on Tuesday and R.A. Dickey (17-4, 2.63) on Wednesday.
Manager Mike Matheny emphasized defense in his decision to start Pete Kozma at shortstop and Daniel Descalso at second base on Sunday. Starter Jake Westbrook entered the day with a Major League-high ground-ball percentage of 73.3.
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.