New Cards southpaws make their mark

ST. LOUIS — Saturday marks International Left-Handers Day, a celebration that could take on new life for St. Louis Cardinals from years past or even weeks ago.

The Cardinals have rearranged their starting rotation behind two new lefties. Left-handed starting pitchers Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery joined the Cardinals at the trade deadline. The newcomers made a good first impression and the Cardinals won their first four starts combined.

The first returns were exactly what the doctor ordered. Quintana and Montgomery combined for a respectable record of 108-105, 3.84 ERA and 1,962 strikeouts heading into their Cardinals debut. Both have proven they can build on that experience and cover valuable innings as St. Louis fights for a fourth straight playoff berth.

Jose Quintana

What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of the cardinals than the Quintana route? After four seasons with the Chicago Cubs from 2017 to 2020, Quintana joined the other side of the classic rivalry and made his debut for St. Louis. The southpaw hit six one-run innings and struck out seven on just 86 pitches. His first start also proved effective, as Quintana had once netted 11 in a row on the outing.

Six days later, Quintana suffered a tough test in a batting-friendly ballpark at Coors Field. The Cardinals gave him an early cushion with a five-run first inning, setting the stage for his second straight quality start. Quintana held the Rockies to two runs in six innings and struck out six batters to hold on for his first win with the Cardinals.

“My goal is to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Quintana said after Wednesday’s start. “I’m really glad we got support early on. I’m really happy with my first victory as a Cardinal.

Jordan Montgomery

It’s hard to script a much better Cardinals debut than what Jordan Montgomery experienced last weekend. Moved to a last-minute deal with the New York Yankees, the six-year-old pitcher lined up for his Busch Stadium debut against his only former franchise. And he went five scoreless innings, containing a high-octane Yankees offense to two hits on 83 pitches in a narrow 1-0 win.

Same stadium, new opponent in the next series of the weekend. Montgomery went six scoreless innings and a career-high 108 pitches in his second start with the Cardinals. He knocked out eight Brewers on strikes and escaped a critical sixth-inning jam en route to a quality start and his second straight win at St. Louis. Go those 11 scoreless innings to launch the Montgomery Cardinals career.

“This clubhouse is awesome, a bunch of just quality hearts,” Montgomery said after Friday’s start. “I really wanted to make some good first impressions and help us win.”

Look back, look ahead

The Quintana and Montgomery trades cost the Cardinals a few major and minor league-level assets. Longtime center fielder Harrison Bader joined the Yankees as part of the deal with Montgomery. Pitcher Johan Ovideo and prospect Malcolm Nunez joined the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of the Quintana deal, which also marked Cardinals relief pitcher Chris Stratton.

In four starts, the duo covered 23 innings with a combined 1.17 ERA and 22 strikeouts. Since their acquisitions, the Cardinals have jumped from a three-game deficit to overtake the NL Central division lead.

Quintana will be a free agent next offseason unless the Cardinals offer a contract extension before this winter. Montgomery still has a year of team control beyond this season before he can test free agency.

The Cardinals head into Saturday with a 62-50 record and a 1.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in NL Central. The three-game series with the Brewers ends on Sunday.

About Chris C. Hairston

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