Cardinals to start Jose Quintana, Miles Mikolas vs. Phillies

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals will start left-hander Jose Quintana in Game 1 of their National League wild-card series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, manager Oliver Marmol announced Thursday.

Miles Mikolas will start Game 2 of the best-of-three series for St. Louis, and Marmol is undecided about who would start a potential winner-take-all Game 3. His other three starters -- Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery and Adam Wainwright -- will all crack the postseason roster and will all be available out of the bullpen.

"We can use them however we please," Marmol said prior to Thursday's workout at Busch Stadium. "And we will."

The Phillies will start Zack Wheeler in Game 1, Aaron Nola in Game 2 and Ranger Suarez if the series gets to Game 3.

Quintana, a midseason acquisition who struggled mightily with the Los Angeles Angels last year, seems like a surprising choice, but the Cardinals like the idea of utilizing a lefty against a Phillies lineup featuring the left-handed-hitting Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper at the top of the order. Quintana's pitch-to-contact tendencies also play favorably within a spacious park and while backed by an elite defense.

Quintana, 33, has enjoyed an excellent bounce-back season in 2022, posting a 2.93 ERA, accumulating 165⅔ innings and allowing the lowest home-run rate in the majors with the Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"We thought of it quite a bit," Marmol said of the Cardinals' pitching plans. "At the end of the day, Q's done a phenomenal job, he's on a mission, and he's performed extremely well. And when you look at this series and the top of that lineup and just matching up overall, we felt pretty good about him taking Game 1."

The Cardinals will be without left fielder Tyler O'Neill, who hasn't fully recovered from a hamstring strain that has kept him out since mid-September.

The makeup of their outfield is a major question heading into this series, but one certainty, Marmol said, is that Albert Pujols will continue to be the team's designated hitter against right-handers Wheeler and Nola. Pujols was initially brought in to be a DH against lefties, who he thrived against last year. But the 42-year-old has also performed well against righties of late, slashing .284/.348/.578 in the second half.

Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley, who jammed his right middle finger on a fielding play Tuesday, played catch during Thursday's workout and said he expects to be ready to pitch the ninth inning this series. How the rest of the bullpen hierarchy shakes out will be interesting given the potential presence of Flaherty, Montgomery and Wainwright.

The Cardinals would presumably prefer to save Montgomery for either a potential Game 3 or for Game 1 of the National League Division Series, if they advance that far. Wainwright, meanwhile, has struggled through a 7.22 ERA since the start of September. Flaherty could be an X factor as a reliever, perhaps piggybacking behind Quintana in Game 1.

"We have a lot of versatility, not only in our pitchers but also in our rotation and our bullpen," Marmol said. "Everyone will contribute to us moving this thing along. It's been like that all year. We've mixed and matched, not only with our lineup but with the way we use our guys out of the 'pen, and this will be no different."