Mikolas has helped buoy the Cardinals, though they are down 1-0 and must face Nationals ace Max Scherzer on Saturday. The Cardinals, though, would gladly accept six innings of one-run ball from every starter for the rest of the playoffs.
The lone run Mikolas gave up came after he made a mistake to Yan Gomes in the second inning, who lined a double to score Howie Kendrick.
Mikolas tried to keep Nationals hitters honest by deceiving them. “[If] there’s one place in my life where I like to be deceiving and deceitful, it’s out there on the mound,” he said. “I do my best to hide the ball. Fastballs in and keep them off [the plate] with the breaking stuff.”
For much of the first six innings, Nationals hitters looked like they couldn’t pick up Mikolas’s pitches. In the first, he threw an 80-mph curveball that Juan Soto was so far out in front of he could have pulled his bat back and swung again. In the fifth, Adam Eaton must have thought one of those slow curves was coming because he didn’t even flinch at a 93-mph fastball as it sailed through the zone.
“I had a rough regular season,” said the 31-year-old Mikolas, who posted a 9-14 record and 4.16 ERA. “I’m doing my best to make up for it in the postseason.”
Mikolas worked with three pitches — a fastball in the low 90s, a slider in the mid 80s and a curve that hung around at 80 and sometimes dropped as low as 76. He tried to never throw them in the same place twice.
“In, out, up, down, slow, fast, mix up the speeds, move the ball,” he said.
Manager Mike Shildt praised Mikolas’s effort and said he made just one mistake — leaving a fastball up to Gomes that became an RBI double.
“In command of his pitches, the ball was going where he wanted to,” Shildt said. “[He] pitched six innings, give up one run against a good offensive club, gave us more than a chance. I thought he was terrific.”
In part because of Mikolas’s strong effort, Shildt beat back questions about going down 1-0, nearly being no hit and having to face a tough starting rotation from Washington. He bristled at a question suggesting that the team needed to shake-up its lineup after getting only one hit.
“I’m not going to knee jerk with one game when we just got through winning a series. And we have gotten to this point with the group that we have, with guys that have taken good at-bats,” he said.
Instead of overreacting to one game, he said the team would keep using the same lineup.
“There’s complete hope,” Shildt said. “It’s baseball, it’s one of the reasons we love it. We scored 13 in an elimination game and came right back and the guy threw a great game. But there’s nothing but optimism about all our players and our offense, for sure. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”