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STL@PIT: Wacha strikes out seven and walks one

ST. LOUIS -- That huge sigh of relief you heard from Busch Stadium on Wednesday came from the pitchers for both the Cubs and Cardinals. Both teams had depleted bullpens following Tuesday's 12-inning game, which the Cardinals won, 4-3. They needed a breather.

Nature intervened, and on Thursday, the two squads will wrap up this rain-shortened series at Busch, with Jason Hammel starting for Chicago and Michael Wacha going for St. Louis. Wednesday's rain-postponed game will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Aug. 30.

The Cardinals were already planning on playing short-handed Wednesday because infielder Kolten Wong, promoted from Triple-A, was sent home with the stomach flu. They hope he'll be ready Thursday.

"He got here. I greeted him and told him we were happy to have him back and were glad that he was doing as well as he was doing," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I was told about 10 minutes later that the doctors had seen him and needed to get him out of here. Hopefully, he bounces back quick."

Cubs manager Rick Renteria can benefit from Wednesday's rainout as well. He's been battling a cough and cold this week. It's tough when the game-time temperature fluctuates from 81 degrees on Monday to 57 on Tuesday.

The Cardinals' bullpen covered five innings on Monday and another six on Tuesday. Seth Maness would have been unavailable Wednesday after throwing four straight days. Randy Choate also was questionable after throwing 35 pitches on Monday.

On Thursday, they should be back at full strength. Matheny was prepared Wednesday.

"Well, we had anticipated Michael going long," he said, smiling.

The Cubs had hoped to avoid using Justin Grimm on Tuesday but needed the right-hander in the 12th. With the game tied and the bases loaded, he hit pinch-hitter Greg Garcia on the elbow to force in the winning run.

On Wednesday, the Cubs added reinforcements. Jose Veras, who began the season as the closer, was activated from the disabled list and rookie Zac Rosscup went to the DL with left shoulder soreness.

The Cubs are carrying 13 pitchers -- most teams have 12 -- yet still seem short-handed.

"One of the challenges is that we can't get away from these 12-inning games," Chicago general manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday. "Every time you have one, it sets you back. It doesn't matter what team you are, you play extra innings and unless you're coming off an off-day, you'll be backed up a little in the bullpen. That's where you get into problems, when guys have to go three out of four, four out of five."

Cubs: It's Hammel time
Hammel will be looking for his eighth consecutive quality start on Thursday. He and Jeff Samardzija are one of three sets of Major League teammates with at least seven quality starts each. The others are the Tigers' Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer and the Braves' Julio Teheran and Aaron Harang.

Hammel ranks fourth in the National League in WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched), which is the statistic he feels pitchers should be graded on.

"I just know that after awhile, you figure out -- if you don't let them on base, you don't have to deal with them," Hammel said.

Cardinals: Wong ready for another chance
Having seen what they needed from Wong during his two-week return to Triple-A, the Cardinals recalled the second baseman on Wednesday. If Wong can recover from the stomach illness that earned him an early dismissal upon returning, he will be in the starting lineup Thursday.

"We believe in what he's doing right now," Matheny said. "He went and did what we asked him to do -- which was figure out his swing and get locked back in and come back here and try and jump in like he was in the beginning."

Wong was hitting .225 when the Cardinals sent him down to Triple-A in late April. At the time, he was also in a 4-for-28 skid and frustrated with the feeling of his swing. He found his timing quickly with Memphis and returns after hitting .382/.484/.867 with 14 runs scored, five stolen bases and 10 RBIs in 15 games.

Though the Cardinals still have Mark Ellis as an option, Wong is expected to get the majority of starts at second base.

Worth noting
• Samardzija will start Friday when the Cubs' open a five-game homestand against the Brewers. The right-hander ranks second in the Major Leagues in ERA (1.45) but is winless in eight starts.

"The wins thing to me is frustrating, because in general, it's a stat that we've all moved away from," Hoyer said. "The way he's pitched, I think he's been as good as anyone in the National League. It'll be nice one day if he didn't have his best stuff and people picked him up."

• Cardinals right-hander Jason Motte, who is nearing the end of his Tommy John rehab, is expected to make his next appearance with Triple-A Memphis on Thursday. He threw a scoreless inning (14 pitches, 10 strikes) for Memphis on Tuesday. Comments