Picture this: It's November of 2017 and the Cardinals rotation is as questionable as it has been in years. With Adam Wainwright's career in the balance and a still recovering Alex Reyes, there was an absolute uncertainty that loomed over the Cardinals during the offseason.
Fans were all caught up in whether or not the Cardinals were going for a big name starting pitcher. Could they land Archer? Are the Rays willing to deal him? Do the Cardinals want to give up highly valued prospects to make a trade? WHAT ABOUT STANTON? All of these were questions that were being asked around St. Louis. People were searching for an answer.
Enter Miles Mikolas. Wait...what? Who is that? This guy really ate a lizard? At least this was the reaction from a large portion of the fan base (from what I saw on Twitter). An MLB drop out that had excelled in Japan for the past three years was the newest member of the St. Louis Cardinals, and people didn't really know what to expect.
There were many who didn't trust John Mozeliak's decision making in this case, dubbing the move a far lesser alternative to signing an established major league starter. This, combined with the fact that the Stanton talks were still going on, made many feel like it was a low-price discount move that Mozeliak often participates in (but usually quite successfully it seems).
However, there were also those that foresaw what was to come from Mikolas. Namely @Moz_Algorithm, who dubbed him Cy Mikolas very early on. Was this a joke in the beginning? Possibly, but it turned out to be closer to the truth than almost all of us would have expected.
But things were not always smooth for Mikolas with the Cardinals. In Mikolas' first spring training start he allowed six runs on seven hits in only 1 2/3 innings. The critics were quick to assume the worst. It didn't help when Mikolas struggled again in his second start, leading to reactions such as the one below (not to call anyone out, a lot of us felt this way). Though no matter who you talk to, this wasn't a good first impression, and there weren't really any good signs in those first starts. But spring training is spring training.
Alas, the real Miles Mikolas stood up when he took the mound for the third time in spring training. Mikolas threw four scoreless innings against the reigning world champion Houston Astros, striking out four batters while only allowing four scattered singles. It was absolutely a sight for sore eyes and something we would grow accustomed to in the coming months.
Now fast forward to July 8, 2018: There we were. A few games away from the all-star break, taking an L to the San Francisco Giants in a winnable game. In the scheme of things there isn't much to get excited about, seeing as the Cardinals sit only three games above .500 and are currently 7.5 games behind the Brewers for the lead in the NL Central. The one bright spot of that day, Miles "The Lizard King" Mikolas was named to the NL All-Star team.
Yes, Miles Mikolas, the dude who was somewhat scoffed at by fans in St. Louis during the offseason and parts of spring training. That same guy and his battery mate, Yadi Molina, will be the two representatives for the St. Louis Cardinals in Washington D.C. (Unless we get Matty C in #VoteCarp). Mikolas' first half performance was good enough that he was named one of the top 12 pitchers in the National League by the voters/players/managers, which very few would have guessed at the start of the season.
With all this said, I'm now going to dive into what were my favorite Miles Mikolas moments from the first half, along with some gifs. I'm also going to link you back to Stew's recaps, so you can get the full story on these games. So kick back, relax, and enjoy the Miles Mikolas experience.
May 21, 2018: From start to finish this was a dominant performance for Miles. Easily his best pitched game of the season, he made the Royals batters look helpless all night long. He recorded a season high nine strikeouts and only walked a single batter in nine innings.
Stew described the first out of the game writing, "Mikolas greeted Jay with a low curveball, striking him out, the first of nine for Mikolas. The curveball was the same, sharp, breaking hook. It was literally “falling off the table.”
It only got better from there, as Mikolas mowed through Kansas City's lineup. At one point he set down 14 Royals in a row.
Another lovely visual from this game was Mikolas' K of Jorge Soler in the 9th inning. After dominating the batting order the third time up, which is hard enough in itself, Miles struck out Soler on three straight curveballs.
In his recap, Stew wrote, "Mikolas threw three straight curveballs to Soler, making him look foolish. How he made him look that bad on the same pitch, that late in the game, is beyond me. But this Mikolas signing is making the Cardinals FO look like the geniuses they are."
His final line was 9 IP, 4 H, 0 runs, 9 K, 1 BB, 93 game score.
April 2, 2018: Is it his greatest achievement as a St. Louis Cardinal? Probably not. Is it my favorite Mikolas moment as a St. Louis Cardinal? You bet, and it was quite a sight to see.
On this day Miles recorded his first start for the St. Louis Cardinals, getting the win on a mediocre day on the mound. Though, it wasn't about how he pitched that day, but it was about what he did on offense. Mikolas recorded his first MLB hit and home run with one swing of the bat, and it wasn't cheap.
With the game tied, a runner on first base and two outs in the fifth inning, Mikolas helped himself out by blasting this pitch over the wall to left field. The homer had an exit velocity of 106.1 MPH and traveled a good distance (407 feet).
An interesting fact about this home run was that Mikolas didn't actually record another hit until his most recent start (July 4), in which he singled against the Diamondbacks. This may have been a very rare occurrence for Mikolas, considering he batted around .100 in Japan, but it was my favorite Mikolas moment so far this season.
'Cardinals shutout Cubs', three words (in that order) that I will never be tired of hearing. This was a solid game for Mikolas, nothing too flashy, just solid. Though, that is really what we have come to expect from Mikolas, and why he has quietly been one of the best in the NL this season.
Like I said, not a flashy game, but he threw 95 pitches (67 strikes, 71%) and walked zero batters. If you haven't learned by now, not walking batters is a major key to success, and certainly a lesson that Miles Mikolas has followed.
He finished with a line of 7 IP, 7 hits, 0 runs, 0 bb, 4 K, 72 game score.
As the all-star break draws near, let's just take this time to appreciate the work that Miles has put in this season, because without him I'm not really sure where our Cardinals would be right now. From a pitcher that didn't have much of a reputation to an MLB All-Star, Mikolas certainly has earned the trust of Cardinal Nation. Every day that Mikolas takes the mound the Cards have to feel like they have a solid chance to win. Fortunately, that day is also today (July 10). So soak it in and enjoy when Miles takes the mound tonight.
Here's to much more success for The Lizard King in 2018!
Thanks: It has been quite a while since I've written. So thanks to those of you who took the time to click on and read this article. Hope you enjoyed!
by Nicholas Childress/@NChill17