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Kim, Ponce de Leon continue to impress as Cardinals beat Twins 3-0

The Cardinals are going to have a tough decision to make when it comes to filling their open rotation spot

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Result: Cardinals 3, Twins 0

The Cardinals expect one of their biggest strengths this season to be their starting pitching, and if the last four games are any indication, that expectation could be right on target.

Kwang Hyun Kim got the start on Monday against the Twins in Fort Myers and kept the impressive series of starts going as he threw three shutout innings in the win.

That followed starts by Carlos Martinez, John Gant and Dakota Hudson, that combined with Kim’s outing on Monday, added up to a total of just one run allowed over 15 2/3 innings. Those four pitchers combined to issue only five walks while striking out 14.

That combination doesn’t even include the Cardinals’ ace, Jack Flaherty, who will get the start on Tuesday.

For the spring Cardinals’ starters have a combined ERA of 2.42 (14 earned runs in 52 innings) and that doesn’t include relief appearances by some of the pitchers expected to begin the regular season in the rotation. Half of those runs have been allowed by Adam Wainwright, five coming in one start.

Watch: Daniel Ponce de Leon talks about finding his role with Cardinals

Here is how Monday’s game broke down:

High: Kim allowed just two hits, did not walk a batter and struck out four. In his four appearances this spring, he has worked eight scoreless innings, allowing 5 hits, walking one and striking out 11.

Low: Matt Carpenter was the only position player in the starting lineup who is expected to be in the lineup for the opening day of the regular season.

At the plate: Austin Dean had two of the Cardinals’ five hits with his second homer of the spring and a double … The other RBIs came from Max Schrock, on a sacrifice fly, and John Nogowski, on a ground out … Carpenter grounded out and walked twice in his three plate appearances before coming out of the game … Lane Thomas was hitless in three at-bats and also drew a walk as his spring average fell to .233.

On the mound: Daniel Ponce de Leon, trying to force his way into the competition to be the fifth starter, followed Kim to the mound and worked five scoreless innings. He allowed two hits, walked two and struck out two. He lowered his spring ERA to 0.69, having allowed only one run in 13 innings … Alex Reyes completed the shutout by pitching around two singles in the ninth, recording two strikeouts.

Off the field: Slotting Kim into the starting assignment on Monday, after his last appearance was pushed back two days because of a sore groin, had a side benefit for Wainwright. It pushed his next start back from Wednesday to Thursday, which allows him to avoid another game against the Mets. Wainwright’s first three starts this spring came against the Mets.

Up next: The Cardinals will stay in Fort Myers for a game on Tuesday against the Red Sox. Flaherty will get the start, with Carlos Martinez now scheduled to start on Wednesday in Port St. Lucie.

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