The Cardinals are going through a bit of a rough patch. They haven’t played well on the field and they’ve become a national news story for their off the field problems. Fortunately for them, they have a chance to end the first half on a high note. Their final series before the All-Star break will be at Busch Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds, who they have owned this season.
The first game of the series will feature Matt Harvey and Carlos Martinez.
Matt Harvey has actually pitched well since joining the Reds. In 11 starts with Cincy, Harvey is 4-3 with a 3.79 ERA. While still with the Mets earlier in the year, he went 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in four starts and eight total appearances. Harvey is also averaging just over 5.1 innings per game since the trade. His WHIP is down to 1.163 from 1.556 and his strikeout to walk ratio is up to 3.38 from 2.22. To say he’s been a different pitcher since being traded out of New York would be an understatement.
Harvey doesn’t have much experience against the Cardinals though. He has just four starts against the Birds over his career, five total appearances, going 0-2 with a 3.21 ERA. Two of those five appearances came this season. The one in relief came while he was still in New York. He went two innings and allowed one run on 35 pitches. Then, on June 8, Harvey started against the Cards as a Red. He went six innings but gave up five earned runs on four hits, three were home runs. That game was in Cincinnati.
Carlos Martinez will be going for his fourth straight home win on Friday night. After coming back from missing nearly a month to injury, Martinez struggled. In his first four starts back, his ERA rose from 1.62 to 3.24. Since then though, he’s looked like the ace of the staff again.
In his last three starts, Martinez has gone six innings and allowed two runs twice, against the Indians and Diamondbacks and seven innings once, allowing just one run to the Giants. Thanks to those three outings, he now sits at 6-4 with a 3.05 ERA
Carlos has faced the Reds 22 times over his career, 11 times as a starter. In those 22 appearances, Martinez is 7-4 with a 3.60 ERA. He has pitched against them twice this season. Once on April 15, when he went seven shutout innings and struck out 11, the other on June 10, where he went just 3.2 innings and gave up five runs. For the Cardinals sake, he will hopefully look a lot more like that April 15 start tonight.
Game two, on Saturday, will see two young starters go head to head, in Jack Flaherty and Luis Castillo.
Castillo is in his second year in the big leagues. In 2017, he started 15 games, going 3-7 with a 3.12 ERA. He’s already made 19 starts this season, though he hasn’t been as effective as he was a year ago. This season Castillo is 5-8 with a 5.58 ERA. He’s gone from averaging six innings per start, to just 5.1 innings per start. His FIP has increased from 3.74 to 4.73 and his WHIP from 1.075 to 1.403.
Castillo has struggled against the Cardinals in his young career. In three starts he is 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA. He has faced them twice this season. The first time he went seven innings and allowed three runs, the second time he made it six innings and gave up five runs, despite striking out 10 batters.
Jack Flaherty also made his debut in 2017. Last year he made five starts and did not collect a win. He went 0-2 with a 6.33 ERA for the year. He’s made great strides this season though. After beginning the year at Triple-A and dominating, he has become an important part of the Cards rotation. In 13 starts this season, Flaherty is 3-4 with a 3.34 ERA, has a FIP of 3.80 and a WHIP of 1.100.
Unfortunately, the Reds have had Flaherty’s number in his short career. He’s only made two starts against them, but they haven’t been pretty. He is 0-1 with a 7.11 ERA over just 6.1 innings in the two starts. Both of those outings came last season though, when he was just breaking into the big leagues. He has not faced Cincy in 2018.
The series finale, and final game before the break, will be pitched by All-Star Miles Mikolas and Anthony DeSclafani.
DeSclafani had a nice 2017 for the Reds. He went 9-5 in 20 starts with a 3.28 ERA over 123.1 innings. He hasn’t been terrible this year, but despite his 4-1 record, he hasn’t exactly pitched well either. In seven starts this season, Anthony has a 4.48 ERA, a 5.64 FIP and a 1.230 WHIP. He did miss much of the first half, though, making his debut on June 5, so he still has time to improve his numbers.
His second start of the 2018 season came against the Cardinals. In that start, he went five innings and only allowed two runs, despite giving up 10 hits, threw 85 pitches and picked up his first win of the year. His career numbers against the Cardinals are very good. In eight games, seven starts, against St. Louis, DeSclafani is 5-1 with a 2.30 ERA. He’ll look to continue that success on Sunday.
“The Lizard King,” as they call him, has been the ace of the Cards rotation this year. In his first year back in the big leagues, after leaving to pitch in Japan, Mikolas has been selected for the All-Star game and deservedly so. He has started 18 games this season, going 10-3 with a 2.65 ERA, 3.20 FIP and he’s only walked 18 batters in 115.1 innings for a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.50.
Mikolas has made two starts against the Reds in his career, both coming this season. As a matter of fact, the two starts were made back to back, on April 14 and 22. Miles went seven innings and allowed only one run in both games. He struck out four the first time and six the second, walking only two hitters. A win tonight would put Mikolas in a tie for second in the National League with 11.
Importance of the Series
The Cardinals have had an up and down first half. They’ve gone on streaks where they looked like no one could beat them, then they’ve gone on other streaks where it looked like the Bad News Bears could’ve beaten them. Ultimately, the Redbirds have been somewhere in the middle of those two team most of the year.
They sit at 47-44 going into tonight’s game and have hovered around .500 for the better part of the first half. They are 6.5 games behind the Brewers in the Central and trail the second Wild Card spot by four games. If the Birds lay an egg in this series, it could put them in a very difficult spot coming out of the break. With the bad play in the first half and all the news coming from the clubhouse lately, a bad series could be devastating. However, if they could somehow come up with a sweep, or even take two of three, they could go into the break on a high note and start the second half with some momentum.
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