Cardinals Weekend Series with the Cubs
The St. Louis Cardinals have fallen behind in the National League Central lately. They’re coming off a less than impressive stretch of games against the three worst teams in the NL. Against the Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres, the Redbirds went 4-5 over nine games. Now they will face teams that are above .500 for 19 straight games. This could be a very telling time for the Cards and it all starts with a weekend series against the Chicago Cubs.
In game one of the weekend series, the Cubs will throw their ace Jon Lester.
Lester is having a very good year at 7-2 with a 2.22 ERA, though he still can’t throw to first base. That is something the Cardinals should take advantage of, but they are almost as bad at stealing bases as Lester is throwing to them.
Against the Cardinals in his career, Lester is 6-4 with a 2.22 ERA over 101.1 innings. The Cardinals have a slash line of just .220/.282/.344 against him and a tOPS+ of 83. Needless to say, Lester has had their number in his career.
Michael Wacha will be Lester’s counterpart for St. Louis.
Wacha is having also having a nice year and has pitched like the Cardinals’ ace to this point. He has an 8-1 record, a 2.47 ERA and 3.40 FIP in 2018. However, he has struggled against the Cubs in his six-year career.
Michael is 4-7 with a 6.12 ERA in 15 starts against the Cards’ division rivals. He strikes out just north of nine Cubbies per nine innings, but he also has a 1.500 WHIP and has given up 17 home runs in those 15 starts.
Wacha did have a decent outing against Chicago earlier in the season, going 5.1 innings and allowing just 2 runs, only one of which was earned. The Cardinals will be looking for a similar outing this time, though he really needs to pitch past the sixth inning.
The second game of the weekend series will feature Kyle Hendricks and Carlos Martinez.
Hendricks is pitching okay this season at 4-6 with a 3.48 ERA, though he hasn’t been the Cy Young candidate pitcher that he was before. He’s started 10 games against the Cardinals in his career, going 2-2 with a 3.32 ERA. The Cards can be frustrating to watch try and hit Hendricks’ changeup at times, like the night he carried the no-hitter into the ninth against them, but overall they haven’t faired as bad as it seems against the crafty righty.
St. Louis has a tOPS+ against Hendricks of 113, which is the highest of any team on the Senior Circuit short of the Reds and Pirates. This will be the first time he will face the Cards in 2018.
Carlos Martinez was pitching very well until his injury sidelined him for nearly a month. Before his injury, he was 3-2 with a 1.62 ERA. Since coming back, he’s only thrown 7.2 innings in two starts, allowing seven runs in a no-decision and a loss.
Carlos, like Wacha, hasn’t necessarily pitched well against Chicago in his career. He has pitched in 24 total games against them, 10 as a reliever and 14 as a starter. In those 24 outings, Martinez has a record of 4-4 and an ERA of 4.53. Chicago has hit him pretty well with a .256 average, .724 OPS and tOPS+ of 114.
Like Hendricks against the Cardinals, this will be Martinez’ first start against the Cubs in 2018.
The final game of the weekend series on Sunday will see Jack Flaherty take on Jose Quintana.
Quintana isn’t having his best year for the Cubs. He does have a record of 6-4, but his 4.09 ERA and 4.35 FIP would suggest the offense has more to do with his record than he does.
This is Quintana’s seventh year in the bigs and his first full season with the North Siders after they acquired him in a trade with the cross-town White Sox last season. Still, though, he has five starts against St. Louis and he’s pitched very well against them.
Jose has a 3-1 record, a 2.67 ERA and is averaging over 10 K/9 in 27 innings versus the Redbirds. However, those numbers could quickly change in the Cardinals favor. St. Louis has a .296/.345/.500 slash line against the lefty and a tOPS+ of 139. They just haven’t been able to get the big hit and push runs across.
Jack Flaherty, on the Cardinals’ side, is having a tremendous year for a rookie starter. After struggling in five starts last season, He’s made the most of his opportunities in 2018, going 3-2 with a 2.96 and 3.55 FIP over 45.2 innings.
Flaherty has only faced the Cubs once in his short time at the big league level. He threw a scoreless, one-two-three inning of relief against Chicago last season. Sunday will be his first chance to start when opposing the rival Cubs.
Importance of the Series
The upcoming weekend series with Chicago will be the first of a very tough stretch for the Birds. They currently trail the Brewers by four games for the NL Central lead and sit 2.5 games behind the Cubs for second place. A bad series could put them in a difficult hole to climb out of and get them started on the wrong foot with so many games against good teams right in front of them.
If the Cardinals can find a way to at least take two games from the Cubs they will be in a lot better shape and have some momentum going forward. This will be the biggest series of the year at this point.
Featured Image: Justin Hartling-OddsShark.com
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