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Cardinals ready for their annual series in Kansas City


The Cardinals have been playing much better of late, largely thanks to the new construction of the bullpen. Unfortunately, they still have a lot of work to do if they want to get back to the playoffs. Their upcoming series with the Kansas City should help though, as the Royals are tied for the worst record in baseball.

Game One

The series opens Friday at 7:15 CT. Austin Gomber will be making his third big league start since being called up in early June. He will face off with another rookie in Burch Smith.

Gomber has made 19 appearances this season, 17 coming out of the bullpen. He’s been solid in his relief role with the Cardinals. Over 16 innings, Gomber is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.375 WHIP. In his two starts, he’s been both really good and really bad.

Gomber’s first start came against the Cincinnati Reds on July 24. In that game, he went 6.1 innings, allowed just two hits and two runs, while striking out six and walking two. The other start didn’t go so well. He went just four innings against the Pirates, allowing four earned runs on seven hits, three walks and five strikeouts. His overall record and ERA are 1-0 and 4.10.

The Royals have a rookie starter of their own going on Friday. Burch Smith is pitching in his second season at the major league level. His first season came all the way back in 2013 when he went 1-3 with a 6.44 ERA before being sent back to the minors by the Padres. He’s spent the last five years trying to get back the MLB and is finally getting his second chance this year with the Royals.

This season he’s appeared in 29 games, making five starts, going 1-3 with a 6.41 ERA. Out of the pen, he has a 5.40 ERA in 38.1 innings. He hasn’t been better as a starter. In fact, he’s been even worse. Over 20.2 innings as a starter, Smith has given up 19 earned runs on 23 hits, eight walks and 20 strikeouts, for a record of 1-3 and an ERA of 8.27.

Game Two

Saturday’s game will feature another rookie for the Cardinals, Jack Flaherty and a long time Royal Danny Duffy.

Flaherty is having a really good season for the Redbirds. Despite his 5-6 record, he has a 3.27 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 96.1 innings pitched. He did pick up the win in his last start though, against Pittsburgh. Flaherty went six shutout innings, allowing just three hits while striking out seven and walking just one hitter. This will be his first career start against the Royals.

Danny Duffy has been pitching with the Royals since the Cardinals won their last World Series. In his eighth season, he’s gone 7-10 with a 4.70 ERA in a league-leading 24 starts. Over his 138 innings, he has given up 141 hits, 63 walks and has struck out 126, while posting a FIP of 4.73. Duffy’s last start was a rough one against the Twins. He caught the loss after giving up six runs on eight hits in six innings pitched.

The Cardinals have faced Duffy three times in his career and he’s been very tough on them. All three appearances have been starts, in which he is 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA. He’s also struck out 22 batters, allowed 13 hits and just two walks for a WHIP of 0.849 while holding the Redbirds to a tOPS+ of a mere 44.

Game Three

The matchup for the series finale hasn’t been set on the Cardinals side yet. Kansas City will go with second-year starter Jakob Junis.

There has been some speculation about who could start Sunday, but St. Louis hasn’t named anyone. Tyson Ross is a name that has been thrown out, though John Mozeliak said he could also be used as a reliever. It would normally be Luke Weaver’s spot in the rotation, but the off-day Thursday allows the Cardinals to mix things up. Dakota Hudson and Daniel Poncedeleon are also options, but they’ve been two of the best options out of the bullpen, so it could depend on their availability.

On the other side, Jakob Junis will be making his 22nd start of 2018. So far, he’s gone 6-11 with a 4.98 ERA over 121 innings and a FIP of 5.22. In his last start, against the Cubs, Junis went five innings, allowed one run on five hits, struck out eight and took a no-decision.

Junis’ only career start against the Cardinals came earlier this season. The Royals won the game behind his five innings, where he allowed just two runs on five hits while striking out seven and walking just one batter.

What To Watch

Matt Carpenter has been the best hitter in baseball for nearly two months now. That could be really bad news for Royals’ pitchers. Carp has hit Kansas City as hard as he has anyone in his career. In 28 games against them, Carpenter has a slash line of .352/.445/.630, with 10 doubles, six homers, 20 RBI and a tOPS+ of 150. This could be a huge series for the Cardinals leadoff man.


Featured Image by Associated Press

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