Heading into this weekend’s 4-game series with the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals trail the Giants by just 1 game and the Mets by ½ game as all 3 Wild Card contenders lost their games yesterday. The Cardinals will try to rebound from a disappointing homestand splitting the 4-game set with Milwaukee and dropping 2 of 3 to the Cubs where they were outscored 13-5.
Righting the ship in Thursday’s opener will prove difficult at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park in San Francisco against Johnny Cueto (15-5, 2.90). Adam Wainwright will get the ball for St. Louis. Cueto has posted the highest K:BB ratio of his career this season at 4.24. while is OPS -against is a spiffy .630. Contact will be a key against him, or it will be a long night for the Redbirds.
Friday night’s matchup sees Luke Weaver (1-2, 3.48) against lefty Matt Moore (3-4, 4.05 with San Francisco). Weaver had a fine game against Milwaukee on Sunday lasting 6 innings, striking out 8, walking 1, allowing 1 run on 3 hits as the Cardinals lost to the Brewers 2-1. Moore, a 27-year old left-hander was acquired from the Tampa Rays in exchange for third baseman Matt Duffy and 2 others. While with Tampa, Moore went 10-11 with a 4.08 ERA. In a combined 176 2/3 innings Moore has fanned 157 and walked 66, but has surrendered 24 home runs, 4 of which since pitching for the Giants. He too pitched well on Sunday. Facing the Arizona Diamondbacks Moore went 7 innings, struck out 11, walked 1, allowed 2 runs on 8 hits in the Giants win. To me, this is exactly the type of move the Cardinals should have made at the trade deadline when the stability of the starting rotation has been in doubt most of the season. Duffy had been a little banged up this season, and the Giants were willing to part with him and add a couple of other pieces to their team while contending to win the NL West. With another lefty in Madison Bumgarner to help Moore along, the Giants solidified their rotation and remain at the top of the Wild Card race.
On Saturday, Mike Leake (9-10, 4.60) squares off against Jeff Samardzjia (11-10, 4.07). Back on June 4, the Cardinals rocked Samardzjia for 4 home runs in 5 innings in a 7-4 home win. Incidentally, it was the first time this year he had allowed more than 1 homer in a start. Interesting as well Is the fact he induced only 6 swing and miss strikes from the 23 batters he faced.
Sunday’s starter for the Cardinals has not been named, although it seems to me that Jaime Garcia will be tabbed to go. Despite his inability to finish 2 innings of Tuesday’s win over the Cubs Matheny will give the veteran lefty another start. Alex Reyes was wildly effective in relief, pitching out of some very tough jams to keep the Cubs at bay. San Francisco hasn’t named its starting pitcher, but my guess will be Albert Suarez (3-3, 4.20), a 26-year old rookie right hander who seems to have replaced Matt Cain in the rotation after Cain has been battling injuries and ineffectiveness all season. In 75 innings this year opponents are hitting .261 with 9 home runs. Suarez has struck out just 51 and walked 24. He will feature low-to-mid-90 mph sinker, a slider, and a changeup with an occasional curve ball.
The Giants continue to enjoy the talents of Buster Posey, Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford but here are a couple other players to watch this weekend:
Eduardo Nunez 3B—Once regarded by the Yankees as Derek Jeter’s successor at short stop, Nunez was acquired from Minnesota before the August 1st deadline. He has been good defensively and has some pop in his bat, earning him a spot on this year’s AL All-Star team. For the year Nunez is hitting .284 with 15 home runs and has stolen 36 bases. His average and homers have dipped a bit since coming to the Giants but is seeing regular playing time.
Hunter Pence RF—At age 33, Pence just keeps on keeping on. Batting .296 with 11 homers 50 RBI in 88 games, he is always a threat at the plate and a solid defensive player. As a side note, Pence also played himself in an episode of Fuller House. Don’t ask me how I know that.
Relief pitcher Will Smith, acquired via trade from the Milwaukee Brewers spent time earlier this year on the disabled list after tearing his LCL. He sustained the injury in Spring Training while trying to take off a shoe while standing on one leg. At the time he was a potential closer candidate for the Brewers.
Fortunately, the Cardinals will not have to contend with facing Madison Bumgarner in this series as he pitched in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Padres. Although facing the likes of Cueto, Moore, and Samardzjia in a 4-game series doesn’t seem to be much consolation. On this road trip every game is important and a must-win and must be treated as such. The Rockies and Cubs follow.