Series Preview: Cardinals vs. Rockies June 23-25

I just really like this picture. - Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals' 10-game west coast road trip starts this evening at Coors Field.

This evening in Denver we're rooting for red

As the Cardinals and Rockies go head-to-head

Despite pitching juggles

I think the Rox' struggles

Bode well for the Redbirds in games up ahead

The Starters

With all of the DL/skipping starts/etc. activity, I actually had to look up the pitching schedule for this series.

Tonight at 7:40 p.m. CT: Lance Lynn (RHP, 7-5, 3.15 ERA, 3.39 FIP) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (RHP, 1-5, 4.53 ERA, 4.67 FIP)

Tomorrow at 7:40 p.m. CT: Shelby Miller (RHP, 7-6, 3.56 ERA, 4.67 FIP) vs. Jorge De la Rosa (LHP, 6-6, 4.75 ERA, 4.80 FIP)

Wednesday at 2:10 p.m. CT: Unknown vs. possibly Unknown.  Or Christian Bergman (RHP, 0-2, 7.2 ERA, 6.49 FIP) - more on this below.

Where We've Been

Here is everything I knew about the Rockies prior to writing this series preview:  TROY TULOWITZKI.

Not really, of course, but there isn't much to know beyond the team's superstar.  After jumping off to a 22-14 start, the Rockies have lost 21 of their last 29 games, including 11 of their last 14 at home.  Last weekend, the Brewers swept them at Coors Field.  The Rockies are currently sitting at seven games under .500, 11 games back of the first-place Giants.

The Rockies' struggles likely stem from the abundance of injuries the team has faced this season.  Currently, Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzales are on the disabled list (Cuddyer on the 60-day DL with a fractured left shoulder), along with pitchers Brett Anderson, Eddie Butler, Tyler Chatwood, Boone Logan, and Jordan Lyles.  The Rockies have drawn heavily from their farm teams to fill the spots, but it seems they simply don't have the talent to keep the team in contention through the injuries.  Though, to be fair, Eddie Butler was a top prospect who has also suffered injuries.

While the Cardinals aren't exactly playing lights-out baseball, the team has played better of late.  A win yesterday gave the Redbirds a series split against Philadelphia, after winning their two previous series (serieses? series'?) against the Nationals and the Mets.  The Cardinals have won seven of their last 10 games - though things are a bit up in the air now, with Wacha, Wong, and Garcia hitting the DL this weekend.

The Rockies and the Cardinals last met in September 2013, where the teams split a four-game series in Denver.  In that series, Matt Holliday went 5-for-12 with a double, a home run, and three RBI.  Holliday is hitting .429 with seven home runs at Coors Field since his trade to the Cardinals in 2009.  Matt's career line in Colorado is .359/.426/.655 - that is a 1.082 OPS in 1575 PAs.

Where We're Going

The Cardinals kick off a tough 10-game west coast swing tonight, in which they will have to face the first- and second-place Giants and Dodgers.  Unfortunately, the Cardinals will see both Greinke and Kershaw in the four-game series against the Dodgers - all the more reason for the Redbirds to take advantage of the injury-laden Rockies.

No doubt the Rockies have been bad lately, and no doubt the pitching matchups appear to favor the Cardinals.  Still, we can't ignore the awesomeness that is Troy Tulowitzki.  His 4.8 fWAR on the season is good for best in baseball.  Yes, folks, you read that right: Tulowitzki has actually been worth .1 wins more than Mike Trout.  Tulo is batting .360 on June 23 (!), has 18 home runs, a .648 SLG, and a 188 wRC+.  His ISO is .287.  Is there anything this man can't do?  The only potentially good news for the Cardinals is that Tulo's BABIP is way above his career mark, at .368.  Maybe some of that bound-to-happen regression will start this series.

Jholys Chacin, despite his 1-5 record, has pitched well in his last three starts - including a seven-inning shutout against the Braves.  But he doesn't throw for a high velocity (his fastball sits at 90-92), he doesn't strike out a lot of hitters (5.92/9), and his walk rate is pretty high (4.18/9).  The Cardinals have hit Chacin well in the past, so look for the Redbirds to continue the trend tonight.

Jorge De la Rosa is an interesting pitcher.  He's coming off of a 2.9 fWAR 2013, in which he finished 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA/3.76 FIP.  Like Chacin, he is not a high strikeout guy (at least not anymore - he did have a higher K rate in the past, before Tommy John surgery) and he walks a lot of players.  He also may be hurt.  He left his June 13 start against the Giants early, claiming to have a minor back strain.  He made his next start against the Dodgers and gave up six hits and eight runs in just 3.1 innings.  The Cardinals need to jump on De la Rosa early and often - especially with Shelby Miller throwing for the visiting team.  Miller has been better of late, but that 10.5% HR/FB stat probably doesn't play well at Coors Field.

As I write this, Wednesday afternoon is really up in the air.  The Cardinals have not announced who will take Garcia's spot on the hill, and the Rockies may have a hole to fill, as well.  Thomas Harding of mlb.com reports that Bergman is suffering some swelling in his right hand and will undergo an MRI today to see if he can make his Wednesday start.  The Rockies only recently called up Bergman from AAA to replace Jordan Lyles, who broke his hand during a series against Arizona earlier this month.  It's like Groundhog Day for Colorado.  It is not clear who would take Bergman's spot if he can't pitch - but seeing as how Bergman was the best option to cover Lyles, and he has not pitched well in his three big league starts, I like the Cardinals' chances.

In Aaron's story this morning about Wacha and Garcia, he offers a few options for who might get that spot start for the Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon.  My guess is Tyler Lyons.  He's pitched well in a couple of starts already this season, and seems to be the most known quantity of the options available.  Nick Greenwood is also a candidate, though he's been valuable in the pen.  Of course, the silver lining to Wacha's DL trip is more Carlos Martinez starts!

In Sum

Even with one or two nameless, faceless blobs penciled in on Wednesday, the pitching matchups in this series appear to favor the Cardinals.  But I don't want to jinx anything, because although this FEELS like a series we should win, baseball is a fickle bitch.

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