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Series Preview: Cardinals host Dodgers July 18-20

The NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers (54-43) visit Busch Stadium for the first series after an annoyingly long All-Star break.

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This picture is already pretty awesome, but it would be even better had he caught the ball.
This picture is already pretty awesome, but it would be even better had he caught the ball.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The All-Star break is over. Finally. Let's watch some baseball.

Pitching Matchups/Game Times/TV Assignments:

  • Tonight: Lance Lynn (3.35 FIP) leads the series off against Dan Haren (4.46 FIP) at 7:15 PM CST, on FSM, MLBN in certain locations.

  • Tomorrow: Joe Kelly (thanks for that interview, man!) toes the rubber against NL All-Star Zack Greinke (2.92 FIP) at 3:05 PM CST, on FSM, FS1.

  • The Next Day: El Gallo tries his chances against the best pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw (1.60 FIP!), at 7:05 PM CST, on ESPN.

  • After starting in the All-Star Game, Adam Wainwright will get some extra rest, and our friends over at True Blue LA made a note of it.

How have both teams been doing since their last meeting?

The two last faced off in a four-game set in Los Angeles from June 26th to the 29th. The Dodgers easily took three out of four and outscored the Cardinals 17-4 in the series. Two series later, the Cardinals lost two out of three to the Marlins at home but still ending up going 8-5 before the All-Star break, despite being outscored 57-53 over that span. The Dodgers were outscored 52-48, but still managed to post a 7-6 record.

Players to keep an eye on:

  • Clayton Kershaw: As Eric Stephen of True Blue LA noted in the post I linked to earlier, Kershaw is "coming off his worst start in a month," in which he allowed one run over nine innings with 11 strikeouts. Prior to that start, the lefty had not allowed a run since June 13th. Also, remember that 15-strikeout no-hitter he threw on June 18th against the Rockies? It just may have been one of the top pitching performances ever. It received a game score of 102, and the next closest to him this season is Josh Tomlin with 96. Wainwright had a 94 on May 20th against the Diamondbacks.

  • Zack Greinke: The last home run he allowed was June 28th to Matt Carpenter. Somewhat surprisingly, righties are slugging at a higher percentage against Greinke this season (.407 versus .381). Thus, even though this seems like a perfect time to get LHB Oscar Taveras a start, don't be surprised if Matheny puts Craig in the starting lineup.

  • Dee Gordon: Good luck keeping an eye on him because this dude is fast. As Unger from the Longest Yard would say, "He's so fast. He makes fast people look not fast." I would probably bet my lunch money on him beating Billy Hamilton in a sprint. He has 43 stolen bases in 52 attempts, and though Tony Cruz's arm isn't terrible, I fully expect Gordon to be testing it out, should he reach base (.344 OBP in 2014).

  • Matt Kemp: He's open to being traded because he wants to play every day. With a 2014 fWAR of -0.3 and a -0.2 fWAR in an injury-plagued 2013, I wish him the best because he really is a good guy, but I do not know how much he has left to offer.

  • Yasiel Puig: I couldn't forget about him, right? After having an embarrassing 0-fer in the HR Derby and then going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in the All-Star game, I fully expect a Puig-ian offensive onslaught this series. Now, I don't have much data backing me up on this thought-process, so let's just call it a reasonable hunch. Considering it has been exactly two weeks since his last home run (July 4th, against the Rockies), he just may be "due" for one of those as well. Puig may be extremely fun to watch, but I would not be upset if he has a tough series in St. Louis.

What to expect:

On paper, this series sets up pretty nicely for the Dodgers with starting pitching advantages in both games two and three. The Cardinals have a very clear advantage in game one, though, because Lynn is a considerably better pitcher than Haren at this point. Let's hope the Cardinals take game one, so they have two chances of taking the series thereafter.

Here's to hoping that the All-Star break injected some much-needed life into the offense. To be honest, I'm mainly looking at Allen Craig because the rest of the offense appeared to be picking it up a little bit before the break. If Matheny is going to keep running him out there, it's time for him to produce. As the red baron said in his post from Wednesday, the offense isn't good enough (3.75 runs per game) and needs to be fixed. Well, facing Haren may be a short-term cure, but neither Greinke nor Kershaw will be an easy task.

Finally, a Sunday Night Baseball tweet to consider:


Editor's Note: Aaron Finkel here telling you about FanDuel! As I mentioned in the introduction to the game, series previews will have links to the site. SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for tonight's MLB games. It's $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Jump in now. Here's the FanDuel link for today's games.