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Cardinals at Reds preview, September 8-11

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The 79-64 Cardinals head to Cincinnati for four games against the 67-76 Reds.

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The Heat is On
The Heat is On
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Schedule

  • Shelby Miller and Dylan Axelrod start tonight at 6:10 (all times central).
  • Michael Wacha and Mike Leake pitch tomorrow at 6:10.
  • John Lackey and Alfredo Simon have game three Wednesday at 6:10.
  • Lance Lynn and Johnny Cueto will be on the mound Thursday for an early 11:35 start time.

For the first time this season, I have a picture of the Cardinals rather than the opposing team in a preview post. I chose to do so because after a stunning seven game dismantling of the Pirates and Brewers, the Cardinals need only be concerned with their own performance from here on out. So entirely has the landscaped shifted in a week's time that what looked like a mad scramble to the finish now appears to be an easy glide as long as the Birds take care of business, especially in their remaining series with the Brewers.

A little math: The Cardinals have 19 games remaining. If they can go 10-9 over that stretch, which includes just one opponent with a winning record and half the series at Busch, the Cardinals will reach 89 wins. For the Pirates to reach 89 wins, they would need to go 15-5, and for the Brewers to reach that number they would need to go 15-4. Both teams have more challenging schedules than the Cards.

Where we stand

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Remaining Games

Cardinals:  4@Cin. 3vsCol. 3vsMil. 3vsCin. 3@Cubs. 3@Ari.

Brewers:    4vsMia. 3vsCin. 3@StL. 3@Pit. 3@Cin. 3vsCubs.

Pirates:      4@Phi. 3vsCubs. 3vsBos. 3vsMil. 4@Atl. 3@Cin.

Giants:      3vsAri. 3vsLAD. 3@Ari. 3@SD. 3@LAD. 4vsSD.

Braves:     3@Was. 3@Tex. 3vsWas. 3vsNYM. 4vsPit. 3@Phi.


There are a few things to watch here on the Cardinals' end:

  • First appearances for Sam Tuivailala and Tommy Pham. It seems like a good time to dig up this interview with the former, a fireballing relief pitcher, by Joe Schwarz.
  • I'm interested in seeing Shelby Miller's pitch selection. Three games ago he invented a sinker and threw it a bunch, and then the last two games have featured the highest percentage (nearly 40% each) of curves of any two games in his career. Will the curveball renaissance continue?
  • I'm also interested in not just how Michael Wacha throws, but what he throws. He used his devastating changeup just 10% of the time in his last outing, fresh off the DL. VEB's resident DPT, Scoot, wondered if that was due to concerns about stress the changeup places on Wacha's injured area. Brandon McCarthy used the change heavily earlier in his career before abandoning it in 2011. Perhaps Michael simply didn't have a great feel for the pitch last time out, but it's worth watching how often he throws it tomorrow.
  • And as Craig Edwards pointed out this morning, all eyes on John Lackey's velocity.
As far as the Reds,
  • Homer Bailey recently underwent flexor mass surgery to repair his flexor tendon. He is expected to be ready by spring training.
  • Joey Votto is still having issues with his quadriceps, though he has not been shut down for the year. It looks like we won't see him this series, though the Reds hope to see him play again this year as they battle to try to end the season on "some sort of positive note" which tells you everything you need to know about 2014 for the Reds.
  • Dylan Axelrod was a fringy pitcher in the White Sox organization before being traded to the Reds in July for, as far as I can tell, nothing. He is 29, right-handed, and throws (in order of frequency) a slider, fourseam, sinker, change, and curve. He's been ok in three starts with the Reds, but doesn't appear to have a long-term future as a starter with the organization. He was born and raised in Santa Barbara, and went to UC-Irvine. How nice for him.

Before I go, I asked for a certain pitch to be gif'd from game three of the Brewers series, with the promise that if someone came through for me, I'd feature it here with full credit. cschepers was kind enough to create the piece of art for me. Carlos Martinez' eighth inning ended on an unhittable three pitch K of Lyle Overbay (98 on the hands, 99 on the hands, 89 changeup away), but my favorite moment of the inning was the last pitch to Jonathan Lucroy. Luc struck out on four pitches without lifting his bat off his shoulders. His hips and his face in response to this slider are glorious. Thank you, cschepers. Thank you, Carlos.

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Editor's Note: Oh, hi there. It's me, Aaron Finkel. I'm here today to tell you about an exciting new opportunity offered by FANDUEL. 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.Try FANDUEL today!