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Cardinals should destroy the Rangers

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A series preview

Houston Astros v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Cardinals are right in the middle of a very difficult stretch of scheduling. Beginning with their series against the Giants on June 3, the Cardinals began a stretch of ten series’ (11 depending on how you count the Royals home and home) amounting to 31 games. Of those 31 games, 23 are against teams at .500 or above with two of them against and underrated Astros team as the Cardinals just witnessed. The Cardinals navigated the first bit of this stretch fairly well going 7-5 despite dropping two games to the Astros. The Rangers this weekend should present a difficult challenge. The Cardinals should destroy the Rangers.

The Rangers come to town with the best record in the American League and have won 20 of their last 26 games. The Rangers have not had a day off since June 2 and the Cardinals series represents the final three games on a 10-game road trip. The Rangers might look like a .500 team on paper, but they have built a cushion that might make going .500 the rest of the way the means to a division title.

It is not generally good idea to have your team’s best positions player be 37 years old. However, when that player is Adrian Beltre, that makes the proposition a little more agreeable. Beltre is a joy to watch, and I had always hoped he might make his way to St. Louis to play for the Cardinals at some point. It seems unlikely now. Beltre, who signed a contract extension to remain with the Rangers for two more years beyond this one is still holding his own on offense with a 106 wRC+ and still provides very good defense as well. The future Hall of Famer has not actually been the Rangers best performer on offense as late free-agent signee Ian Desmond takes that honor.

Desmond looked headed for a monster free agent contract one year ago, but a very poor season with the Nationals plus the qualifying offer ended with a tough market. He ended up signing with the Rangers for just $8 million. He was expected to play left field, but has now taken over in center field and looks to be very good there defensively. He’s hit 10 homers and while a .378 BABIP has helped his offensive line, his wRC+ of 128 to go along with solid baserunning and defense have made him a very valuable player this season.

Another newcomer for the Rangers, 21-year old Nomar Mazara has made an impact for the team in left field. Mazara, like Desmond an Beltre, has 10 homers. He’s putting up a .295/.343/.449 line which is good for a wRC+ of 108, and his projections for the rest of the season are not too far off.

Rougned Odor had a Kolten Wong-like demotion last season, but has played well since then and is putting up a roughly average offensive line this season. He also punched Jose Bautista. Hard. Shin Soo Choo is back in the outfield for the Rangers, but he hasn’t played much yet due to injury. He has managed 11 walks in 39 plate appearances so he appears as patient as he has always been.

Elvis Andrus is still a below-average offensive player whose defense isn’t what it was when he signed his $120 million extension. Mitch Moreland is adequate offensively, but below average for a first baseman. Prince Fielder is the designated hitter but has not lived up to that designation this season. The Rangers catcher, Robinson Chirinos is roughly average offensively for a catcher. Long lusted after prospect Jurickson Profar has gotten some time in the infield this year.

On the pitching side, Texas is sending out Cole Hamels in tonight’s game. Between Hamels, Fielder, and all of the Rangers, there might be a few too many 2011 references for Ranges fans. Hamels is walking a few more batters than normal this season and he has been bitten by a bunch of homers, but a ridiculous 86% left-on-base rate has kept his ERA down to a very good 3.14. He’s walked at least two and given up at least one home run in each of his last seven starts. The talent is likely still there, but he’s been playing with fire. Speaking of, Michael Wacha will go for St. Louis.

MLB.com hasn’t named the Saturday starter although ESPN has it as Cesar Ramos. If he does start, Ramos is a 31-year-old lefty who has shifted between the bullpen and rotation this year. He doesn’t appear to bring much to the table. Carlos Martinez will be throwing for the Cardinals.

On Sunday, Martin Perez will start for the Rangers. Perez does not strike batters out, walks almost as many, but has kept homers down this season to give him a 3.38 ERA despite a 4.33 FIP. He induces a lot of ground balls, which is helpful in Texas’ park, but he is a roughly average pitcher overall.

Tonight’s game is at 7:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest as well as MLB Network if you are out of market.

Saturday’s game is at 3:15 pm CT and will air on FS1.

Sunday’s game is at 1:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest as well as MLB Network if you are out of market.