The Cardinals outscored the Seattle Mariners 18-15 over the weekend. With the blown save Friday and the rough outing for Mike Leake Saturday, that netted the Cardinals just one win out of three coming off a sweep of the Cubs. The Cardinals are now set to start a four game series (technically it is two two-game series’ as two games are in St. Louis and two games are in Kansas City, but if you think I’m writing two separate previews on the exact same team 48 hours apart, you are crazy) with their in-state brethren and defending World Series Champion Kansas City Royals. The Cardinals should destroy the Royals.
Kansas City and St. Louis enter the game tonight with identical 39-35 records, although the teams have taken different paths getting there. The Cardinals are outscoring opponents by 75 runs so far this season, third in the majors, and by BaseRuns, that number is 99, second only to the Cubs. The Royals have been outscored by 15 runs this year and their BaseRuns is a similar -10. A solid bullpen has helped them beat their expected record, but their offense is league average and their rotation is not quite there.
On the position player side, the team is headed by catcher Salvador Perez. We are still in the first half, which means Perez is still a good hitter and being started too many games has yet to wear him down in the second half, something Cardinals fans are all too familiar with. Eric Hosmer is also putting up a solid season for Kansas City, with a 132 wRC+.
Whit Merrifield, who apparently isn’t an annoying Washington Irving character, plays second base for the Royals as the team decided to part ways with All-Star Omar Infante. Merrifield is riding a .387 BABIP to a wRC+ of 113, although his projections are considerably less rosy. He makes a lot of contact and steals some bases, so apparently Royals fans who wanted Alcides Escobar out of the leadoff spot only got him replaced with an identical model, although a model that hasn’t been atrocious this season.
Kendrys Morales, likely to play in the first two games with the designated hitter started off the season hitting terribly, but has been very good over the past month with five homers and a double-digit walk rate. After missing a month with a wrist injury Alex Gordon returned over the weekend. He didn’t get off to a great start this season, either, but if healthy, should be one of the Royals’ best players.
Chelsor Cuthbert aka Butcher Chortles aka Brothel Crutches, has been the Royals’ third baseman with Mike Moustakos out. He’s got 14 homers this season between Triple-A and the majors, although the projections put him slightly below average on offense. Lorenzo Cain has been great the past two seasons, but has been forced to settle for merely above average this year. His ISO is down about 40 points so it remains to be seen if last year’s upswing was an outlier.
On the pitching side of things, Kansas City sends Danny Duffy to the mound for the first game. Duffy is hard-throwing lefty not too far off from the last starter the Cardinals faced in James Paxton. He’s mixed his appearances in the rotation and the bullpen this year, making eight starts with a 4.58 FIP as a starter mostly due to giving up nine home runs. His strikeout and walk numbers both remained good as a starter and he does very well against lefties. Adam Wainwright starts for the Cardinals.
On Tuesday night, Yordano Ventura returns from his suspension. Ventura has been mostly disappointing this season, with a high walk rate above 10%. In turn, his ERA and FIP are both in the mid-to-high fours. Prior to serving his suspension, Ventura put together two good starts, striking out 15, walking one, and giving up one run in 13.1 innings off a solo homer. Michael Wacha gets the start for St. Louis.
As the series shifts back to St. Louis, Edinson Volquez is expected to pitch for the Royals. Volquez has a below average FIP at 4.22 and his ERA has been worse than that, going above five with much of the damage done after lasting just one innings and giving up 12 runs (only 11 earned!) in his last start. He’d been mostly mediocre to average-ish before that so it is fair to expect more of the same. Carlos Martinez gets the call for the Cardinals.
On Thursday, Chris Young takes on Mike Leake. At one point, it seemed Young might be able to induce weak contact and suppress homers with his high fastball delivered from his tall frame. He might still have that ability, but it has yet to show up this season as Young has given up 21 home runs in 53.2 innings. That hardly seems possible, yet there it is.
The games Monday through Wednesday all start at 7:15 pm CT and air on FOX Sports Midwest.
Thursday’s game starts at 6:15 pm CT and airs on FOX Sports Midwest.
Tonight’s game is the MLB.tv free game of the day.