In the last 120 hours or so, the Cardinals have not made one single competitive pitch at the Major League level. Aledmys Diaz did register one plate appearance in the All-Star Game, but other than that, there has been a severe lack of Cardinals baseball of late. St. Louis sits seven games back of the Cubs for the NL Central and one game back of the Marlins and Mets for the second wild card spot. The Cardinals are paying those same Marlins this weekend. The Cardinals should destroy the Marlins.
This is the first meeting of the year between the two clubs, and after a four-game road series at the end of the month, the season series will be done. The Marlins are led by a great, young outfield and the brilliance of Jose Fernandez. The Cardinals will not have to face Fernandez this weekend, but Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich comprise one of the best, if not the best outfield group in the majors. Stanton is amazing, and a relatively slow first half, notwithstanding, he is one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. He has struck out frequently this year, but still ended the first half with 20 homers, 41 shy of the number he hit in the Home Run Derby.
Christian Yelich combines a ridiculouly high BABIP with a great walk rate to provide excellent production from right field. The Marlins have him locked up through 2022, and even with just average power, he provides good offensive numbers and should be a bargain for Marlins over the next half-decade. Marcell Ozuna got jerked around last year by the Marlins, likely to prevent him from becoming arbitration-eligible, but the center fielder has done very well this season. He doesn't sport the same walk-rate as Yelich, but he has more power, with 17 home runs this season.
As for the rest of the team, first baseman Justin Bour is on the disabled list, second baseman Dee Gordon was suspended for steroids, and third baseman Martin Prado is a really nice, but often overlooked player. Chris Johnson, who had a really good run with the Braves a few years back, but was then traded in a double salary dump to Cleveland and was eventually let go, is currently the first baseman. At second base, Derek Dietrich has performed pretty well with a 127 wRC+. Even if his .363 BABIP comes down, he should still be above average on offense.
At shortstop Adeiny Hechevarria has improved greatly over the past few years on defense but is still a liability on at the plate. J.T. Realmuto is the Marlins catcher, and he has been decent on offense for the Marlins this season, but he does not hit for a lot of power. In the unlikely even that Ichiro Suzuki gets ten hits in this series, he will reach 3,000 for his MLB career.
On the mound tonight for the Marlins is Wei-Yin Chen. Signed for a similar contract as Mike Leake, Chen is not off to a rousing start with the Marlins with a 4.83 ERA and 4.54 FIP. In his last start against the Mets, he gave up just one run on a solo shot while striking out five and walking one in seven innings. Chen is a lefty with two fastballs, a slider, a curve, and a change, generally throwing his hardest stuff around 90 mph, but not a big strikeout pitcher. Fellow southpaw Jaime Garcia will go for the Cardinals.
On Saturday, Tom Koehler will pitch for Miami. Koehler walks way too many batters for his lack of strikeouts. He's like Jonathan Broxton, except for most of the game. Adam Wainwright will pitch for the Cardinals.
On Sunday, Adam Conley pitches for the Marlins. Conley is a lefty who has been a bit above average so far for Miami this year. His ERA and FIP are both below four, and he gets a decent amount of strikeouts while being slightly below average in the walk department. He primarily uses a low-90s fourseamer, but mixes in a slider and a change as well. Michael Wacha will pitch for the Cardinals.
Tonight's game is at 7:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest.
Saturday's game is at 6:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest.
Sunday's game is at 1:25 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest.