The early part of the St. Louis Cardinals season seems like it has been filled with highs and lows, though this is probably at least partially psychological. The national sports conversation is currently being dominated by the playoffs in both the NBA and NHL, and we are still not that far removed from our most recently watched baseball games being playoff ones, and of our most recent Cardinals-watching experiences being extremely important games in late 2016, which were de facto playoff games.
As it turns out, and this can be corroborated through Baseball Reference or FanGraphs or the Viva El Birdos archives or wherever, the baseball season is actually full of tons of mini-runs. It’s not like teams frequently go on long winning or losing streaks. The Cardinals’ longest win streak this decade has been eight. Their longest losing streak has been seven—strangely, their three longest losing streaks came courtesy of the 2011 World Series champions, the 2013 97-win NL pennant winners, and the 100-win 2015 club. Or so the Baseball Reference Play Index would have you believe. Or me believe, I guess. The Cardinals’ next three games are against the Blue Jays.
As much as the early season may have frustrated Cardinals fans, the early parts of 2017 have been objectively much more unpleasant for fans of the Toronto Blue Jays. The team began the season with an unconscionably poor 2-11 start; their record now stands at 5-14, and they sit in last place in the American League East.
The start is widely considered a major disappointment from the Toronto Blue Jays, who advanced to the ALCS last season via the first Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays lost in the ALCS to the Cleveland Indians, and to add insult to injury, Cleveland then turned around and signed an ex-Blue Jay, free agent first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion had loudly launched the Jays into the ALDS via a walkoff home run off of the Baltimore Orioles. I assume it was off of Zach Britton, who I’m not seeing as having been used in the first ten innings of the Wild Card Game, but it was either Britton or Ubaldo Jimenez. So let’s relive Encarnacion hitting a bomb off of Britton, he of a 0.54 ERA in 2016.
Although the Blue Jays lost Encarnacion in free agency, they entered 2017 fully intending to compete for a playoff berth. While longtime right fielder Jose Bautista was a free agent last season, as noted by people such as VEB’s Alex Crisafulli, he eventually re-signed with the Blue Jays on a one-year deal. While he has gotten off to an extremely rough start, with his wRC+ standing at just 38, he did help cushion the blow of the loss of Encarnacion by assuring that the Blue Jays would maintain at least one God-tier bat flipper.
In addition to Jose Bautista, who is probably not suddenly terrible though perhaps could be declining as most players in their mid-to-late-thirties do, the Blue Jays have such notable position players as Russell Martin, the veteran catcher formerly of the Dodgers, Yankees, and Pirates, and Kevin Pillar, a defensive whiz center fielder who invites comparisons to Kevin Kiermaier, though with a less consistent bat.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, unfortunately for the Blue Jays and also for appreciators of really, really good baseball players, two very prominent Blue Jays bats will miss the series on the Disabled List. Josh Donaldson, the 2015 American League MVP, is on the DL with a right calf strain, and his spot at third base has been taken by Chris Coghlan. Troy Tulowitzki, a very good shortstop with the Blue Jays, if not quite what he was with the Colorado Rockies, joined him on Saturday.
Pitching-wise, the Cardinals will dodge a bullet in missing Marcus Stroman, whom you may remember from his excellence in the World Baseball Classic, who pitched on Sunday. They will also avoid JA Happ, who won 20 games in 2016 out of nowhere, but is now on the Disabled List with left elbow inflammation. Side note: obligatory reminder that JA Happ’s first name is pronounced “Jay”. That still amazes me after all these years.
The expected pitching matchup for tonight’s game is Marco Estrada, who has spent the last three seasons being an all-world FIP-beater, and particularly in the last two seasons has been very good at suppressing runs, against Michael Wacha. The next two Toronto starters are officially TBD, but Wednesday’s is expected to be Mat Latos, who had or has a pet cat named Cat Latos, against Carlos Martinez. Thursday should bring us Casey Lawrence, a 29 year-old rookie, as Aaron Sanchez remains on the Disabled List, against Adam Wainwright, whom you may have read about.
Here are the start times. All games are at Busch Stadium; all listed times are Central.
Tonight, 7:15 p.m., Fox Sports Midwest
Wednesday, April 26, 7:15 p.m., Fox Sports Midwest
Thursday, April 27, 12:45 p.m., Fox Sports Midwest