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The Cardinals next three games are against the Reds (though in another sense, against themselves)

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A series preview

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Cincinnati Reds v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Yesterday, the Cardinals won both halves of a double-header, the first coming on a walk-off Grand Slam from Matt Carpenter. That’s one way to frame it.

Another way would be to say that the early game was one of the ugliest games of baseball you’ll ever see, with four errors and three runners thrown-out-on-the-bases. Were it not for timely late home runs from Messrs. Grichuk and Carpenter, not to mention the Kolten Wong triple that setup the win, it would have been yet another exhibit in how this Cardinals team failed to address their stated goals to improve defense and base running, and may well not have the talent to be a playoff contender at all.

Also yesterday, Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs wrote a piece about how each team’s projected wins have been changed by their actual wins/losses so far. The Cardinals slow start has them projected to win two fewer games over the course of the season. That’s the 9th worst adjustment in the league.

Perhaps more concerning, Sullivan’s piece also looked at each team’s change in projected winning percentage going forward. In other words, setting aside what they’ve already done, do we project this team to be better or worse going forward compared to what we thought Opening Day? It’s no surprise the Brewers are the big gainer in that area, as the systems struggle to recalculate their projections Trout-ward for Eric Thames.

The projections see the Cardinals as a somewhat worse team than they thought at the start of the season, 7th worst in terms of winning percentage decline relative to where it was on Opening Day.

That’s all relative to expectations, of course. The Cubs are actually the 5th worst in terms of decline in expected winning percentage. But since the Cubs were projected to win about 200 games, I don’t think they are sweating it too much.

For the Cardinals, however - a team which most projected to be right on the edge of earning a Wild Card slot - these minor downward adjustments could well be significant.

A less sophisticated but more optimistic way to look at things would just be to say that the Cardinals have won eight of their last ten after a slow start, and hope this run is more indicative of what kind of team this is going forward.

Speaking of going forward, how about them Reds?

Of all the teams doing the tear-down, rebuilding thing that people get angry when I call tanking, the Reds look like maybe the least promising.

The veteran trade chips they’ve moved, such as Aroldis Chapman and Brandon Phillips, haven’t yielded quite the same haul in prospects as other tanking rebuilding teams. Keith Law and Baseball America rank the Reds minor league system 12th and 13th respectively, which is not particularly impressive given what they are trying to do. Only one Reds prospect ranks in the Top 50 at MLB.com.

In the majors, you’ve basically got Joey Votto and then a collection of jobbers keeping a seat warm until some future Reds prospect arrives. On paper, this should be one of the least interesting teams in baseball. And yet...

Bryan Price has been extremely creative with his bullpen use so far this season, going to his bullpen as early as the 3rd inning, having relievers throw multiple innings, even... and this is where it gets truly shocking... varying the order and the inning in which he uses a given reliever.

Speaking of relievers, the other most interesting story in Cincinnati this April is Michael Lorenzen. A starter during his rookie season of 2015, Lorenzen is now being used as the Reds multi-inning “Andrew Miller guy,” and maybe, kind-of, just a bit as a two-way player. Or at least, that was the story during the Reds surprisingly strong first couple weeks of the season.

The team started the season with a 7-2 record, including taking two-of-three in their first series with the Cardinals. Lorenzen was unscored on in his first four outings, including one game he entered in the 3rd and pitched three innings. He also hit a home run as a pinch hitter in one of those early games.

Since then, the team has sagged back to a 10-12 record and 4th place in the division. Lorenzen has struggled a bit out of the bullpen. While he has appeared once more as a pinch hitter, it looks like he will be more “pitcher who occasionally pinch hits” than something approaching a true, two-way player.

Lance Lynn will face Tim Adleman in tonight’s series opener. Mike Leake will face what’s left of Bronson Arroyo tomorrow. Michael Wacha and Amir Garrett are slated for Sunday.

Here are the start times. All games are at Busch Stadium; all listed times are Central.

Friday, April 28, 7:15pm, Fox Sports Midwest

Saturday, April 29, 1:15pm, Fox Sports Midwest

Sunday, April 30, 1:15pm, Fox Sports Midwest