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Cardinals should destroy the Pirates

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MLB: All-Star Game Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals haven’t played a single game or had any weird injuries over the past five days, yet their odds of making the playoffs just went down a bit. That’s what happens when the team you are tied with trades for one of the best pitchers in baseball. The Cardinals enter the second half tied with the Chicago Cubs and 5.5 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. They are also 7.5 games behind the Rockies for the second wild card spot. They are only a game and a half ahead of the team they are traveling to play this weekend. The Cardinals should destroy the Pirates.*

*W% with title is .567. W% without title is .448

Before getting to the Pirates, the Cardinals made a few moves on the roster over the break. Kolten Wong and Kevin Siegrist are coming off the disabled list for Alex Mejia and Luke Weaver. In more recent news, Randal Grichuk is hitting the disabled list and Jose Martinez is getting called back up from the minors.

Much of the talk around the Pirates these days is centered around Andrew McCutchen and where he will be playing for the last year and a half of his contract. The team attempted to deal him in the offseason, but couldn’t find any deals to their liking. At the beginning of the season, the decision to hold onto him seemed like a mistake.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, McCutchen was hitting .205/.273/.358 and a wRC+ of 68 in 194 plate appearances. Cardinals players get demoted for less. Since then, McCutchen has hit .407/.503/.743 with a 223 wRC+ in 169 plate appearances and his wRC+ is now a robust 140 for the season. He is pretty close to MVP-level McCutchen and the team should do well if they move him, although his presumed replacement Austin Meadows has had a rough season in the minors.

As for the rest of the team, Starling Marte is still suspended and Jung Ho Kang is not likely coming back to the United States anytime soon. The team has a bunch of average hitters, with Josh Harrison doing a bit better than that so far, but Francisco Cervelli, Josh Bell, and actual Cardinals legend David Freese hovering around league average. Gregory Polanco has yet to get things going this season, but Jordy Mercer has hit well so far this season, and Adam Frazier has tried his best to fill in for Marte.

On the pitching side, Pittsburgh is opening the second half with Gerrit Cole. Pirates fans might not be digging Cole quite like they used to, as the 26-year-old righty has struggled with the long ball this season. He’s been less reliant on his upper-90s fastball this season as it has not had the same success as in previous seasons generating fewer swings and more homers when the batter does make contact. Cole did pitch pretty well in his last five starts before the break with a 3.98 FIP and 3.45 ERA, giving up two runs or fewer in four of those starts. Mike Leake gets the call for the Cardinals.

Starters for Saturday and Sunday have yet to be named by the Pirates, but let’s go ahead and assume it will Chad Kuhl. The 24-year-old righty has an ugly 4.96 ERA, but his FIP is 4.24, which is actually pretty close to average. He’s gotten some bad luck with a .325 BABIP and a low 68% left-on-base rate. That doesn’t make him good, but he’s not as bad as his ERA has shown. He throws a mid-90s sinker, but isn’t a ground ball pitcher. His high-80s slider is his best pitch, with his change generating more whiffs, but also seeing more homers.

On Saturday, Jameson Taillon will go for the Pirates. Taillon has been the Pirates best starter this year, but has only made 11 starts due to recovering from cancer. Taillon throws a hard sinker that generates a ton of ground balls. With his fourseamer, he ends up throwing roughly two-thirds fastballs. His primary secondary pitch is a curve, but he also mixes in a change from time to time. Lance Lynn starts for the Cardinals.

Trevor Williams is the Pirates starter on Sunday. Williams started the season in the bullpen, but he has been a starter since early May. He doesn’t strike a lot of guys out, but hasn’t walked many either since moving to the rotation. His 3.80 FIP is better than the 4.69 ERA he has put up as a starter. He doesn’t pitch in the strike zone a ton and relies on swings out of the zone to get easier outs. Carlos Martinez pitches for St. Louis after an electrifying All-Star Game performance.

Tonight, July 14, 6:05 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest

Saturday, July 15, 6:05 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest

Sunday, July 16, 12:35 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest