The Cardinals spent the off-day watching their chief competition for a playoff spot all win, thus decreasing their playoff odds slightly. The 61-57 Cardinals are currently at 34.4% per Fangraphs and 25.8% to make the division series. A couple weeks ago, a one-in four shot to make the division series looked pretty good. The Cardinals still have a ways to go to make those odds significantly better. The Cardinals should destroy the Red Sox.*
*W% with title, .583 (95-win pace). W% without title, .448 (73-win pace).
The Red Sox are a very good baseball team that has some very big strengths all working well together. The starting pitching, fronted by Chris Sale, has been fantastic with a 3.82 FIP and 4.01 ERA, which rank fourth and sixth, respectively. Of course, the Cardinals will be missing (not missing) Sale in this short series.
The Red Sox bullpen, headed by Craig Kimbrel, is just as daunting. They have put together a 3.55 FIP and 3.03 ERA, which rank fourth and third, respectively. The whole staff is aided by a very good defense. These two teams faced off in May and the Red Sox have made a few changes.
The most noticeable change is going to be at third base where top prospect Rafael Devers has been called up. He’s only 20 and hadn’t played above High-A before this season, but he already has six homers in 68 plate appearances so far, including two dingers just last night. In the grand tradition of Matt Carpenter (and Eddie Matthews, Wade Boggs, and George Brett, Devers is a left-handed hitting third baseman.
At the trading deadline, the Red Sox also traded for third baseman/utility player/current second baseman Eduardo Nunez. The stats say he’s been really good with the Red Sox, and he’s now been decent for a season and a half after a very mediocre beginning of his career. Consider me still skeptical of this 30-year-old going forward. Mitch Moreland and Christian Vazquez are first baseman and catcher and neither has proved themselves a big threat this season.
The Red Sox still have Dustin Pedroia, who is out with knee inflammation. They also have Hanley Ramirez, who didn’t start in the last series as there was no designated hitter available. The young core outfield featuring Jackie Bradley, Jr., Andrew Benintendi, and Mookie Betts is great, although nobody is having a great year with the bat. At shortstop, Xander Boegarts is at about the same spot.
Interestingly, the exact same pitchers who faced the Cardinals in May will take the mound in this series with the Cardinals responding with the same pitchers as well although the matchups take place in opposite order. Rick Porcello starts tonight. This what I wrote about him in May:
He won the Cy Young award last year and nobody can take that away from him. Porcello hasn’t pitched poorly, but things haven’t gone quite his way this season like they did last year. His strikeout numbers are actually increased over last year so far with his walk rate at about the same spot. He’s given up nine homers already, which has caused a 3.83 FIP and 4.01 ERA. Once a ground ball specialist, Porcello has turned into a fly ball pitcher and for the most part it has been worth it given the increased strikeouts with no change in his walks. Sometimes homers come in bunches.
Those homers are still coming in bunches with 28 homers given up on the season. HIs strikeouts are about level with last year with a small increase in walks. His 4.39 FIP and 4.68 ERA are roughly average once you factor in park and league, which don’t do Porcello any favors. He’s given up nine homers in five starts since the All-Star Break, but has been lucky to only have a 4.18 ERA. Mike Leake will go for the Cardinals.
Tomorrow, Eduardo Rodriguez pitches for the Red Sox. Rodriguez has been solid this season, but missed six weeks earlier this year due to problems with his right knee. He’s been solid since coming back and looked good his last two starts giving up just two runs in 12 innings to go along with 12 strikeouts and four walks. The lefty throws a 93-mph fourseamer most of the time, but also mixes in a change, a cutter and occasionally a slider or sinker. Lance Lynn will pitch for St. Louis.
Also of note, Joe Kelly is in the Red Sox bullpen.
Tonight, August 16, 6:10 pm CT (That’s really soon!), Fox Sports Midwest
Tomorrow, August 17, 6:10 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest