At this point in the season, all of the games are important, but a four-game set on the road against a divisional opponent still fighting for a playoff spot feel a bit bigger. The Cardinals are going to play roughly 10% of the games they have left on the season in this series. The Cubs, Rockies, and Diamondbacks are all within reach. The Cardinals should destroy the Pirates.*
*W% with title, .565. Without title, .448 W%.
Here’s how the two teams’ seasons have gone based on Playoff Odds from Fangraphs:
For Pittsburgh, Gregory Polanco is on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. Adam Frazier, who has played all over this year, has gotten a few starts in right field since the injury. Frazier makes a lot of contact and been roughly average with the bat this season. Sean Rodriguez, who signed with the Atlanta Braves in the offseason and has been traded back to Pittsburgh could see time in the outfield as well. The other two outfield spots are very capably manned by Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen, although Marte hasn’t hit at all since returning from a PED suspension.
Also on the injury front, Francisco Cervelli has sat out the last few games. The team has been carrying three catchers with Elias Diaz and Christ Stewart both on the team. No word on whether they are working to acquire Eric Fryer solely for this series. Josh Harrison has cooled down after his hot start and Jordy Mercer remains a glove-first shortstop.
First baseman Josh Bell and Cardinals legend David Freese have both hit well over the last month, though Freese has done so with little power. His ISO on the season is just .111 and his hitting line looks a lot like it did in his final season in St. Louis back in 2013.
In tonight’s game, Jameson Taillon takes the mound for the Pirates. The 25-year-old righty has probably been Pittsburgh’s best pitcher despite missing time for cancer surgery. He’s got a 3.36 FIP, but his ERA is a bit higher due to an unlucky .361 BABIP. Both his fourseamer and sinker average in the mid-90s, with his curve his only real go-to offspeed pitch. He gave up 17 runs across two starts a couple weeks ago, but recovered with two quality starts and 15 strikeouts and three walks in 12.1 innings. Adam Wainwright goes for St. Louis.
On Friday, Trevor Williams is scheduled to be the Pirates starter. Many probably thought this would be Tyler Glasnow’s spot in the rotation by now, but Williams has pitched pretty well, keeping the ball in the park to make up for a lack of strikeouts. He relies on his fourseamer, but between that pitch and his sinker, he goes to a fastball 70% of the time. He also uses a change and slider. He’s only given up one home run in six starts since the All-Star Break. The Cardinals will call upon Carlos Martinez.
Chad Kuhl will get the start on Saturday. Kuhl is a lot like Williams results-wise except for more walks. He uses his sinker 64% of the time. He has good velocity, throwing in the mid-to-upper-90s, but doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts. His main secondary pitch is the slider, but also mixes in a change. He’s walked five batters in two of his last four starts. Michael takes the mound for St. Louis.
On Sunday, in a special Little League World Series tie-in game played at Williamsport, Ivan Nova will start for the Pirates. Pittsburgh and Ray Searage rescued Nova last year and then they both benefited from those efforts as the righty signed a three-year deal for $26 million. Nova relies on contact to get his outs, striking out just 15% of batters. he rarely issues a free pass and even with a healthy amount of homers, has been an average pitcher this year. Mike Leake gets the start for the Cardinals.
Tonight, August 17, 6:05 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Friday, August 18, 6:05 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Saturday, August 19, 3:05 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Sunday August 20, 6:00 pm CT, ESPN
Other weekend matchups of note:
Blue Jays v Cubs
Brewers v Rockies
Diamondbacks v Twins