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Cardinals should destroy the Rays

A series preview

MLB: San Diego Padres at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres are not a good baseball team. They have, however, taken two of three from the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Indians, and Cubs (my mistake, the Padres actually swept the Cubs). It happens. It is a long season. If it happens a few more times this season for the Cardinals, they aren’t going to make the playoffs. Even if they win every three game series and split all two-game and four-game series, they will finish 21-14, with 85 wins, likely a game or two out of the playoffs. The Cardinals should destroy the Rays.*

*With the title, .551 W%, 89-win pace. Without the title, .448 W%, 73-win pace.

The Cardinals have just 35 games to go. They are all important, starting with tonight. Given, the Cardinals have one reliable member of the bullpen at the moment in Tyler Lyons and he’s pitched the last two nights, it would probably be a good idea for the Cardinals to get a gigantic lead. The Rays are a better team than the Padres.

The Rays are under .500 at 63-66 and have been outscored this season, but their BaseRuns is a bit healthier at 68-61. They are also just 3 games out of the Wild Card, which seems promising, but their odds of making the playoffs in the American are at 10%, about half that of the Cardinals because almost all teams in the American League are within three games of the Wild Card. Of the 15 AL teams, just four are more than three games out of a playoff spot and the Rays must pass five teams for a playoff spot.

The Rays, on a talent level basis, are probably as good as they have been all year and roughly equivalent to the Cardinals. They made a few moves to get themselves better, adding slugger Lucas Duda and glove-first shortstop Adeiny Hechevarria. They also just got Kevin Kiermaier back so it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities for the Rays to make a run.

Evan Longoria has put up a decent season offensively, but solid baserunning, good defense and good health mean he’s going to put up something close to another four-win season. The 31-year-old is hitting well in the second half, and Tampa has him signed for another five years at a pretty reasonable $17 million per year average.

Tampa’s corner outfielders have provided much of the pop for this year’s club as Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza have put up hitting lines better than 20% above league average. Add in Logan Morrison’s 29 homers at first base in what might finally be a breakout year at age-29 (he turns 30 today), and Dickerson, Souza, and Morrison have accounted for 80 of the Rays’ 178 homers this year. Without the DH, Duda or Morrison will have to take some games off.

Catcher Wilson Ramos missed the first couple months of the season and his bat might be a bit better than the 84 wRC+ that he’s shown. He’s thrown out just three of 21 runners trying to steal this year. Brad Miller has been the everyday second baseman and he’s been pretty bad with the bat this season, but he is posting a good walk rate so you probably have to throw him strikes. Cardinals legend Peter Bourjos is on the Rays’ bench.

Jake Odorizzi gets the start tonight for Tampa Bay (which isn’t a city, it’s a region. Tampa is a city, as is St. Petersburg, which is where the Rays stadium is located). Odorizzi has missed a little bit of time on the disabled list this season, and it hasn’t been a great season for him. After spending the last three years as a roughly average pitcher, Odorizzi’s walks have gone up, his strikeouts are down and he’s given up 26 homers in just over 100 innings. He relies on a fourseam fastball that sits in the low-90s, but his velocity is a bit down from year’s past. His cutter and splitter ae his primary secondary offerings, but his splitter hasn’t been too effective this year. He’ll also mix in a slider and a curve. Michael Wacha throws for St. Louis.

On Saturday, Blake Snell pitches for the Rays. Snell is a decent lefty and just 24 years old after making his debut last season. He walks 12% of batters, which is way too many for a pitcher with an average strikeout rate. He throws a mid-90s fourseamer more than half the time and like most lefties, relies on his changeup, but also throws a slider and a curve. He has pitched a bit better of late, with a 3.87 FIP and 3.43 ERA with a walk rate closer to 9% in his last eight starts. In his last two starts, he’s favored his curve over his slider, which is a change from earlier in the season. Mike Leake might be starting, although until they actually name a starter, it could be Jack Flaherty making his MLB debut at age-21 after carving up the minor leagues, or perhaps even John Gant, who has the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster.

If the Cardinals want to win the series, they should really try to win the first two games because Chris Archer is pitching the finale for the Rays and he is really good. Archer was traded from the Cubs in the deal that netted Matt Garza for Chicago in one of Theo Epstein’s first big moves as President for the team. What a boner that trade was! As for Archer, he’s an ace, with a 3.17 FIP and 3.76 ERA, he has struck out 30% of batters this season with a near 50-50 split of his mid-90s fastball and a hard slider. He also uses an occasional change. Lance Lynn will get the assignment on Sunday.

For those in town, tonight is Pride Night at the ballpark.

Tonight, August 25, 7:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest

Saturday August 26, 6:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest

Sunday, August 27, 1:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest

Other series of note:

Cubs at Phillies

Padres at Marlins (Marlins are now 63-63)

Rockies at Braves

Giants at Diamondbacks

Brewers at Dodgers