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Series Preview 5/10-13: Cardinals at Padres

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The Birds are in sunny San Diego for a date at Petco Park

Chicago Cubs v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Cardinals are out west for the first time this season and set for a four-game series with the Padres. St. Louis enters the series 20-14, and San Diego sits at 14-24.

In the series opener, San Diego’s Jordan Lyles will take the mound opposite of Miles Mikolas and the Cardinals for a game set to begin at 9:40 PM Central time. Lyles has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the Padres to this point with 19 2/3 innings across 13 relief appearances. Lyles has maintained a 4.07 FIP in his relief work with 16 strikeouts. Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler has went yard and drawn four walks facing Lyles in 10 plate appearances.

Mikolas twirled his fourth consecutive start of seven innings his last time out and improved to 4-0 on the season when he held the Cubs scoreless in the same outing. In his first six starts with the Cardinals that have totaled 40 frames, Mikolas has held opponents to a .236 batting average with just two walks. His 0.45 BB/9 rate is the lowest in the Majors among qualified hurlers. Subsequently, Mikolas leads the St. Louis starting rotation with an 0.98 WHIP.

Friday night’s contest will start at 9:40 PM and feature a mound matchup of rookie Eric Lauer and Luke Weaver. Lauer is a 22-year-old lefty who may sound familiar if you follow the MLB First Year Player Draft every summer; Lauer was a first-round pick of the Padres (25th overall) back in 2016. Lauer flew through the ranks of the farm system and made his debut on April 24. In three big-league starts, Lauer was most impressive in his latest outing: a six-inning shutout of the Dodgers. For Triple-A El Paso prior to his promotion, Lauer had 19 strikeouts and an even 3.00 ERA in 18 innings for the Chihuahuas.

After starting the season with only four runs allowed in 17 13 innings in three starts, Weaver has been tagged for 18 runs, all earned, in as many innings over a four-start stretch. Back in August, Weaver twirled a seven-inning outing of beauty against these Padres, with 10 punchouts and just three base hits allowed. Perhaps Weaver can reverse the current trend he is on as he faces a team he has had success against.

What if Weaver’s Changeup is the Problem?

In Saturday’s game, Tyson Ross will take on Michael Wacha, with Ross’s first pitch scheduled for 7:40 PM. Ross, after spending the 2017 season with the Rangers, returned to his familar San Diego clubhouse during the offseason and has started seven games for the Padres to date. Ross has the lowest opponent’s batting average (.217) compared to other San Diego starters, and his 1.20 WHIP is tied with Joey Lucchesi - a rookie left-handed starter for the Padres not named Eric Lauer - for the best mark on the club. Totaled from their previous meetings, Carpenter has drawn six walks off Ross, who currently owns a 3.46 BB/9 rate.

Wacha has been very durable for a St. Louis staff that had some red flags in that department when the season opened. Excluding his first outing of the year, all six of Wacha’s starts have lasted a minimum of five innings, and two of them have been six frames or more. In 37 23 total innings this season, Wacha has a 3.35 ERA and is up to a 0.4 WAR. San Diego offseason-signee Eric Hosmer is 4-for-14 in his career against Wacha, who Hosmer faced when he resided in the Royals’ batting order.

The fourth and final game of the series is set for Sunday at 3:10, when Padres hurler Clayton Richard will toe the rubber. Richard has made eight starts for San Diego in 2018, and his outing on May 8 against the Nationals was particularly impressive: 8 IP, 3 ER, 8 Ks, 0 BB. This season, Richard, a former Cubs hurler, has worked to a 3.91 xFIP with a 7.88 K/9 rate - the highest mark he has had in his 10-plus-year career.

The Cardinals have not publicly announced who will start on the mound in Sunday’s game. John Gant would seem to be an option, as he has remained on the active roster after his start against the Twins earlier this week. Adam Wainwright made a rehab start for the Double-A squad on Monday (the same day Gant started), so, if he is ready to roll, Wainwright could get the call. Jack Flaherty nor Austin Gomber will be in line, as Flaherty started on Wednesday and Gomber will Thursday.

These two clubs will meet again for the final time in regular-season play this year on June 11-13, when the Padres travel to St. Louis for a three-game series at Busch Stadium.