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Series Preview 5/31-6/3: Pirates vs. Cardinals

The Bucs are at Busch for a four-game battle with the Birds

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off their .500 road trip (3-3) through Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, the Cardinals are back home in St. Louis to begin a seven-game home stand. The stretch of play at Busch Stadium will begin with a four-game series against the Pirates, starting Thursday evening.

The Pirates enter the series with a 29-26 record, and the Cardinals are 29-24. Entering play Thursday, the Pirates sit one game behind the Cardinals for third place in the National League Central. The Brewers (36-21) lead the division by 4 12 games over the Cubs (29-23) and five over the Cardinals.

In Thursday’s series opener, Jack Flaherty will take the mound against Trevor Williams - a rematch of the 5/26 game in at PNC Park last weekend - at 6:15 PM Central time. In that game, Flaherty picked up the second win of his career as he turned in his second consecutive quality start; Flaherty went six innings and allowed one earned run. At the big-league level this year, Flaherty has a 3.25 FIP in 29 13 over five starts. Flaherty has fanned 31 batters and held opponents to a .204 batting average.

Williams lasted four innings in last Saturday’s contest, allowing four runs on seven hits - including a leadoff homer hit by Matt Carpenter. That was only the fourth time out of 11 starts this season where he has not logged at least six innings. For the year on the whole, Williams has a 3.43 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and 77.2 left on-base percentage.

Friday’s game will feature Miles Mikolas and Jameson Taillon at 7:15 PM. This matchup is the same used back on Sunday, May 27, in Pittsburgh. In that game, Mikolas fanned five batters and allowed four runs in six innings in what was a no decision. Across 10 starts for St. Louis this year, Mikolas has a 2.58 ERA with a 51:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Taillon had a better line than Mikolas did - Taillon went 6 13 with three runs allowed - but, he, too took a no decision in the series finale, as the Pirates’ bullpen surrendered the lead and the game to the Cardinals. In 11 starts for Pittsburgh, Taillon has a 3.86 FIP with a .246 BAA.

Saturday’s game will start at 1:15 PM and have Luke Weaver and Chad Kuhl on the rubber. Weaver allowed four runs in as many innings in his outing against the Brewers on May 28, the first time he allowed more than three runs in a start since May 5. None of the current Pirates have extra-base hits off Weaver in 46 at-bats. Starling Marte is 2-for-6 with a walk facing Weaver, and Elias Diaz has two hits in five at-bats with two runs batted in.

Kuhl has a 3.94 ERA in 11 starts for the Pirates this year. Although his rate is down by over half a walk from last season (it was 4.12 last year), Kuhl’s 3.36 BB/9 has played a role in his rough sailing this year. Batters are hitting .254 off Kuhl in 2018, but he has been helped out of trouble with a left on-base percentage of 79.

In Sunday’s series finale, also a 1:15 PM start, Michael Wacha will square off with Nick Kingham. Wacha has a 1.94 ERA with 38 strikeouts over his last seven starts and has not lost a decision since early April. Wacha will look to continue a stretch of four straight quality starts as he faces the Pirates for the first time this year.

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Kingham made his big-league debut against the Cardinals in late April and carried a perfect game in to the seventh inning. Kingham had nine punchouts and surrendered only one base hit in his outing; Paul DeJong broke the perfect game and no-hitter with a two-out single in the seventh. In four starts for Pittsburgh, Kingham has a 3.75 ERA with only four walks in 24 innings.

Video is credited to Fox Sports Midwest.