Entering play on Friday, the 47-44 Cardinals sit 6 1⁄2 games back of the division-leading Brewers, who dropped the first of four games against the Pirates on Wednesday. With a 55-39 record, Milwaukee is a game better than the Cubs. The Reds, 41-52, sit in the basement of the division, though they have won six of their last 10 games.
The series opener on Friday will feature Carlos Martinez and Matt Harvey at 7:15 PM Central time. Martinez’s last three outings have been quality starts, and he has fanned 18 batters and walked just three in those 19 innings. This will be Martinez’s fourth start of the year against the Reds; he has a 2.70 ERA in 16 2⁄3 frames against Cincy in 2018, despite walking 14 batters.
Harvey appears to have benefited from a change of scenery. Traded from the Mets in early May, Harvey is 4-3 in 11 starts for the Reds with a 1.16 WHIP. In five games (four starts) in his career facing St. Louis, Harvey has limited the Cardinals to a .230 batting average with only three home runs in 28 innings.
Saturday’s contest is set to showcase Jack Flaherty and Luis Castillo at 3:10 PM. Flaherty was roughed up in his last start: 2 1⁄3 innings against the Giants. Flaherty threw nearly 70 pitches in the outing - the second-shortest start of his career. Flaherty will look to rebound against a Reds club he has struggled against; Cincinnati is slashing .318/.407/.500 off the 22-year-old.
With his assignment in the second game of the series, Castillo will make his team-leading 20th start of the season on Saturday. Castillo has a 3.99 xFIP in 98 1⁄3 innings in 2018. Pitching away from Great American Ball Park has been an issue for Castillo, who has a 6.71 ERA in 11 road starts this year. For comparison’s sake, he has a 4.30 in eight starts at home.
The finale of the series is set for Sunday between Miles Mikolas and Anthony DeSclafani at 1:15 PM. Mikolas will not pitch in the All-Star Game as the result of his work on Sunday. Mikolas will be looking for his fifth consecutive quality start; he has seven in his last eight starts dating back to 6/1. Mikolas ranks fifth in the National League with a 2.65, trailing fellow All-Stars Jacob deGrom, Aaron Nola, Max Scherzer, and Jon Lester.
DeSclafani returned to action in early June after being sidelined since the season commenced with an oblique strain. DeSclafani held the Indians to one earned run over seven innings in his last start, the best he has had this year. The long ball has been a blemish in DeSclafani’s short season, as he has surrendered 10 in 40 2⁄3 innings - and four in his last two starts.