With about six weeks remaining in the regular season, the focuses of many baseball minds have shifted to the postseason picture. The American League presents a fairly clear picture as to which teams will make the cut. The National League is a bit different, and a series this week between the 68-57 Cardinals and 67-58 Dodgers in Los Angeles will only add to the madness.
Entering Monday, the Cubs lead the National League Central by 3 1⁄2 games over the 69-57 Brewers and just a half-game more over the Cardinals. The Brewers, Phillies, and Rockies all hold a piece of the two Wild Card spots, while the 68-55 Braves and 69-56 Diamondbacks hold half-game leads in the East and West, respectively. St. Louis sits a half-game out of a Wild Card spot, and Los Angeles is only 1 1⁄2 back.
The series opener on Monday night features two left-handers: Alex Wood and Austin Gomber. This matchup is set to begin around 9:10 PM Central time. The 27-year-old Wood will make his team-leading 24th start of the season. Across 128 1⁄3 innings this year, Wood has a 3.48 FIP with a 2.17 BB/9, the lowest walk rate of his career. Marcell Ozuna has the most experience against Wood among current Cardinals, as the two got familiar when Ozuna was with the Marlins and Wood was a Brave. Ozuna is 6-for-22 with two runs batted in.
Gomber will make the fifth start of his Major League career - his fourth on the road and the first against a National League West opponent. Batters are hitting .218 off Gomber in 37 1⁄3 frames, during which he has maintained a 0.72 HR/9 rate. He’ll face a trio of Dodgers (Max Muncy, Yasmani Grandal, and Cody Bellinger) who have 28, 21, and 20 home runs entering the series.
In Tuesday’s ballgame, Hyun-Jin Ryu will face off with Daniel Poncedeleon at 9:10 PM. Ryu has a 1.77 ERA in seven starts for the Dodgers this season, one where he missed over three months with a groin strain. This will be Ryu’s second start since returning from the disabled list on 8/15 and the fourth of his career against St. Louis, who has slashed just .216/.242/.295 off the 26-year-old.
Poncedeleon has worked exclusively out of the bullpen for the Cardinals since his seven-inning, hitless start against the Reds on 7/23. Poncedeleon enters the rotation in place of Luke Weaver. In 17 2⁄3 total innings for the Cardinals, Poncdeleon has a 2.04 ERA with only eight hits allowed. Poncedeleon was born in La Mirada, California, about 20 miles away from Los Angeles.
This series will conclude on Wednesday night, another 9:10 PM start. In this one, a pair of young, impressive right-handers will take the mound as Walker Buehler and Jack Flaherty make their weekly assignments. Three of Buehler’s last six starts have been quality, and seven of his 15 total. Buehler comes in to the series with 93 punchouts in 87 1⁄3 innings and an opponent’s OPS of .621.
The Burbank, Califonia-native Flaherty will make his 21st start of the season on Wednesday. Flaherty is in the midst of his best stretch of the season, with a 2.29 ERA and 52 strikeouts over his last seven starts. Flaherty has not yet faced the Dodgers in his young career, but he does have a .197 BAA in 60 innings away from Busch Stadium this year.