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Series Preview 8/28-30: Pirates vs. Cardinals

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The Birds open a six-game home stand with the Bucs in town

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

The Cardinals took two of three over the weekend in Colorado against the Rockies to mark St. Louis’s ninth consecutive series win. At 73-58, a season-best 15 games above .500, the Cardinals return home and welcome the Pirates to Busch Stadium for a three-game series that will begin on Tuesday evening.

Entering play Tuesday, the Cardinals are 4 12 games back of the Cubs in the National League Central division race and own a half-game lead over the Brewers for the top Wild Card spot. The Dodgers, Phillies, and Rockies are all within 2 12 games of a Wild Card spot.

In Tuesday’s series opener, Jack Flaherty will face off with Ivan Nova at 7:15 PM Central time. The 22-year-old Flaherty has had a splendid August and will look to finish the month off just as well. Across 25 innings, Flaherty has a 1.08 ERA with a .125 opponent’s batting average and 33 strikeouts. This will be Flaherty’s fifth start of the season against Pittsburgh. Francisco Cervelli has fanned five times in nine at-bats facing Flaherty, while Josh Bell has a double and a home run off the right-hander.

Nova enters his Tuesday assignment with a 4.53 FIP in 24 starts for Pittsburgh this year, though he has a 3.46 ERA over his last seven starts. Nova’s last three starts have been quality, as have half of his total starts in 2018. This is Nova’s third season with the Pirates, so he is all too familiar with these Cardinals. Yadier Molina is 6-for-10 with five runs batted in, and Matt Carpenter has two doubles and four walks.

The middle game of the series will feature Miles Mikolas and Trevor Williams, again at 7:15 PM. Mikolas was roughed up in Colorado, surrendering four earned runs on 12 hits in 4 23 innings. This was not Mikolas’ shortest outing of the season; that outing was only four innings - back on 7/15 against the Reds. The 12 hits, however, were the most he has given up. Mikolas should appreciate being back at Busch Stadium, where he has a 2.23 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 13 starts this year.

Williams will make his 26th start of the season, and that will tie him with Jameson Taillon for the most on the Pirates’ staff. The 26-year-old Williams is leading the Pirates in several statistical categories, including his 3.44 ERA with a .233 BAA. Williams has been very tough to crack over his last seven starts, with just four earned runs allowed over 42 innings.

Thursday’s series finale is a 6:15 PM start and is in line to have John Gant and Joe Musgrove toeing the rubber. Gant, though he walked five, pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Rockies in his last start. The home run he surrendered to Matt Holliday on 8/25 in Colorado was the first long ball he had given up in nearly a month.

In his first season with the Pirates after two with the Astros, Musgrove has a 3.56 ERA in 15 starts. Musgrove missed almost the first two months of the season with a shoulder strain and missed more than a week in July with a minor infection of a finger. Musgrove’s first start of 2018 came against St. Louis, and Musgrove had the upper hand. The Pirates’ hurler logged seven scoreless innings and fanned as many batters. Musgrove has a 1.03 WHIP in six starts on the road this season.