By taking two of three from the Pirates over the week, the Cardinals won their 10th consecutive series - a feat the club has achieved only two other times in its prestigious history. And with the regular season entering its final month, St. Louis will look to make hay against the visiting Reds, who are in town for a three-game series that will begin on Friday.
Entering play Friday, the 75-59 Cardinals hold a half-game lead over the Brewers for the top National League Wild Card spot. St. Louis trails the 79-54 Chicago Cubs by 4 1⁄2 games for the Central division lead the top record in the NL. The West continues to intrigue, as the division-leading Diamondbacks are just two games up on the Rockies and Dodgers.
In Friday’s series opener, Austin Gomber will take the mound against Homer Bailey at 7:15 PM Central time. Over his last five starts, the 24-year-old Gomber has maintained a 2.42 ERA with 24 strikeouts and only one home run allowed. In 48 1⁄3 innings in the Majors, Gomber has limited left-handed batters to a .242 batting average. This may be an important note, as Joey Votto recently returned from the disabled list and joins Scott Schebler and Mason Williams as Cincy’s left-handed-hitting cast.
Across four starts in August, Bailey has a 7.32 ERA in 19 2⁄3 innings. Batters have 37 hits of Bailey in the span, equating to a .385 average for his opponents and a 2.03 WHIP for the 32-year-old. It doesn’t figure to get easier for Bailey; Matt Carpenter is 19-for-42 (.452) with four doubles against him, and Yadier Molina is batting .404 (19-for-47) with three long balls.
Saturday’s matchup is set to feature Daniel Poncedeleon and Luis Castillo at 6:15 PM. Poncedeleon will be promoted to make the start against the Reds, a team he should remember well. In the first start of his career, Poncedeleon held the Reds hitless through seven sparkling innings in Cincinnati. This will be the third start of Poncedeleon’s career and his first at Busch Stadium.
Castillo enters his weekend assignment leading the Reds in most pitching categories. With a 3.88 xFIP in 136 2⁄3 frames, Castillo will make his team-leading 27th start of the season on Saturday. Castillo also leads the Reds with 131 strikeouts and a 2.70 BB/9 rate. This will be Castillo’s fifth start of 2018 against the Cardinals and the sixth of his career.
In Sunday’s series finale, Luke Weaver will get the nod against Anthony DeSclafani at 1:15 PM. Weaver is starting in place of Jack Flaherty, a 22-year-old who the Cardinals feel could use some extra rest. Sunday would have been his turn in the loop of starters, but will be pushed back until Monday. Weaver has a 5.16 ERA in 22 2⁄3 innings (five total games, four as a starter) against the Reds.
DeSclafani has a 3.35 ERA over his last seven starts for the Reds, including three quality outings; this is significant, considering he has only five for the season as a whole. One may assume that a pitcher whose home is Great American Ball Park would benefit from road work. That is not entirely the case with DeSclafani, who has a 4.34 ERA in 10 home starts and a 4.34 ERA in 5 road starts. In fact, DeSclafani’s HR/9 rate away from Cincy is 2.17; at home, it sits at 1.71.