After their string of 10 consecutive series victories was snapped over the weekend, the 76-61 Cardinals have hit the road and are in Washington for a three-game series with the Nationals.
Dropping two of three games to the Reds, while the Brewers and Cubs were victorious, caused the Cardinals to drop to the second National League Wild Card spot; 77-61 Milwaukee holds a slim, half-game lead for that top seed. In the Central, Chicago is a National League-best 81-55 and holds a five-game lead over Milwaukee and 5 1⁄2 over St. Louis. Washington enters Monday with a 68-69 record, 8 1⁄2 games out of the East-leading Braves.
On Labor Day, the best pitching matchup of the series will be on display: Max Scherzer and Jack Flaherty, a 12:05 PM Central time start. Scherzer is a candidate to win the National League Cy Young Award; it would be the fourth of his career and his third in a row. Scherzer enters his Monday assignment with a 1.57 ERA over his last seven starts with 60 strikeouts in a 46-inning span. This could mean trouble for the Cardinals, who fanned 22 times in the losses to the Reds on Saturday and Sunday.
Flaherty makes his first appearance of September after August, his best month in the Majors. In five starts - all quality, Flaherty logged 32 innings with four runs allowed and a 0.72 WHIP. Flaherty has a 2.19 ERA in day games this season and may of the lack-of-familiarity factor on his side; this will be Washington’s first meeting with the 22-year-old in the regular season.
Erick Fedde and Miles Mikolas will work in Tuesday’s contest, a 6:05 PM first pitch. Fedde has made six starts for Washington this season and this will be his first since early July. Fedde is taking the former rotation spot of Gio Gonzalez, who joined the Brewers last week. Feede has a 5.79 ERA in 28 big-league innings in 2018, and batters combined to hit .296 off him in 71 1⁄3 innings in the Minors between Double-A and Triple-A.
Mikolas has continued to provide consistency for St. Louis. Four of Mikolas’ six starts in August were six or more innings, including a stretch of three seven-inning outings from 8/2-13. Left-handed batters have combined to hit .293 off Mikolas, so we’ll see how he fares against the likes of Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, and Juan Soto.
In the finale of the series on Wednesday, Tanner Roark will oppose John Gant at 6:05 PM. Roark had a 2.78 ERA in six August starts and comes in to the series with 165 1⁄3 innings - trailing only Scherzer for the team lead in that department. With Wednesday set to be his 28th start, Roark is in line for 2018 to be this third year in a row with at least 30 starts.
Gant has settled in to the Cardinals’ rotation. The 26-year-old Gant has allowed just five runs over his last five starts, during which he fanned 27 batters. Gant surrendered just one long ball in August and looks to continue that trend against Washington’s cast of sluggers.