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Series Preview 4/29-5/2: Cardinals at Nationals

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

After winning three consecutive series at home, the Cardinals are out on the road to close the first month of the 2019 season and open up May. With the second-best record in the National League at 17-10, the Central-leading Cardinals are in Washington, DC to take on the Nationals in a four-game series this week that will start on Monday. Washington is two games under .500 (12-14) and sits in fourth place in the East division.

If you are heading to any or all of these games, be sure to check out John LaRue’s gameday guide for Nationals Park. It really is pretty helpful.

The Dodgers own the best record in the NL (19-11, a .633 winning percentage, +31 run differential) after their sweep of the Pirates over the weekend. Looking at the latest MLB.com power rankings, it’s the Dodgers in first, followed by the Rays (18-9, .667, +44), the Cardinals (.630, +28), and Astros with a 17-11 record, .607 winning percentage, and +28 run differential.

Before the game, the Cardinals activated Michael Wacha off the disabled list and optioned Ryan Helsley to Triple-A Memphis. Wacha was sidelined with left knee tendinitis.

The opener of this four-game series on Monday will feature Patrick Corbin for the Nationals and Wacha for the Cardinals at 6:05 PM Central time. This is Corbin’s first year out east after spending the first six seasons of his career with the Diamondbacks. Corbin’s first five starts of the season have been quality, and he has maintained a stellar 39:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 32 23 frames to start the season. Right-handed batters are hitting just .195 off Corbin this year, but the three of the 15 hits have been left the yard. We’ll have to see how Corbin’s former teammate Paul Goldschmidt fares facing this 29-year-old lefty.

I can’t speak for everyone, but when I think of Wacha and the Nationals, my mind trails back to that game late in the 2013 season when the then-rookie Wacha came within one out of no-hitting these Nationals at Busch Stadium. But since that was over five years ago, we’ll talk about the present-day facts. Wacha missed one start while on the injured list and will make his fifth start of the year on Monday. Nationals infielder Howie Kendrick has had Wacha’s number over the years; Kendrick is 9-for-13 (.692) with a double and a homer in his career facing Wacha.

Tuesday’s contest will have a matchup of Anibal Sanchez and Adam Wainwright at 6:05. Sanchez is 35 years old and, like Corbin, is in his first year with the Nationals. Sanchez started his career back in 2006 and spent six years with the Marlins, followed by five with the Tigers, and last year with the Braves. Walks have been a problem for Sanchez, who is up to 16 free passes through 27 innings this year. With this is mind, it makes sense why opponents have a .369 OBP facing Sanchez; that is nearly 100 points higher than last season’s mark of .278.

Wainwright won his 150th career game in his last start, a six-inning performance to help complete a three-game sweep of the Brewers. This will be Wainwright’s first start against the Nationals in over two years and with the start, it will mark April as the first month Wainwright has had six starts since June of 2017. This is notable for the guy striving for his first injury-free season since 2016.

On Wednesday, the first day of May, Max Scherzer and Miles Mikolas will toe the rubber. Scherzer enters this series leading the league with 39 13 innings pitched and 54 strikeouts. (Following him in second place on that list is Washington’s starter for Thursday.) Scherzer has a 2.52 ERA in 23 starts at Nationals Park since the start of 2018 and has a 2.84 ERA with 67 strikeouts in nine outings against St. Louis.

Mikolas has had trouble with the long ball in 2019. In six starts, Mikolas has given up eight; this comes after he surrendered 16 total in his 32 starts last season. He’ll have a tough task facing this Nationals bunch that comes into the series with 41 homers. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto each have six, while Kendrick, Brian Dozier, and Victor Robles each have four. (Matt Adams hit his third home run on Sunday.. it was a walk-off in the 11th to beat the Padres.)

Thursday will be the finale of this series and the last time these club’s meet until the Nationals come to St. Louis in September. Stephen Strasburg and Dakota Hudson will pitch in this late-afternoon game set to begin around 3:05. Strasburg has fanned 20 batters over his last two starts and comes into this assignment with an 11.47 K/9 rate. His career-high is 12.18, posted in his 2010 rookie season. Marcell Ozuna is 13-for-38 with two homers and a .579 slugging percentage in his career against the three-time All-Star.

Hudson went 5 23 innings in his last start back on 4/27 against the Reds. For Hudson, that is the longest start of his MLB career. The splits for Hudson are pretty dramatic. Left-handed batters are batting .411 off Hudson with seven homers, while right-handed batters sit at .222 with just one big fly. This could mean well for Hudson when he faces Washington’s righty-heavy batting order.

So, to recap:

Monday, 4/29, 6:05 | Corbin v Wacha | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Tuesday, 4/30, 6:05 | Sanchez v Wainwright | MLB Network, FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Wednesday, 5/1, 6:05 | Scherzer v Mikolas | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Thursday, 5/2, 3:05 | Strasburg v Hudson | MLB Network, FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Notes from around the league:

  • When he hit his 14th home run on Sunday, Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger tied an MLB record for the most homers hit before May 1. Albert Pujols hit 14 in 2006, Alex Rodriguez hit 14 in 2007, and Christian Yelich has 14 this year. Both Bellinger and Yelich have two more games left to try to re-write a piece of history.
  • After getting hit in his left hand on Sunday, Mets second baseman Robinson Cano is expected to return sometime this week. He exited the game after the injury, but his MRI and X-ray both came back clean.
  • The Rays are calling up Nate Lowe. Lowe is a left-handed-hitting first baseman and had a .987 OPS in 21 games at Triple-A before his promotion.

Video is credited to the official Major League Baseball YouTube channel.