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Series Preview 5/17-19: Cardinals at Rangers

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Winners of just three of their last 14 games, the Cardinals are in Texas to face the 19-22 Rangers for a three-game series this weekend. St. Louis enters the day with a record of 23-21 and sit 3 12 games back of the first-place, 25-16 Cubs. The Brewers are just a half-game out, at 27-19, following their recent 7-3 stretch.

The Cardinals are expected to activate Carlos Martinez off the injured list this weekend. This would result in a reliever being demoted, and it seems like Tyler Webb, Luke Gregerson, and Dominic Leone have the highest likelihoods of heading to Memphis.

Carlos Martinez Can be a Change Agent

In Friday’s game, the Rangers will use Jose Leclerc as an opener. Leclerc has allowed just one run over his last four appearances and has 22 strikeouts in 15 23 innings this season. After Leclerc, Adrian Sampson will take the mound. Sampson has been hit for 10 runs over his last pair of starts, and right-handed batters are hitting .349 off the 27-year-old in 2019.

Miles Mikolas will make the start for the Cardinals. Mikolas has logged seven innings in each of his last two starts, against the Phillies and Pirates. Mikolas was a member of the Rangers’ staff back in 2014 before he went to pitch in Japan, and his start against them on Friday will be the first of his career.

It will be Jesse Chavez and Dakota Hudson in Saturday’s contest. Chavez is 35 years old and has been floating around the league since 2008. Chavez has had stints with the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, Athletics, Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, and now the Rangers. Batters have a .955 OPS off Chavez, whose 3.54 BB/9 rate is his highest in over six years.

Hudson tossed a quality start back on Sunday against the Pirates and has a 3.18 ERA in three May starts. Hudson has allowed just one homer over his previous four outings after allowing eight in his first five games. We’ll see if he can keep Rangers slugger Joey Gallo in the park. Entering the series, Gallo has 13 home runs is third in the American League behind George Springer and Alex Bregman of the Astros.

This series will conclude on Sunday with Drew Smyly for Texas. The 29-year-old left-hander has pitched in the American League for his entire career, starting with the Tigers, Rays, and now the Rangers; this is his first season with the Rangers. (Smyly was a member of the Cubs in 2018 but never actually played for them.) Smyly missed the entire 2017 and 2018 seasons and had Tommy John surgery in the offseason between the two years, and he is back in a starting rotation for the first time since 2016. Smyly has allowed four runs in four of his six starts this year and has 16 walks and an opponents’ average of .260 in 23 ⅔ innings.

The Cardinals will counter with Jack Flaherty, who will be making his 10th start of the year. Flaherty turned in a quality start against the Braves his last time out and has a 3.42 ERA over his last four starts with 21 punchouts. This will be the fifth interleague start of Flaherty’s career and his first against a team from the West.

So, to recap:

Friday, 5/17, 7:05 | Leclerc v Mikolas | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Saturday, 5/18, 3:05 | Chavez v Hudson | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Sunday, 5/19, 2:05 | Smyly v Flaherty | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Notes from around the league:

  • Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich hit two home runs on Thursday and is up to 18 on the season. Goodness. Yelich leads the Majors in homers, and Marcell Ozuna is tied for fifth on this list with 13.
  • The Dodgers placed starter Kenta Maeda on the injured list with a thigh contusion, just over a day removed from when he fanned 12 Padres batters and drove in two runs. The Dodgers are opening a three-game series in Cincinnati with the Reds on Friday.