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Series Preview 5/9-12: Pirates vs. Cardinals

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals have dropped five of their last six games and enter play on Thursday with a record of 21-16, ranking them third in the National League Central division. The Cubs and their .619 winning percentage are in first, and the Brewers (.590) are in second place.

St. Louis will look to turn things around with the Pirates in town for a four-game series starting Thursday evening. The Pirates are the only team in the Central with a negative run differential (-28), and the Cardinals are 14-5 when hosting the Pirates since 2017.

In the first game of this series on Thursday, Michael Wacha will take the mound at 6:45 PM Central time. Wacha has logged at least five innings in his last three starts but has not logged more than six innings in a start this year. Entering Thursday, Wacha has limited the Pirates to a .653 OPS and has a 3.53 ERA against them in 86 23 frames.

The Pirates will go with Joe Musgrove on Thursday. The Athletics got to Musgrove for seven runs (five earned) in his last start back on 5/3, but he still holds a respectable 2.63 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. This will be Musgrove’s fourth start on the road in 2019, and he has not allowed a home run away from PNC Park. Left-handed batters have three homers and a .273 average facing Musgrove this season, so we’ll see how this translates with St. Louis’s batting order.

Friday’s contest will feature Adam Wainwright and Trevor Williams at 7:15 PM. Wainwright allowed six runs in Chicago on Sunday night, ending his run of consecutive quality starts. A few different Pirates have had notable success against Wainwright, including Starling Marte, Corey Dickerson, and Josh Bell. Marte has two homers off Wainwright, while Dickerson and Bell are both 5-for-11 — a .455 average.

Williams will make his team-leading eighth start of the season on Friday. All seven of Williams’ starts have been at least six innings, and he is on pace to go well beyond the 170 23 innings he logged for Pittsburgh in 2018. Williams’ strike percentage is up nearly five points, to 68.3. So, it makes sense that his BB/9 rate is 1.66; his previous career-best was a 2.90.

The third game of this series on Saturday will have a matchup of Miles Mikolas and Jordan Lyles at 1:15 PM. Mikolas tossed seven scoreless innings against the Phillies back on 5/6 and delivered just what the Cardinals were looking for after the rough weekend on the North Side. Mikolas has went back-to-back start without allowing a home run, and that trend seems likely to continue on Saturday. Entering this series, the Pirates have hit just 29 home runs as a team; that is the second-lowest total in the National League, trailing the Marlins and their 24 long balls.

Lyles has made a great first impression in his first season with the Pirates. Lyles has maintained a 3.65 FIP in 32 23 frames for the Pirates. This is Lyles’ first season as a starter since 2015, when he was with the Rockies.

Dakota Hudson will start the fourth and final game of this series on Sunday, another 1:15 PM start. Hudson took the loss in Tuesday’s 11-1 clunker to the Phillies and allowed eight runs - with just two of them earned. This will be Hudson’s first career start against the Pirates.

The Pirates have not announced who will start on Sunday. Jameson Taillon hit the shelf earlier this week with a flexor tendon strain in his pitching elbow.

So, to recap:

Thursday, 5/9, 6:45 | Wacha v Musgrove | MLB Network, FSMW, KMOX, CRN, WJIR

Friday, 5/10, 7:15 | Wainwright v Williams | FSMW, KMOX, CRN, WJIR

Saturday, 5/11, 1:15 | Mikolas v Lyles | FSMW, KMOX, CRN, WJIR

Sunday, 5/12, 1:15 | Hudson v TBD | FSMW, KMOX, CRN, WJIR

Notes from around the league:

  • With a solo homer against the Tigers on Thursday afternoon, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols tallied the 2,000 RBI of his career. Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez are the only other players in MLB history to hit this mark.
  • Red Sox lefty Chris Sale might be returning to his old self. He has allowed one earned run over his last two starts with a 24:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
  • Before this game, the Pirates designated former Cardinal Tyler Lyons for assignment and promoted relievers Montana DuRapau and Clay Holmes from Triple-A Indianapolis.