After taking two of three from the Diamondbacks over the weekend, the Cardinals will welcome the Pirates to Busch Stadium for three games this week. The Pirates were swept at Wrigley Field over the weekend.
At the start of play on Monday, the National League Central features the Cubs in first place by 2 1⁄2 games over the Brewers and three games over the Cardinals. The Reds and Pirates are in fourth and fifth place, respectively, with Pittsburgh 6 1⁄2 games out. This division is definitely the tightest in baseball, and that makes inner-division matchups like these as exciting as ever.
In Monday’s series opener, Miles Mikolas and Joe Musgrove will be the starting pitching matchup. Another home start for Mikolas means another opportunity for the right-hander to pad his stellar numbers in St. Louis. In nine starts at Busch this year, Mikolas has a 2.48 ERA with a .223 opponents’ batting average in 58 innings. In nine starts on the road, Mikolas has an ERA of 7.40, and batters are hitting .341. Mikolas is facing a Pirates lineup that has had success off of him in the past, nonetheless; Adam Frazier is 8-for-21 with four doubles and three triples, Josh Bell is 5-for-17, and Corey Dickerson has four hits in 11 plate appearances.
Musgrove has been, arguably, the Pirates’ best starting pitcher this season. Musgrove leads the staff with a 1.20 WHIP in a team-high 99 2⁄3 innings. Three of Musgrove’s last four starts have been quality, and the 26-year-old has a 3.38 ERA in his last 35 innings of work. Musgrove gave up eight runs against in an early-May start in which he walked a season-high five batters.
The Pirates have not confirmed their pitching plans for Tuesday or Wednesday, but the Cardinals will go with Jack Flaherty and Daniel Ponce de Leon. Flaherty entered the All-Star break on a high note, holding the Giants to just two hits in a strong, seven-inning outing. As for Ponce de Leon, he joins the rotation as Michael Wacha moves back to the bullpen. Ponce de Leon has allowed only three earned runs with 23 strikeouts in 21 2⁄3 innings in the Majors. This will be Flaherty’s first start of the season against the Pirates, and Ponce de Leon’s first career appearance against the Bucs.
So, to recap:
Monday, 7/15, 7:15 | Mikolas vs. Musgrove | FSMW, KMOX, CRN
Tuesday, 7/16, 7:15 | Flaherty v TBD | FSMW, KMOX, CRN
Wednesday, 7/17, 12:15 | Ponce de Leon v TBD | FSMW, KMOX, CRN
Notes from around the league:
- Angels center fielder Mike Trout is considered day-to-day after he left Sunday’s ballgame with calf tightness. The Angels are set to host the Astros in Anaheim on Monday night, but it’s unclear if the eight-time All-Star will make the start.
- With his name floating around in rumors, Mets starter Zack Wheeler made several headlines on Monday afternoon when he was placed on the injured list with right shoulder fatigue. The move is retroactive to Friday, so a return would be eligible on July 23, but this is obviously another big blow to the Mets - whether they were going to trade him or not.