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Series Preview 7/26-28: Astros vs. Cardinals

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With 11 wins in 14 games since the All-Star break, highlighted by a recent 7-1 road trip through Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, the Cardinals are 55-47 as we enter the final weekend of July. This puts the Cardinals and Cubs in a tie for first place in the National League Central, with the Brewers two games back. The Cubs and Brewers will play in Milwaukee this weekend, while the Astros are in St. Louis for a three-game series.

Looking at the American League West, Houston leads Oakland by 7 12 games, while Mariners (in the basement) are nearly 25 games out.

In Friday evening’s series opener, Jack Flaherty and Jose Urquidy will be the pitching matchup. Flaherty was pulled from his last start in the fifth inning with the bases loaded, but ultimately charted a scoreless line for his outing against the Reds last Sunday. This will be Flaherty’s 21st start of the season and 11th at Busch Stadium, where batters have hit just .202 against him in 58 23 innings.

Urquidy is a 24-year-old right-hander who made his Major League debut back on July 2nd. Friday’s assignment will be his fourth start, and he will look to follow up on a gem he worked his last time out. In an outing against the Rangers, Urquidy held Texas to two hits over seven innings, punching out a career-high nine batters.

Daniel Ponce de Leon and Gerrit Cole will go on Saturday. Ponce de Leon started earlier this past week in Pittsburgh but was pulled after three innings - with a pitch count of 86. Ponce de Leon walked four batters and threw 51 (about 59 percent) strikes. Ponce de Leon has logged a total of 6 23 innings in his last two starts, so he’ll be looking to give the Cardinals some length on Saturday.

Cole is in his second season with the Astros, and the Cardinals know him very well after his five years with the Pirates. Cole has a 35:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last three starts, totaling 20 innings while facing the Rangers, Angels, and Athletics. Cole has a 1.76 ERA in his last seven starts, dating back to June 19. Dexter Fowler has taken Cole deep twice, and Matt Carpenter is 14-for-38 (.368) with four homers against the righty; too bad Carpenter is still on rehab assignment.

Sunday’s series finale will feature Dakota Hudson and Wade Miley. Hudson worked into the seventh against the Pirates in his last start and he will try to make it back-to-back quality starts for the first time since mid-June. In 52 innings at home this season, Hudson has maintained a 2,94 ERA and allowed only six home runs. Alex Bregman leads the Astros with 26 homers, followed by George Springer with 23 and Yuli Gurriel with 20.

The lefty Miley is in his first year with the Astros. The former Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Mariners, Orioles, and Brewers hurler will make his 22nd start of the season on Sunday, his most since 32 back in 2017. Miley looked tough in his last outing, with eight innings of two-run ball against the Athletics.

So, to recap:

Friday, 7/26, 7:15 | Flaherty vs. Urquidy | FSMW, KMOX, CRN, WJIR

Saturday, 7/27, 6:15 | Ponce de Leon vs. Cole | FS1, FSMW, KMOX, CRN, WJIR

Sunday, 7/28, 1:15 | Hudson vs. Miley | FSMW, KMOX, CRN, WJIR

Notes from around the league:

  • Longtime Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki announced on Thursday that he has officially retired from Major League Baseball. Tulowitzki debuted in 2006 and remained in Colorado until a trade sent him to the Blue Jays in 2015. Tulo missed the entire 2018 season and appeared in just five games with the Yankees this year.
  • Rays lefty Blake Snell will undergo surgery next week to remove loose bodies from his pitching elbow. It’s possible that Snell could return to the mound in September, if he has a smooth recovery process.