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Series Preview 8/15-18: Cardinals at Reds

St Louis Cardinals v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

They won five and then lost five. Now with five wins in a row, the Cardinals are 63-55 and tied for first place in the National League Central division. They will look to continue their recent winning ways in Cincinnati this weekend, when they will play a four-game series with the Reds. Entering Thursday, the Reds have dropped four in a row and are 56-63.

In Thursday’s series opener, Sonny Gray and Michael Wacha will take the mound. Gray blanked the Cubs over six innings in his last start and shut the Braves out for seven frames in the start before that. This will be Gray’s 24th start of the season, his most since he started 27 games between the Athletics and Yankees in 2017.

This will be Wacha’s first start since the fifth of August, when he was pulled from his outing against the Dodgers in the fourth inning with six earned runs tagged against him. Reds first baseman Joey Votto is 14-for-41 (.341) with five doubles in his career facing Wacha. Eugenio Suarez is 9-for-23, and Jesse Winker is 4-for-10. So.. we’ll have to see if Wacha can right the ship on Thursday evening.

Luis Castillo and Adam Wainwright are set for Friday. Seven of Castillo’s last eight starts have been quality, including his last three. Over his last 20 23 innings, Castillo has managed a 28:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His walk rate (3.82) for the season is actually at a personal-worst, but Castillo’s 10.77 K/9 and 0.94 HR/9 rates are the best marks of his career.

Wainwright whiffed eight and held the Pirates to one run in his six innings of work back on August 10th. The 37-year-old Wainwright has allowed just three home runs over his last 32 innings, dating back to mid-July. Wainwright gave up seven runs against the Reds back on July 19th but has given up only five runs over his past three starts.

Saturday will feature Anthony DeSclafani and Miles Mikolas. DeSclafani has an 8.16 ERA over his last three starts, facing the Braves, Angels, and Nationals. Saturday will be DeSclafani’s 24th start of the season, his most since he started 31 games for the Reds back in 2015. Matt Carpenter is batting .444 (12-for-27) with three homers in his career against the Reds righty.

Mikolas gave up five runs in five innings against the Pirates, the first time he allowed more than three runs in a start since mid-July. This current Reds roster is batting .316 off Mikolas, highlighted by Winker’s 5-for-13 pace with three homers. Votto, on the flip side, has just a .176 average (3-for-17) against the second-year Cardinal.

The series will wrap up on Sunday, with Alex Wood and Jack Flaherty. This will be Wood’s fifth start of the season at the big-league level, as he been on the injured list since late March with a back injury. Wood joined the Reds from the Dodgers back in December, in the Yasiel Puig. Puig has since moved on to the Indians, so we won’t get to see him this weekend. (Darn.)

Flaherty has been fantastic since the All-Star break, and he seems poised to continue his success on Sunday in the series finale. Flaherty has not allowed an earned run in the month of August, and he has went seven innings in each of his three starts this month - against the Cubs, Dodgers, and Royals. In those 21 innings, Flaherty has 26 strikeouts with just eight hits and four walks.

So, to recap:

Thursday, 8/15, 6:10 | Gray vs. Wacha | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Friday, 8/16, 6:10 | Castillo vs. Wainwright | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Saturday, 8/17, 5:40 | DeSclafani vs. Mikolas | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Sunday, 8/18, 12:10 | Wood vs. Flaherty | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Notes from around the league:

  • We will get to watch Reds rookie Aristides Aquino this weekend. When Aquino hit his ninth homer of the year on Wednesday night - in only his 13th game of the season (and 14th of his career) - he became the fastest player in history to have that many long balls in such a short frame.
  • The Diamondbacks placed lefty Robbie Ray on the disabled list on Thursday with back spasms. Ray left his start on Wednesday in the third inning and looked uncomfortable on the mound. Arizona has not announced a timetable for his return.