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Series Preview 9/16-18: Nationals vs. Cardinals

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MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

By dropping two of three to the Brewers, the Cardinals’ lead in the National League Central has been chipped away as we enter the second-to-last week of the regular season. The Cubs scored 47 runs over the weekend to sweep the Pirates, and Chicago now sits just two games back of St. Louis for first place in the division, with Milwaukee lingering just three games back.

With the Central and Wild Card races very much alive, there is a very important series on tap at Busch Stadium this week, as the Nationals are in town for three games. At the start of play on Monday, the Nationals are 1 12 games up on the Cubs for the top Wild Card spot. The Brewers will host the Padres this week, while the Cubs host the Reds.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez underwent a cardiac catheterization on Monday morning after having chest pains on Sunday. He will remain in D.C. for now, and bench coach Chip Hale will serve as Washington’s manager for the time being.

In the series opener on Monday between the Cardinals and Nationals, Dakota Hudson and Stephen Strasburg will be the starters. Hudson enters this assignment with a 1.41 ERA over his last 38 13 innings totaled from his past six starts - five of them quality and all six at least six innings long.

Strasburg comes into Monday with 38:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 26 innings and reached the 200-strikeout plateau last month for the third time in his career. Marcell Ozuna is 13-for-41 with two homers in his career facing the right-hander, while Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter each have a pair of doubles. Strasburg has a 2.38 ERA in seven starts against the Cardinals.

On Tuesday, Miles Mikolas and Patrick Corbin will be the pitching matchup. Mikolas has lasted just five innings in each of last two starts and has not pitched beyond the sixth inning since early August. Mikolas is back home, where he has a 2.91 ERA in 14 starts this season. Just three of Mikolas’ last eight starts have been at home, so perhaps a night in the ‘Lou can help Mikolas turn things around.

The lefty Corbin will make his 31st start of the season, his third year in a row with at least 30 starts; this will tie him with Strasburg for the most games started on the staff. Corbin has a 2.45 ERA in his last seven starts, with six of them quality. Opponents have batted .225 off Corbin this season, with lefties maintaining just a .195 mark.

Adam Wainwright and Max Scherzer will start the series finale on Wednesday afternoon. Wainwright has allowed only one earned run in 20 innings this month, and he is in his best stretch of the season - and there couldn’t be a better time for the 38-year-old to prove he’s still got it.

Scherzer, the St. Louis native, missed some time earlier this summer with back issues. Since he returned from the injured list in late-August, Scherzer has not pitched beyond the sixth inning in any of his five starts and has a 3.91 ERA with seven walks in the stretch. (He does have 33 strikeouts in these 25 13 innings, so that’s a plus for the 35-year-old.) This current Cardinals roster has slashed just .222/.253/.328 off the right-hander.

So, to recap:

Monday, 9/16, 6:45 | Hudson vs. Strasburg | MLB Network, FSMW, KMOX, CRN, WJIR

Tuesday, 9/17, 6:45 | Mikolas vs. Corbin | FSMW, KMOX, CRN, WJIR

Wednesday, 9/18, 12:15 | Wainwright vs. Scherzer | MLB Network, FSMW, KMOX, CRN, WJIR

Notes from around the league:

  • An MRI on Monday revealed that first baseman Anthony Rizzo has a right ankle sprain. Rizzo will not need surgery but will remain in a boot for the next 5-to-7 days.
  • The Braves magic number to clinch the East is down to four games at the start of play on Monday. The Cardinals could help them out this week..