Following an unbelievable weekend at Wrigley Field that no fan will soon forget, the Cardinals are out in Arizona for a three-game series with the Diamondbacks. Entering Monday, the final week of the regular season, the Cardinals are 89-67 and own a three-game lead over the Brewers in the National League Central. The 86-70 Brewers, meanwhile, are tied with the Nationals for the top Wild Card spot.
Over in the American League, the Indians and Rays are tied for the second Wild Card spot, with the Athletics hanging on to a two-game lead for the top spot.
This will be Paul Goldschmidt’s first series back in Arizona since he was traded to the Cardinals last offseason after spending eight seasons with the Diamondbacks. Goldschmidt is a career .289/.404/.529 batter with 99 homers at Chase Field.
In the first game of the series on Monday night, Alex Young and Adam Wainwright will be the starting pitchers. Young is a 26-year-old lefty and is in his first season in the Majors; Monday will be his 16th appearance for the Diamondbacks — his 15th start. Earlier this month, Young turned in what is the best start of his career thus far; back on 9/8, Young turned in eight scoreless innings in Cincinnati and fanned 12 Reds batters.
Wainwright enters this assignment with just one earned run allowed in 27 innings across four starts this month, giving him a 0.33 ERA for the span. Three of his four starts in September have been seven innings apiece and the 38-year-old has walked only five batters; this is notable, because it came after he walked 13 batters in 26 2⁄3 innings last month. Wainwright is pitching well at the right time, and this will be very important if the Cardinals play multiple postseason games.
On Tuesday, former Cardinal Mike Leake will face off with Jack Flaherty. Leake worked 7 2⁄3 scoreless innings against his former team back in early July and comes into this series with a streak of five consecutive quality starts. Tuesday will be Leake’s 32nd start of the season, his most in five years. Goldschmidt, Marcell Ozuna, and Dexter Fowler each have two home runs off Leake, while Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina have one big fly apiece.
Flaherty has a 1.34 ERA over his last seven starts, and he, too, will make his 32nd start of the season, tying him with Miles Mikolas for most on the staff. In 30 September innings, batters are hitting .139 off Flaherty with 36 strikeouts. Much like the situation with Wainwright, Flaherty continuing his stellar pitching will be a critical factor to the team’s success in October.
This series will wrap up on Wednesday afternoon, with a matchup between Merrill Kelly and Michael Wacha. Kelly spent four years in the Korean Baseball Organization and is in his first season in the Majors. Kelly will make his 32nd start of the year on Wednesday. The 30-year-old comes into this start with back-to-back seven-inning outings - both of them scoreless. Kelly worked five innings of one-run ball in St. Louis back in mid-July.
Wacha has not recorded an out past the fifth inning in any of his four starts in September. Nonetheless, Wacha has a 2.04 ERA in 22 innings dating back to 8/31. Although batters are hitting .293 off Wacha in September, he has allowed only one home run in the month and just eight since the All-Star break. (Wacha gave up 18 before he break.)
So, to recap:
Monday, 9/23, 8:40 | Young vs. Wainwright | FSMW, KMOX, CRN
Tuesday, 9/24, 8:40 | Leake vs. Flaherty | FSMW, KMOX, CRN
Wednesday, 9/25, 2:40 | Kelly vs. Wacha | YouTube Watch, KMOX, CRN
Notes from around the league:
- Royals manager Ned Yost announced that he will retire at the end of this season, ending a tenure of nearly a decade at the helm for Kansas City. Rumors have already starting floating around regarding the soon-to-be vacated manager role, and former Cardinals manager (and current Royals’ special assistant) Mike Matheny could be in line to take over for Yost. That would add a little something to next year’s I-70 Series.