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Series Preview 9/6-8: Cardinals at Pirates

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

With a little more than three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Cardinals are 79-61 and lead the National League Central division by 2 12 games over the Cubs. Since the All-Star break, St. Louis is 35-17 and has won 21 of its last 27 games. In the spirit of scoreboard watching, the Cubs and Brewers will play each other this weekend at Miller Park - while the Cardinals are out East to face the Pirates.

This will be the final meeting between the Cardinals and Pirates in 2019. In fact, looking ahead to 2020, these two clubs won’t play again until mid-May. That is fine with me.

In Friday evening’s series opener, Alex McRae and Miles Mikolas will be the starting pitchers. Joe Musgrove was scheduled to start for the Bucs but was scratched on Friday afternoon with right foot discomfort. Instead the Cardinals will face McRae, a 26-year-old right-hander who will make his second Major League start and first appearance in the Majors since late July. McRae started 22 games for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians this season.

Mikolas has logged six innings in each of his last three starts and has walked only four batters in his past 35 frames. Left-handed batters have a .297 average off Mikolas this season, compared to a .251 maintained by right-handed batters; so, expect the Pirates to take advantage of this, especially with an expanded roster.

Steven Brault and Adam Wainwright will go on Saturday evening. The lefty Brault has a 3.41 ERA (13 ER over 34 13 IP) with a 27:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six starts since he returned from the injured list with a shoulder strain. Brault has allowed just three home runs in 44 23 innings of work at home this season, helping equate to a 0.85 HR/9 rate in his 21 appearances (15 starts) this season.

Wainwright will make his 27th start of the season on Saturday, his most since 33 back in 2016. Wainwright blanked the Giants over seven innings in his last start, holding them to just four hits in what was (arguably) his best start this side of the break. Wainwright has surrendered only four home runs in his last 45 innings, but Adam Frazier and Starling Marte have two long balls apiece off the 38-year-old.

On Sunday afternoon, we will see Jack Flaherty take the mound. Pittsburgh has not confirmed their starter for this game. Flaherty has been tough as nails over recent weeks, working well enough to be named the National League Pitcher of the Month for August. Flaherty has a 0.59 ERA with 55 strikeouts over his last seven starts, with only three earned runs scored off him in that 46-inning span. In his last start, Flaherty held the Giants to one hit with eight strikeouts in eight scoreless frames -

So, to recap:

Friday, 9/6, 6:05 | McRae vs. Mikolas | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Saturday, 9/7, 6:05 | Brault vs. Wainwright | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Sunday, 9/8, 12:35 | TBA vs. Flaherty | FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Notes from around the league:

  • Kolten Wong’s brother, Kean Wong, was promoted to the Majors by the Rays on Thursday. Kean, left-handed-hitting second baseman like his brother, had a career-high .839 OPS in 113 games at Triple-A this season.
  • The Nationals and Cubs hold, respectively, the top two National League Wild Card spots. The Diamondbacks sit 3 12 out, followed by the Phillies at four games back, and the Brewers and Mets are each five games behind. In the American League, it’s the Rays and Athletics in the two spots, flip-flopping between first and second. The Indians sit just one game behind, making this a race that is sure to come down to the season’s final games.