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NL Wild Card Series Preview: Cardinals at Padres

Here we go!

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

A COVID-19 outbreak led to a 16-day layoff. That layoff led to 53 games in 44 days, including 11 taxing doubleheaders that left the team with only two days off in the span of August 15 to September 27. Keeping all of this in mind, even with the expanded playoff field, the fact that the Cardinals will be playing postseason baseball in 2020 is pretty noteworthy, really. The Cardinals have a date with the Padres this week in the best-of-three National League Wild Card Series.

The Cardinals and Padres announced their rosters for this series on Wednesday afternoon:

If there is one thing to point out about the St. Louis roster, it would probably be Austin Dean making the cut over Lane Thomas. Dean garnered a whopping seven plate appearances this season; he did have a double, three walks, and one run scored, though. Thomas slashed .111/.200/.250 in 18 games this year. Right-hander John Gant is off the roster for this round, as he deals with recurring groin tightness. Gant missed a week in mid-September with groin tightness (he wasn’t placed on the injured list at that point). Then, on 9/25, after facing one batter, Gant was pulled and later placed on the IL.

On the Padres’ side of things, news broke Wednesday afternoon that starters Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger were left off the team’s 28-man roster. Lamet had a 2.48 FIP in 12 starts for San Diego this season. The 28-year-old Lamet had a 93:20 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 69 innings, including 35 in his last 24 innings. Lamet left his most recent start with right biceps tightness and (as of Wednesday) has not thrown a bullpen.

The Padres acquired Clevinger from the Indians at the Trade Deadline about a month ago, in hopes his past playoff experience could help the Padres this fall. Clevinger exited his start last week after just one inning, and the 29-year-old had a cortisone injection on Tuesday and threw a bullpen session.

Padres News: Clevinger, Lamet not on roster for NLWCS

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Game 1 - Wednesday, 4:08 PM CT | Chris Paddack vs. Kwang Hyun Kim | ESPN, KMOX, WJIR

Game 2 - Thursday, 4:08 PM CT | Zach Davies vs. Adam Wainwright | ESPN, KMOX, WJIR

Game 3, if necessary - Friday, 9:08 PM CT | TBD vs. Jack Flaherty | ESPN, KMOX, WJIR

We have had a couple days to think about the Cardinals’ decision to start Kim in the opening game, and Blake and Gabe recently wrote on this topic, as well as San Diego’s overall performance against lefties. With Lamet and Clevinger out, Paddack gets the nod for the opener. Paddack struggled a bit in 2020, coming off his stellar rookie season the year prior. In 12 starts for San Diego this summer, Paddack posted a 4.73 ERA with a 9.15 H/9 rate — up from 6.85 in 2019.

Wainwright’s last start in San Diego came on May 13, 2018, and it was his last start until September of that year. In that outing, Wainwright’s fastball topped at 89 MPH - an outlier in a day where the then 36-year-old hovered in the low 80s and walked six batters. With elbow inflammation an issue for him earlier that spring and the year before, many wondered what was in store for the aging hurler. Now at 39, Wainwright is the guy the Cardinals want in a possible clinch or a must-win scenario; so, Waino gets the ball in the second game.

The Cardinals are very familiar with Davies, who is slated to start the second game of this series. Davies debuted with Milwaukee in 2015 and started 111 games for the Brewers through 2019. In 10 starts against St. Louis, Davies had a 4.55 ERA with a .290 batting average against. Leading that charge is Matt Carpenter. Facing Davies, Carpenter is 12-for-25 (.480) with five walks, four doubles, and three home runs.

Flaherty will start for the Cardinals on Friday, if necessary. Flaherty turned in five scoreless innings against the Padres in the Cardinals’ home opener, back on April 5, 2019. Flaherty finished the 2020 regular season with a 4.91 ERA in nine starts. He did have a 10.93 K/9 rate, the sixth-highest in the National League (among pitchers with at least 30 innings); nonetheless, Flaherty’s walk- and hits-per-nine rates went up by more than a point apiece in 2020.

The Padres have not announced who may start Friday’s game.