Starting Friday, May 14 at 9:10 pm CT through Sunday, May 16 at 6:08 pm CT the St. Louis Cardinals will travel to the west coast to take on the San Diego Padres for a three-game series. The Cardinals keep on rolling, finishing off a successful series against the divisional rival Milwaukee Brewers with 2-1 record putting them in first place in the National League Central by three games. Since the calendar flipped to May the Cardinals are 9-3, scoring 53 runs and only allowing 35 in that time, giving them a total record of 23-15, third to the San Francisco Giants (23-14) and Chicago White Sox (22-13) for the best in baseball. They face a talented team in the Padres, though the Padres have had some tough breaks as of late. They are 21-17 overall, but just 6-5 in May and second to the Giants in the National League West. The Cardinals hope to stay atop the Central while the Padres look to put the pressure on the first-place Giants. Should be fun!
The Cardinals when they score in the first inning
I saw a tweet that I, of course, cannot find back that same something about the Cardinals being 11-0 when they score a run in the first inning, 13-0 in Jack Flaherty and Kwang-hyun Kim starts, and 17-0 when Tommy Edman scores a run. I am not sure what this tells us, but I think there is a way to connect a lot of these stats. The clearest one I think is scoring in the first inning and Tommy Edman scoring; in the first inning Edman has a slash line of .333/.421/.496 in 38 plate appearances. Of his 19 runs scored, he has scored 7 runs in the first inning. This tells me Edman is setting the table for the big bats in the order and they usually come through. The Cardinals are then able to make these early leads stand with solid pitching. Flaherty and Kim do not walk a lot of batters, do not give up a lot of home runs, strike a decent number of hitters out, and therefore do not give up a lot of runs. If the Cardinals can get out to an early lead, those pitchers can make it stick, which appears to be the Cardinals main formula to winning games.
The Padres acquired Trent Grisham via trade with the Brewers in the offseason before the 2020 season. The Brewers sent Grisham and Zach Davies to San Diego in exchange for Luis Urías and Eric Lauer. It is too early to say how that trade is going, but as of now I would guess the Padres are extremely happy with their side of it. In his 88 games with the Padres so far Grisham has amassed 3.5 fWAR and 4.0 bWAR. On a talented Padres roster he has been by far their most valuable player and is just above Fernando Tatis Jr. in wRC+ at 137 (versus 136). All around Grisham is excelling in every facet of the game. He is walking over 10% of the time, hitting for power and average, and playing solid centerfield defense with 2 defensive runs saved in over 240 innings. Per Fangraphs, Grisham is tied for third with several other players among qualified centerfielders in the DRS after Byron Buxton (6 DRS) and Cedric Mullins II (3 DRS). He has come a long way from the rookie that made a costly mistake in the Wild Card Play-In game back in 2019.
Yu Darvish as been the Padres best pitcher this season, but I try to focus on players that are less well-known and Cardinals fans have seen a lot of Darvish from his stint with the Cubs. Also, and probably more importantly, the Cardinals are not set to see Darvish in this series. Instead I want to bring up the second most interesting pitcher on a Padres team that has the lowest ERA in baseball at 2.82 (fifth lowest FIP at 3.50), at least to me: Ryan Weathers. This is the rookie’s first season in the big leagues and so far he has been very good at preventing runs in his 22 innings of work out of the bullpen and in the rotation. This largely appears to be due a likely unsustainably high rate of leaving runners on base at 96.2% and a very low Batting Average on Balls in Play against him at .157. So far there isn’t a lot very flashy about him. He throws a 4-seem fastball at about 94 mph about 56% of the time, usually up and in. He complements that with a slider that doesn’t seem like it should be very good — it looks like he throws it in the middle of the zone a lot — but in the 102 times he has thrown it it has only been hit twice, both for for doubles, and stuck out 10. My guess without seeing him pitch yet is that he throws it in 2 strike counts a lot. A hitter with a good batting eye and is comfortable with two-strikes might find some success against it. He also throws a sinker, and the occasional changeup.
Mark Melancon is having a great start to the year. He has a 0.54 ERA in over 16 innings, is hardly walking anyone, and has not given up a home run yet. We already know a lot about him from his time with the Pirates, but his good season is worth mentioning a little.
The Not-As Good
It probably goes without saying that Covid-19 has negatively impacted the world as we know it for over a year, but the Padres have recently been dealt a setback from the virus. According the preview at Gas Lamp Ball “Fernando Tatis Jr., Jorge Mateo, Jurickson Profar, Wil Myers, and Eric Hosmer are on the IL due to COVID reasons”.
Fernando Tatis Jr. tested positive for COVID-19, Jayce Tingler said. Tatis is asymptomatic. Jurickson Profar and Jorge Mateo are in contact tracing.— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) May 11, 2021
Aaron Boone said the COVID-19 outbreak is "unexpected" considering all 8 were fully vaccinated.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) May 13, 2021
"I think everyone that's in charge of the testing is looking into that and the variants that that could be out there. We're trying as best we can to keep our guys healthy and safe."
I can only find five players named, so my guess is the other three are coaches or other personnel.
Paul DeJong’s rib
Paul DeJong is day-to-day with an injury to his side. In his place we have seen Matt Carpenter fill in at second base and Edman slide over to shortstop.
Paul DeJong will go for an MRI tomorrow, Shildt says. Felt it “grab” when he went to tag Cain earlier in the game, though it was in the spot where he was HBP yesterday.— Jeff Jones (@jmjones) May 13, 2021
MRI is at 11 and results expected during the game, so unlikely he plays tomorrow. #stlcards
Shildt says “mostly good news” on Paul DeJong. There’s a “little blip” where he was HBP. “Not muscular, necessarily.” It’s in a rib. “Likely to create a pause.” #stlcards— Jeff Jones (@jmjones) May 13, 2021
DeJong will travel to San Diego, Shildt says, but the #stlcards will have an extra infielder in SD, either for the roster or taxi squad.— Jeff Jones (@jmjones) May 13, 2021
Both these teams seems pretty evenly matched so it is anyone’s guess what will happen. The Padres are at a disadvantage with several key players on the COVID IL, but with their good pitching, it is certainly something they can overcome. The matchup I am looking for is the Cardinals against Ryan Weathers. I think he is due for some regression and the Cardinals are just the team to make that happen. I’d like to see Paul Goldschmidt continue his turn-around by putting up a good day against the young lefty.
Game 1 - May 14, 9:10 PM CT - Johan Oviedo vs. Joe Musgrove
Game 2 - May 15, 7:40 PM CT - Adam Wainwright vs. Chris Paddack
Game 3 - May 16, 6:08 PM CT - Kwang Hyun Kim vs. Ryan Weathers