Starting Thursday, May 27 at 8:40 pm CT through Sunday, May 30 at 3:10 pm CT the St. Louis Cardinals will be in Arizona taking on the Diamondbacks for a four-game set. The Cardinals are coming off a tough stretch of games dropping two of three to the Chicago Cubs and then two of three to the Chicago White Sox. They currently sit just .5 games above the second place Cubs for first place in the National League Central. The Diamondbacks were off to a decent start, but have endured a horrendous May, going 4-19 over the month for 18-31 overall. The Diamondbacks might be the team the Cardinals need to face to get back on track, but it is always tough playing out in the desert. Should be fun!
Ah yes, Carson Kelly, also known as “The Guy the Cardinals Traded for Paul Goldschmidt”... At age 26 Kelly is in his third season with the D-Backs and really his third season playing full time. So far in that time he has rarely chased pitches out of the zone, does not swing and miss often, and does not swing much in general. This selective approach at the plate has put him on pace to have the best season of his young career. He is currently slashing .318/.466/.568 for a 179 wRC+. In a time when strikeouts are up, he is only striking out 16.9% of the time while walking at a 19.5% rate. His walk rate is the third-highest among hitters with over 100 plate appearances. Among catchers his wRC+ ranks second behind a resurgent Buster Posey.
Then there is the power. So far in 2021 his ISO is a career high .250 and he has hit six home runs. The best way to get him out? His Wiff% on sliders and changeups might be the only thing that stands out as a weakness. He as wiffed on 41% of changeups and 38% sliders. When he has hit the slider he has not hit it particularly hard — his hard hit % on the pitch is around 29% and though he is batting .350 against it, his expected batting average is much lower at .245.
Back on April 28 Genesis Cabrera had a rough outing, hitting Bryce Harper in the face and then Didi Gregorius in the back. Some national baseball writers even suggested he should be sent down after his apparent display of lack of command. Since then he has been one of the most reliable pitchers in the Cardinals bullpen. In those 12 games he has pitched just over 14 innings allowing one run on seven hits and six walks, hit one batter (and that just happened Wednesday afternoon), and struck out 15.
The Cardinals and Diamondbacks’ injuries
The Cardinals have been hit with a run of bad injury luck lately, but the Diamondbacks might have had it worse. Since May 13 the Cardinals have had four players hit the Injured List: Paul DeJong (5/13), Tyler O’Neill (5/17), Miles Mikolas (5/23), and Harrison Bader (5/25). Jordan Hicks was placed on the 60-Day IL on 5/4 and Dakota Hudson has been on the 60-Day IL since 4/1. There are talks of Andrew Miller returning soon as he has been on the 10-Day IL since 4/30.
The Diamondbacks have nine players on the Injured list with three on the 60-Day IL: Tyler Clippard (4/1), Kole Calhoun (4/28), and Chris Devenski (5/15). On the 10-Day IL there is Christian Walker (5/3), Zac Gallen (5/9), Asdrubal Cabrera (5/14), J.B. Bukauskas (5/15), Luke Weaver (5/18), and Taylor Widener (5/24). Cabrera has been one the D-Backs more valuable players this season, hitting for a 138 wRC+. Gallen, Weaver, and Widener were all in the rotation.
The Cardinals 6th inning
I don’t think I need to go into much detail about how tough the sixth inning has been for the Cardinals because I think we all are well aware. The Cardinals have three of the top thirty relievers in the game with Alex Reyes, Giovanny Gallegos, and the afore-mentioned Genesis Cabrera, but they cannot pitch every night and some nights even getting to them has been a terrifying adventure. I think this is the most telling stat to illustrate this “not-so-good-ness”: in innings 1-3 the Cardinals have a 3.75 ERA; in innings 7-9 it is 3.73; but in innings 4-6 it is 4.06, the worst inning being the sixth. In the sixth inning the Cardinals pitchers have a 5.44 ERA, 7 hit batters, 25 walks, allowed 45 hits, and 5 home runs for 29 earned runs in all.
To put it simply the Cardinals should win this series. The Diamondbacks rotation is decimated — three of the four starters are TBD — and the offense, while on paper is evenly matched in talent with the Cardinals offense, is missing two of its better hitters in Calhoun and Cabrera. The matchup that has my attention will be Carlos Martínez and his slider against Carson Kelly. It should be able to neutralize the right-handed bat, but if he cannot locate, don’t expect Kelly to chase it.
Game 1 - May 27, 8:40 PM CT - Carlos Martínez vs. Matt Peacock
Game 2 - May 28, 8:40 PM CT - Johan Oviedo vs. TBA
Game 3 - May 29, 9:10 PM CT - Adam Wainwright vs. TBA or Madison Bumgarner
Game 4 - May 30, 3:10 PM CT - Kwan Hyun Kim vs. TBA