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St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays slated to play three games - A series preview

Here we go...

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

After taking three of four five (h/t to nate in the comments — I maintain that I was still technically correct, which is the best form of correct) from the Cubs the St. Louis Cardinals head to Tampa Bay to take on the Rays. The Rays are in a competitive American League East Division and sit in third place at 31-23 and eight games behind the division-leading New York Yankees. The Cardinals at 32-23 have moved into a half game behind the first place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central Division.

On Tuesday the Cardinals will face off against left-handed Jeffrey Springs. The Cardinals have fared okay against lefties this season; in 11 games the team has hit .246/.332/.407 with 11 home runs. In his career Springs has pitched very well against righties — his numbers against righties are actually better than his against lefties. That might be due to his really good changeup. Springs throws a 4-seam fastball the most and a slider the least, with the change sandwiched in the middle. Per Baseball Savant's run value his changeup is his most valuable pitch by far. It comes in at just under 82 miles per hour and gets around 6% more inches of drop versus the MLB average. Here is a nice changeup to get Adolis Garcia to strike out swinging:

Springs looks to have sacrificed some strikeouts to lower his walks and his home run rate is down a bit, but in his career he has been prone to giving up the big fly. His BABIP this season is .222 and his percentage left on base is a whopping 96.2% which is partially why his 1.88 ERA is out-performing his 3.37 FIP. Some regression might be on the horizon.

Corey Kluber takes the mound for the Rays on Wednesday. Kluber has been around the league since 2011 and though he isn’t as good as he once was, he is still a good Major League starter. He has a 3.73 ERA and 3.57 FIP in just under 51 innings. He is striking out less than usual, but walking the least amount of batters in his career as well. He primarily throws a cutter, then mixes in a curveball and sinker about equally, and throws a changeup sparingly.

The real challenge this series for the Cards will be on Thursday when they face Shane McClanahan. After a strong rookie season in 2021, the lefty has started off 2022 even stronger. He has a 2.10 ERA with a 2.59 FIP and is striking out 36% of batters while only walking 4.9%. He has a good fastball, curveball, and changeup and then has a slider he will throw to lefties. His changeup and slider have a 43% Wiff rate and his curveball has a 35.8% Wiff rate. Something to note: in his career he has never thrown a changeup to a lefty. His changeup is interesting to me. Per Baseball Savant, it has 10% less vertical movement than the MLB average, but 17% more horizontal movement. You can definitely see that here:

One reason he has been so successful is likely because his fastball has a lot of horizontal movement as well — 61% more than the MLB average per Baseball Savant. Watch it move here:

The best relivers appear to be Jason Adam and J.P. Feyereisen. In 23 innings pitched Adams has a 0.78 ERA and 1.79 FIP and has yet to allow a home run. Feyereisen is right behind him and has yet to allow a run at all in just over 20 innings pitched. He has a 1.91 FIP.

As for the rest of the Rays, their starting middle infield is on the Injured List — second baseman Brandon Lowe last played May 15 and the 21-year-old shortstop Wander Franco had his most recent at bat on May 30.

Per wRC+ the Rays are about in the middle of the pack on offense — Yandy Diaz, Ji-Man Choi, and Manuel Margot lead the team with 149, 141, and 139, respectively. Randy Arozarena and Kevin Kiermaier lead the team with 6 home runs.

Defensively the Rays are one of the top teams in the league. Mike Zunino is an excellent catcher, Brett Phillips plays strong centerfield, and Wander Franco played solid shortstop before he was injured.

Matchups:

Tuesday, June 7 at 6:10 pm CDT: Dakota Hudson vs. Jeffrey Springs
Wednesday, June 8 at 6:10 pm CDT: TBD vs. Corey Klubber
Thursday, June 9 at 12:10 CDT: Miles Mikolas vs. Shane McClanahan