It has been a while since the Cardinals last faced the Arizona Diamondbacks. It seems like the schedule makers usually schedule home and away series against non-divisional opponents relatively close together, such as the two Rockies’ series. But sometimes, they are about as far apart as possible. We last saw the Diamondbacks in St. Louis, in a four-game set in late April. Things have changed a bit since then.
With just 20 games played at that point, the two teams entered the previous series in opposite positions: the Cardinals were 4 games over .500, the DBacks 4 games under .500. Four days later, this was still true as they split the series two games to 2. This time, the Cardinals enter the series in 1st place in the NL Central while the Diamondbacks are 26.5 games out of first place, with only the Rockies behind them in the NL West.
What’s different? When we last saw the Diamondbacks, Josh Rojas was on the injured list, Emmanuel Rivera was a Royal, and both Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas were in AAA. That’s in some fashion, their regular starting 3B, starting DH, starting CF, and starting RF. They are complemented by Ketel Marte, who has missed the last four games, Christian Walker, catcher turned outfielder Daulton Varsho, former Cardinal Carson Kelly, and 22-year-old Geraldo Perdomo.
Also very different is their bullpen. Six of the pitchers we saw in April are either on the injured list or in AAA at the moment. Ian Kennedy is still a DBack and appears to be their closer right now. It doesn’t necessarily seem to be a locked down role though as Mark Melancon was their closer and had their most recent save. Lefty Joe Mantiply is having an excellent season and will get high leverage spots. I don’t have a lot to say about the rest of the bullpen. Noe Ramirez has been a replacement arm all season, and the other four guys have combined for less than 40 innings pitched this year, with three of them having pitched less than 10 innings in the majors.
You may be wondering where some of the players went on the DBacks. If you wonder about that team at all. Seth Beer and Pavin Smith are both optioned to the minors. Long-time Diamondback David Peralta was traded. Former Cardinal Luke Weaver was traded for Rivera. Nick Ahmed is on the injured list. Like I said, a lot of turnover from the last time the Cards faced the DBacks.
Friday - 8:40 PM
Miles Mikolas (3.44 ERA/3.71 FIP/3.76 xFIP) vs. Tommy Henry (4.15 ERA/5.13 FIP/5.68 xFIP)
You can draw a direct line between Weaver’s trade and Henry’s presence in the rotation. Two days after Weaver was traded, Henry was called up. Henry has had a really short minor league career. Drafted in the 5th round in 2019, he made just three starts in short season A ball. After the missing minor league season from the pandemic in 2020, he made 23 starts in AA last season. He started the year in AAA and made 20 starts before his promotion.
They must like him, because his stats are not anything special. He had a 5.21 ERA and 5.29 FIP in AA last season - fair enough he skipped a bunch of levels. In AAA, he had a 3.83 ERA, 4.63 FIP, and 5.17 xFIP. He has a 12.3 K% and 11 BB% in his three starts in the majors. He is also left-handed. The Cardinals should absolutely hit this guy.
Mikolas pitched into the 8th inning of his last start against the Diamondbacks and also in his last start period. The Cardinals actually lost 2-0 in the April game. I imagine that if Mikolas were to throw 7.1 IP of two earned run ball tonight, the Cardinals would win. Mikolas was faced off against Merrill Kelly, who is both right-handed and better than Henry.
My pick: Cardinals
Saturday - 7:10 PM
Dakota Hudson (4.17 ERA/4.52 FIP/4.86 xFIP) vs. Madison Bumgarner (4.37 ERA/4.50 FIP/4.75 xFIP)
The last time the Cardinals faced Bumgarner, they also lost. Bumgarner threw 5 unremarkable but effective innings. Bumgarner had some sort of magic working then despite poor peripherals. Through his first 18 starts, he had a 3.65 ERA despite a 4.60 FIP and similar xFIP. In his last six starts though, the magic has vanished. He has allowed at least four earned runs in five of his last six starts. His xFIP is virtually unchanged and his FIP is actually better than his first 18 starts, but very different results. The Cardinals should also hit the left-handed Bumgarner.
The last time Hudson pitched against the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals won. He threw six scoreless innings. He struck out four, got his customary three walks in as well, and only allowed one hit. I really don’t like this matchup for Hudson. While the Diamondbacks aren’t very good against RHP (23rd in baseball), one thing they do against RHP is walk. A lot. They are 4th in baseball with a 9.6 BB% against RHP. Honestly, I can’t predict a sweep, and Hudson’s a good punching bag so sorry.
My pick: Diamondbacks
Sunday - 3:10 PM
Jose Quintana (3.38 ERA/3.21 FIP/3.75 xFIP) vs. Merril Kelly (2.81 ERA/3.10 FIP/3.93 xFIP)
The 33-year-old Kelly was an MLB failure, but after he got released by the Rays, he signed with a KBO team, where he pitched effectively for four years and parlayed that into a four-year deal with the Diamondbacks. He’s been a solid pitcher but nothing too special until 2022. He enters Sunday’s start with 3.3 fWAR and 3.7 bWAR. He dominated the Cardinals the last time they saw him throwing 7 scoreless innings with just two hits allowed.
As a team, the Diamondbacks have not hit lefties well, with an 89 wRC+. I’m not sure how useful that is given the roster changes. Rivera hits lefties well (121 wRC+ career) and he has barely contributed to that figure. On the other hand, Thomas has been awful against lefties and so has Varsho. McCarthy, left-handed himself, has been average though we’re talking 72 PAs and he might not start anyway. This is kind of a toss-up, and I’m a homer so
My pick: Cardinals
Individually, I would have predicted the Cards for each game, but the Diamondbacks have a winning record at home so predicting a sweep would be kind of insane. Sunday’s start would be a “smarter” bet for the loss I suppose, but I have a strangely good feeling about that one. We shall see.
Individual Game Record: 30-24
Series Prediction: 7-10
I predicted the Brewers series exactly, not that it was difficult, so suddenly my individual game record is looking pretty good. Series prediction record? Not so much.