Yesterday, the Cardinals took care of business against the Milwaukee Brewers. Against Corbin Burnes, the offense came alive. Sort of. It counts for alive with Corbin Burnes on the mound. And because of that, the Cardinals can breathe easier. They could already breathe easy, but 6 games ahead and 8 games ahead feel pretty massive with 19 games left to play.
And interestingly, five of those games are happening over the next four games against the Reds at Busch. It’s a good opportunity for Albert Pujols to get one or two steps closer to 700 home runs. Or he can do the damn thing. I probably won’t get to see it if that’s the case since I’m working both Saturday and Sunday, but I also didn’t see 696 or 697 live so maybe that’s a good omen.
Rebuilding teams typically have either promising young prospects or “give this older guy a chance.” The Reds have much more of the latter on their team. 27-year-old Jake Fraley has spent much of the year injured but has a 122 wRC+ in less than 200 PAs. Recently turned 27 TJ Friedl has a 102 wRC+ so far. 28-year-old Aristides Aquino has long since disappointed after a hot start to his career three years ago, although he does have four homers in September. 27-year-old Nick Senzel used to be a prospect, but he has just a 63 wRC+ this year. Chuckie Robinson, Alejo Lopez, and Stuart Fairchild are all 26 or older who haven’t been given a real chance before this year. For a reason, but still.
Rookie of the year Jonathan India is younger than everyone I’ve mentioned, but he’s had something of a lost season due to injuries. Common theme with the Reds. Spencer Steer wasn’t here the last time we faced the Reds, but he was acquired in the Tyler Mahle trade and has a 99 wRC+. He has either played 1B, 3B, or DH, but he’s played just about everyday. Jose Barrero is still just 24, but has a 10 wRC+ through 131 PAs with a 44.3 K% this year.
We’ve seen a lot of their bullpen already - Alexis Diaz, Hunter Strickland, Ian Gibaut, Joel Kuhnel, Reiver Sanmartin, Derek Law and Buck Farmer. They’ve added a few names. 32-year-old Fernando Cruz recently made his MLB debut. He was drafted in the 6th round in 2011. He got released in spring of 2016 and then pretty much pitched wherever he could: A Canadian-American independent league, Puerto Rican winter league, Venezuelan Winter League, a Caribbean series, but the important thing is that he pitched well in the Mexican League last year and got himself signed by the Reds. He pitched well, Reds are desperate for pitching, perfect situation for him. Also here: 30-year-old Reynal Espinal who stuck around in the minors since 2013 until he appeared in one game for the Red Sox last year. It didn’t go well. He got called up by the Reds a few days ago, pitched in 2.1 IP, got sent down, and when Justin Dunn went on the injured list, he went right back up.
Thursday - 6:45 PM
Chase Anderson (9.00 ERA/8.00 FIP/4.82 xFIP) vs. Miles Mikolas (3.42 ERA/3.85 FIP/3.79 xFIP)
Chase Anderson still being in the big leagues for the Reds is a pretty good sign of their state of pitching right now. They are desperate for any arm. He has pitched better in the two games since he faced the Cards, where he picked up two losses. 6.2 IP, 9 Ks, 7 BBs, 2 ER. So not exactly good, but better. Anderson allowed 14 homers in 70 innings and has allowed three already in 9 MLB innings, so good opportunity for Pujols.
Mikolas has had trouble at Great American Ballpark, but the Cardinals are at Busch. And really, Mikolas hasn’t been great against the Reds in St. Louis either. Not GABP bad and certainly competent but not as good as you’d expect. 4.24 ERA. Of course, he’s facing a different Reds lineup now than he did in 2021 and in 2019 and 2018. He’s faced the 2022 version of the Reds once at Busch: 7 innings of one run ball. Let’s repeat that.
My pick: Cardinals
Friday - 7:15 PM
Undecided vs. Jack Flaherty (4.50 ERA/6.61 FIP/6.18 xFIP)
I assume undecided just means bullpen start. The Reds do not have a particularly good bullpen and to make matters worse, they’ll be coming off a Chase Anderson start. He appears to be fully up to speed, but he needed 84 pitches to throw 4 innings last time and that was sort of a good outcome. Their entire bullpen except for the recently promoted Dauri Moreta and Buck Farmer has thrown at least 17 pitches in the past two games, except Diaz who understandably is struggling to find work as the closer (he threw 12).
Flaherty meanwhile didn’t really pitch well last time. His first start was promising, but 4 walks and no strikeouts in 5 innings is very close to making me disregard him for the playoffs. Missing bats is kind of his thing. Hopefully this start goes a lot better and I can jump back into the believe boat.
My pick: Reds (The Cardinals are either scoring very few runs or exploding and Jack doesn’t feel lucky enough to get the latter)
Saturday (Game 1) - 12:15 PM
Hunter Greene (5.26 ERA/4.95 FIP/3.97 xFIP) vs. Jose Quintana (3.34 ERA/3.15 FIP/3.79 xFIP)
Greene made three rehab starts - he pitched a total of 7 innings, struck out 15, and walked just two. It is AAA, but it feels like the Cardinals are going to be running into a different pitcher than the numbers suggest (which are higher because he started the season so poorly).
Quintana has still been doing his thing of not lasting particularly deep into the game but usually exiting with just one or two runs on the board for the opposing team. And I mean that literally. Even when he exited the Arizona game in the 3rd inning, he allowed just two earned runs. He has never allowed more than two earned runs as a Cardinal.
My pick: Reds
Saturday (Game 2) - 6:15 PM
Mike Minor (5.78 ERA/6.01 FIP/5.04 xFIP) vs. Dakota Hudson (4.43 ERA/4.45 FIP/4.82 xFIP)
For the record, we aren’t actually sure who gets the day game and who gets the night game for either team. It could very well be Hunter Greene versus Dakota Hudson. I suspect Hudson is getting the night game very strongly though, just because you typically place the more reliable pitcher first so that you can have a quicker hook in game 2 if necessary. Obviously if it’s Hudson versus Greene, that even more supports my pick of the Reds.
But my games are based upon who the Reds are throwing and if Greene is pitching, I think the Reds take the win. If Minor is throwing, I’m picking the Cardinals. Mijnor has allowed 7 earned runs in 8.2 IP against the Cardinals this year, though both have been at GABP, so he might fare a bit better this time. Still got to go Cards against a lefty.
My pick: Cards
Sunday - 1:15 PM
Luis Cessa (5.25 ERA/5.35 FIP/3.97 xFIP) vs. Jordan Montgomery (3.20 ERA/3.47 FIP/3.45 xFIP)
Truth be told, Montgomery didn’t pitch as poorly as his line ended up looking last time out. Despite six runs allowed and four earned runs in 5 innings pitched, he struck out 6 to one walk. Thus, his FIP was 3.91 and his xFIP was 3.10. So I don’t think there’s anything to be worried about with that.
Cessa has posted those numbers, primarily in the bullpen, although since moving to the rotation he has sort of pitched better. Aside from the one start when he went 2 innings - dude to ramping up into becoming a starter - although he didn’t pitch very good that day - he has 18 Ks to 3 BBs in 20.1 IP in four starts. Though his ERA is 4.43 and FIP 5.13 so he’s had his issues with HRs. Which.... please let him continue having issues with that!
My pick: Cardinals
Individual Game Record: 38-29
Series Prediction Record: 8-13
Somehow, I correctly predicted three of the four games in the Nationals series, which is the best possible showing I could have done since I predicted a 3-1 series victory. Obviously, they split but series prediction record goes further down and my individual game record continues looking solid.