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Cardinals finish their season with six games in two cities against the Pirates - A Series Preview

A combination of the last two series, into one, because one opponent for them all

Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Technically speaking, the Cardinals have two more series left in the season. They face the Pirates for three games at Busch Stadium and then head on over to PNC Park for a three game series. But well, they play six straight games against the same team. There’s really no need to make two separate previews. So this is the last regular season series preview covering the final six games against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

There are a few new players in the Pirates’ lineup, but first the guys we’ve seen. One of the best prospects in baseball Oneil Cruz has been on fire lately with a 152 wRC+ in September. Despite the arm, he rates very poorly on defense so far though. Longest tenured Pirate Bryan Reynolds (I think?) has also rated horribly on defense in center, but has a great bat (125 wRC+). Ke’Bryan Hayes has delivered on his promise with his glove, not so much his bat (90 wRC+). No hitter ruiner Cal Mitchell has just a 75 wRC+. Jack Suwinski has homered a bunch (18 HRs in 348 PAs), but the strikeouts and .230 BABIP have led to a below average line (92 wRC+).

Since we last saw them, the Pirates claimed former Yankee Miguel Andujar who has a .364 average in his 3 games as a Pirate so far. Former White Sox Zack Collins has been less successful with one single in 29 PAs (and that’s his only hit), playing primarily 1B despite being a catcher previously. In fact, the Pirates have three catchers sort of. Jason Delay (53 wRC+), Collins, and former Cardinal minor leaguer, Jose Godoy got called up a few days ago after being claimed in waivers in August. Top ten Pirate prospect Ji Hwan Bae has either played at CF or 2B since his debut last week.

In the bullpen, David Bednar is still the stud. Will Crowe has fallen off quite a bit though. He has allowed a whopping eight runs in his last three appearances, including that Giancarlo Stanton grand slam against the Yankees. The other Zach Thompson has moved from the rotation to the bullpen. Chase De Jong, after allowing four runs against the Cards to break his scoreless streak, hasn’t pitched well since. There are other pitchers, but frankly, Bednar is really the only guy who’s any good.

Onto the matchups

Friday - 7:15 PM

Johan Oviedo (3.13 ERA/4.06 FIP/3.77 xFIP) vs. Jack Flaherty (4.97 ERA/5.60 FIP/5.29 xFIP)

You actually have to look game-by-game to realize that Oviedo has mostly not been any good as a starting pitcher for the Pirates. In his first game, he threw a ton of pitches and despite not allowing a run, he only lasted three innings. In his second start, he didn’t last past the 2nd inning, walking 5 in 1.2 IP. He has also thrown one genuinely great start, his last one with 7 Ks and no BBs. But overall as a Pirate (and SP), he has walked 15.7% of batters.

Flaherty is still searching for his old self. If you were wondering, like I was, if his stats are affected too much by his first attempt at coming back, well kind of. He has a 4.71 ERA, 5.07 FIP, and 4.48 xFIP since returning from the injured list. Still not great, better than his first three appearances back in June. Still not missing as many bats (20.6 K%) and walking too many (11.3 BB%), but that is an improvement over what he did in June.

My pick: Pirates

Saturday - 6:15 PM

Luis Ortiz (1.17 ERA/2.27 FIP/3.72 xFIP) vs. Jordan Montgomery (3.50 ERA/3.67 FIP/3.46 xFIP)

Ortiz is essentially jumping straight from AA. He pitched in Low A in 2021, then jumped to AA for 2022. He threw 114.1 IP in AA, wasn’t great, with a 4.64 ERA and 4.45 FIP. But he struck out at least 8 batters in three of his last four starts in AA and was promoted to AAA in September. He made one not very good start, and a 9 K start and they promoted him to the big leagues. Those stats are from three MLB starts. So I guess we’ll find out ourselves how good he really is.

Montgomery, coming off his worst start as a Cardinal and some would say three not very good starts (though not I - he had 15 Ks to 3 BBs in 10.1 IP in the two previous starts, though seven earned runs.). So he and I imagine the Cardinals would really like a good last start for confidence in his spot in the playoff rotation.

My pick: Cardinals

Sunday - 1:15 PM

Roansy Contreras (3.72 ERA/4.21 FIP/4.35 xFIP) vs. Adam Wainwright (3.51 ERA/3.62 FIP/4.07 xFIP)

This in my mind is a very important start. Wainwright has been... quite bad in September. He’d probably tell you the same. He says he has dead arm. But the fact is, he has struck out 7.8% of batters in September. 7.8%! He has also walked that many. He has been fortunate in not allowing homers (just one), so his FIP of 4.16 isn’t terrible. The xFIP of 5.34 is though and I’m not sure how much you can count on a HR/FB% of 3.6% (when his season rate is 7.9%)

Conteras is a top 50 pitching prospect who has been... fine. And as we know having seen Matthew Liberatore struggle, this is no small thing for a 22-year-old. But what makes him special is that he’s 22 being fine. There is nothing special about his performance which features about an average K rate, a slightly below average BB rate, and not many groundballs. It’s fine.

My pick: Cardinals

Monday - 5:35 PM

Mitch Keller (3.92 ERA/3.83 FIP/3.98 xFIP) vs. Miles Mikolas (3.30 ERA/3.89 FIP/3.77 xFIP)

I expect Mikolas to throw at least one inning, so that he can cross the 200 IP threshold. After that? I’m not sure he’ll pitch more than that. I’m not even sure he’ll start this game. He’ll pitch at least one inning probably at some point in this series, but will he start this game? I don’t know honestly.

Keller is a perfectly capable mid-rotation starter. His stats would fit right in with the Cardinals rotation quite frankly. Not many strikeouts, lots of groundballs (48.8 GB%). Last time he faced the Cardinals, he threw 7 scoreless innings. The bullpen blew the game for him.

My pick: Pirates

Tuesday - 5:35 PM

Bryse Wilson (5.35 ERA/5.08 FIP/4.51 xFIP) vs. Jose Quintana (2.99 ERA/2.97 FIP/3.68 xFIP)

We’re entering the period of time where I really don’t know how long the starters are going to pitch. I don’t know what the plan is for the wild card game. We don’t even know who they’ll face. Quintana will probably figure in the plans for a wild card start and if that’s the case, I wouldn’t expect him to pitch much in this game, if at all.

Do you know when the Cardinals face a mediocre or bad starter and you just can’t figure out why they can’t hit him, such as Adrian Houser once upon a time. Or the famous example, Bud Norris. Well, I’m not going to say Wilson is good necessarily, but boy are the Cardinals dragging his numbers down. He has faced the Cards three times. In the first, a merely bad start with 3 ER in 4 IP. In the next two, he allowed 14 earned runs combined. In total, he’s thrown 10.2 IP with 17 ER against the Cards. You have to think he’s due for a lucky start or something cause that is ridiculous.

My pick: Cardinals

Wednesday - 3:05 PM

Johan Oviedo (3.13 ERA/4.06 FIP/3.77 xFIP) vs. Jack Flaherty (4.97 ERA/5.60 FIP/5.29 xFIP)

This is my first game where I listed the stats of the starters involved and by the time the game is played, the stats will definitely be different. No idea what the plan is for this game, but it’ll be interesting if Oviedo faces the Cards twice and how different the results are, if at all. Again, I’m not sure what the plan is with Flaherty, but the wild card round is in two days and while I don’t envision him in the rotation, if he’s in the bullpen, he really shouldn’t throw many innings here.

My pick: Cardinals

Some logic for my picks. I’m sort of picturing Oviedo dominating the Cards in his first game because he’s extra motivated, but not doing very well in his second start, with all the hitters having seen him just five days earlier. Doesn’t tend to benefit pitchers, that. I see a bounceback start from Monty and they just HAVE to win on Sunday, like I believe they’ll play that game as if he’s a playoff game. Last home game for Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and maybe Adam Wainwright. With Monday’s game probably being mostly a bullpen game and Keller being a decent right-handed pitcher, just seems like an easy pick for a loss. And then Wilson has been so phenomenally bad agains the Cards, I would be a fool to pick them.

My individual prediction record: 41-33

My Series record: 10-13