If it feels like the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers just played each other it is because they did just 18 days ago. Though it may not feel like a long time, it does feel like a lot has changed for the Cardinals since then. Their last game against the Dodgers was the third loss in a string of eight consecutive losses. Since breaking that losing streak the Cardinals have won eight of their last ten with a sweep against the Boston Red Sox and series wins against the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. Nolan Arenado has brought his wRC+ up from 65 to 102 slashing .310/.359/.672 with a 7.8% walk rate, 15.6% strikeout rate, and a .362 ISO in the month of May. Things are looking up, and hopefully it stays that way!
In this four-game series the Cardinals are scheduled to face Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, Noah Syndergaard, and Clayton Kershaw. They faced Syndergaard and Kershaw in their previous series against the Dodgers. They have pitched two and three games since then and look about the same. Kershaw had a pretty dominating start against the Brewers (though not quite as dominating as his start against the Cardinals) going seven innings with eight strikeouts, zero walks, and allowed one run off a home run.
Dodgers lefty Urías has had a pretty solid season so far. In just over 52 innings he has a 3.61 ERA and 4.37 FIP with a 24.8% K rate. Notably he has 4.3% walk rate, which puts him in the the 91st percentile in all of baseball. His batting average against is just 2.35, but he is allowing 1.72 homers per nine innings. He gets a lot of batters to chase, which might partly be due to his fastball spin is in the top 9% in baseball. He throws his 4-seamer nearly 50% of the time and mixes in a slurve, changeup, and occasionally a cutter.
Tony Gonsolin makes his fifth start of the season on Friday. In 19 innings so far in 2023 he has a 1.42 ERA and 4.09 FIP. This discrepancy seems like it might be due to some good fortune so far on balls in play. His batting average on balls in play in just .196 and he is leaving 80.2% of runners on base this season. It also helps that he hasn’t given up too many homers either; he has a HR/9 of 0.95. Some of these numbers might even out as he puts up more innings; his K% is just 21.1% while his BB% is 7.9% — both too high to support that LOB%. He throws a 4-seamer at around 92-93 mph, a split-finger, a slider, and then a curveball. His split finger seems a bit inconsistent. Last season it was far and away his best pitch according Baseball Savant’s run value, but this season it has a positive run value for him while his 4-seamer has had the best results.
The offense is still very good, now being led by catcher Will Smith with a 174 wRC+. Max Muncy is still second in MLB with 14 home runs after a two homer game against the Minnesota Twins. He has a 148 wRC+. Mookie Betts, James Outman, and Freddie Freeman have all been tough outs, all with a wRC+ of at least 137 or higher.
It is a good Dodgers team, not much changed from when they swept the Cardinals 18 days ago. The Cardinals are a bit of different team though, or at least the ViBeS are different. They are coming off some solid pitching performances, key hitters look to be heating up, and a little remove curse spell might have been performed. Let’s cross our fingers this series goes better than the last one against the Dodgers.
Thursday, May 18 at 6:45 pm CT: Julio Urías vs. Adam Wainwright
Friday, May 19 at 7:15 pm CT: Tony Gonsolin vs. Steven Matz
Saturday, May 20 at 6:15 pm CT: Noah Syndergaard vs. Miles Mikolas
Sunday, May 21 at 1:15 pm CT: Clayton Kershaw vs. Jack Flaherty