Another series coming our way! This time the St. Louis Cardinals are headed back to St. Louis to host the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics are 33-85 and in fifth place in the American League West. The Cardinals are 52-66 and in fifth place in the National League Central. It is sure to be another epic matchup.
Oakland is slated the throw JP Sears on Monday. Sears is a 27-year-old lefty in his second season in the big leagues. In 125 innings pitched this season he has a 4.23 ERA and 5.02 FIP with a 22.4% K rate and 5.5% walk rate. He throws a 4-seamer 50% of the time, a sweeper 25% of the time and splits the rest with a changeup and slider. The slider looks to be a new pitch to this season, replacing the changeup he threw in 2022. The sweeper is also a new addition to his repertoire. So far the slider, even in its limited usage, has been his most valuable pitch per Baseball Savant. It has a .104 batting average against it with a 31.4% whiff rate.
Freddy Tarnok takes the mound on Tuesday. This 24-year-old righty is the fifth ranked prospect for Oakland. He has only thrown 14 innings so far this season and in those innings seemed to struggle with giving up homers — he has given up 4 longballs so far. His arsenal is similar to Sears’ in that he throws a 4-seamer 50% of the time and a slider 25% of the time while splitting the rest among a changeup and a curveball. His 4-seamer has been right over the heart of the plate pretty consistently and he seems to have struggled locating the slider, leaving it up in the zone just as much as it is on outside corner. Two of the homers hit off him were off his fastball and two have been off the slider.
In the series finale Paul Blackburn is scheduled to toe the rubber for the A’s. Blackburn is in his seventh season in Oakland, but only has 60 starts for his career for 315 innings pitched. He has a career 4.97 ERA and 4.31 FIP with a 17% career K rate and 6.8% walk rate. This season his K rate seems to have improved, sitting at 22.2%, but his walk rate also seems to have worsened at 8.4%. He has three pitches that he throws almost interchangeably: a sinker, cutter, and slider. He also mixes in a 4-seamer, curveball, and changeup. He is more a finesse pitcher for sure — his fastball only comes in around 92 mph. His slider actually looks to be pretty good — it is spotted well on the outside corner and gets 7.9 more inches of drop than the average slider. His 4-seamer looks like his worst pitch, which might be why he hasn’t seemed to find the success one might expect from his slider. Hitters are batting .419 off his 4-seamer. He has also had some rotten luck on balls in play. His BABIP against is .360 while he ranks in the top 9% of the league in exit velocity with an average of 86.2 mph.
In the bullpen the A’s have Lucas Erceg, a 28-year-old righty. He has a 6.82 ERA, but a 3.18 FIP. He walks a lot of batters at 13.3%, but strikes out a lot too with a K% of 28.3. He also has rarely given up homers so far this season. In 34 innings pitched he has given up just one. He throws a sinker averaging around 97.9 mph along with a 97.7 mph 4-seamer, followed by a changeup and a slider.
On offense the Athletics are tied for 25th in baseball in team wRC+ at 89. Rookie Zach Gelof, Oakland’s third ranked prospect, made his debut July 14 and has been the A’s best hitter since. In 105 plate appearances he has a 167 wRC+ and a .354 ISO with 8 homers. He has also played solid second base defense, shooting him up to 1.3 fWAR on the season, which is the second most on the team. First baseman Ryan Noda leads the team in fWAR at 1.7. He has a 131 wRC+. He is only hitting for a .229 average, but still manages to get on base at a .375 rate due to his 17.6% walk rate. Brent Rooker leads the team in homers with 19 and has a 121 wRC+. None of the regular starters have a wRC+ over 100.
The Athletics are another team the Cardinals will play that has been having a rough go of it this season. They look to be another struggling team that the Cardinals, even with struggles of their own, should be able to win against, and yet, due to the curse this season, will seemingly inexplicably do poorly against for reasons that defy logic and reason.
This season is slowly breaking me, friends. Every preview I write where I see the stats for these teams the Cardinals are supposed to face and then the Cardinals cannot seem to score a run or they get shellacked... what a season. I shall never forget it.
Monday, August 14 at 6:45 pm CT: JP Sears vs. Miles Mikolas
Tuesday, August 15 at 6:45 pm CT: Freddy Tarnok vs. Dakota Hudson
Wednesday, August 16 at 5:45 pm CT: Paul Blackburn vs. Matthew Liberatore