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The Cardinals will battle it out for last place against the Pittsburgh Pirates - A Series Preview

Not my favorite headline to write.

Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

When the Cardinals last saw the Pirates, the Pirates swept them. The Pirates outscored the Cardinals by just four runs, winning two one-run games. Back then, the Pirates still had a winning record and the Cardinals still had hope. I suppose the Pirates also had hope then, although I’m not sure how many Pirates fans believed in their start. Now both the Pirates and Cardinals face each other with an identical number of wins (55) and the Cardinals with one more loss).

Enough time has passed that both teams are fairly different. Offensively, things are mostly the same for the Pirates. Bryan Reynolds, Andrew McCutchen, Jack Suwinski, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Ji Hwan Bae are all likely to be in the lineup, much like they were in June. A few things are different though. Carlos Santana was traded, and in his place was former Cubs 1B Alfonso Rivas, who appears to lack the ability to hit, a rather unfortunate problem for a 1B. Both of the Pirates’ catcher prospects, previously in the minors, are getting regular playing time. Endy Rodriguez (96 wRC+) is at catcher, but they have Henry Davis (76 wRC+) playing outfield exclusively.

The starting rotation will be very different though. Last series, the Cardinals faced Roansy Contreras, Rich Hill, and Luis Ortiz. Ortiz and Contreras are in the minors, and Hill was traded. They still have David Bednar (2.12 ERA), Colin Holderman (3.38 ERA), and Dauri Moreta (4.01 ERA, but 31.9 K%) in the bullpen. Overall, Pittsburgh’s bullpen is pretty average, but having Bednar at the back end sure makes it seem harder to come back.

Monday - 6:05 PM

Drew Rom (AAA Stats: 5.34 ERA/4.21 FIP/4.67 xFIP) vs. Bailey Falter (4.86 ERA/4.94 FIP/4.60 xFIP)

Falter is not listed as the starter, and I can’t actually find confirmation on who the “starter” is, but the Pirates are using an opener tonight. Waiver wire pickup Thomas Hatch is the opener, but he threw 18 pitches two days ago, so he is a true opener. Someone on the staff is going to pitch the bulk amount of innings and Falter would seem to be the only option. The Pirates had a bullpen game yesterday, using five relievers, including one who threw 69 pitches. Three of their other relievers pitched two days ago, including Hatch, and the other reliever threw 29 pitches three days ago. There seems to be no other option than Falter to me.

Rom’s stats don’t look impressive, but he does have a 43.9 K% as a Memphis Redbird with a single earned run in his two starts. Also the average ERA in the International League is 5.26, so his FIP and xFIP numbers are actually good. And again, he’s looked incredible recently. Let’s hope Falter falters and Rom continues his hot streak.

Tuesday - 6:05 PM

Adam Wainwright (NSFW) vs. Johan Oviedo (4.55 ERA/4.41 FIP/4.81 xFIP)

Oviedo has the odd distinction of FIP being his absolute best stat. His SIERA is 4.83 and his xERA is 4.57. It obviously depends on how he finishes his year, but from the available evidence, even though he’s on pace for 2 fWAR, he seems like a below average starter. But obviously, he’s got 7 or so starts and that could hurt or help his stats significantly.

Wainwright needs to just do whatever he did his last outing and hope the Cardinals’ offense has his back this time.

Wednesday - 11:35 AM

Matthew Liberatore (Showing stats stopped being fun) vs. Andre Jackson (5.28 ERA/4.90 FIP/3.64 xFIP)

Jackson’s stats are not terribly useful, just because he’s started just two games and thrown just 30.2 IP. In 13 innings (4 appearances and 2 starts), Jackson has a 34 K% though, which would seem to be rather good. The Dodgers didn’t really have any use for him and they seem like they could have used him at starter if they believed in him, so I am a tad skeptical he’s a starter.

Liberatore, well you know the deal. The opponent matters less than if Liberatore has his A stuff with him. He dominated Tampa and got killed by Oakland. So let’s hope his stuff is working tonight, or at least if he can figure out a way to be crafty enough to deal with his stuff not being on.

An MLB debut, an attempt at win #199, and another chance for Liberatore to find his way. Even though it’s not an exciting series, plenty of things to watch if you’re interested in development (Masyn Winn being a key one)