The St. Louis Cardinals will play three games against the Tampa Bay Rays. I think we all know enough about this season and how it is going for this to be enough of an intro, right? Let’s just get to the starters...
The Cardinals face Zach Eflin on Tuesday night. Eflin is in the midst of the best season of his career so far. He has pitched a 3.46 ERA and 3.06 FIP with a 25.2% K rate and 3.5% walk rate which ranks in the 98th percentile in baseball. According to Baseball Savant he has thrown seven different pitches this season, but really only three with any regularity: A sinker, curveball, and cutter. The sinker and curveball have been solid pitches for him this season — the sinker has a run value of 9 and the curve a run value of 8. He has a groundball percentage of 52.6% overall and while he is only in the 31st percentile in Wiff rate, he is in the 90th percentile in chase rate. He throws the curveball perfectly on the black in the bottom of the zone, likely garnering a lot of chases on pitches below the zone. Here is a good example on a pitch to Anthony Rizzo:
The starter for Wednesday is not listed but on Thursday Zack Littell is scheduled to take the mound for the Rays. Littell was recently acquired by the Rays after being designated for assignment by Boston. He has pitched just under 33 innings for the Rays this season in five starts. He has a 3.58 ERA and 3.36 FIP for the Rays in those starts. He throws a 4-seamer and a slider about evenly and will also throw a split finger and an occasional sweeper. There isn’t really a standout pitch for Littell — on the flip side, the batting average against on his fastball is .333 which seems a little high. Even the expected batting average against is .271.
The Rays offense jumped out big time to start the season but have since cooled to a 118 team wRC+. This is still third in baseball, but quite the fall from the 133 wRC+ they had to start the month of June. The offense is led by Yandy Diaz with a 158 wRC+. Diaz walks 11.1% of the time while only striking out 16.4% of the time. He is slashing .315/.398/.508 with a .193 ISO and 16 homers. Co-leading the Rays in homers is Isaac Paredes with 21. Paredes has a .247 ISO and 144 wRC+. Leading the Rays in ISO, though, is Luke Raley, the third best hitter on the team per wRC+ with 142. Raley has a .256 ISO and has hit 15 homers. He tends to strikeout more than his counterparts, though, with a 30.6% K rate compared to 18.4% of Paredes. Of course former Cardinal Randy Arozarena is part of this offense, though it is a bit of jump down to him from Raley to a 127 wRC+. Arozarena has one of the highest walk rates on the Rays at 12%. Overall the offense is really stacked. Most of the starters have a wRC+ over 100 with the exception of catcher Christian Bethancourt, who is filling in for the injured Francisco Mejia.
The Rays look pretty good. Here are the matchups:
Tuesday, August 8 at 5:40 pm CT: Miles Mikolas vs. Zach Eflin
Wednesday, August 9 at 5:40 pm CT: Dakota Hudson vs. TBD
Thursday, August 10 at 5:40 pm CT: Matthew Liberatore vs. Zack Littell