Series Preview #15, @ St. Louis Cardinals

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Tony La Russa era looks to keep up its strong start as they return to his old stomping grounds to kick off a road trip against the St. Louis Cardinals.

What's New?

The Diamondbacks have life! After a 7-0 shutout on Friday against the Dodgers (dropping them to 8-1 against Los Angeles this season), it looked like hopeless business as usual. Then came the biggest surprise of the weekend, as Clayton Kershaw (arguably the best pitcher in baseball) could not even last two innings, giving up seven runs as the Diamondbacks scored a franchise-high 18 runs and three triples in a 18-7 win. Arizona would then wrap up the weekend strong, coming back from early deficits twice and receiving offensive bumps from Cody Ross and Eric Chavez in a 5-3 win. The Diamondbacks' offensive outburst lifts them to 12th in the majors in runs scored (178), and lifted Arizona to another series win (their first at home this season) despite having the worst team ERA in baseball (4.79).

Arizona took two out of three games from the Dodgers (surprise!) to win their fourth series in their last five tries, and have won six of their last ten games going into their series against St. Louis. The Diamondbacks went 3-3 in their home stand, matching their home win total for the entire season entering this week. They head onto the road at 18-28 on the season, 10.5 games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants in the NL West, including a 12-10 road record this season.

After reaching the World Series in 2013, the Cardinals come into the series with a solid, albeit not great start. Despite having the league's eighth-best overall pitching staff (3.33 ERA), the team's offense has been extremely lacking (21st in the majors) in the absence of Carlos Beltran. St. Louis has actually been a worse team statistically at home this season, seeing their pitching and hitting drop off at Busch Stadium but still posting a record of 11-7.

St. Louis comes into the series having taken their last two home series against the Cubs and the Braves, and have gone 6-4 in their last ten games. They appeared to be in line for their fifth straight win on Sunday, going into the ninth inning with a 5-4 lead before closer Trevor Rosenthal (in for the fourth straight day) blew the save in a 6-5 loss. They currently sit at 23-21 on the season, four games behind Milwaukee for the lead in the NL Central, and are hosting Arizona to wrap up a nine-game home stand before heading to Cincinnati for a three-game set.

On The Mend

Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill was held out of the lineup for the second straight game on Sunday after dealing with shoulder soreness, and is listed as day-to-day.

Arizona third baseman Martin Prado was removed from Sunday's game with blurred vision, a bizarre injury that has him listed as day-to-day. According to MLB.com's Steve Gilbert, Prado will see an eye doctor Monday then fly out for the team's series in St. Louis.

St. Louis right hander Jason Motte threw a bullpen session on Sunday, and according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, could return as soon as Tuesday. This would be the second Cardinals arm to return this week after Jaime Garcia made his 2014 debut on Sunday.

Roster Moves

After St. Louis activated left hander Jaime Garcia from the 15-day disabled list, they optioned right hander Jorge Rondon to Triple-A Memphis.

Welcome to the La Russa Era

The Diamondbacks' recent series against the Los Angeles Dodgers featured one particular piece of national news: the team hired former Athletics and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to a brand-new position, the organization's Chief Baseball Officer.

While he may have no prior front office experience, he certainly has the credentials as one of the league's brightest baseball minds in his time in major league clubhouses. As a manager, he has over 2,700 wins and boasts a career .536 win percentage along with three World Series wins. Such an illustrious career, which appeared to be over when he retired after winning the 2011 World Series, landed La Russa a spot on the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class.

Not only has La Russa proven himself to be a winning manager, but he has proven to be a developer of great coaches as well, as his coaching tree includes pitching coach Dave Duncan (now a special pitching instructor for the Diamondbacks) and Mike Matheny, who since taking over for La Russa has led the Cardinals back to the World Series, falling to the Red Sox in 2013. The hire also finally stabilizes a direction for the franchise, as La Russa brings with him the St. Louis style of an organization that was perhaps the best-run in all of sports.

I think that this is a slam dunk hire for Arizona, even if he makes no real major changes this season. This hire is much like the Knicks hiring Phil Jackson a couple months ago (although I'd hope La Russa gets his first choice in a manager), where the main impact in year one is to create a new face and voice for the franchise and to create a "winning environment" in the desert.

Grade: A

Pitching Matchups

Game 1, Tuesday 6:15 CT: RHP Bronson Arroyo (4-2, 4.15 ERA, 4.13 FIP) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (6-2, 2.11 ERA, 2.69 FIP)

With how these two pitchers have been going of late, this is going to be a fun matchup. Arroyo has gone 3-0 with a stellar 0.39 ERA while giving up just one run over his past three starts, including a complete game in his last outing against the Nationals on Tuesday. Wainwright has been on a roll of late as well, giving up two runs in six innings in his last outing against the Cubs, and was in line for a National League-best seventh win up until a blown save knocked him out of the lead. He has yet to give up more than two earned runs in a start against a team not named the Cubs this season.

Game 2, Wednesday 6:15 CT: RHP Brandon McCarthy (1-6, 5.01 ERA, 3.85 FIP) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (3-3, 2.82 ERA, 2.75 FIP)

McCarthy has been inconsistent of late, but is coming off of his best start of the season in his last outing against the Nationals, giving up one run on two hits in eight innings. He has had three quality starts in his last four outings, with the lone exception coming on the road against the White Sox. Wacha has retained his postseason form of last season, picking up seven quality starts so far in 2014, and has yet to give up more than three earned runs in a single outing this season.

Game 3, Thursday 5:15 CT: LHP Wade Miley (3-4, 4.94 ERA, 4.66 FIP) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (5-2, 3.67 ERA, 3.30 FIP)

Miley has been mediocre this season at best, and that showed in his last outing against the Dodgers,  giving up four runs on seven hits over six innings in the loss. The left hander has still gone at least five innings in every outing he has had this season. Lynn has surprisingly had the second-most wins in the National League since 2012, and has continued that pace with five wins early on in 2014. His last time out, Lynn gave up two earned runs on seven hits in seven innings pitched, picking up the win against the Braves. He is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in five career appearances against the Diamondbacks.

Series Pick'em

With how well both teams have been playing of late, this can be a true barometer series for the Diamondbacks. Tuesday's matchup should be fun, and might just be Arizona's best shot at a win this series. The starting pitching for St. Louis is just too much for Arizona's bats, and I simply don't trust Brandon McCarthy or Wade Miley to come up with strong outings to overcome the Cardinals' starting pitching. I'd say that, being hopeful, the Diamondbacks take one of three games as they head to New York to face the Mets and warp up the road trip.

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