Arizona Diamondbacks (62-61) vs St. Louis Cardinals (78-45)
How the heck are the Diamondbacks fringe contenders? Every time they seem to be completely out of it, they do something like they just did, sweeping the Reds to have their first winning record since April. Now before all you buzzkills go telling me Arizona has no chance of making the playoffs, it's all a mirage, blah blah blah, let's all just enjoy the fact Arizona is actually watchable at this point. Hooray for winning baseball games. The D-Backs sit 5 games back of the Dodgers in the West, their only hope at making the postseason. They are 9.5 back of the Cubs for a wild card spot, so it's division or bust at this point. Fun fact about Arizona: they lead the NL in runs per game, at 4.59 per game.
Who is going to be able to beat the Cardinals in a 7-game playoff series? At this point, it seems like no one will. This St. Louis team has been absolutely decimated by injuries, and yet are 4 games ahead of the Pirates for the best record in the NL. Imagine them in mid-September when they start getting players back. The Cards are coming off losing 2 out of 3 against the Pads, where each game was decided by 6 runs or more. They are 5-5 in their last 10, which is not very good for them. The D-Backs may be catching them at a good time, and Arizona needs any break they can get at this point. The Cardinals pitching has been amazing, they lead the Majors in runs allowed per game by over half a run, allowing just 3 runs per game. That is insane. Their hitting is actually well below average, at 24th in the majors in runs per game, but the offense doesn't need to be that great when the pitching is so dominant. Now, there are no lists which show the greatest team pitching ERAs of all time, but from my research nobody has come close in the last 10 years, and I'd imagine it goes back even further than that..
- The Diamondbacks' stars are playing in star form. A.J. Pollock has a triple slash of .456/.483/.719, and 2 homers in his last 12 games. After a very rough 5 or 6 games, Goldy went 4-for-5 with 2 homers on Saturday. The D-Backs are tough to beat when these guys are on.
- The Diamondbacks have been absolutely lights out in the last 2 weeks. Excluding Kieth Hessler, the 'pen has had an ERA of 0.96. Get a lead, and they'll keep it.
- In the month of August, the Cardinals don't have a .300 hitter who has more than 50 plate appearances. When you don't have one guy tearing it up, it's hard to get enough contributions from everyone else to win. I guess it's working well for them though.
- See above, where it was mentioned St Louis allows 3 runs per game
Archie Bradley has made 2 rehab starts, one with the rookie squad and the other with High-A Visalia. His last one came on Sunday, where he went 4 innings and gave up 2 runs. Not bad, and I expect he gets another rehab start or two before returning to the major league team. Jeremy Hellickson is on the DL, and will have his spot in the rotation taking by Randall Delgado.
The Cardinals have been getting killed by injuries all year, and the Diamondbacks are catching them right before a lot of those guys comeback. You might want to grab a glass of water before reading this list, as it's pretty lengthy list: Outfielders Jon Jay, Matt Holiday, and Randall Grichuk, first baseman Matt Adams, and relievers Matt Belisle and Jordan Walden. They have also been without ace Adam Wainwright the entire season, and yet they are still the best team in the Majors. Pretty amazing.
Everyone should be fresh for Arizona. On the Cardinals side, lefty Kevin Siegrist and righty Johnathon Broxton both threw over 20 pitches Sunday, so I doubt they will be used Monday.
Game 1: Robbie Ray LHP (3-9, 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) vs Lance Lynn RHP (9-8, 2.94 ERA, 1.31 WHIP)
While Ray has continued to be a solid pitcher, he has not had that dominant start in a while. In his last 7 starts, his best one was a 7 inning, 2 run performance. While these 5-6 inning 3 run starts are fine, it would be nice if he could throw in a dominant one here and there. He showed in his first few games he's capable of it, now he just needs to execute.
After a breakout year in 2014, Lynn has stepped up in the Cardinals rotation big time. A sub-3 ERA is always great, and the funny thing is it's only the 4th best ERA of the starters. Lynn relies on his fastballs, throwing 4 seamers and 2 seamers almost 80% of the time. In his only start against Arizona this year, he went 6 innings and gave up 3 runs, one unearned. Advantage Cardinals.
Game 2: Patrick Corbin LHP (3-3, 4.09 ERA, 1.32 WHIP) vs Jaime Garcia LHP (5-4, 1.79 ERA, 0.93 WHIP)
Corbin's ERA seems higher than it should be, but his 1.1 and 2 inning performances are probably the reason that is inflated. Corbin has seemed like 2013 Patrick at times, but has also looked like a guy who hasn't pitched in a year and a half. While I don't think his start will be amazing, it should end up being a quality start.
After starting off the season with a shoulder injury, and missing another month with a groin injury, Garcia has the 2nd best ERA in the majors of guys with more than 80 innings pitched, and yet you hear almost nothing on TV about him. In his last 8 starts, half of them have been scoreless, and in none of them he allowed more than 3 runs. Heck, he hasn't allowed more than 3 runs in any starts all year. Every single start he's made has been a quality start. Huge advantage Cardinals.
Game 3: Rubby de la Rosa RHP (11-5, 4.32 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) vs John Lackey RHP (10-8, 2.99 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Rubby has been very good in his last 7 starts, with a 2.54 ERA in those games. Will Rubby put all the Wheel of De La Rosa jokes to bed? Or the wheel return with a vengeance.
John Lackey is still pitching? Huh, whaddya know. His 13th season has been his best so far, the 2.99 ERA the best of his career. Lackey goes with a 4 pitch repertoire of 4-seamer, sinker, slider and curve. While this will be another tough matchup, it is the best chance Arizona has at a W. I'm gonna call this one even.
Game 4: Randall Delgado RHP (4-3, 3.27 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)* vs Carlos Martinez RHP (12-6, 2.85 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)
After pitching well all year in the bullpen, the Diamondbacks said hey, let's give this starting thing a try again. It didn't go too well. Randall allowed 4 runs in 2.1 innings on Saturday, but the offense bailed him out of a loss. It would be tough for this one to go much worse, maybe just the nerves got to him. One concerning thing is his WHIP, well above league average. A WHIP of 1.41 normally translates to an ERA well above 3.20.
Martinez's first year as a full time starter is going very well. Martinez throws gas, with an average fastball velocity this year of 95 MPH, very high for a starter. His only start against Arizona all year was very impressive, 7 innings of shutout ball. Something tells me the D-Backs will need to do better this time around if they want to win. Advantage Cardinals.
*Delgado has made just one start, almost all of those numbers have come as a reliever
This X-Factor is kinda weak, but oh well. It's just the Diamondbacks NL-leading offense versus the Cardinals ML-leading pitching. Looks like we'll find out which one is stronger, and I don't think the Diamondbacks will come out on top.
The Diamondbacks are unable to overcome the Cardinals starting pitching, and only win one out of 4.