Arizona Diamondbacks (58-43) vs St. Louis Cardinals (50-51)
In a 162 game season, baseball teams experience hot and cold stretches. The Astros will have a week where they look like the Padres, and the Giants will have a week where they look like the Dodgers. It’s baseball. The D-Backs experience these streaks as much as any other team. From June 6 to June 27, the D-Backs had a 16-3 record. From June 28 through today, the team has posted 8 wins and 15 losses. How will the D-Backs respond to this extended cold spell? We will learn a lot about the heart of the 2017 squad in the next two weeks during a 10 game road trip that includes series against fellow wild card competitors, the Cardinals and Cubs. My hope is that Wednesday’s blowout win against Atlanta lighted a spark in the club which they will take to St. Louis.
After winning 86 games last season, the Cardinals found themselves in a “maybe we’ll be contenders?” stage. 101 games later, St. Louis is one game under .500, so I would say the answer to that question is “probably not”. However, due to the complete incompetence of the NL Central, the Cardinals are only 3.5 games out of a playoff spot.
The offense has been led by left fielder Tommy Pham, of course, who has a triple slash of .307/.393/.530 this season. The other 7 regular starters in the St. Louis line-up have been very average, with OPS+’s ranging from 78 to 116; the team’s overall OPS+ is exactly 100. Infielders Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, and Jedd Gyorko have made sizable contributions to the team, while catcher Yadier Molina is putting up some of the worst offensive numbers of his career.
In the bullpen, no relievers stand out as being excellent or awful. The team may not have a dominant reliever, but they are fairly deep.
St. Louis will be without starting outfielders Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty, as well as starting pitcher Adam Wainwright. His spot in the rotation will be taken by Luke Weaver for Thursday’s contest.
We are still with a bunch of question marks regarding when Nick Ahmed, Randall Delgado, Yasmany Tomas, and Rey Fuentes will return from the disabled list.
Game 1: Zack Godley RHP (3-4, 3.32 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) vs Luke Weaver RHP (Career: 1-4, 5.26 ERA, 1.58 WHIP)
After opening his 2017 campaign as the most consistent D-Backs starting pitcher, the Regression Gods have paid Zack a visit. In his last two outings, Godley has posted a 7.71 ERA. This spike is most likely caused by a low ground-ball rate; while these two starts saw Godley post his best strikeout numbers of the season, his ground ball percentage was down at 35% (credit to shoewizard for this insight). I expect Godley to return to his grounder-machine ways Thursday evening.
Luke Weaver will be making his first start of 2017 on Thursday. Don’t be fooled by the career numbers above; they do not tell the whole story. After pitching to a 3.48 ERA in his first 6 outings last season, Weaver exploded in his last 3 appearances to raise his ERA a whopping two runs. In Triple-A this year he has dominated, with a 1.91 ERA to go along with an impressive 4.93 K/BB ratio. He attacks batters with a low-90s fastball, a curve, and a rather impressive change-up. Slight advantage to the D-Backs in this match-up.
Game 2: Robbie Ray LHP (9-5, 3.15 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) vs Michael Wacha RHP (7-4, 3.93 ERA, 1.31 WHIP)
Robbie Ray has been very okay for the past 38 days. He has failed to make it through the 7th inning in each of his last 6 attempts, and has put up a meh 4.37 ERA in that span. Not surprisingly, the walks have been up while the K’s are down. Ray has walked 4 or more batters in 4 of his last 6 starts, in stark contrast from the previous 5 starts where he walked 4 batters only once.
After an abysmal 2016 led to the possibility of Wacha losing his spot in the 2017 rotation, Wacha has (mostly) righted the ship. He was given a rotation spot after pitching prospect Alex Reyes fell victim to a torn UCL. The star of the 2013 playoffs has been serviceable, slightly better than league average in most important pitching statistics. I don’t love Arizona’s chances against Wacha in his home park; his home ERA of 2.93 is two and a half runs better than his road ERA. Slight advantage to St. Louis.
Game 3: Zack Greinke RHP (12-4, 2.92 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) vs Mike Leake RHP (7-8, 3.20 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)
Zack Greinke is freaking awesome. He came through big time on Monday to stop the bleeding for Arizona, with an 8 inning, 2 run outing against the Braves. It feels so good to have a reliable ace pitching every fifth night.
Mike Leake, ASU graduate, is in the midst of the best season of his career. The ground ball specialist has been solid all year, although he has struggled early in ballgames as of late. In two of his last four starts, Leake failed make it through the 4th inning while allowing 7+ runs. However, half of those runs allowed were unearned. Unfortunately for St. Louis, the D-Backs always get the big advantage when Greinke is on the mound.
Game 4: Taijuan Walker RHP (6-4, 3.47 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) vs Lance Lynn RHP (8-6, 3.21 ERA, 1.10 WHIP)
On Tuesday, Taijuan Walker was excellent; he pitched 6 innings and allowed 2 runs (1 unearned), and helped his own cause with a BOMB in the 5th inning. Unfortunately, the relief pitchers vomited all over themselves, spoiling Walker’s night. The righty has been quietly consistent this season, going 5+ innings and allowing less than 3 runs in 9 of his 10 last starts.
Here is a list of the top 12 pitchers by ERA since 2014 with 450 or more innings pitched:
- Clayton Kershaw
- Jake Arrieta
- Zack Greinke
- Max Scherzer
- Jacob deGrom
- Madison Bumgarner
- Chris Sale
- Jon Lester
- Lance Lynn
- Corey Kluber
- Dallas Keuchel
- Johnny Cueto
Uhhh... what? Apparently, Lance Lynn has been one of the top pitchers in baseball since 2014. Look at those names he’s surrounded by! Every single one of those guys is a known as a dominant ace- except for Lance Lynn. Apparently, the 30 year old deserves far more credit than he is given. Advantage Cardinals.
The series is split 2 games a piece.