It seems ages ago, and indeed we are talking about mid April here so it has been a while, but the last time the Diamondbacks played the Cardinals this season it was also the last game of Madison Bumgarner for the Diamondbacks and in the MLB.
In the final game of that 3-game series in Saint Louis, Bumgarner gave up 7 runs in just 3 innings, blowing up his ERA to an unforgivable 10.26. Mike Hazen decided to pull the trigger not much later, and so Madison Bumgarner’s pitching career was shot down.
The Diamondbacks lost that game, on April 19, with 14-5 but they took the series and held a 2 game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West.
What’s in the Cards.
Now we are 3 months and 80 games further into the season. The Cardinals are shocking cellar dwellars and the Diamondbacks still compete in the division and for a play-off spot, but are still struggling with their starting pitching.
The Diamondbacks are probably happy to be back in Arizona and open a 6-game home stand, their first one since the All Star break. Their opponent, the Cardinals, are in quite a bad spot although in a weak NL Central they are probably never truly out. Over the last 30 games the Cardinals have a strong winning record, making the most out of a somewhat weaker part of their schedule.
- Infielder Tommy Edman is dealing with a wrist injury and won’t be available for this series. He has been rather mediocre this season for the Cardinals.
- Pitchers Jake Woodford and Ryan Helsley are on the IL as well with either a forearm or a shoulder injury.
- Catcher Willson Contreras is a question mark, he left Saturday’s game with a hip injury.
- The Cardinals recently got their outfielder Tyler O’Neill back from the 60-day IL.
- The Diamondbacks are missing Gabriel Moreno, Merrill Kelly and Zach Davies although who cares about the last one. Still no word about Melancon either, just in case if you had forgotten that he is a part of this team too.
Since the All Star break the Cardinals have swept the Marlins, beaten the Nationals and this weekend split a series with the Cubs. With that fine performance the Cardinals have obviously performed better than their season average this season, achieving a .288/.370/.478 batting line with a .848 OPS. Their pitching has been able to not suck completely meanwhile, but is still their weak spot. So, very much alike the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals rely on their strong offence and hope their pitching is able to keep the team in the game.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals’ fans their best pitchers are not available for this series: Miles Mikolas pitched on Saturday, while Jordan Montgomery threw on Sunday. That drops the Cardinals’ odds to win this series somewhat, which is good news for the Diamondbacks’ fans. These teams are much closer to each other than you might think considering the difference in where both teams stand:
- Diamondbacks hitting: .256/.325/.429: .754 OPS, 107 OPS+.
- Cardinals hitting: .257/.332/.430: .763 OPS, 107 OPS+.
- Diamondbacks pitching: 4.42 FIP, 1.33 WHIP, 8.6 H/9, 1.2 HR/9, 3.4 BB/9, 8.3 SO/9.
- Cardinals pitching: 4.17 FIP, 1.46 WHIP, 9.6 H/9, 1.0 HR/9, 3.5 BB/9, 8.2 SO/9.
Game #1 Mon 07/24 6:40 PM MST, Adam Wainwright (STL) vs TBD
- Adam Wainwright. 11 GS, 51.2 IP, 3 W-4 L, 7.66 ERA, 5.88 FIP, 1.99 WHIP, 1.47 K/BB.
- Ryne Nelson. 20 GS, 106.1 IP, 6 W-5 L, 4.82 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 1.38 WHIP, 2.43 K/BB.
Adam Wainwright is officially still on the 15-day IL but will probably be activated ahead of today’s game, because he appears as the confirmed starter on MLB.com. The Cardinals didn’t provide any specific issue when they placed the veteran on the IL some days before the All Star break, so maybe they just wanted to give him some extra rest to work on his mechanics or whatever. Opponents have slugged tremendously against Wainwright and it remains to be seen if he has been able to correct a few things in his approach.
The Diamondbacks starter is not confirmed, but ESPN has Ryne Nelson pencilled in. Nelson delivered top notch work in Atlanta, leading the Diamondbacks to a win in a 7-innings pitching performance. Let’s hope he can continue that good work and facing Wainwright you’d say he makes a good chance of achieving another W.
Game #2 Tue 07/25 6:40 PM MST, Steven Matz (STL) vs TBD
- Steven Matz. 13 GS (21 G), 81.0 IP, 1 W-7 L, 4.67 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 1.47 WHIP, 2.72 K/BB.
- Zac Gallen. 21 GS, 130.1 IP, 11 W-4 L, 3.18 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 1.06 WHIP, 5.19 K/BB.
Lefty Steven Matz’ contract hasn’t really worked out as the Cardinals would have probably hoped. A solid 2021 season in Toronto got him a 4 year and $44MM contract in St. Louis, but Matz has struggled from time to time and moved between the starting mound and the bullpen. After a bad start to the season in a starter role, Matz was moved to middle and long relief, but has recently returned as a starting pitcher again because the Cardinals don’t really have much to choose from these days. Matz got his first win of the season last Friday. He has been struggling though against righties this season, who hit .297/.358/.467 against him, especially in the first inning, where he suffers an .926 OPS against.
It is Zac Gallen’s turn in the rotation on Tuesday and he’ll try to get his ERA back to below 3.00. Gallen has given up 3 homeruns in his last two outings since the All Star performance in Seattle, and took the loss against Toronto and was a bit unlucky to not get the win in Atlanta after going 7 innings. Gallen’s last scoreless outing dates from May 30, so it has been a while since we saw a stellar performance from Zac. Maybe he is able to shut down the Cardinals, but however it may be, it should be no problem for Zac to get a win with Matz as the opposing pitcher.
Game #3 Mon 07/26 12:40 PM MST, Jack Flaherty (STL) vs TBD
- Jack Flaherty. 19 GS, 104.2 IP, 7 W-6 L, 4.39 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 1.53 WHIP, 1.96 K/BB.
- Tommy Henry. 15 GS (16 G), 83.0 IP, 5 W-3 L, 4.01 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 1.71 K/BB.
His name has dropped here and there as a possible reinforcement for the Diamondbacks this season and if Flaherty would be able to lower the walks, he’d make for a nice #3 starter in the Diamondbacks rotation. But, his walk rate is an unsightly 4.5 BB/9, above his career average but right between that average and last year’s. Flaherty has been very unreliable this season, shutting out opponents in one game and giving up multiple runs in the next one. Flaherty has been hit hard by lefties this season and if you take a quick look at his Cy Young-worthy 2019 and this 2023 season, you see lost velocity, just like in 2022. So, the worse control could be just a consequence of him forcing to have batters swing at out-of-zone pitches...what they don’t.
Tommy Henry will probably make his turn in the rotation in the final game of the series. He hasn’t tasted victory in July yet. His scoreless performance against the Mets wasn’t enough for a win and in Toronto and Cincinnati he could not make it out of the 5th inning. Hopefully Henry can go deep into the game this time and put himself and the Diamondbacks up for a win.
Back home...up for a series win, I suppose!
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