The St. Louis Cardinals take on the Cincinnati Reds in the opening game of their three-game weekend series from Great American Ball Park in Ohio. The Reds sit in second place in the NL Central, while the Cardinals sit in third place with only a half-game separating the two teams. The Brewers are sitting in a great position atop the standings and with the NL West teams dominating the Wild Card spots, both clubs know heading into Friday night that it's NL Central champs or bust. Expect the weekend series to be filled with drama and fireworks as the two teams look to make a move in the division.
Cardinals Building MomentumThe Cardinals will have their confidence sky-high after having taken down the Cubs in their last series. After taking three of four games during the mid-week to take control of third place in the division and likely set the Cubs towards a path of becoming sellers, the Cardinals will look to keep riding their momentum. St. Louis has gone 6-4 in their last ten games but will continue to face injury issues in regards to their pitching staff, as Max Moroff is their only position player out. The Cardinals will be without four starters and two relievers on Friday night, though it's been that way since the All-Star break and hasn't seemed to slow down the team.
The Cardinals' offense has been a slight disappointment considering the offseason moves they made and the experience they had coming back. They rank 26th in baseball in runs per game, as well as 24th in batting average and hits per game, and 25th in home runs per game. Goldschmidt leads the way with a .271 batting average, .339 OBP, and 98 hits, and has come on quite stronger over the last few weeks. Add that to Nolan Arenado, who has a team-high 18 home runs and 57 RBI. Over the last week, Goldschmidt is hitting .346, Arenado .350, and Tyler ONeill .308, as the offense starts to heat up at the right time. Goldschmidt also has three home runs and Arenado another two as the power could be an issue for the Reds.
According to MLB.com, Wade LeBlanc will get the ball as he looks for his first win of the season. With his record only sitting at 0-2 and his ERA at 4.31, he has been much better since coming over from the Orioles. In only four starts and eight total games for the Cardinals, his ERA is a much more impressive 2.92. He doesn't have any starts against the Reds this year and will be ready to take on one of the league's most potent offenses.
Reds Led By OffenseCincinnati knows that they have one of the best weapons in baseball with how their offense looked in the first half of the season. Against a St. Louis team who is playing some of their best baseball of the season, the Reds might need a heavy dose of run production starting on Friday night. The Reds have gone only 4-6 themselves in their last ten games and will be needing a win on Friday to get back on the right path. Nick Senzel and Mike Moustakas remain out, but with that having been the case for months, it shouldn't impact the Reds.
Back-to-back pitches, back-to-back bangs. pic.twitter.com/i3pHaQO8Ju— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 21, 2021
The Reds' offense has slowed of late but still remains one of the best units in baseball and much better than was the Cardinals have offered for much of the year. Cincinnati ranks tenth in MLB in runs per game, 13th in home runs per game, and then ranks top ten in both batting average and hits per game. Nick Castellanos has been the leader, with a team-best .329 batting average, 59 RBI, and 111 hits, while adding in an additional 18 home runs. Jesse Winker has taken a huge step forward this year as well, leading the team with 19 home runs and hitting .292 himself. Over the last week, Tyler Naquin has led the way with a .364 average and has added another piece to this offensive puzzle for the Cardinals to have to worry about.
According to MLB.com, Tyler Mahle will get the ball on Friday night, in what has been a great bounceback season for the righty. At 7-3 on the year with a 3.93 ERA, Mahle is off to one of the best seasons of his career. Mahle is 2-0 in two starts against the Cardinals this year and will have plenty of confidence when he steps onto the mound on Friday night. IN those two games, he went 12 combined innings, allowing nine hits and only four earned runs.
The top team trends, according to covers.com, are: - Cardinals are 4-0 in their last four games as an underdog. - Cardinals are 21-10 in the last 31 meetings in Cincinnati against the Reds.
The top team trends, according to covers.com, are: - Reds are 1-8 in Mahle's last nine starts with six days of rest.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Friday night's series opener has the making as one of the best Friday night games on MLB's entire slate. The Cardinals come in fresh off of a series win against the Cubs over the week and will have plenty of confidence to draw from those four games and three wins. The Reds on the other hand have lost five of their six games since the All-Star break and are a difficult team for fans to back right now given some of the unknowns surrounding the lineup and what's to come. As far as the offense is concerned, Arenado and Goldschmidt have done a brilliant job of molding pieces together over the last few weeks and will be the leaders on Friday night as the Cardinals cost to yet another victory.
Full-Game Total Pick
Friday's series opener finds two of the hotter offenses in baseball square off against each other. The Reds have been dominant since the season started, spending much of the first-half scoring runs on top of runs. Since the All-Star break though, Goldschmidt and Arenado have paced the St. Louis offense to be a much more complete package. Additionally, according to covers.com, for the Cardinals, the over is 4-0 in their last four series openers and is 12-3-1 in their last 16 Friday games. For Cincinnati, the over is 4-0 in their last four Friday starts. In games between the two teams, the over is 5-1-1 in the seven meetings in Cincinnati and is 7-3-2 in the last 12 meetings overall.