The Cardinals remain slotted in the final Wild Card spot in the National League after winning four straight contests and they currently lead the Milwaukee Brewers by 1.5-games for the chance to play some meaningful baseball in October. Meanwhile, the Reds have slid 6.5-games back in the Wild Card race, but will get a prime opportunity to cut into that deficit this weekend. Can Cincinnati catapult itself back into postseason contention with a successful series beginning on Thursday night?
The Michael Wacha experiment continues for Cardinals
St. Louis is fresh off of sweeping the division-rival Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend, but the current status of their starting pitching staff is raising growing concerns among a playoff-hungry fanbase. Veteran Adam Wainwright is turning 38 in a few weeks and has struggled away from home this year, while fellow right-hander Michael Wacha has been in-and-out of the starting rotation as he tries to grind his way through the 2019 season. Last season, Miles Mikolas emerged as the team’s de facto ace, but he’s come crashing back down to earth (7-12, 4.13 ERA), while another former promising starter, Dakota Hudson has battled inconsistency during the second half, going 3-2 with a 5.59 ERA in six starts since the All-Star Break. The lone bright spot in St. Louis has been emerging ace Jack Flaherty, who has allowed two runs or less in each of his last seven starts, including a seven-inning gem in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over the Kansas City Royals.
Michael Wacha, who has a 5.54 ERA, will remain in the #STLCards rotation and pitch Thursday in Cincinnati, the team announced.
— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) August 14, 2019
Wacha is expected to get the ball for the Cardinals in their series opener in Cincinnati on Thursday night. St. Louis opted not to add a starting pitcher at the trade deadline and the team seems committed to Wacha as the fifth starter as they gear up for an important stretch run to close out the regular season. The 28-year-old will be looking to rebound after another porous outing during his third stint in the Cardinals’ starting rotation. He was reinstated as the fifth starter last week against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing six earned runs on seven hits in 3 ⅔ innings of work. Wacha enters with a 6-5 overall record to go along with a 5.54 ERA in 20 appearances (15 starts) this season. His bounce-back year in 2018 is beginning to look more like an outlier (.249 BABIP) than a sign that he’s turned the corner, as he’s now posted an ERA over 4.00 in three of the last four seasons.
The Cardinals’ right-hander will get a chance to get back on the winning track against a team that he’s had plenty of success against throughout his MLB career. Wacha enters Great American Ballpark having won seven straight appearances on the road in Cincinnati and he is 12-1 with a 2.79 ERA in 21 career games (17 starts) against the Reds overall. According to Baseball Savant, current Reds are hitting .278 in 149 plate appearances off the Cardinals’ veteran heading into Thursday’s matchup.
Gray enjoying bounce back year with Reds
Despite the fact that the trade deadline has been over for two weeks, the Reds found a way to improve their infield by acquiring 29-year-old shortstop Freddy Galvis on Monday. Galvis was claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays after hitting a healthy .267 with 18 home runs in 115 games for Toronto. The move helps the Blue Jays give everyday playing time to youngsters Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette, while also allowing Galvis the opportunity to play meaningful baseball over the final two months of the regular season. The switch-hitting shortstop should bring some added power and solid defense to a Reds’ team that is still within striking distance of a postseason spot.
Freddy Galvis' long drive stayed in the yard, but not where anyone could reach it! 🤔🤔
— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) August 7, 2019
Right-hander Sonny Gray will toe the rubber for the Reds in their first game against the Cardinals on Thursday night. The 29-year-old is in the midst of a bounce back season in Cincinnati after posting a 7-6 record and a 3.10 ERA in 23 starts. Gray enters Thursday’s outing with the highest strikeout rate of his MLB career (10.15 K/9), which has also helped him strand runners at a career-best 78.4 percent clip. The Reds’ right-hander has pitched into the sixth inning or later in eight consecutive starts, while allowing two runs or less seven times during that span. Last time out against the Chicago Cubs, he surrendered just two hits in six scoreless frames to win for the fifth time in his last six decisions.
In his lone start versus the Red Birds this season, Gray took a tough-luck loss despite allowing just two runs in five innings of work. He comes in with a 6-2 record and a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts at Great American Ballpark this year. According to Baseball Savant, current Cardinals are batting .258 in 37 plate appearances off the Reds’ right-hander heading into this matchup.
- Cardinals are 1-5 in their last 6 road games.
- Cardinals are 0-4 in their last 4 games vs. a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15.
- Cardinals are 0-5 in their last 5 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
- Reds are 4-0 in Gray’s last 4 starts.
- Reds are 11-1 in Gray’s last 12 starts vs. a team with a winning record.
- Reds are 9-1 in Gray’s last 10 starts vs. National League Central