Opposite dugout: St. Louis playing right cards in rotation

cardinals-logo.jpgManager: Mike Matheny, third year
Record: 9-6
Last 10 games: 6-4
Who to watch: C Yadier Molina (.352/.386/.574, 3 HR, 9 RBIs); 1B Matt Adams (.362/.393/.517, 7 XBH, 2 RBIs); RHP Michael Wacha (2-0, 1.89 ERA, 0.95 WHIP); RHP Adam Wainwright (2-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP)
Season series vs. Nats (2013): 6-0, 19 runs scored, 8 runs allowed

Pitching probables
April 17: Adam Wainwright vs. Taylor Jordan, 7 p.m., MASN HD
April 18: Michael Wacha vs. Gio Gonzalez, 7 p.m., MASN2 HD
April 19: Lance Lynn vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 1 p.m., MASN2 HD
April 20: Shelby Miller vs. Stephen Strasburg, 1:30 p.m., MASN HD

Series breakdown
The Cardinals arrive in Washington for the season’s first series between two of the top contenders for the National League pennant.

St. Louis might have a middle-of-the-road offense and a struggling bullpen at this point, but continues its tradition of having one of the best rotations in baseball. The Cardinals rank third in the NL with a 2.78 starters’ ERA, but took a hit Wednesday when Joe Kelly left his start early because of a hamstring injury. The 25-year-old right-hander has allowed one earned run in 15 1/3 innings this season for a staff-best 0.59 ERA through three starts.

However, that won’t have much of an effect on this four-game series, which sees the Cardinals pitch all three starters that recorded at least 15 wins a year ago, as well as star 22-year-old Michael Wacha. St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright opens against Taylor Jordan on Thursday before Wacha takes on Gio Gonzalez in the premier pitching matchup of the series on Friday.

Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller, who each won 15 games in 2013, follow against the Nats’ Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg.

So runs could be at a premium over the next four days.

If the Cardinals do produce, it’s a good bet that catcher Yadier Molina (.960 OPS) or first baseman Matt Adams (.911) are at the center of it. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta has also heated up after a terrible start to his first year with the Cardinals. Since batting .063 over his first 10 games, Peralta is hitting .438 (7-for-16) with two homers and four RBIs over his last four contests. He has four homers through 14 games.

That, in part, coincided with a hot run for St. Louis overall, as it outscored opponents 26-9 during a four-game winning streak before losing 5-1 to the Brewers on Wednesday.

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