Opposite dugout: Underachieving Cardinals still a threat in NL Central

cardinalslogo.jpgManager: Mike Matheny (6th season)

Record: 30-35

Last 10 games: 4-6

Who to watch: 3B Jedd Gyorko (.295/.344/.490 with 8 HR, 27 RBIs), 1B Matt Carpenter (.244/.365/.475 with 12 HR, 36 RBIs), CF Dexter Fowler (10 HR, 28 RBIs), RHP Carlos Martínez (5-5, 2.95 ERA), RHP Lance Lynn (5-3, 2.69 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: First meeting (2-1 in 2014)

Pitching probables:

June 16: RHP Carlos Martínez vs. RHP Kevin Gausman, 7:05 p.m., MASN2
June 17: RHP Adam Wainwright vs. LHP Wade Miley, 4:05 p.m., MASN2
June 18: RHP Lance Lynn vs. RHP Alec Asher, 1:35 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Cardinals:

The 2016 season must have been one of the most frustrating years ever for the Cardinals. Not only did the Redbirds fail to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, they had to endure watching their rival, the Cubs, break their 108-year curse and win the World Series. Now, in 2017, the Cardinals have been underwhelming, but they still have a chance at winning the National League Central. The Cubs don’t exactly look like defending champions at the moment and it is hard to believe the Brewers will be taking home the NL Central crown, despite their solid start.

The main problem plaguing the Cardinals’ offense is a pretty simple one: They can’t hit home runs. Last season, the Cardinals were first in the NL in home runs, socking 225 of them. They finished the season with nine different batters who hit at least 10 homers. This year, the dingers have vanished, as they currently sit 13th in the NL for round-trippers. Matt Carpenter currently leads St. Louis with 12 homers, but his .475 slugging percentage is worse than his 2016 rate of .505. Another player who is hitting worse than he was in 2016 is longtime stalwart behind the plate Yadier Molina. Molina is batting .257, his worst batting average since 2006. Perhaps a bigger concern for St. Louis is that the catcher isn’t hosing down would-be base stealers like he normally does. Molina is only throwing out runners 32 percent of the time, which is a 9 percent drop-off from his career rate. Another player having a worse 2017 season than 2016 is the Cardinals’ big free agent signing, Dexter Fowler. Fowler’s OPS has dropped from .840 to .785. However, not everyone on the Cardinals has regressed this year. A career .241 hitter, Jedd Gyorko is batting .295 this season.

Friday night, the O’s will face Carlos Martínez. He possesses a 96 mph fastball according to Statcast, and he’s used it to strike out 10.1 batters per nine innings. The 25-year-old Dominican is posting career bests in ERA, WHIP and opponent batting average. Martínez is holding opposing batters to a .193 average, placing him fourth in the NL. Welington Castillo is the only Oriole with any real familiarity with the right-hander: he’s 1-for-9 against Martínez with four strikeouts. Adam Wainwright will take the mound Saturday for the Cardinals. Wainwright’s last three starts have been wildly inconsistent. On June 1, he tossed six shutout innings against the Dodgers. Then, on June 6, he got shelled by the Reds for nine runs. He rebounded for a solid but unspectacular outing, giving up two earned runs in five innings against the Phillies on June 11. Wainwright only has four quality starts in 13 outings, a major drop-off from last season, when he recorded a quality start in over half of his starts. Wainwright’s WHIP is especially alarming: Only two qualified starting pitchers in the NL are doing worse than him in the category. At 35, it’s fair to say that Father Time might be catching up to the right-hander. Sunday’s starter, righty Lance Lynn, leads all St. Louis starters with a 2.69 ERA. While Lynn leads the Redbirds in ERA, he hasn’t been able to go deep in games lately. In his last four starts, he has failed to pitch at least six innings.

The Cardinals closer is Seung-Hwan Oh. Just last night, the Cardinals trusted Oh to keep a 3-3 tie in top of the ninth, but he allowed a two-run homer that led to a loss. After arriving in the United States to the tune of a 1.92 ERA last season, Oh’s ERA has increased to 3.48 this year. But the bullpen’s biggest weakness is its southpaws: Kevin Siegrist and Brett Cecil both have ERAs over 4.00. What’s been particularly concerning is that the pair of lefties can’t retire left-handed batters. Siegrist is allowing them to hit .263, while Cecil’s .378 average is alarming.

blog comments powered by Disqus