Eye on the Enemy: Scouting the Cardinals
91-71, lost 4-0 in NLCS to Washington Nationals
4-4, 3.5 games back of Cubs in NL Central
Game 1 (Monday): Kwang Hyun Kim (LHP, 0-0, 9.00 ERA) vs. Kyle Hendricks (3-1, 3.08 ERA)
Game 2 (Monday): TBD vs. TBD
Game 3 (Tuesday): Daniel Ponce de Leon (0-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (3-1, 1.88 ERA)
Game 4 (Wednesday): Jack Flaherty (1-0, 2.57 ERA) vs. Alec Mills (2-1, 2.84 ERA)
Game 5 (Wednesday): TBD vs. TBD
The Cardinals will be without plenty of key players when they open up the 5-game, 3-day set at Wrigley Field, due to a combination of injuries and players recovering from the COVID-19 outbreak.The Cardinals currently have the following 13 players on the injured list:
2B – Brad Miller
SS – Paul DeJong
SS – Edmundo Sosa
RHP – Carlos Martínez
RHP – Junior Fernández
RHP – Kodi Whitley
C – Yadier Molina
1B – Rangel Ravelo
RHP – Miles Mikolas
LHP – Austin Gomber
CF – Lane Thomas
RHP – Ryan Helsley
LF – Austin Dean
Of those 13 players, four of them made an appearance on Opening Day for St. Louis, with Paul DeJong and Yadier Molina starting.
Mikolas was originally on the 10-day injured list with a right forearm strain, but has since been transferred to the 60-day injured list and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Mikolas struggled in 2019, pitching to a 9-14 record with a 4.16 ERA and a 1.223 WHIP. That was a down year after he went 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA in 32 starts in 2018, his first year with the Cardinals.
Hitters to watch:
St. Louis’ offense is spearheaded by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Even though 2019 was a bit of a down year for Goldschmidt in terms of OPS, he was still able to club 34 home runs and drive in 97 runs, leading the Cardinals offense that took the NL Central crown.
Kolten Wong, who won a Gold Glove in 2019 is off to a slow start, going 5-for-26 to start the year. The Cardinals will hope he can heat up with so many players on the injured list.
Given the number of games they’ve played, outfielder Tyler O’Neill is off to a stellar start. He’s hit 3 home runs and has a .985 OPS in 27 plate appearances he had a .723 OPS and 5 home runs in 2019 in 60 games.
With the amount of players they have on the injured list, the Cardinals were pressed into calling up top prospect Dylan Carlson to the big leagues. In his first three games in the big leagues, Carlson has collected a double, a single and a walk in 11 plate appearances.
Pitchers to watch
The Cardinals seemingly found themselves an ace last year in Jack Flaherty. The righty pitched to a 2.75 ERA in 33 starts last year, finishing fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting. He’s started one game this year, going 7 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 7 hits and striking out 6 against the Pirates on July 24. The Cubs will get a firsthand look at the Cardinals ace in Wednesday’s first game.
The Cardinals may not have a ton of well-known bullpen arms, but they have a few names who might form the core of a solid bullpen corps. John Gant and Tyler Webb have combined to pitch 7 shutout innings, Giovanny Gallegos has 3 strikeouts in 1.2 shutout innings and former top prospect Alex Reyes debuted Saturday, striking out the side in one inning of work against the White Sox.
The 17-day lay off didn’t seem to affect the Cardinals. They swept the doubleheader Saturday against the White Sox. Mikolas and Martínez were expected to be important pieces of their starting rotation, but the Cardinals will have to plug and play with their pitching corps. Monday’s game 1 starter, Kim, has pitched 1 inning in relief this season, allowing a run on Opening Day. The White Sox hitters got to the Cardinals pitching Sunday, as they hit back-to-back-to-back-back home runs off Roel Ramírez.
The Cubs offense has a strong opportunity to bounce back against the weakened Cardinals pitching staff. The five-game set provides the perfect opportunity for players like Javy Báez and Kris Bryant, who are off to slow starts, to really kick start their seasons. They’ll experience their first 7-inning doubleheaders, so strong starting pitching performances will be crucial to preserve their bullpen.