Cardinals Preview: 5 in 3 with the Cubs

The Cardinals are staying in Chicago to face the Cubs for a tiring 5 games in 3 days. This will make up for 2 of the 3 postponed games due to the teams’ Covid-19 outbreak. The team will play the Cubs with 10 guys on the Covid IL, including regulars Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong; they had 7 MLB debuts against the White Sox, including top prospect Dylan Carlson.

The Birds are coming off a good showing on the South Side; they took 2 out of 3 from the Sox, with only 1 bad inning of play for the team. They sit at 4-4 on the season, in second place behind the Cubs. They’ve scored 31 runs and allowed 30, for a run differential of +1; they would have a Pythagorean Record of 4-4, which is where they currently sit. They are 2-3 on the road this season with a -4 run differential.

The Cubs, on the other hand, have been pretty hot; they are sitting atop the NL Central with a 13-6 record. They were 6-4 in their last 10 games, but are coming off a sweep at the hands of the Brewers. They have scored 96 runs and allowed 79, for a run differential of +17; that would make their Pythagorean Record 11-8, which is skewed by 2 games were they were outscored 25-9. They are also 8-4 at home and have outscored opponents by 13 runs in those games.

The Starters:
Monday, Game 1: Kwang Hyun Kim (0-0, 9.00) vs Kyle Hendricks (3-1, 3.08)
Monday, Game 2: TBD vs TBD*
Tuesday: Daniel Poncedeleon (0-1, 6.75) vs TBD
Wednesday, Game 1: Jack Flaherty (1-0, 2.57) vs TBD
Wednesday, Game 2: TBD vs TBD*
* Note: Both Game 2s will have the Cardinals as the home team in Chicago, as they are making up 2 of the games postponed in St. Louis. Also, the post will be updated with starting pitchers as they are announced.

The Cubs starters have been very good this season; they are 12-4 with a 3.17 ERA, 98 strikeouts and 20 walks in 110.2 innings. Opposing hitters have a slash line of .208/.252/.328 with 39 runs and 9 homers.

The Cardinal starters have not been as sharp as expected; they are 3-4 with a 4.66 ERA, 34 strikeouts and 10 walks in 36.2 innings. Opposing hitters have a slash line of .219/.280/.380 with 19 runs and 6 homers.

Edge: Cubs

The Relievers

The Cubs bullpen has been pretty bad; while they have 5 saves, incumbent closer Craig Kimbrel (0-0, 13.50) has lost his role after a rough start and former Cardinal farmhand Rowan Wick is closing. The bullpen owns a 5.58 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 34 walks in 61.1 innings. Hitters are slashing .234/.344/.446 against them with 40 runs and 11 homers.

The Cardinals bullpen, like the rotation, has been the opposite of the Cubs. Kwang Hyun Kim started the season as the closer, but he’s moved into the rotation. I expected Ryan Helsley to get the first crack as saves, but he’s on the Covid IL; John Gant has the only other save on the team; we should expect Giovanny Gallegos to be in line to get some. They have a 3.18 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 6 walks in 28.1 innings. Hitters are .155/.202/.340 with 11 and 5 homers against the pen; note though that 5 runs and 4 homers were attributed to rookie Roel Ramirez in his debut on Sunday.

Edge: Cardinals

The Hitters

The Chicago hitters are a mixed bag. Their overall slash line is .236/.337/.411 with a 104 sOPS+. Jason Heyward (115 OPS+), Anthony Rizzo (146 OPS+), and Ian Happ (173 OPS+) are their top 3 regular hitters this season. Jason Kipnis (210 OPS+) is a valuable bench option for the team. Perennial All Star Javier Baez (63 OPS+) has struggled out of the gate.

Vs RHP: .239/.332/.435, 66 R, 21 HR
Vs LHP: .230/.347/.355, 30 R, 4 HR
Starters: .240/.334/.412, 87 R, 23 HR
Bench: .171/.370/.400, 9 R, 2 HR

The Cardinal hitters have yet to really get going. Their overall slash line is .231/.298/.372 with 83 sOPS+. Dexter Fowler (123 OPS+), Paul Goldschmidt (157 OPS+), and Tyler O’Neill (167 OPS+) are the teams top 3 regulars. Rookie Max Schrock (277 OPS+) is leading the bench, but he’s only appeared in 2 games; that said, he’s started both games he’s played and the bench has only seen 4 plate appearances. DH Matt Carpenter (45 OPS+) has continued his struggles from last season so far, as has Harrison Bader (30 OPS+).

Vs RHP: .249/.320/.416, 25 R, 8 HR
Vs LHP: .177/.227/.242, 6 R, 0 HR
Starters: .235/.302/.379, 31 R, 8 HR
Bench: .000/.000/.000, 0 R, 0 HR

Edge: Cubs

This might be a more crucial series for the Cardinals than the Cubs, as they work to get as many games as possible in. Later in the season, as the wear and tear of their crazy schedule sets in, this team might be too tired to make a late season run; they need as many early wins as possible. The key for the Cardinals is the rotation; if they can get going, they can keep the low run offense in games.

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