St. Louis Cardinals welcome Los Angeles Dodgers to Busch
By Jake Misener
In a rematch of the 2014 National League Division Series, the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodger are set to do battle this weekend at Busch Stadium in what has re-developed into a heated rivalry in recent years.
St. Louis (31-16) has won four-straight games heading into the series against the Dodgers, with the latest win coming on a throwing error on a fairly routine (attempted) 5-2-3 double play on Wednesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Cardinals will send veteran right-hander John Lackey to the hill on Friday night in the opener. While most of the attention has been focused upon the dominance of righty Michael Wacha, Lackey, a two-time World Series champion, has been solid all season long.
Lackey (2-3, 3.18) has pitched at least six innings in six of his nine starts this season, allowing more than three earned runs just twice. The former second-round pick’s 3.18 ERA would be his best full-season mark since 2007, when he turned in a 3.01 clip with the Angels. That was the best season of his career, as he went 19-9, finishing third in the American League Cy Young Award voting in the process.
He will be opposed by fellow right-hander Mike Bolsinger, who has turned in one of the best stretches of his big league career so far this season, going 3-0 with a sterling 0.71 earned run average. The Chicago native has struck out 22 batters in 25 1/3 innings of work, making four starts for the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers.
The offense for St. Louis will be led by white-hot outfielder Randal Grichuk, who is batting .387 over the past week, during the latter half of which the Cardinals ran off a still-going four-game win streak. During that stretch, he’s posted a 1.032 OPS – rivaled only by Jhonny Peralta‘s 1.072 mark.
In Saturday’s matchup, St. Louis will send Wacha to the hill as he’s seeking his eighth win of the season to go along with his 1.87 ERA. The Cards’ ace is among the early favorites for the National League Cy Young Award, and with good reason. He hasn’t allowed more than six hits in a start this season – turning in seven quality starts in the process.
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Carlos Frias will oppose Wacha as a big underdog, as he carries a 5.34 ERA into his eighth appearance of 2015. The right-hander will have to rely heavily upon the Dodgers’ offense, which ranks first in Major League Baseball with a .793 OPS, .341 OBP and second in home runs – trailing only the Houston Astros.
Leading the Los Angeles offense will be Yasmany Grandal, who has flown under the radar in the past month, batting .385/.484/.635. Joc Pederson is on pace for more than 40 home runs, as he’s emerged as a major offensive weapon in an already-loaded Los Angeles lineup.
Brett Anderson will take things in the series finale for the Dodgers, opposed by right-hander Carlos Martinez, who is coming off two lights-out starts. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 13 1/3 innings of work, spanning two starts and will look to come out on the right side of his drastic good start-bad start splits.
That seems like a blatantly obvious statement, but Martinez has been either very good (1.07 ERA in wins) or absolutely horrendous (7.84 ERA in losses). Finding some type of consistency will be key for the young right-hander, especially with Adam Wainwright out for the year and back-up plan Marco Gonzales out with an injury for the next few weeks.
With both teams in first place in their respective divisions, the Cardinals and Dodgers will have the attention of most of the league with this showdown. Both clubs will use the series as a measuring stick just over the quarter-mark of the season and with good reason – we could be seeing this matchup this fall.