Coming off their worst pre-All-Star break record in five years, the St. Louis Cardinals open the second half with a pivotal home series against the Miami Marlins.
The upcoming series offers a bit of unfamiliarity between the birds and the fish, even though the two share a Spring Training complex in Jupiter, FL. Friday will mark the first time in five years that the St. Louis Cardinals comes into a match-up against the Miami Marlins with a lower winning percentage.
In fact, the Marlins have emerged as one of baseball’s surprise contenders, as Miami is tied with the New York Mets for the second National League Wild Card spot with a 47-41 record. Trailing only one game from the current postseason picture, the St. Louis Cardinals have the chance to gain ground in the upcoming weeks with seven games against the Marlins in July.
The series beginning on Friday night will take place at Busch Stadium where the St. Louis Cardinals currently find themselves owning a home record of 19-26. Already faced with more home losses this season than 2015, the task doesn’t initially appear easy against a Marlins team that won 20 of their first 35 road games this season.
Furthermore, the St. Louis Cardinals play host to the Marlins without offensive contributors Brandon Moss and Matt Carpenter, who both sustained injuries against the Pittsburgh Pirates last week. This isn’t the ideal setup during a stretch in which the team plays games in 17 consecutive days out of the All-Star break.
Compounding this complexity is the fact that each opponent during this stretch is out of the division.
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It will also be interesting to see how the St. Louis Cardinals approach Giancarlo Stanton after he collected 61 blasts to win the 31st home run derby on Monday. Stanton’s resurgent July includes a .324/.395/.853 stat line, which, when complemented by the .300+ batting averages of young position players Christain Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto, makes for one of the deepest Marlins lineups in recent years.
The manager match-up between Mike Matheny and Don Mattingly serves as another underlying component to this series. Matheny holds the combined head-to-head edge with a 23-20 record since 2012, but has been challenged to shuffle lineups on a near-daily basis due to the Cardinals’ ongoing injuries and various individual first-half slumps.
Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha are expected to start in the series against Wei-Yin Chen, Tom Koehler and Adam Conley respectively. St. Louis’s projected starters have a combined lifetime record of 6-2 against the Marlins, while only Koehler has started against the Cardinals among Miami’s trio.
Ultimately, the St. Louis Cardinals’ upcoming series against the Marlins will serve as a good test for what at times has proved to be an underwhelming first half. St. Louis has won six of their last seven games against the Marlins, and another series win could go a long way to help maintain poise and confidence in the running for a sixth straight postseason bid.