St. Louis Cardinals: A look ahead to close out April

Apr 22, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Jedd Gyorko (3) is greeted by teammates after driving in a run with a triple and scoring on a throwing error in the ninth inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. The Cardinal beat the Brewers 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Jedd Gyorko (3) is greeted by teammates after driving in a run with a triple and scoring on a throwing error in the ninth inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. The Cardinal beat the Brewers 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /
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St. Louis Cardinals
Mar 8, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) delivers a pitch during a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals welcome the American League Toronto Blue Jays to Busch Stadium for a three-game set beginning on April 25.

If you thought the St. Louis Cardinals had undergone a rough start to the season, you need look only to the Toronto Blue Jays to see a team in worse shape. The Blue Jays enter Busch Stadium with a miserable record of 5-14.

This should be favorable for the St. Louis Cardinals. The only thing that might dampen this joy is the fact that the Cardinals have played better on the road than at home. Will Busch impact the Cardinals in this series or will the weakened flightless Blue Jays help continue the Cardinals winning ways?

The first game of the set has one-time great Marco Estrada facing one-time great Michael Wacha. Through this point in the 2017 campaign, Estrada owns an 0-1 record with a 2.63 ERA and twenty-four strikeouts in his belt. Wacha owns a 2-1 record with a 2.41 ERA and seventeen strikeouts in his belt.

Noting the immense similarities of the two righties could indicate that the offenses might be silenced yet again (an epidemic affecting the Jays as well). If this is the case, perhaps someone should investigate the MLB for some bird flu. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

While Estrada has tossed thirteen shut-out innings in his last two starts, the Cardinals have batters such as Jedd Gyorko and Yadier Molina who have hit him well. Gyorko owns a .333 average facing Estrada and Molina owns a .524 average with one home run and five RBI. Matt Adams (I know, I know) has also taken Estrada deep (so Mike Matheny is likely to find him some playing time).

On the Blue Jays side of things, only Kendrys Morales has good numbers facing Wacha. Morales owns a .429 average facing Wacha. The Jays have been cold at the plate and this should likely continue if Wacha holds onto his command.

Game two of the series has Carlos Martinez toeing the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Blue Jays have yet to announce their starter but if their rotation holds then it should be Marcus Stroman.

Martinez owns an 0-3 record on the season with an ERA of 4.76 behind inconsistency of his pitches. When he is on, the opposing team is stymied but, when he isn’t on, then he surrenders walks and hits that hurt.

Stroman holds a 2-2 record on the season with an ERA of 3.10. Stroman has recorded eighteen strikeouts on the young season and is often a force to be reckoned with.

The last time that Stroman faced the Cardinals was in 2014. Jhonny Peralta mustered a .333 average facing Stroman those three years ago. Other Cardinals hitters did not fare so well with many going hitless.

Martinez last faced the Blue Jays in 2016. Then-Blue-Jay Melvin Upton, Jr. went 1-2 against Martinez while the rest of the blue birds were quiet. If Martinez has his control then the Cardinals should look for this to repeat.

I predict a very low-scoring affair in the second game of the set. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cardinals edge the Jays but only likely by one run.

The final game of the three-game set will take place on Thursday afternoon and will have Adam Wainwright climb the mound for the Cardinals. Again, the Blue Jays have yet to announce their starter but- if they follow their normal rotation- their starter should be Francisco Liriano.

This match-up doesn’t favor the Cardinals, I’m sorry to say. Wainwright hasn’t been sharp all season and currently owns a 1-3 record with an inflated 6.27 ERA with twenty-two strikeouts on the year. This said, his last outing was stronger when he faced the Brewers and was supported strongly by the offense.

Liriano, for his career, has been a Cardinals killer. His left-handed approach has stifled the Cardinals in the past (during his years with the Pirates). This season he owns a 1-2 record with an ERA of 4.58. He has recorded nineteen strikeouts on the season.

In his last start against the Cardinals, in 2016, Liriano kept the birds quiet. Holliday hit him well but he is now with New York so we can’t count on his bat this time around. Molina was the only other Cardinal to present positive numbers but he managed only two hits in seven at-bats.

All-in-all the Cardinals should win this series. I’m not sure they will take each game but they certainly can. There are simply too many ifs facing the starting pitching for me to be comfortable going into a series that should be a shoe-in.

At the end of the day, I predict that Wacha will pull the win, Martinez will pull the win (he needs to build up his pitching consistency), and- unfortunately- Wainwright will take the loss. Still, winning two-of-three ain’t bad considering how the St. Louis Cardinals began their 2017 season.