St. Louis Cardinals Series Preview: Taking on the Southsiders in Chicago
By Matt Benson
The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping to start up again after a long COVID-induced delay. Heading to Chicago, and it is the Southsiders who are first up for the Redbirds.
As a reminder, since it seems so danged long ago now, the St. Louis Cardinals are currently 2-3 in their five games played. They won their opening series of 2020 against the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1, which was followed up by a 0-2 sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Twins. After a 17-day break in the schedule following the COVID outbreak that has decimated Cardinals camp, we are back on against the Chicago White Sox in the Redbird’s second interleague series of the year.
Both the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies have already returned from a quarantine period and the results have been very positive:
- The Marlins spent nine days without baseball, but since returning have swept the Baltimore Orioles. They have gone 7-3 since their return to give them a .692 record which tops the NL East.
- The Phillies started back up after eight days off and have performed well, splitting series against the Atlanta Braves and the best team in the baseball in the New York Yankees. In beating the Yanks, they managed to break the Yankees winning streak of seven games and stopped them tying the franchise record of their best ten-game start to a season (9-1 would have equaled their franchise-record start in 2003 and 1988).
Although it has been a challenging time for the Redbirds, the Marlins and Phillies show there is hope that the lack of playing time should not cause a massive detriment to the team’s return to games!
Saturday is a doubleheader, where we have Adam Wainwright slated to take the mound against Lucas Giolito in game one and then we will likely see a bullpen game from both sides in game two. Finally, Dakota Hudson will close out the series against Dallas Keuchel in the series finale on Sunday.
The Chicago White Sox are currently sitting above .500 in the American League Central, with a 10-9 record. This record though only leaves them joint third in the Central which currently has four teams above .500 (a stark contrast to the National League Central which has only one team sitting above .500). The White Sox are coming off the back of a series win in Detroit where they scored 16 runs, including four homers and a total of nine extra-base hits. They have allowed 14 runs to score, so the ChiSox have been struggling with run suppression.
The St. Louis Cardinals have matched up against the Chicago White Sox 29 times in the past. In that time, the Cards are currently winning the franchise matchup 17 – 12, never having had a losing decade against the Sox. They also haven’t had a losing season since 2006 where they were swept in Chicago. The Cardinals have played 13 games at Guaranteed Rate Field, averaging 6.5 runs per game, so we could see a hitter-friendly matchup this weekend!
How will the pitching staff handle the long delay without any game time?
Game one – 12:10 pm, Saturday doubleheader game one
Adam Wainwright starts the St. Louis Cardinals back up in their return to the majors. He performed strongly in game one versus the Pirates, allowing only three hits, and his .175 wOBA still sits in the top 7% of the league!
Waino has taken the mound on two occasions against the White Sox, one of those times as a starter. He has a 2.25 ERA across these two performances and his .250 slugging percentage against shows how well he’s kept the team limited in hits and extra-base hits (allowing only one triple).
Lucas Giolito will be his opponent in this series opener. Giolito started one of the games the last time the Cards took on the White Sox in 2018, allowing two homers in a loss at Busch Stadium. These home runs came from Dexter Fowler and Carlos Martinez‘s only home run of his career. Giolito also sits second in MLB at the minute with 13 walks issued, behind only Robbie Ray, so if the Cardinals can stay strict on the zone they could utilize this downside in the Chicago starter.
Game two – Saturday doubleheader game two
The second game of the doubleheader will likely be a matchup of two openers – expect to see the likes of Austin Gomber, Giovanny Gallegos, Tyler Webb, John Gant.
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This could bode well though for the Redbirds, as even in a limited sample size the Cardinals have the lowest bullpen ERA in the majors (0.98) whereas the White Sox are very much middle of the road with their 4.15 ERA ranking as the 15th in the MLB.
Ross Detwiler and Brady Lail have been strong performers for the Sox, both pitching over five innings and having a sub-two FIP. But if the Cards can get up against Steve Cishek in the bullpen game, they can try and make the most of his 8.56 ERA and 2.45 HR/9 in nine outings.
Game three – 1:10 pm, Sunday
Dakota Hudson will be starting on Sunday against Dallas Keuchel. Whereas Waino performed strongly in his first start of the season, Dakota Hudson struggled, allowing four earned runs in as many innings including two homers. His barrel percentage from that outing (14.3%) ranks in the bottom 7% of all MLB right now and his .488 wOBA ranks even worse, in the bottom 4%.
Dak has never faced the White Sox before but in his only start against an AL Central opponent he blasted through the Kansas City Royals in 2019 allowing on five hits and no earned runs in six innings.
Dallas Keuchel, on the other hand, has pitched in three games against the Cards in his career. He has allowed three home runs and has a 10.03 ERA. In his four starts so far in 2020 though, Keuchel has allowed just five extra-base hits and has the lowest ERA of all ChiSox starters!
Can TON keep his bat hot?
Tyler O’Neill has been raking and was the Cards hottest bat. He sits second in the majors on barrels per plate appearance with 17.6% and 13th overall in MLB for hard-hit percentage with 57.1% of his batted balls being hard hits.
Dylan Carlson then should be making his debut appearance in the majors tonight. After weeks of hype and noise to get him to join the team in St. Louis and then make a start the time has come. Carlson will be looking to make an immediate impact with the bat, and see if he can break some of the Redbirds milestones for the start of a career:
- Most consecutive games to start a career with a hit – 10 games, held by Charley Smith from 1966 and Al Dark from 1956.
- Most consecutive games to start a career with an RBI – 4 games, held by Matt Holliday from 2009
Yoan Moncada has been the standout offensive player for the White Sox so far in 2020. His 0.8 fWAR leads the team, mostly driven by his 20 hits and three homers. Moncada has three career hits against the Cards in four games, two of which went for extra bases.
Luis Robert is the White Sox’ young talent that that Cardinals so nearly could have had back in 2017. The Cards were very close in the race to sign the young Cuban, but Chicago managed to sign Robert after offering the second-highest bonus for an international signing under the current signing guidelines – something the Cardinals just weren’t able to match. Robert currently has a 109 wRC+ in 2020, but with only three hits in his last seven outings including 11 strikeouts, we could be seeing him at the right time.
This should be a very interesting series for the Cardinals, with so much change to the roster we will likely see a lot of the Cardinals pitching and some youngsters getting ABs. Most excitingly for Redbirds fans, we will hopefully see Dylan Carlson make a big impact and start off an offensive streak to re-kick start the Cardinals season!