St. Louis Cardinals: Predicting the lineup and rotation against the Padres

ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 27: Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after clinching a postseason berth by beating the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on September 27, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 27: Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after clinching a postseason berth by beating the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on September 27, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals start their playoff series against the Padres on Wednesday. What should the lineup and starters be for the series?

It took until the final day of the season, but the St. Louis Cardinals secured their spot in the postseason as the 5th seed on Sunday.

Lucky them, they get to play the Padres in the first round!

It’ll be a tough series, no doubt, but the Cardinals need to optimize their pitching staff and lineup to have the best chance. Let’s look at how they can do that.

Starting Pitching

For this short three-game series, the starting pitchers shouldn’t be up for debate. Without Dakota Hudson healthy, the clear choices for the top three are Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, and Kwang Hyun Kim. Even with the recent success of Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon, they shouldn’t get a starting look in a three-game series.

As for what order to throw them in, I’m going with a classical approach. I want Adam Wainwright in game one. Jack Flaherty has not been his usual self over this 60-game season, but even if he has been, Waino has the postseason pedigree and 2020 performance to warrant the first start. I don’t care if he’s 39.

Waino’s 3.15 ERA (4.10 FIP) over 65.2 innings this year was a result of him ironing out his home/road splits. Rather than being four runs better at home like he was in 2019, Waino has a much more even 3.24/3.00 home/road ERA split. He has 105 career postseason innings and is an easy choice to start the series.

Even though Flaherty has a 4.91 ERA this year, he’s still this team’s most promising arm. I don’t care what his season stats are, you can’t leave Flaherty in the bag for a Game 2 that could be the final game of the series. Throughout his career, Flaherty has been a big-game pitcher, just like Waino. Expect Flaherty to step up on the big stage.

For Game 3, Kwang Hyun Kim is the easy choice to be trusted in a potential must-win. As expected, Kim came in and has baffled the MLB that has never seen him before. Over 39 innings, Kim has just a 1.62 ERA. There is reason to believe he has gotten a little lucky but doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get the nod in game three. Kim doesn’t strike people out, but excels at getting soft contact. His style of pitching should play well in the cavernous Petco Park.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ rotation is going to be perhaps the biggest factor in whether or not the Cardinals move on. With Wainwright, Flaherty, and Kim on the mound, I like their chances against anyone.


Here is where things get interesting. For the past month, The first three in the lineup have been set in stone. Kolten Wong, Tommy Edman, and Paul Goldschmidt can’t really be argued with as the first three, and that should stay the same.

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Beyond that, I think you have to keep going with the hot hand and play Dylan Carlson at the cleanup spot. Carlson has a .936 OPS since returning to the MLB and although his first day in the cleanup spot didn’t go well, he needs to be there in the playoffs.

Behind Carlson, I’d like to see Yadier Molina. Molina has just a .662 OPS on the year, but he’s got plenty of experience in the postseason and never fails to step up when they need him to. After Molina, the combo of Paul DeJong, Matt Carpenter, then Dexter Fowler should come next. All three have been different degrees of below average this year, but they all have plenty of postseason experience, something the Padres have very little of.

Rounding out the order, I think Harrison Bader is going to be imperative this series. The Cardinals are going to need Bader’s defense in center and with the pop he’s shown this year, he could be an x-factor in the playoffs.

Putting this all together, the lineup would look like this:

  1. Kolten Wong, 2B
  2. Tommy Edman, 3B
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Dylan Carlson, LF
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. Paul DeJong, SS
  7. Matt Carpenter, DH
  8. Dexter Fowler, RF
  9. Harrison Bader, CF

Now, the debate comes down to whether or not Tyler O’Neill and Brad Miller should be in the lineup. In my eyes, neither have been very hot at the plate and at this point, outside of arguing that O’Neill’s defense should be in left shifting Carlson’s defense to right field over Fowler, there’s no argument that works. Things may change depending on handedness of the opposing starter, but for a right-handed pitcher, I believe this is the Cardinals’ best lineup right now.

Though this lineup isn’t scary by any means, it’s the best the Cardinals can do right now.

With this lineup and the trio of starters, the Cardinals might be able to sneak past the Padres in just a three-game series. They definitely won’t blow them out.

dark. Next. Bring on the powerful Padres offense

Things change for the Cardinals if they make it past the Padres into a more traditional series, but for just three games, every pitch, every at-bat, and every coaching decision matters. If we see Matt Carpenter or Brad Miller at cleanup for Game 1, that is a very bad thing.