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Series Preview: 3rd place Cardinals roll into the Queen City

It feels good to say,, "3rd place Cardinals." Give it a shot.

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Game Times and Probable Pitchers

Great American Ball Park

Tuesday, June 7, 2016, 7:10pm EDT: RHP Mike Leake vs. LHP John Lamb

Wednesday, June 8, 2016, 7:10pm EDT: LHP Jamie Garcia vs. RHP Alfredo Simon

Thursday, June 9, 2016, 7:10pm EDT: RHP Adam Wainwright vs. LHP Brandon Finnegan

Just a few short days after old friend Dusty Baker rolled into GABP for a return trip, the Reds will again see a familiar face, this time on the mound. Mike Leake will make his first start as a foe in the Small Park after previously making 85 starts here in Reds red. He'll face off against John Lamb, essentially the new Mike Leake with less command thus far.

Leake is on one, too, after a particularly rough April. At the end of the month, Leake sported an ERA over six after five April starts and his first start in may, where the Phillies put up a four spot on him in five innings pitched.

Since then, however, he's been money. In his last five starts, Leake has a 1.59 ERA, has gone at least six innings in each game, and is sporting a .594 OPS against through those 34 innings pitched, and the Cardinals have won all but one of those games.

We all know first hand how lethal Mike Leake can be when he's got everything working, and he's hitting his spots with the pinpoint precision that we all know he's capable of. We'll find out which Mike Leake shows up on on Tuesday, but I'm sure he'll be just as motivated to show the Reds he's well worth the money they weren't willing to pay him. Then again, I'm sure Dusty felt the same way, and the Reds took two of three from him.

Jamie Garcia is once again having a good season which surprises no one when he's actually healthy enough to put in a full season. We'll have to wait and see if this is the season that his arm finally holds out. He's striking out more batters this year than ever before, but he's also walking almost a batter per nine more than ever as well. The 116 ERA+ will do, though, as will the 3.14 FIP.

Garcia, however, is going in the opposite direction than Leake. In his last 4 starts, Garcia has maintained a 5.59 ERA and allowed runners on base at over a 40 percent clip. The revitalized Reds lineup will look to keep that up on Wednesday.

Adam Wainwright has come back from his horrific Achilles injury from 2015, but he's far from the Adam Wainwright that anyone recognizes. Across the board, he's putting up the worst numbers of his career and has been the worst starter in a Cardinal rotation that also features Michael Wacha's 5.16 ERA.

Wainwright was good in his last outing against a formidable Giants lineup, allowing only two earned runs in seven innings. But, that's only one of two starts this season that he's managed to give up less than three runs, the only other coming in a 6.2 inning shutout affair with the Colorado Rockies.

In his career, the Reds have given Wainwright trouble, even when he was at his best. He's got his fourth worst ERA against the Reds in all the league. The Reds will look to continue that trend against a scuffling former ace.


C Yadier Molina

1B Matt Adams

2B Kolten Wong

SS Aledmys Diaz

3B Matt Carpenter

LF Matt Holliday

CF Randal Grichuk

RF Stephen Piscotty

Necktat is scuffling again, which I'm sure is something that all of Reds fandom is happy to hear. The season started out well enough for the veteran catcher, as he carried an .868 OPS through mid May. What's happened since, however has tanked his season long OPS into the six hundreds. Through his last 72 plate appearances, the soon-to-be 34-year-old catcher has batted 092/.167/.154.

Matt Carpenter is still doing the thing he's always done, but the big surprises here are Aledmys Diaz and, to a lesser extent, Stephen Piscotty.

Diaz didn't exactly come out of nowhere; our friends over at VEB had Diaz as their number six prospect going into the season. But, after missing much of his first season due to injury in 2014, he fell off the 40 man roster prior to 2015 and he seemed to be, as a prospect, cooked.

He broke out in a massive way late last summer and what he's done this season when pressed into the Cardinal lineup shows that it's real. The 25-year-old Cuban slashed an otherworldly .423/.453/.732 through 75 April plate appearances. While he came back to earth in May (101 PA for .723 OPS), he's earned the opportunity for expanded playing time even as the Cardinals start to get healthier. Diaz currently has the third best OPS+ on the team, behind only Carpenter and Matt Adams.

Piscotty, on the other hand, did the "breakout prospect" thing last season. Far from an unknown, Piscotty was considered the farm system's best bat (outside of the late Oscar Taveres), and he climbed into top third of prospect lists before last season.

When he came up in July of last season, he found immediate success as Cardinal prospects are wont to do. But still, there were lingering questions about whether or not he could keep it up.

Well, thus far, Piscotty is also showing that he'll be just fine for the long term. He's the clubhouse leader in bWAR, with 2.6 on the season. That's nearly good enough for top 10 in the entire league. This is basically where the projection systems had him pegged at over the course of the year, and he's already met it.

He's slugging more this year than he ever has, save for a stint in A+ ball. Considering that his power was only supposed to be average coming up, there is room here for it to regress some. His BABIP is high, too, at .356. Save for 100 PAs in rookie ball, his career BABIP in the minors had never exceeded .320.

Still, we're reaching a full season sample worth of PAs and Piscotty's just not getting worse. If he indeed keeps this up, maybe Cardinals fans will end up coming back around to Albert Pujols leaving after all.


Trevor Rosenthal

Seung-hwan Oh

Matthew Bowman

Kevin Seigrist

Jonathan Broxton

Tyler Lyons

Dean Kiekhefer

Speaking of familiar faces, the Reds will probably get a chance to take a whack at Jonathan Broxton, who has not at all been good this year. The 32-year-old former Red owns a 5.06 ERA and is walking 5.5 BB9 through 21.1 innings pitched.

Trevor Rosenthal is still throwing gas, but he's his walk rate soar. He's at 7.6 BB9 so far this season, more than two batters per nine innings high than at any other time in his career. There have been whispers about removing him from the closer role, but Cardinals manager Mike Matheny put an end to that notion. For now.

Should Matheny chose to do that, Seung-hwan Oh (The Final Boss of Japanese and Korean fame) has been every bit as good as advertised and should be able to fill in admirably should Matheny turn over Rosenthal's closer spot. Even though he should just use his best pitchers in the toughest spot and not worry about it because "closers" are stupid but, well, you get the point. Preacher, choir, etc.


The Cardinals have always had the Reds number, even when they are good. Because that's how playing the Cardinals works. They've played the Reds three times this season, winning twice and losing once, but outscoring the Good Guys by 11 runs. This isn't surprising.

What's a bit surprising is that Cardinals record. One year ago, St. Louis won 100 games. This year they are, well, considerably off that pace, and well behind the Cubs for first place in the division. As it stands, the Cardinals would be on the outside of the playoffs looking in (though, admittedly, they're currently only 1/2 game back of the Pirates).

The series will probably come down to whether or not the Reds can pitch competently enough to stay in games. If John Lamb and Alfredo Simon keep up their season long dingerfest, neither of them will be long for this series. But if each can repeat their competent previous starts, there's not any reason why a resurgent Reds offense, at home, can't jump all over Mike Leake, et. al.

I think I heard the entire city groan with the first sentence of the previous paragraph?