Cards Have Antidote for Diamondback Bite in ESPN Finale

Wednesday, July 4, 2018 1:03 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jul. 4, 2018 1:03 PM UTC

St. Louis and Arizona close a three-game series tonight at 10:10 ET on ESPN. The Diamondbacks look like false favorites at home.

MLB Wednesday: St. Louis Cardinals (43-41) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (48-38)Free MLB Pick: Cardinals ML +135Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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Miles Mikolas (8-3, 2.61 ERA) is enjoying strong form for St. Louis, allowing three runs or fewer in five of his last six starts. He has yet to lose a decision away from home, where he’s 4-0. St. Louis is 6-2 (+3.9 units) in his road starts.

Mikolas’ fastball and sinker average 94-95 mph. He tends to start batters off with either pitch, elevating both in the strike zone. He keeps their release points similar to mask which pitch is approaching batters. This deception is useful because he keeps both pitches sufficiently unique thanks to his sinker’s stronger arm-side movement. The other half of his arsenal features a slider and curveball, which are effective because they create a change of pace and because he concentrates them in the lowest region of the zone. His curveball creates a 16 mph velocity differential with his fastball, in addition to the change of eye level by its location. Opponents bat .182 against the slider and .209 against the curve.

His sinker and slider evince betting significance because in his worst games, the opponent slugged them well. The Diamondbacks rank in the bottom half (19th) in slugging against the sinker and slider from righties, 23rd overall, and 19th in the past month at home. The two teams against which Mikolas struggled in every outing, Philadelphia and San Diego, rank in the top 10 in average exit velocity against those two pitches. The D’backs rank 27th.

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Patrick Corbin (6-3, 3.14 ERA) counters for Arizona. The southpaw has lost three consecutive home decisions. The betting market doesn’t adjust for form. So he is still heavily favored despite not winning a home start since April 22.

Corbin relies primarily on a slider-sinker combo and emphasizes a fastball or curveball more or less often depending on his opponent. He likes to vary his fastball location, which induces a mixture of ground and fly balls. Conversely, he tends to keep his sinker and slider low to induce grounders. The slider is generally a put-away pitch. But Corbin features his with over 40% frequency against left-handed hitters when the count is even, the batter ahead or as a first pitch. He is confident enough in his sinker and slider to emphasize them against right-handed batters, who have mustered four doubles against 492 sinkers and sliders. They're a combined 4-for-63 against the sinker and slider in the two most bottom-left spots of the zone, but only an eighth of his sinkers and sliders land there.

In the past six weeks, Corbin was hit hard by the Mets and Reds. Both rank in the top 10 in slugging against his three most frequent pitches, the sinker, slider, and fastball, thrown by lefties. The Cards rank 5th. According to metrics, the Cards are strongly underachieving against Corbin’s top two pitches. They are enjoying progression, ranking rank fourth against the sinker and slider from lefties in the past month and eighth away from home.

St. Louis righties rank 9th in slugging and first in average exit velocity against the sinker and slider from lefties away. Corbin, despite his limited fastball usage and usage instead of pitches rather correlated with soft contact, has been allowing a high rate of hard contact lately, which is bad news against a Cards lineup that is relatively dependent on hitting homers. Look out for Jose Martinez and Yadier Molina, who are slugging over .500 in their past seven days. Marcell Ozuna bats .302 against lefties.

The Cards’ pen enjoys new life, boasting the fourth-best FIP in the past 14 days. Greg Holland hasn’t allowed an earned run in seven post-DL outings. Its top two relievers, Jordan Hicks and Bud Norris, are fresh, whereas Arizona will likely have to do without Archie Bradley.

Arizona has lost six of seven at home. St. Louis will make it seven of eight for an MLB pick.

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