The St. Louis Cardinals are already in the playoffs and own the best record in baseball, but they are having trouble shaking off the Pirates and could struggle here vs. the Reds.
The team with the best record in all of baseball could be ripe for an upset returning home from a 10-game road trip Monday night when John Lamb and the Cincinnati Reds (63-85, 29-45 away) pay a visit to those St. Louis Cardinals (93-56, 50-24 home) in a battle of southpaws as the teams open up a three-game series from Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO at 8:15 ET in a game available on FOX Sports - Midwest.
The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Cincinnati as a big road underdog for this contest at current odds of +166.
Clinched Playoff Spot, But…
The Cardinals are the only team in the National League that has already clinched a playoff spot and they still own the best record in the Major Leagues, yet they cannot shake the second place Pittsburgh Pirates, who unfortunately for them own the second best record in baseball but trail the Cardinals by four games in the National League Central. St. Louis avoided getting swept at Wrigley Field and salvaged a 5-5 road trip with a 4-3 win over the Cubs Sunday.
The Reds have no such post-season concerns as they were eliminated from playoff contention a long time ago, and they are continuing a road trip on which they are now 3-3 so far after being the winning MLB Picks in two of the three games over the last-place Brewers in Milwaukee over the weekend. The Reds have also proven feisty vs. the league’s best team record-wise, taking three out of four games from these Cardinals to end the last home stand.
Garcia Troubles vs. Reds
Garcia has good surface numbers for the Cardinals as he is 9-5 with a 2.52 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, but his sabremetric numbers are not as flattering and Garcia is also 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in two starts vs. Cincinnati this year! First Garcia lost to the Reds here at home, which is a rare feat in itself considering the Cardinals’ 50-24 home mark, and then more recently he was lit up for six earned runs in 4.1 innings in Cincinnati on September 10th.
Garcia allowed six hits and had four walks vs. just two strikeouts in that contest while laboring though 94 pitched despite the short outing.
Turning to his peripheral numbers, Garcia does have a very decent 3.41 xFIP, but that figure is still nearly a full run higher than his ERA and his 2.3 WAR is the lowest among the St. Louis starters. More concerning though is that Garcia usually pitches to contact, averaging 6.42 strikeouts and 2.11 walks per nine innings, but luck has been on his side as he has allowed an abnormally low .259 BABIP.
Cards Still Struggle with Lefties
Now, Lamb is not exactly a superstar for Cincinnati as he is 1-3 with a lofty 5.35 ERA and 1.57 WHIP since his recall in seven starts, but he is left-handed and despite their record, the Cardinals have still been unable to solve southpaws this season, a trait that has been consistent for them for several seasons. St. Louis is batting just .228 and averaging 3.67 runs per game vs. lefties over the entire season, and those figures are down to .216 and 2.49 runs the last 10 games!
Even pedestrian southpaws have had success vs. the Cardinals, and that goes for Lamb too. In fact, this is a pitching rematch of that September 10th game when Lamb and the Reds routed Garcia and the Cardinals in an 11-0 shutout with Lamb allowing just three hits in five innings with six strikeouts.
Lamb actually has a chance to be a serviceable Major League pitcher if he can stop walking people, as he has allowed three runs or less in five of his seven starts but has been unable to work deeply into games due to running up high pitch counts. The good news is he has 42 strikeouts in 37 innings, so he has a chance to duplicate the success he had the last time he faced St. Louis back in Cincinnati.
Concern over Molina
Finally, there is great concern by the Cardinals over the status of Yadier Molina, who injured his thumb making a tag in the eighth inning on Sunday and is scheduled for an MRI today. Molina is batting .270 while ranking third on the team with his 61 RBI, not to mention being one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. He has been durable this season missing just 13 games, but it is quite telling that St. Louis is 5-8 in the games he has missed.
The Cardinals may elect to sit Molina this game even if he dodges a bullet and is diagnosed with only a sprain, but with or without him, this looks like a nice spot for a Cincinnati upset given the troubles Garcia has had with the Reds this season and the Cards’ continued struggles vs. southpaws, so back the Reds at a big price in St. Louis on Monday.
MLB Pick: Reds +166