St. Louis has had all sorts of injuries this season while holding off the Pirates. If the Cards can win this series they will take a big step toward winning another division championship.
The Pirates have really stumbled of late. They lost a series to the Milwaukee Brewers, something they certainly did not expect or count on as they tried to catch St. Louis. Their pitching got hit hard, putting a burden on the offense which it could not carry. That has to change in Missouri.
The Cardinals continue to win series. They have won each of their last three series and have bounced back from a series loss a few weeks ago in San Diego. The team continues to lose players who have meant so much to the club during the season, one of the recent examples being outfielder Randal Grichuk, yet guys such as Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty are picking up the slack. The Cardinals even managed to handle a stretch of a few games in which their closer, Trevor Rosenthal, had to take time off for paternity leave upon the birth of a child. Everything’s falling into place for St. Louis, which hopes to be able to finish off the Pirates in this series as a heavy MLB odds favorite.
The Pirates have gotten roughed up in their last few games, so they need J.A. Happ to give them a quality start at the beginning of a huge weekend series. Happ was very solid in his most recent outing against the Colorado Rockies on August 29. He went 5 2/3 innings and gave up one run, giving Pittsburgh the stability it needs at the back end of the rotation. Happ has been giving Pittsburgh what it has needed on a regular basis. He has not had a bad start since August 4, when he gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Chicago Cubs. Pittsburgh should think that it can get five or six good innings out of Happ in this one.
The Cardinals will put Carlos Martinez on the bump. Martinez once had an ERA of just 2.34 in late July, so the fact that he has a 2.91 ERA right now means that his month of August was a rough one. Martinez hasn’t been horrible, but the level of performance has clearly declined relative to the standard he had been setting earlier in the season. Martinez has given up at least three runs in each of his last six starts. He has not been able to overwhelm opponents the way he had once done. A three-run, six-inning start is a quality start, but at the low end of the spectrum. If Happ goes five innings and gives up no more than one run, Martinez’s recent run of outcomes will get him beaten.
What’s The Pick?
The Cardinals find a way. It has been their modus operandi all season. There’s no reason to begin to make a baseball pick against this team now unless an ace is going up against them.
MLB Pick: Cardinals -140 at The Greek