Royals vs. Cardinals Game 4
By: Willie Bee
Is trouble brewing in the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen? A second consecutive poor performance by Trevor Rosenthal isn't going to immediately cost him his closer's job, but Redbirds skipper Mike Matheny won't wait too long before restructuring his relief corps if Rosenthal doesn't shape up quick.
St. Louis stopped its 3-game skid with a 5-2 win Wednesday in Kansas City against the Royals, but the Cards needed 11 innings to do so when it appeared they had it wrapped up in the usual nine frames. Rosenthal couldn't seal the deal in the ninth after Adam Wainwright tossed eight shutout innings before turning it over to his 'pen, one night after Rosenthal suffered his third loss of the year in KC's 8-7 victory Tuesday in St. Louis.
The eventual win did put the Cardinals in position to earn a split in this home-&-home series, and the 8:10 PM (ET) contest at Kauffman Stadium features an intriguing matchup of young pitchers as Michael Wacha faces off with Yordano Ventura.
SBR's live MLB odds have Wacha and the Cards -115 to -120 with a 7.5 run total.
Strong Efforts Not
Translating Into Wins For Wacha
Six more shutout innings went on Wacha's ledger his last time out, a 2-0 win vs. the Giants this past weekend, St. Louis' only victory in that 4-game series. The triumph was the Cardinals' third in Wacha's last four starts after losing his previous five.
St. Louis has also dropped all five of Wacha's road starts despite his 2.51 ERA away from home. He made his MLB debut against the Royals just over a year ago, tossing seven 2-hit innings with only one KC runner crossing the plate and six suffering a K.
Ventura was skipped his last time through the Kansas City rotation after experiencing a little elbow pain in a May 26 start vs. Houston. The Dominican came out of that game in the third having already allowed five runs, and the Royals have gone down in defeat his last five assignments. Thursday will be his first career appearance against the Cardinals.
Umpire Notes, Mother
Nature & A Free Pick
The umpires did travel with the Cards and Royals to KC, and that means Dale Scott completes their loop in Game 4. His last three games finished 'under' to give Scott a 3-7-1 O/U/P mark for 2014. The 30-year vet worked a Royals game in Houston that never made it to the total, and also called an 'under' in St. Louis earlier this season.
Kansas City escaped the rain on Wednesday, but that's not going to happen today. A 50% chance of rain will still be in the mix for first pitch tonight when temps are expected to be in the low-to-mid 70s with a light easterly breeze (in from right) for the contest.
One win does not signal all is okay for the Cardinals, and since they seem to figure out new ways to lose when Wacha is on the hill, not to mention rain seemingly always in the forecast for his starts, I'm running with Kansas City as a home underdog for my free baseball pick.
My Pick: Royals +105
Season: 57-55 (+1.20)
Royals vs. Cardinals Game 3
By: Willie Bee
Maybe getting away from home will be the best thing for the St. Louis Cardinals. Spending the last week-&-a-half at Busch Stadium certainly didn't do them any favors.
A 2-7 homestand now in their rearview mirror, the Cardinals hit the road for the rest of their interleague set with the Kansas City Royals. Kauffman Stadium will be the site for the next two contests, Wednesday's matchup set for an 8:10 PM (ET) start with Adam Wainwright and Jason Vargas the scheduled mound combatants.
St. Louis opened as -140 chalk to stop a 3-game slide, but that number is now closer to -130 according to SBR's live baseball odds. Both 7 and 7.5 are available for the total.
All signs pointed to the Cardinals leveling this series Tuesday when Kolten Wong's grand slam gave them a 4-0 lead before taking a 7-6 advantage into the late frames with their normally reliable bullpen. But it wasn't to be as the Royals made a second charge for the 8-7 triumph to inch them closer to the .500 mark while dropping St. Louis to just one game above.
Vargas Better On Road
Than At Home
Wainwright ended May just as he began the month, as the Giants knocked him around last Friday with seven runs before chasing the big righty in the fifth. The Cubs also battered him in his first start of May (5 IP, 6 ER), but Wainwright was almost untouchable in the four starts between those two assignments.
Wednesday will be his seventh start vs. Kansas City -- plus three more relief appearances during his '06 rookie campaign -- and the Cardinals have won four of the previous six while Wainwright fashioned a 3.13 ERA.
The Royals have halved Vargas' first 12 starts for them, a couple of 7-run hiccups in May accounting for the bulk of his 3.39 ERA. Kauffman Stadium has so far been a tough mound to perform on with the lefty sporting a 5.16 ERA in six home starts compared to 1.60 on the road. Vargas last saw the Cardinals in a 2010 interleague start while wearing a Mariners jersey, and is 1-1 in two assignments vs. St. Louis (5.68 ERA).
Umpire Notes, Mother
Nature & A Free Pick
If the same umpire crew moves to Kansas City with the teams, it will be Tripp Gibson's turn to call balls and strikes. Totals have split right down the middle in his 12 plate assignments this season, with home 'dogs winless when Gibson's under the mask.
Some nasty weather is possible for a big swath of the Lower 48, but it appears KC is west of most of it. There are some thunderstorms possible during the afternoon, but everything is expected to clear out by game time when it should be in the upper-70s with clear skies and a breeze out of the north (in from left, left-center).
Lefties have given St. Louis trouble, but then, KC hasn't been a good place for Vargas to work. I'll go against the grain and the current trends with my free pick on the visitors.
My pick: Cardinals -130Season: 54-55 (-2.70)
Royals vs. Cardinals Game 2
By: Willie Bee
Home has not been very sweet to the St. Louis Cardinals who wrap up a 9-game stand Tuesday night against the Kansas City Royals.
Blanked for a second consecutive game, the Redbirds look to at least leave town on a winning note with a 3-city tour on their immediate horizon. First pitch Tuesday at Busch Stadium is set for 7:15 PM (ET), James Shields answering the bell for Kansas City while Jaime Garcia goes for St. Louis.
Backing the Cardinals means laying -120 or so according to SBR's live baseball odds. A 7 run total is priced a bit higher on the 'over.'
St. Louis mustered just three hits off Danny Duffy and three KC relievers in Game 1, a 6-0 Royals victory. The defeat left the Cards 2-6 on this homestand and dropped them 5 games behind Milwaukee in the NL Central while Kansas City escaped the AL Central basement by percentage points.
Garcia Yet To Walk A
Batter In 3 Starts
Shields just finished a busy May with six starts, the Royals winning five of them to stand 8-4 in Big Game James' 12 assignments this year. The righthander has run into a little trouble keeping pitches in the park the last two times out as the Angels and Blue Jays, two of MLB's more powerful lineups, combined to send five balls into the bleachers.
Kansas City's five wins behind Shields in May 2014 contrast to losing all five of his starts last May, one of those against St. Louis, Five walks did Shields in that afternoon as he allowed six runs in six innings of his only career appearance vs. the Cardinals.
Garcia pitched well last Thursday in St. Louis' series opener vs. the Giants, the lefty tossing seven frames and leaving with the lead before the bullpen coughed it up. He has allowed four long balls in three starts since coming off the DL, but has not issued a walk in nearly 20 innings. The Cards have won two of his three previous assignments vs. the Royals despite Garcia owning a 7.29 ERA.
Umpire Notes, Mother
Nature & A Free Pick
Paraphrasing that great philosopher Forrest Gump, "Life is like a game umpired by CB Bucknor, you never know what you're going to get." The 18-year veteran is 4-6 O/U on the season after his three most recent plate assignments failed to reach the total. Bucknor called an April contest at Busch that went past the total and Shields' April 17 start in Houston that stayed 'under.'
Scattered thunderstorms are in the mix Tuesday in St. Louis, with a 30% chance of one passing through just as the game gets underway. The thermometer should still be in the mid-to-upper 80s for the first pitch along with a SE breeze (right to left).
St. Louis batters will eventually awake from their slumber, but I'm not counting on it happening tonight with my free pick on the underdog Royals.
My Pick: Royals +110
Season: 53-54 (-2.80)
Royals vs. Cardinals Game 1
By: Willie Bee
Good fortune has not been smiling recently on either the Kansas City Royals or St. Louis Cardinals, each starting June off on a losing note after closing May with sub-.500 marks over the final week (or so) of the month. Both will be looking to turn things around this week when they meet up for a 4-game series split between each city. The series kicks off with a pair of contests in St. Louis, Monday's opener set for an 8:10 PM (ET) start with a couple of young hurlers on the hill.
Danny Duffy answers the call for Ned Yost and the Royals, while Shelby Miller takes the ball from Redbird skipper Mike Matheny. Backing the Cardinals with your MLB picks will cost you about one-fiddy, while a 7.5 run total taxed to the 'under' is listed on SBR's live baseball odds.
This is the 18th straight year the "Show Me" rivals have gotten together for interleague action, and the Cardinals own a 45-31 record in the previous 76 games. The Royals have held their own at Busch II since it opened in 2006, winning 11 of 20 tilts on this turf. St. Louis won three of four a year ago, taking both games in KC, and splitting at home where one game pushed an 8 run total, and the other failed to make it to an 8.5 run mark.
Royals Drop To Bottom Of AL Central
Expexcted to be Detroit's top challenger at 4/1 on the MLB futures odds to win the AL Central when spring training opened, Kansas City (26-30, -9.6 units, 26-27-3 O/U/P) is, instead, bringing up the rear of the division. The Royals were 22-21 and 7-games behind the Tigers in second place just two weeks ago, but have since gone 4-9. The good news is that they're now 6.5 games south of Detroit, so KC is gaining ground in that column, despite falling into the ALC cellar.
Duffy began 2014 in KC's 'pen, making six relief appearances in April before joining the rotation in early-May. The Royals have lost four of his five starts, including the last two in which the righthander was charged with five earned runs each outing against the Angels, and Astros. The southpaw has seen the Cardinals just once before, an assignment in St. Louis during his rookie 2011 campaign. Duffy burned through 90 pitches without making it out of the fourth inning when he had accumulated nine strikeouts, but also allowed two runs on six hits.
Cards Look To Salvage Disappointing Homestand
St. Louis (30-27, -5.3 units, 2727-3 O/U/P) is also losing ground in the NL Central race thanks to dropping successive series at home to the Yankees and Giants. The Cardinals were blanked in Sunday's series finale against the Giants, and now sit four games behind the Brewers at the top of the division.
Like Duffy, Miller has also dropped his last two starts, and has been knocked around after a great start to the season. The setbacks came at Cincinnati where the Reds scored four times in Miller's five innings, and home against the Yankees last week when New York plated seven on nine hits while the righthander was on the hill for five more frames. Monday will be his cherry against the Royals; Miller is 2-3 in five career interleague starts while posting a 7.32 ERA in 23+ innings.
Thunderstorms could affect games the next two days in St. Louis, and again when the clubs move to Kansas City on Wednesday. Monday's Arch City forecast includes a 40%-50% chance of a passing shower around game time, temps in the low-80s at first pitch, and an 8-12 mph SSW breeze (out to center).
St. Louis simply isn't generating much offense right now. They are 11th in the NL scoring 3.82 runs per game, last in homers (30) and 22nd in the majors batting .239 with runners in scoring position. Kansas City has produced even less power than the Cardinals (24 HR), and scoring even less (3.80 rpg), and yet, I'm drawn to the 'over' for my free MLB pick. Go figure.
My pick: Royals-Cardinals 'Over' 7.5 (+100)Season: 52-53 (-2.8)