All I’m really hoping for is a split.
Well, that was unfortunate. I am a little confused why people are blaming yesterday on Mike Shildt though. He took out Genesis Cabrera as soon as he walked the bases loaded and did the same with Giovanny Gallegos. As much as Alex Reyes has struggled recently, he was a better option than anyone else left in the bullpen. Better options, like Luis Garcia or TJ McFarland, had already pitched in that game. When your “top three” relievers all suck in one game, usually it’s not the manager’s fault.
On to the next one and it isn’t getting any easier. But just as we saw in that last series, even though it didn’t work out, anything can happen in a short series. Which means even though the Los Angeles Dodgers are clearly better than the Cardinals, the Cardinals can still beat them, even sweep them over four games. I’m not saying it will or is even likely, but if Jon Lester can outpitch Corbin Burnes (sort of), the Cardinals can rattle off a couple wins in this series.
Albert Pujols returns to St. Louis
In what could possibly be the last time Pujols comes to Busch Stadium as an MLB player, Pujols is guaranteed at least two starts. So says Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. When J.A. Happ and Kwang-Hyun Kim pitch, Pujols will start. The real reason the Cardinals acquired Jon Lester and Happ reveals itself: they wanted to make sure Pujols started games in St. Louis. Mystery solved.
It’s cool of Roberts to say that, because Pujols hasn’t actually started much lately. His last start was August 27th. His last start before that was the 21st. I don’t know if Pujols cares or not – his stated reason for wanting to be released from the Angels was playing time – but whatever injuries allowed Pujols to play more when first signed – have stopped. But for at least two games this series, Pujols will get starts.
Dodgers and Cards are in similar places
An important weekend series against the first place team in your division that involves a blowout win, a devastating walk-off loss, and losing two out of three? Yeah that applies to both the Dodgers and Cardinals. We all know the Cardinals’ story, so I’ll share the Dodgers.
On Friday, the Dodgers tied the game in the 9th when losing 1-0, ultimately sending the game into extra innings. They took a 2-1 lead in the 10th, but the Giants countered with a run of their own to send it to the 11th. They failed to score in the 11th, despite first and third with nobody out. If you ever think the Cards are the first and only team to ever fail in situations like that, here is a good reminder that it happens to everyone. In the bottom of the 11th, they walked the bases loaded – first intentional, second on accident – and after a forceout at the plate, lost the game because of a Trea Turner error. So I don’t know if that’s as bad as blowing a 5-1 lead – it’s not honestly – but it’s pretty up there on devastating losses.
They then won 6-1 – I’m stretching the definition of blowout here, but I believe five runs or more is a blowout – and lost on Sunday in a more normal fashion. Interesting parallel here I think. Also technically the Giants and Dodgers were both tied for first at the start of the series. Not anymore, obviously.
Two Bullpen starts?
David Price’s availability is still up in the air. Figure there could be multiple bullpen games in St. Louis. Andre Jackson probably figures prominently in Tuesday’s game, for instance.
If Dodgers decide on extra rest, they’d get Urías/Buehler/Scherzer vs. Padres next weekend
— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) September 5, 2021
According to Roster Resource on Fangraphs, the Dodgers have three starters in their starting rotation and 13 members in their bullpen, yes I have counted multiple times to make sure I counted right. So they are very well-suited to a couple bullpen games. Since two of the games are bullpen games, I’m going to use the stats of two pitchers Eric Stephen seems to think will pitch multiple innings, if not function as the literal starters in Mitch White and Andre Jackson – even though Jackson is currently not in the majors. He’s eligible to be promoted by Tuesday though.
Monday – 3:15 CT
Max Scherzer (2:40 ERA, 3:13 FIP, 3.27 xFIP) vs. Miles Mikolas (4:41 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 4.69 xFIP)
Scherzer was having a pretty good year when the Dodgers traded for him. He’s been unstoppable with the Dodgers. He has a 1.29 ERA, 36.8 K%, and 3.7 BB%. So expect a lot of strikeouts, not many walks, and just general dominance. You could have said the same thing about Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes though, and the Cardinals did fine against them. But you know, that also doesn’t mean they will automatically do fine against Scherzer. Baseball can be random! But sometimes it isn’t.
On the Cards side is Mikolas and boy does his last start not give me a whole lot of confidence. Mikolas’ stats aren’t that bad since returning from the IL. He has a 5.11 ERA with a 3.65 FIP and 4.61 xFIP. But he got knocked around a bit against the Reds and looked extremely hittable as he sometimes is. Hopefully, he just needs to tweak his game slightly and has it figured out against the Dodgers.
Favorite: Fury Road
Tuesday – 6:45 CT
Andre Jackson (1.04 ERA, 5.13 FIP, 6.29 xFIP) vs. J.A. Happ (6.20 ERA, 5.41 FIP, 5.30 xFIP)
This is one of the probable true bullpen games. Jackson may very well not be called up, but even if he is, he’s probably not going to throw more than 3 innings or so. He’s not very good. Jackson pitched 13 games in AA this year and was okay there – struck out a lot, but allowed a lot of home runs due to some bad luck and lots of flyballs. He’s pitched 12.2 poor innings in AAA and 8.2 bad innings in the majors – despite the low ERA. 7 strikeouts, 6 walks in 8.2 IP.
I was fully prepared to give Andre 3000 the nod here, but the fact is that he has comparable stats to Happ in AAA, but Happ’s done it in the majors. It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but Happ is the favorite here. Now, if you take Happ over 5 or so innings, add in our bullpen and compare it to 3 innings from Jackson and 6 innings from their bullpen – it’s more probably more of a wash to be honest.
Favorite: J.A. Walking
Wednesday – 6:45 CT
Mitch White (3.49 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 4.06 xFIP) vs. Adam Wainwright (2.91 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 3.74 xFIP)
White has never been a huge prospect – he was #16 on the team list for Fangraphs back in 2019. He had seven strong AA stats and then was pretty bad in AAA to finish out that year. Two years later and 26-years-old, he has shared time nearly equally between the majors and minors. He’s pitched 24 innings in AAA, 38.2 in the majors. 18 games pitched in the majors, just three of them actual starts. He last pitched on Friday, throwing 6 scoreless innings in AAA. He was promoted when AJ Pollock went on the IL, mostly because he would not have spent the full 10 days optioned needed to be called up in time. Injury allows you to ignore the 10 days.
And Wainwright is Wainwright. He’s basically carrying the pitching staff at this point and I hope can do it for another few starts. Actually I hope he can do it for another year, but I hope next year, he doesn’t actually need to carry the pitching staff and things work out better.
Favorite: Uncle Charlie
Thursday – 12:15 CT
Julio Urias (3.11 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 3.62 xFIP) vs. Kwang-Hyun Kim (3.62 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 4.64 xFIP)
This is a fairly lopsided matchup in my opinion. Even though their ERAs aren’t that far apart, I think Urias is clearly a better pitcher. That said, if you’re the Cardinals, you’d rather face a good lefty than a good righty. Every regular in the lineup – literally every one – is a better hitter against left-handed pitchers. And in the case of Harrison Bader and Tommy Edman, way better against left-handed pitchers.
Whereas the Dodgers were bad enough against lefties, the signed a 1B-only guy who can hit lefties at a slightly above average rate and that’s literally all he can do anymore. So they may be a little be more likely to struggle against Kim. Though looking at their lineup, I don’t really know if that’s true. Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Mookie Betts, Will Smith, Chris Taylor – but then again you have “what’s wrong with him?” Cody Bellinger (it’s a little alarming how bad his stats are), but yeah I’m not really seeing a weak lineup against lefties here.
Favorite – Urias
Not… the worst four game set-up possible for a team as good as the Dodgers honestly. I’d be very happy with a split and I’m not sure you can ask for much more than that. That will probably put them even further behind in the wild card race, but they do have more winnable games later. Theoretically anyway. Devastating losses like yesterday don’t really affect me anymore, because I’m not super invested in the playoffs happening, because I’ve already sort of wrote them off. So my attitude is “if they make the playoffs, it’ll be a happy surprise, if they don’t, that’s really what I expect anyway.”
Not the greatest attitude, mind you. But certainly, for me anyway, way healthier than getting my day ruined by a baseball game all the time, which happened until some random date earlier this year made me give up on the playoffs, and ever since baseball has not ruined my day once.