The National League Central has seen a shakeup in the standings in the last week and a half, but it could see another dramatic swing this weekend with the Cardinals traveling to Chicago for a matchup with the first-place Cubs.
Cardinals vs Cubs Preview
The Cardinals, suffering from a long list of injuries, have lost eight of their last 10 games and fallen 3.0 games back in the division, while the Cubs and Brewers have ridden hot streaks to take control of first and second place heading into the weekend.
Here is a weekend preview of what to expect in Chicago this weekend in one of baseball’s best rivalries.
Game 1 Johan Oviedo vs. Kyle Hendricks
Cardinals starter Johan Ovideo has been a placeholder in the rotation at different times this season, but since Jack Flaherty’s injury the 23-year-old hurler has taken over the fifth spot in St. Louis’ rotation.
Oviedo has made five starts this season and one relief appearance this season and posted a 5.25 ERA with a poor 17 walks to 20 strikeouts ratio this year. The Cuba native has good stuff, but he’s still learning how to gain better command of his pitches. He is coming off one of his better starts against Cincinnati when he went 4.0 innings, surrendering two earned runs.
Meanwhile, the Cubs rotation seems to also be in flux this weekend with two starters, Adbert Alzolay and Trevor Williams both being placed on the 10-day IL this week. Right-handed veteran Kyle Hendricks is expected to take the ball on Friday.
Hendricks hasn’t been himself this season posting a 4.59 ERA in his 12 starts, but he did go 6.2 innings of one-run ball in St. Louis on May 21. In his career, Hendricks has had lots of success against St. Louis. He has a career 10-3 record with a 2.81 ERA and 1.069 WHIP in 21 starts vs. the Redbirds.
With shortstop Paul DeJong set to rejoin the Cardinals on Friday, after missing time since May 14 with a rib injury the Cardinals get one of their regulars back in the lineup. But DeJong really struggled in his 124 at-bats before the injury, posting a .177/.277/.371 line, so getting his bat to heat up will be key in his return from injury.
Game 2 John Gant vs. TBD
With both Adbert Alzolay and Trevor Williams on the 10-day IL, Saturday’s starter is still a mystery. The Cubs have the second-best bullpen in the National League. Only San Diego’s relievers have a better reliever ERA than the Cubs do this season. Saturday could be a logical time for the Cubs to have a bullpen game, and with Thursday’s off-day the Cubs could potentially have a well-rested bullpen.
John Gant’s season has been a perplexing one. The 28-year-old righty has a 4-3 record with an impressive 2.63 ERA in his 11 starts, but his 1.591 WHIP isn’t anything to ride home about, and many of those base runners have come from his league-leading 37 walks. Gant has walked at least three hitters in all but two of his starts this season.
What’s impressive about Gant is that when he is pitching with runners in scoring position this season, opponents have just a .132 batting average against. But when there is nobody on-base opponents are hitting an impressive .297. He’s flirting with danger a lot this season.
Game 3Carlos Martinez vs. Zach Davies
Carlos Martinez has seen his ERA balloon from 4.22 through his first nine starts to an abysmal 6.21 after his last two starts against the Dodgers and Cleveland Indians. In his combined 4.2 innings pitched in his last two starts, Martinez gave up 15 earned runs, 10 coming in the first inning against Los Angeles on June 2.
Martinez has had a roller coaster of a season. In three straight starts from April 21-May 2, he went at least six innings and allowed just one earned run, but since then he has really struggled. With the Cardinals’ injury problems in the rotation, they could really use some consistency out of Martinez.
Zach Davies will get the ball on Sunday night for the Cubs. Davies is carrying a 4.45 ERA this season in 13 starts, but he did go five scoreless innings in St. Louis on May 23. The former Brewer is coming off his second-best start of the season when he went six innings of one-hit ball against the Padres, his former team. He was pulled from the game, due to his 89 pitches.