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2019 Series Preview #34: Houston Astros @ St. Louis Cardinals

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A pair of division leaders (and former division rivals) square off, as the Astros (66-38) visit the Cardinals (55-47) for the first time in over three years

MLB: Houston Astros at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of two straight series wins against the Rangers and A’s, the Astros go on the road to St. Louis to face their first interdivisional opponent in over three weeks. Thankfully, Carlos Correa will be activated from the Injured List to hopefully provide a boost to the offense (although, sadly, it comes at the cost of Tony Kemp’s roster spot).

In the Cardinals, the Astros will be facing an old NL Central rival for the first time in three years.

Cardinals

The Cardinals have been on a post-All-Star Break hot streak, with an 11-3 record that has taken them from around .500 to a tie for the NL Central lead with the Cubs. They are a little beat-up at the moment, with Marcell Ozuna, Yadier Molina, and Matt Carpenter all on the Injured List, but Carpenter is expected to be activated this series.

Offensively, the team has looked shaky this year, ranking eleventh in the NL in wRC+ at 91. New acquisition Paul Goldschmidt has hit just .253/.340/.454, although a large part of that is a .300 BABIP well below his .350 career mark. And with four home runs in his last four games, he may be starting to return to his normal production.

Outside of the sidelined Ozuna, the Cards’ best hitter on the year has actually been shortstop Paul DeJong, the twenty-five year old who was this year selected to his first All-Star team. His .258/.339/.471 line is definitely good for a shortstop, but the fact that he’s had the best line of any player the Astros will face should tell you a lot about the state of the Cardinal’s lineup.

Really, the strongest aspect of the Cardinals lineup this year is that there just generally aren’t many glaring weak spots, especially right now. Looking down their players, you see a lot of wRC+s in the mid-90s to low 100s, with the biggest exceptions (like Harrison Bader) usually bringing strong defense to the table.

Pitching-wise, the rotation has been okay, but the bullpen has been the club’s real bright spot. John Brebbia, John Gant, and Giovanny Gallegos have formed a strong bridge to the ninth inning. Unfortunately, star flamethrowing closer Jordan Hicks is no longer there to finish games out, needing Tommy John surgery.

Pitching Match-Ups

Game 1: Jose Urquidy, RHP (1-0, 5.54 ERA) vs. Jack Flaherty, RHP (4-6, 4.24 ERA)

Urquidy will be making his fourth career start, and his first one since the 7-inning, 9-strikeout, 1-run outing on July 20th that cut nearly five full runs off of his ERA. We’ll get a chance to see here if that was Jose starting to settle in.

St. Louis counters with Jack Flaherty, their only starter younger than Urquidy. The former top prospect is having a bit of a sophomore slump, and his run from June 1st to July 2nd was especially rough. In those six starts, Flaherty allowed 24 runs in 30.1 innings with a WHIP over 1.50. He seems to have recovered as of late though, allowing just two runs and a WHIP below 1.00 in his last three starts.

Game 2: Gerrit Cole, RHP (11-5, 3.03 ERA) vs. Daniel Ponce de Leon, RHP (1-0, 2.82 ERA)

Previously on the 2019 Astros, Gerrit Cole became the first pitcher in the league to pass the 200 strikeout mark. He’ll be looking to extend his streak of three games with double-digit strikeouts (and five straight at 9 or more) against a Cardinals team that’s actually a little above average in avoiding whiffs, for all of their other offensive weaknesses. If nothing else, Cole’s days on the Pirates has given him experience against St. Louis; they’re the team he’s faced second-most, with a 7-4 record, a 3.09 ERA, and 70 strikeouts in 84.1 innings.

The Cardinals will counter with another relative newcomer in the 27-year-old Ponce de Leon. 2019 marks Daniel’s second season at the major league level, and this game will mark his seventh start and tenth game on the season after just four starts and eleven total games last year. His latest turn in the rotation started three games ago, and after throwing 6.2 innings of three-hit, one-run ball in his first one, he’s followed that up with four runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings and one run on three hits in just three innings.

Game 3: Wade Miley, LHP (8-4, 3.18 ERA) vs. Dakota Hudson, RHP (10-4, 3.61 ERA)

The Astros close the weekend out with their #3 starter, who also hit a big round number in strikeouts last time around (albeit 100, rather than Cole’s 200). Things went south in that game when he went out to start the ninth inning, but up until that point, it had already been his longest and most successful start of the year. If you only looked at his 3-2 record in his last ten starts, you might be disappointed, but he’s in fact been a tick better than his season marks in ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP in that time.

The Cardinals finish things with yet another relative neophyte in Hudson. After 26 games all as a reliever last year, he’s been a fixture in the Redbirds’ rotation. His 3.61 ERA has been far and away better than the rest of the team’s starters, but it’s also come with a lot of red flags: his 16.7 K% is the lowest among the rotation, his 1.50 WHIP is second-to-last, and his 10.1 BB% is mediocre. If he starts to regress to his 5.13 FIP, it could be a real problem for a surging St. Louis.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, July 26th @ 7:15 PM CDT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Cardinals – KMOX 1120, CRN, WIJR AM 880

Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Cardinals - FS-M

Game 2: Saturday, July 27th @ 6:15 PM CDT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Cardinals – KMOX 1120, CRN, WIJR AM 880

Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Cardinals - FS-M / FS1

Game 3: Sunday, July 28th @ 1:15 PM CDT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Cardinals – KMOX 1120, CRN, WIJR AM 880

Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Cardinals - FS-M

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (74 votes)
  • 51%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (171 votes)
  • 20%
    Cardinals Win 2-1
    (67 votes)
  • 5%
    Cardinals Sweep 3-0
    (17 votes)
329 votes total Vote Now