RECORDS: Cardinals 20-11 Cubs 16-12
GAMETIMES: Friday 1:20, Saturday 3:05, Sunday 6:05
TV: NBCSN Friday, WGN Saturday, ESPN Sunday (Oh boy)
GROSS: Viva El Birdos
PROBABLE CARDINALS LINEUP
Matt Carpenter – 3B
Paul Goldschmidt – 1B
Paul DeJong – SS
Marcel Ozuna – LF
Jose Martinez – RF
Yadier Molina – C
Kolten Wong – 2B
Harrison Bader – CF
PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP
Daniel Descalso – 2B
Kris Bryant – 3B
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Javier Baez – SS
Ben Zobrist – RF
Kyle Schwarber – LF
Jason Heyward – CF
And now to it. The first invasion of the unwashed and illiterate from West East St. Louis, as the Cubs and Cardinals test out each other for the first time at the top of the Central Division. The Cardinals loaded up with Paul Goldschmidt this winter, and while the Brewers may crow about last season, it was the Cubs the Cardinals had in mind for what they had to overhaul. And even with the horrific start, the season’s first month has borne that out.
The Cardinals are baseball’s hottest team at the moment, winning eight of their last 10. Goldy has been the juice to the offense the Cards hoped, as they’re second in runs, third in OBP, and fourth in wOBA. But he’s not doing it alone. Paul DeJong is slugging nearly .600 and playing excellently in the field which is the real upset. Marcell Ozuna has been the player the Cards thought they were trading for last year. Even Dexter Fowler has returned from the dead, or being a sleeper spy, and his managing a 133 wRC+. Goldschmidt is Goldschmidt, and he’ll be in the top-10 of the MVP picture because that’s just a thing that he does.
How much of this is real? Fowler’s .407 BABIP would suggest that’s mirage. DeJong is getting serious rub of the green as well so far. But Wong, Goldy, Ozuna, and even Harrison Bader are probably doing this most if not all the season. The wooden spoon in the lineup so far is former stalwart Matt Carpenter, who has made starting slowly something of a signature move at this point. Then he’ll hit 25 homers June-August before going back into the toilet (really anywhere in STL) for the season’s last month. Also he’s a performance art piece at third.
The rotation though might be as big of a problem as the offense is a force. Flaherty is striking out over 10 hitters per nine, but he can’t seem to keep the ball in the park and he doesn’t get a ton of grounders. His HR/FB rate won’t stay at near 25% all season but seeing as how half the contact he’s giving up has been of the hard variety, this could be a problem all season. Especially if everything is in the air. Adam Wainwright is a million years old and is having some of the same control problems he did last year as he can’t miss bats the way he used to. Michael Wacha is also in need of a GPS, and seems destined to always break your heart (or entertain you endlessly, if you hate the Cardinals like most of the world). Last year’s hero Miles Mikolas can’t get anyone out and is giving up twice the homers he did last year, at least at that pace. Sometimes when you don’t miss bats this is what happens. There’s some asshole named Dakota taking starts. This will be an issue for the Cards all season, even if Mikolas straightens out.
The pen has been able to bail them out. Jordan Hicks is finally more than just a ridiculous fastball that people still hit anyway. John Gant has a 0.90 ERA. Something named John Brebbia has also been a weapon. There are two other guys averaging more than 10Ks per nine innings, and neither of them is Andrew Miller. Miller has been better of late but has spent most of the year spraying deliveries around like an Uzi. Perhaps it was a good idea to not hand him a multi-year deal after he showed decline and injury problems last year.
For the Cubs, they’ll need Hendricks to find it again and Darvish to build on the last four innings of his last outing, otherwise the Cards can sprint out in games in a hurry. Hendricks’s first inning problems against Goldschmidt today isn’t exactly settling the stomach. But the Cubs should also get some runs off this outfit.
A sweep puts the Cubs in first. Just sayin’…