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Guardians welcome Cardinals for two-game series

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For two days the Cardinals will experience the joy that comes with not having your pitcher at the plate

MLB: JUL 25 Rays at Indians Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In what will be the last full series before the trade deadline, the Cleveland Guardians will have one last chance to showcase Cesar Hernandez when they play the St. Louis Cardinals tonight and tomorrow afternoon. Or maybe they’ll be looking to evaluate what they need to acquire? Honestly, it’s anybody’s guess what they’ll do at the deadline later this week.

Despite making a splash in the offseason to bring in third baseman Nolan Arenado, the Cards aren’t in a much better place than the Guards. They sit at an even 50-50, eight games back in the NL Central, and seven games back of the NL Wild Card.

It’s not like Arenado hasn’t been worth the money or minute haul they gave up to acquire him — through 100 games he leads the team in home runs with 20 and has played excellent defense at third base. His first-half earned him his fifth trip to the All-Star Game earlier this year and some positive BABIP luck should help bring his bat back near his Rockies days.

It’s not all Arenado at the plate, either. The Cardinals offense is led by surprising fourth-year outfielder Tyler O’Neil, who is currently slashing .274/.331/.526 with 17 home runs. He has already surpassed his career-high in games played in a season and is finding success crushing the ball despite a lack of walks. As FanGraphs put it, he’s a “Two True Outcome” player. Harrison Bader and Paul Goldschmidt are enjoying wRC+’s consistently around 120 on the season, though that’d be considered a bad year for Goldschmidt.

Great defense has bailed them out, but one of the Cardinals’ underlying issues to date has been pitching. As a group, they rank dead last in strikeout rate, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and SIERA. The Guardians will, unfortunately, run into two of their best pitchers in veteran Adam Wainright and Kwang-hyun Kim, who have a 3.56 and 2.88 ERA, respectively.

St. Louis has also been devastated by injuries. While a handful of players have come off the injured list since these two last played, they still have starting pitchers Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Carlos Martinez, and Miles Mikolas on the sidelines, as well as relievers Jordan Hicks and Daniel Ponce de Leon.

These two teams split a pair of blowouts in early June in their last series. The Guardians took game one, 10-1, and the Cardinals scored eight in their win in the series finale.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 50-50 (8th in NL)
  • Runs Scored: 403 (12th in NL)
  • Run Differential: -35 (12th in NL)
  • Last 10: 6-4
  • Slash: .233/.304/.388
  • wOBA: .301 (13th in NL)
  • wRC+: 89 (11th in NL)
  • ERA: 4.24 (9th in NL)
  • SIERA: 4.79 (15th in NL)
  • K-BB%: 9.1% (15th in NL)

Projected starters

Tuesday, July 27, 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Adam Wainwright vs. Cal Quantrill
Adam Wainwright’s legendary ability to keep the ball on the ground has, well, wained in recent years. It’s down to 44.8% this year, but he’s getting more strikeouts than he has since his rookie season back in 2006. Wainwright rode his curveball to six strikeouts and two earned runs over six innings in a June 9 win against Cleveland.

Wednesday, July 28, 1:10 p.m. ET: LHP Kwang Hyun-Kim vs. Zach Plesac
This will be Cleveland’s first time facing Kwang Hyun-Kim, who signed with the Cardinals prior to 2020 after more than a decade of pitching in the KBO. The veteran works primarily with a fastball-slider-changeup-curveball combination and is excellent at limiting hard contact even if he can’t rack up the strikeout numbers. He struck out seven in his last outing against the Cubs on Thursday; that was just the third time he’s recorded more than six strikeouts in a start this season.

Hot hitters

OF, Harrison Bader - Bader has been a man on a mission over the last week, going 11-for-23 with three doubles and a pair of homers. Put into a traditional slash line, it comes out to a ridiculous .478/.520/.870. Fun times.

3B, Nolan Arenado - Arenado is second in the last week with eight hits for the Cardinals, but he leads with three home runs in that span. He’s dipped a bit since a hot start to his Cardinals career peaked in mid-May, but he’s on the road to hitting like an All-Star again with his recent performance.

Roster

Poll

How many games will the Guardians win against the Cardinals?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    2
    (5 votes)
  • 42%
    1
    (15 votes)
  • 42%
    0
    (15 votes)
35 votes total Vote Now