Photo: Keith Allison
Pittsburgh Pirates (6-6) @ St. Louis Cardinals (3-9)
Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23 ERA) vs Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25 ERA)
Time: Monday – 7:05
Both teams in this matchup are coming off of a sweeped series. The Pirates were the sweepers and the Cardinals were the sweeped. The Cardinals have the worst record in the NL at the moment, and a series win here could be huge for the Pirates.
Ivan Nova will take the mound against the Cardinals in the opening game. On the surface, Nova’s numbers are very strong. He’s managed to not walk a single batter all season, which is great, but he’s not missing many bats either. He only has gotten 3.4% swinging strikes this season, compared to 9.4% last season. He’ll start getting into trouble if he can’t miss bats.
Lance Lynn missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015. So far this season his results have been poor, but he has pitched against two very good offenses in Washington and Chicago.
Vegas has the Cardinals as slight favorites in this one. They have the Pirates at 44% chance to win. This game will be televised on ESPN.
Mike Leake (1-1, 0.60 ERA) vs Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38 ERA)
Time: Tuesday – 8:15
Chad Kuhl has pitched well thus far, especially for being the fourth guy in the rotation. His second game of the season was much more impressive than his 6 walk debut. So far this season he has really crushed right handed hitters, while lefties have a .364 wOBA against him. Being a sinker/slider guy, lefties are something that will likely bother him all year. The Cardinals will likely try and get as many lefties into their lineup as possible.
Mike Leake came to the Cardinals in 2016 and posted a 4.69 ERA. That is not ideal, but he looks like a different pitcher this year. He has thrown his cutter twice as much this year as he did last year, and the results have been good thus far. He’s gone from striking out batters 16.5% of the time, to 24.5% of the time. The increased use of his cutter may have turned him into a stud, or maybe the 29 year old veteran has just had a flukey start.
Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00 ERA) vs Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29 ERA)
Time: Wednesday – 1:45
Gerrit Cole had his best start of the season last time out against the powerhouse Chicago Cubs. I wrote that his success hinged on his slider, and his slider was working for him. He got 5 swing and misses on his slider which helped him strike out 20% of the batters he faced. He also has used his changeup more frequently, which could definitely aid him in his struggle against lefties.
Michael Wacha has dominated the Reds lineup, and done poorly against the Yankees. Health has been his issue in the past, but when healthy he is a solid pitcher. He actually performs worse against same handed hitters, so the Pirates right handed heavy lineup could do well.
I don’t see this series being a sweep, and I think this game will decide the series winner. This one could be huge confidence booster for Gerrit and the Pirates. If it ends up being a sweep in the Pirates favor, a 3-12 start would be one hell of a hole for the Cardinals to climb out of.