ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- After yesterday’s win over the Astros completed a 3-game sweep...attention immediately turned to the upcoming 10-day road trip this team begins tonight in Cincinnati. And Matt Holliday put it best.
He said it’s definitely big, no doubt. But he also said it’s not like their whole season is on the line.
Three vs the 1st place team in the NL Central (Reds), three vs the team right on their heels in the wild card race (Pirates) and—finally—four vs the squad with the best record in the NL (Nationals).
That’s 10 games, very tough games, in which the Cardinals can absolutely, positively ill afford to go under .500. They don’t have to go out and dominate every series. Even going 5-5 wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. But they can’t go 4-6...or worse.
The season can’t and won’t be won during this road trip. But it can certainly be lost. We’ll know a lot more about where the Cardinals stand after it’s all over.
The biggest of the 3 series is the one in Pittsburgh. That’s the team the Redbirds will most likely be battling for a postseason spot the rest of the way. And while the Cards are playing the Reds and Nationals during this time, the Pirates have 6 games against the Brewers in that span.
That’s a Brewers team, while not very good at 57-66, is playing better of late by winning 4 of its last 6 games. So the Cards could get a little bit of help there.
Up first in this 10-day road trip is the Reds. Let’s take a look at tonight’s pitching match up:
Lance Lynn (13-5, 3.73 ERA) vs Mat Latos (10-3, 3.56 ERA)
Lynn has been, quite frankly, a different guy since the All Star break. After posting a 3.41 earned run average on his way to his very first All Star invite, that number has ballooned to 4.58 in 7 starts since then. He’s not going deep into games (less than 5 and two-thirds innings per start vs more than 6 pre-ASB) and he’s become much more hittable (.281 opponents’ batting average post All Star, .235 pre All Star). Lynn’s a big boy. He goes 6’5” and 250 pounds so he shouldn’t be wearing down. But he’s got to reach back and find a way to have a good outing tonight. Maybe his abbreviated start last time out (just over 4 innings vs Pittsburgh) will light a fire under him.
Latos is a complete 180 compared to Lynn. He was horrendous early on but has turned on the juice lately. In fact, his resurgence began before the break. From the start of the season through June 18th, Latos—the Reds prime offseason acquisition—made 14 starts. During those he had a 5.20 ERA and a .274 opponents batting average. Not very good for someone who was supposed to put this rotation over the top. Well, since then? How about 11 starts where he’s had a ridiculous 1.87 earned run average and an equally ridiculous .187 opponents’ batting average. The Cardinals have seen him twice this year...once during his bad run (Cards tagged him for 8 runs in less than 6 innings on April 18th) and once after he found his groove (Cards managed just 2 runs in 5 innings on July 13th).
It’s quite obvious that each team has a starting pitcher that’s trending in opposite directions. One thing to keep an eye on here, however, is the fact the Reds have never really seen Lynn before...except out of the bullpen. No one on that team has more than 2 career at-bats against him. Meanwhile, the Redbirds are very familiar with Latos...and many have good numbers against him (Carlos Beltran is 3-5, Rafael Furcal is 8-20, Jon Jay is 6-11, Yadier Molina is 4-12 and Skip Schumaker is 3-6). That could be something that plays into the Cardinals’ favor this weekend.