The St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds have plenty of bad blood between them. These are two teams that simply don’t like each other. They have battled it out in the NL Central quite frequently over the past few years, and it looks like they’ll be battling each other to the end again this year. The Reds took the first two games of this series, including a 10th inning win on Saturday. Let’s take a look at this Sunday Night Baseball showdown.
The Cardinals have the top ranked offense in the National League this year. Injuries have kept them from having their ideal lineup together, but this team has a ton of guys who have stepped up offensively. Matt Holiday, Carlos Beltran, and Yadier Molina are having huge seasons in the middle of the order. Beltran leads the team with 20 homers and 65 RBI’s. His productivity has allowed the offense to not skip a beat despite losing Albert Pujols.
The St Louis Cardinals pitching staff has been inconsistent this year. Jake Westbrook is 7-7 with a 3.75 ERA. Five of Westbrook’s last six starts have been quality starts. The bullpen has struggled so far this year. Jason Motte has blown four saves, and the middle relievers have all gone through some very rough stretches. St. Louis needs their pitching staff to step up a bit if they are going to keep up with the Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cincinnati Reds started the season a little slowly, but they have played very good baseball over the last couple months. They are a season-high 11 games over .500 right now. Cincinnati currently sits in a tie with the Pirates in first in the NL Central. Joey Votto is in a mini-slump right now, but he is hitting a ridiculous .339 with an on-base-percentage of .462. Jay Bruce leads the team with 18 homers and 57 RBI’s. Ryan Ludwick hit the walkoff homer to put the Reds over the top on Saturday. That’s a good sign for the Reds, because this team really needs someone to solidify the left field spot.
Johnny Cueto had been scheduled to start the series finale here, but he was pushed back because of a blister problem. Homer Bailey will get the start in this one. Bailey is 7-6 with a 4.14 ERA, but he has struggled against top competition this season. The Reds owe a lot of their success this year to their tremendous bullpen. The Reds bullpen has been one of the most consistent in the majors. Cincinnati has great middle relief options, and Aroldis Chapman is an imposing figure at the closer spot.
MLB Free Pick: Over 8.5
The Cardinals have a .333 average against Bailey in his career, and he has been poor against good lineups this year. Westbrook rarely shuts down the opposition completely, and I think this total is set too low.